An Eye for Eucalypts
An Eye for Eucalypts
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Malcolm McKinnon & Ararat & District Historical Society, 2011
In this video friends and family talk about their memories of Stan Kelly. They recollect Stan’s character traits and reflect on his work as a keen naturalist and a gifted artist.
Stan Kelly O.A.M. (1911 – 2001) was known in the Ararat region as an engine driver with a passion for the bush, and painting plants and flowers. In the wider world, Kelly was recognised as one of Australia’s premier botanical illustrators, especially respected for his published works on eucalypts.
Kelly's first book, Australian Eucalypts in Colour, was published in 1949, followed by his most celebrated work, Eucalypts Volumes I & II, first published in 1969, which became a core reference for students of Australian botany.
In 2009, a selection of Kelly’s botanical illustrations was adapted for the ‘N’ series Australian passport.
Vic Hillebrandt: I knew Stan mainly on the railways. He was famous even on the job for his art.
There were quite a number of people on the railways that were interested in nature.
And Stan and some of his friends like...(Clears throat)..they'd wander out to the Grampians and just wander around the bush.They'd get off and just head straight out into the bush, looking for various eucalypts.
Ann Brewster: I remember he used to talk on how he went to get these specimens, when he was driving the train.
He'd be going along and the train would be slowing down, and he'd hop off the train and let the fireman take over while he went into the bush looking for flowers, and then he'd hop back on the train. But he'd get to his destination on time.
That was a story that went around quite a lot.
My husband even was one of those persons, one of the firemen that had to do a bit for him. (Laughs)
They were expecting it most times, I think, specially in the springtime.
Dorothy Konig: It wasn't until I joined the Field Naturalists that I really got to know Stan.
I started art classes with Stan because he wanted to teach us how to paint wild flowers and orchid in watercolour.
If you were painting something, you really counted how many petals there was to everything.
And with the leaves, you would count whether they're opposite, and the formation of everything that you were attempting to do.
Ann Brewster: He taught us a lot actually. Mainly, I think, was the colours, and how to look at something, what to look for.
Thinking now, it just takes you back in time.
I can see meself sitting there with Stan, and him telling us, you know, what to do and how to do it.
You're learning all the time with painting. It's not only learning painting, but you're learning to look at other things.
Man: They'd look that real. He'd pay that much attention to detail.
And it shows, doesn't it?
Catherine Phillips : I'm Stan Kelly's youngest granddaughter, and I used to visit him in Ararat for many, many years.
The first thing we'd do is we'd go into the lounge room. If Pa wasn't there, he'd be in his bedroom painting, and we just naturally assumed that's what all grandpas did.
It never occurred to me until later on that people knew him beyond Ararat. I just had absolutely no knowledge.
I was fortunate enough to go to the launch in Canberra for the N-series passport, and the passport features botanical illustrations that are from my grandfather. I was lucky enough to speak to the graphic designer. He said, 'Well, if it's got to do with, you know, flora, anything botanical, Stan Kelly's the one.'
I had a friend of mine who'd just been studying at a horticultural college, and I was sort of saying, 'Oh, yes. We'll go back to Pa's place, and see what he's up to. He's pretty pleased because he's been named Ararat Citizen of the Year. Stan Kelly, Citizen of the Year.'
My friend who, of course, had been studying, he just went, 'You know Stan Kelly?'
And I went, 'Well, of course I know Stan Kelly. That's my grandpa.'
Here's my friend just going, 'I can't believe I'm in Stan Kelly's house.'
I didn't quite understand what he was talking about, but he explained to me that their reference book was volume one and two of the Eucalypts, and so Stan Kelly was a god to him and the other students.
So the fact that this girl he'd gone to school with all his life... I was sort of so much more impressive to him after that, because, of course, my grandpa was the great Stan Kelly.
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