Andrew Lemon’s path to professional history began with a job in archives at the Public Record Office in the 1970s after graduating with a BA (Hons). He went on to complete an MA in history and soon after gained a commission to write the history of the City of Box Hill, believing that the local council took a great risk contracting a young historian. He now has a string of publications to his name, including histories of Northcote and Broadmeadows.
In the 1980s Andrew was commissioned by the Victoria Racing Club to write the first two volumes of his History of Australian Thoroughbred Racing. Andrew later consulted for and appeared on the ABC television series on horse racing, The Track. In 2004 he published A Great Australian School: Wesley College Examined and in other work has enjoyed collaborating on the history of a shipwreck and a cemetery. In 2005 the University of Melbourne awarded him the degree of Doctor of Letters for the body of his published work. The final volume of his racing trilogy appeared in 2008.
Andrew particularly enjoys the detective work in historical research. While working for the Victoria Racing Club he was frequently asked to supply advice on historical matters. The most exciting moment was being able to denounce a purported Phar Lap Melbourne Cup trophy as a fake, using good historical evidence to prove the point. He also finds it satisfying when his research and writing comes together and ‘you find explanations and connections that previously eluded you.’
Andrew’s advice to aspiring professional historians is to be persistent. ‘If you have the impulse to produce history you will find the opportunity by writing on particular topics and pestering people to publish your work.’ Maintaining contact with other historians and researchers is essential. Andrew’s commitment to history has seen him spend many hours on voluntary committees, editing journals, lobbying for the State Library or being involved in heritage matters. The pay-off is that all these activities have brought him into contact with brilliant minds and freed his work from being locked in a private world.
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