Sir Peter Crisp

Sir Peter Crisp, 1912-1984

Obituary in inCite vol. 5, no. 6, 27 April 1984, p. 1.

It was with sadness that members of the library world learned of the death of Sir Peter Crisp on 14 February, 1984.

Sir Peter Crisp was a distinguished Tasmanian lawyer and Judge who made a significant contribution to society. This is not, however, the place to comment on his legal career, which included periods during which served Tasmania variously as Crown Prosecutor, the Crown Solicitor, the Solicitor General and finally Senior Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court. 

One of the many ways in which he served the citizens of Tasmania was through his chairmanship of the State Library Board from 1956 to 1977.

Nationally he was pleased to serve as a member of the Interim Council of the Museum of Australia, and of the Council of the National Library. He was chairman of the latter Council in 1971. He was President of the Library Association from 1963-66 and was awarded its Redmond Barry Award in 1976. This award is made infrequently and is restricted to distinguished laymen.

Sir Peter's most recent and perhaps most significant contribution to the advancement of libraries flowed from his service to the Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographical Services, including a period of ten years as chairman from 1973 to his recent death.  

His background inevitably affected his style. For example his manner while chairing AACOBS could, I believe, be described as judicial, firm but fair and patient, controlling the loquacious and encouraging the timid. His insistence on a measure of formality in the proceedings of the Council, where he generally insisted on its Councillors standing while speaking, served to restrict the garrulous and to improve the audibility of comments. He could do little to improve the comment except to restrict the irrelevant. On the other hand, his willingness to assist the less coherent to make their point by summarizing it to the meeting and his willing ness to assist with the sharpening of the form of a resolution added much to the success of our meetings.

Never intrusive and always regarding himself as a facilitator rather than a direction setter, he was nevertheless generous with the time he gave to AACOBS and its members. Until the last he found time to attend the meetings of Standing Committee where his advice was always available and invariably invaluable. Privately he was always available to comment helpfully and thoughtfully on an idea or a draft, placing his judicial mind at the disposal of a correspondent.

Australian libraries are deeply indebted to a number of laymen who have lent their status to the support of libraries, used their persuasive powers to advance the cause of libraries or shared their visions of libraries with the community.  Sir Peter was such a layman, and one who was deeply committed to the principle of free public libraries. He recognized the dangers in which they now stand and constantly warned of these.   Such laymen bring an impartiality in advancing the cause of libraries which no librarian can. Sir Peter may be numbered among this select company.

Sir Peter was a deep-water sailor, undertaking a number of voyages through the years. AACOBS will miss his guiding hand on its tiller. His friends in the profession will miss him.

Allan Horton.

Link to Australian Dictionary of Biography entry.