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Peter George Osborn (1914 -1999)
Papers 1926-1999

MSS 0063

Biographical Note

Peter Osborn, undated.Peter Osborn, the son of Edith May and Theodore George Bentley Osborn, was born in 1914 in South Australia, where his father had taken up the foundation Chair in Botany at the University of Adelaide in 1912.  He spent his early years in Adelaide, before moving to Sydney in 1932, where his father had been appointed Professor of Botany at the University of Sydney.

Osborn was much involved in the theatre, active in the Sydney University Dramatic Society, and also a contributor to the Honi Soit student newspaper.  After graduating in 1935, he travelled to London, where he began a promising career in the theatre.  On the outbreak of war, however, he was called up for service and in 1940 entered the navy, spending the war years as a seaman on the battleship H.M.S. Calpe.  After demobilisation he remained with the Royal Navy until 1961 as an instructor at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

On retirement from the navy, Osborn trained for the ministry of the Anglican Church and was ordained as a deacon in 1963.  He subsequently served as a curate and a chaplain at Geelong Grammar and at Abingdon School.  In 1975, he returned to Adelaide and was offered the living of St. Cyprian's Church in North Adelaide and also assisted in the teaching of divinity at his old school, St. Peter's College.  He soon became involved in the theatre again and performed in a number of charity plays and in film productions and was created the Bishop's 'chaplain for the arts'.  A full account of Osborn's life can be found in his autobiography Exit Praying, 1993-1995, copies of which can be found in The University of Adelaide Library's Main Collection and in Rare Books and Special Collections.

These papers were bequeathed to Rare Books and Special Collections and were received after Osborn's death in July 1999, together with selected books from his personal library, including copies of many of the plays of Terence Rattigan, with whom Osborn formed a close friendship during his first years in London.  The papers extensively document Osborn's own life and also contain correspondence and documents on the life and career of his parents, E.M. and T.G.B. Osborn.


Contents Listing

Series 1-13: Correspondence

Correspondence with his parents, Professor T.G.B. and E.M. Osborn, 1935-37, 1940-52, 1955, 1966-67. 10 cm
2. Letters from his father, T.G.B. Osborn, 1968-72. 2 cm.
3. Letters received 1932-99 and undated. 5 cm
Correspondence of particular interest includes letters from Rev. Julian Bickersteth, headmaster of St. Peter's College (1932, 1944, 1956-7), correspondence re entering the Church 1952-53, letter of Mary Duncan 1959 refusing Osborn's proposal of marriage, letter of condolence from Archbishop reed on the death of T.G.B. Osborn (June 1973), a letter from Scott Hicks regarding the film Shine and a separate file of correspondence and related cuttings from newspaper articles 1997 relating to the controversy over the 1998 Festival of Arts poster.
4. Letters received (one to their mother) from brother Andrew Osborn, 1942. 1 cm
includes cutting from newspaper featuring Andrew in RAF recruiting advertisement and after his award of the D.F.C. for bravery.
5. Correspondence with cousin Derry Osborn, principally relating to the history of the Osborn family, 1957-63. 2 cm.
includes notes on genealogies of the Osborn and related families: see also Series 49.1
6. Letters received by Peter Osborn on the death of his mother, 1958. 1 cm.
7. Correspondence with brother Richard Osborn, 1996-97. 1 cm.
principally re P.G. Osborn's autobiography Exit Praying but file also includes Richard Osborn's biographical notes on their parents.
8. Letters from and an extensive sonnet sequence to David Hankinson, 1955. 2 cm.
includes photographs of Hankinson and two comments on the poems.
9. Letters from and acrostic sonnets written for Jeffrey Barlow, 1959. 1 cm
includes acrostic poems for John Grant Pagan, Anthony Rouse, HMS Raleigh, Implacable and Thunderer, 'C.F.S.' and Garth R. Thompson. See also Series 19.
10. Letters from Jeffrey and Anne (nee Wheeler) Rowthorn, 1962-64. 2 cm.
includes a book of acrostic poems to them.  See also 'Exit Praying' correspondence files (Series 12), Poetry (Series 19) and Photographs (Series 44.11)
11. Postcards and cards sent to Miss E.B. (Vi) Thomas, 1980-92. 2 cm.
12. Correspondence regarding the writing and publication of his autobiography Exit Praying, 1988-95. 15 cm.  Arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent. See also Runcie correspondence Series 13 and correspondence with Richard Osborn, Series 7.
13. Correspondence with Archbishop Robert and Mrs Rosalind Runcie, c1977-99. 10 cm. Includes extensive articles about Runcie and re Canterbury Cathedral. See also Series 46.1 and 46.2

Series 14: Personal Documents

Father's birth certificate and parents' marriage certificate and own birth certificate; letters of introduction on completing of degree; documents relating to admission to the ministry and as deacon and priest and related licences, passports and driving licences, first prize certificate [as Richard Francis] for Screen Personality Contest 1934, certificate of membership of the Shakespeare Theatre Trust 1968, and misc. articles mentioning Osborn. Also includes various versions of Last Will and Testament and newspaper article about Osborn's life "Three careers in an illustrious life". 5 cm.  See also documents re naval appointments and retirement in Series 28. Some items held in MAP CABINET

Series 15-17: Diaries

15. Diaries. 1935 (27 May-23 August only), 1937, 1939, 1943, 1945-60 (includes separate personal diary of naval visit to Sydney 15-23 April 1946), 1962-99. 59 v.
16. Appointment diaries and calendars 1974-97. 28 v. Some volumes contain diary entries; 1984 missing.
17. Address books, undated [early]. 3 v.

Series 18: Autobiography

Exit Praying by Peter Osborn, 1993, vol. 1Typescript and published copies of Osborn's three part autobiography Exit Praying, with copies of photographs used as illustrations, artwork for the cover and distribution lists. 15 cm.
See also correspondence files Series 12.

Series 19: Poetry

Poems, many in the form of acrostic sonnets, usually to a particular friend, including J.W.M. [Jack Maund], P.C.S. Barton, Richard West, Jeffrey Rowthorn, John Grant Pagan, Walter Drummond, Chris le Mercier, Peter Hoey. 1933-97. See also Series 9, 46.6 and 46.7

Series 20: Other Writings

20.1 Play script and programmes of [school] productions, and a history essay on the decline of the Roman Empire, c1926-29.
20.2 Incomplete drafts of play 'Dusty November' and story 'Head Station' and other fragments. undated (1950s/1960s?)  See also Series 32, 'Blankett's expedition'.

Series 21: Cranbrook

Personal diary, writings, sketches, correspondence (all principally relating to fellow student Richard West), 1929-32. 4 cm.  File includes copies of the Cranbrookian December 1973 and December 1980, the latter with Osborn's funeral address on his fellow student J.W. (Jack) Maund.

Series 22: Sydney University

Papers from Osborn's University days, 1932-34. 3 cm.
[includes a few items of correspondence, principally re acting and a letter from his father December 1933 re his examination results; "Ideas', "Scribblings" and "Conversations and quotations"; sketches and notes for a production of "Lear" 1933; History Honours essay 'Russia in Asia', 1934; graduation ceremony program May 1935; newspapers articles re award (shared) of the University medal and Fraser scholarship for History; and letter of introduction from Professor Stephen Roberts, Department of Modern History 15 June 1935]  See also Series 23-25; and letter of Gordon Greenwood (with whom Osborn shared the Fraser scholarship) 15 December 1982 in Series 3.

Series 23-27: Acting Career 1926-1940
[School and Sydney University Dramatic Society 1932-35 performances and professional career in Sydney and London from 1935 until 1940]

23. Theatre curriculum vitae 1932-35
24. Articles from Honi Soit and miscellaneous other publications about Peter Osborn and the Sydney University Dramatic Society, 1932-35
25. Programmes, reviews and photographs of performances, 1926-27, 1930, 1932-40 and re winning of Screen Personality contest 1934. 12 cm. ( bound scrapbook and 15 folders)
[Principal performances were in Love for Love 1932 (Foresight), L'Aiglon 1933 and 1936 (Duke of Reichstadt), Berkeley Square 1934 (Peter Standish), The Piper 1934 (title role), Death takes a holiday 1934 (Corrado), Caprice 1933, 1935 (Robert), The Distaff side 1935 (Roland), She passed through Lorraine 1935 (Simon), Journey's end 1936 (Raleigh), Candida 1936 and 1939 (Marchbanks), The Romantic young lady 1936 (Pepe), White secrets 1938 (Ecroyd), Gentle Rain (1939). Also included are issues of The Sketch 29 September 1937 with photograph of Osborn in cast of 'Bonnett over the windmill' and The Illustrated sporting and dramatic news 4 November 1938 with caricature of Osborn in 'Oscar Wilde' and 'Polly Brookman's hair: first worn by me as Titania in A Mid-summer Night's Dream in 1925'.]
26. Correspondence, programmes and articles relating to later career, principally in charity plays, and appointment (1976) and work as 'chaplain for the arts', 196?-99.
includes files on production of 'The business of good government' and on the Swan Hill Shakespeare Festival 1967 and programme and photographs for 'South Sea Bubble' (1976) and for 1984 production of 'Ten Little Indians'.
27. Correspondence, photographs and other papers relating to film roles for the SA Film Corporation, including 'Breaker Morant', 'Under Capricorn', 'Robbery under Arms' and 'Hammer over the Anvil' (latter includes screenplay and shooting schedule). 1979-91.

Series 28-36: War Service and Naval Career 1940-1961
[war service on destroyer H.M.S. Calpe and as Instructor at RN College, Greenwich]

Lieutenant Commander Peter Osborn, undated.28. Naval curriculum vitae, 'Mention' in despatches 1945 and documents and correspondence relating to appointments and final departure from the Navy, notes on exercises, minor official correspondence and miscellaneous papers relating to war service, including mess rules, pay book, military currency. 1940-61.
29. Royal Naval College Instructor tests, course notes, reports on courses attended, quizzes and exercises, notes for talks and other miscellaneous papers (including printed booklets) relating to service with the Royal Naval College. 1951-61 and undated.
See also copy of Mess Rules 1939 in Series 28.
30. Instructor Officer's Journals: HMS Implacable 1 January-31 December 1953 and 1 January-17 August 1954; HMS Theseus 17 August-31 December 1954; Raleigh 1957 and 1958. 4 v.
31. Lecture to South Devon Literary and Debating Society 1958 on 'Greenwich Palace, Hospital and College', with related correspondence, booklet, negatives, photographs and postcards on Greenwich history and buildings.
32. [Blankett's Expedition] Paper on the Red Sea expedition of Commodore John Blankett 1798 and the origin of names on charts of the East African coast, [1961].
Typescript and printed copies (as published in The Thunderer Summer 1961), drafts, notes, photographs and original water-colour painting.
33. Programmes, scripts, photographs, etc. relating to official dramatic productions undertaken by Osborn in Italy 1946 and at the Naval College, 1947-61.
includes 19 separate files for L'Elisir d'amore 1946, King Arenci of Esseten (pantomime) 1947, The Critic 1948, She married the master 1948, While the sun shines 1948, The dynasts 1949, Candida 1949, The Browning version and seagulls over Sorrento 1950?, Œdipus King of Thebes 1950 and 1952, The knight of the burning pestle 1951, Androcles and the Lion [1954], Oc u 1957, Drama Festival (The rehearsal and Act V, Mid-summer night's dream) 1957 [with papers also from 1947 production of Mid-summer night's dream and 1955 production of The rehearsal], Armada Pageant 1957-58, See how they run 1958, The Winslow Boy 1959, The vigil 1961, The fair Quaker of Deal (undated), While the sun shines (undated) and miscellaneous/unidentified, including Greenwich Night Pageant program and Time Qs 1933 and Royal Navy Drama Festival programme 1947.
34. Correspondence with former Calpe shipmates, particularly Gordon Haddon, 1982-94.
includes letter from Alain Buriot, Dieppe 1991 re Association Jubilée 1942-92
[the destroyer Calpe was the flagship in the Dieppe raid]
35. 1st Destroyer Flotilla Association: newsletters and membership lists 1987-1996
36. H.M.S. Calpe photographs and 16mm strip film of the Calpe in Oran Bay (filmed from H.M.S. Formidable for the volunteer)

Series 37-38: University of Glasgow

37. Thesis 'Clydeside Craft Apprenticeships' submitted for Certificate in Industrial Administration, University of Glasgow School of Management Studies 1959/60. 2 copies and correspondence re his candidature, booklets on the course, membership of the University of Glasgow Management Club, and official Certificate [damaged by mildew].
38. Essays for management course, with some background notes and papers.

Series 39: Cuddesdon College 1961-1963

Miscellaneous papers, including letter from Tony [Rouse, vicar at Leamington], 19 March 1962; script for BBC program 'Seeing is Believing', introduction by Runcie with Peter Osborn and other Cuddesdon College students, 31 December 1961; program and tape recording of Christmas play 'The Business of Good Government' performed at Cuddesdon Church, 1963; issue of Cuddesdon News March 1980; booklet 'The founding of Cuddesdon' with inscription to TGB from Peter Osborn 1962, with photo and newspaper cutting. See also photographs in Series 44.10 and 44.11.

Series 40: Geelong Church of England Grammar School, Corio 1966-1968

Miscellaneous papers, including school lists 1966 and 1967; programs of music hall night and drama performances, 1974; slides of Timbertop and Prince Charles as a student there; tape recording of Prince Charles speaking on Charles I, and later newspaper cuttings of articles re the Prince.

Series 41: Abingdon School 1968-1973

Programmes of various School functions 1968-70; brochure re the School; newspaper cutting re Abingdon's adopted ship, the destroyer Calpe, 1941; photographs of the school and of a school trip to Dolgoed. Includes 1973 letter of resignation as Chaplain.  See also recording of School services, Series 46.8.

Series 42: St. Peter's College, Adelaide 1975-  

Programs of 'History of the School 1847-1950'exhibition held in Athelney House (1958?), Christmas Carols 1980 and Art Exhibition 1991; School newsletters April 1988 and December 1991

Series 43: Miscellaneous Items Relating to Church Career and Interests

43.1 Notes from Course on Moral Leadership, Assissi, undated (1950s?)
43.2 Notes from Canterbury and Rome Summer School, 1986
43.3 Notebooks of readings and prayers, extracts from sermons, books, Bible and other writings and broadcasts. 4 v., undated [mostly 1960s with some later additions].
43.4 Talk on Bonhoeffer, undated (1990s?) see also tape recording Series 46.5
43.5 Notes and articles on Augustus Short, first Bishop of Adelaide
43.6 Miscellaneous printed prayers, tracts, booklets on churches, cathedrals, pilgrimages and church societies.

Series 44: Photographs/Drawings

Peter Osborn as a young actor, date unknown.44.1  Family photograph album [mainly PGO as a baby and child with his parents and brother]
44.2  PGO, childhood and youth     [also 2 Oversize items]
44.3  PGO, acting/publicity photographs
44.4  PGO, naval career     [also 2 Oversize items]
44.5  PGO, 1940-74 [excluding navy]
44.6  PGO, 1975-99 [including a few of Breaker Morant filming]
44.7  T.G.B. and H.M. Osborn and other family
44.8  Friends and colleagues [some unidentified], including other performers
44.9  Photographs used in PGO's autobiography Exit Praying, with list
44.10 Album of selected occasions, including filming of Breaker Morant, Bali visit, Cuddesdon and Runcie family.  undated, mainly 1960s and 70s?
44.11 Cuddesdon College, village and fellow students, especially Jeffrey Rowthorn
44.12 Miscellaneous people and places, including Amsterdam, Bristol, Bermuda, Sydney [sent by his parents c1940], Mykonos, Adelaide (including St Peter's College and St. Mark's College), Bindy-i
44.13 Caricatures/sketches of T.G.B., E.M. and P.G. Osborn, Paris 1936  [Oversize]
note: Additional photographs will be found with related papers in Series 18, 25-27, 33, 39, 41, 47-49 and in some of the Correspondence Series; many other photographs of tours and unidentified places have not been retained.
44.14 Original drawings/watercolours by David Hankinson and Virginia Vetin(?) and of proposed window for St. Cyprian's Church.

Series 45: Slides

45.1 T.G.B. Osborn 1969 and 1972 and parents house and garden in Adelaide
45.2 Miscellaneous people [most unidentified]
Note: an extensive collection of slides of buildings (especially cathedrals) and places visited, many commercially produced, have been added to the Library's general collections

Series 46: Sound and Film Recordings

46.1 Christmas 1971 [with Runcie family?]
46.2 Sermon by TGO, Anzac Day [undated]
46.3 Ditto, undated
46.4 Talk by PGO to NARA on Lancelot Andrewes, 22/10/79
46.5 Lecture by PGO on Bonhoeffer, 22/8/83
46.6 Reading of Sonnet sequence by PGO, 12/2 and 8/10/84
46.7 Ditto on 5DN 26/2/84 (Preview of 1984 Festival)
46.8 Abingdon School services, 1973  [see also 'B' side of 46/2]
46.9 St. Peter's Cathedral 13/3/88 (Festival of Arts)
46.10 St. Cyprian's Church 16/3/88 (Festival of Arts)
46.11 Veteran Affairs Review Board 16/12/87 [record of meeting]
46.12 Dr. Robert Runcie at Swanwich Conference for Senior Evangelicals 1989
46.13 T.M.R. on Noel Coward [radio program? - incomplete]
46.14 Screen test for T. Balthasar and in excerpts from L'Aiglon and Berkeley Square also two 3" tape recordings [unused?] and three 'voice records', unidentified

Series 47: Terence Rattigan

47.1 Correspondence (mainly brief letters from Rattigan, with a few draft letters by Osborn) 1940, 1950, 1959, 1968-76.  [Osborn destroyed his earlier correspondence with Rattigan while at Cuddesdon College]
Correspondence with mutual friends following the death of Rattigan, with obituaries and other articles, 1977-79.
47.3 Correspondence with the executors of the Rattigan estate, 1978-81.
47.4 Miscellaneous letters and memorabilia related to Rattigan, including draft letter to Dr Keith Newman, letter from Tony and Diana 3 August 1940, passenger list of Camito voyage to Jamaica, February 1939, poems, gift cards, and a few photographs and programmes of (later) performances of Rattigan's plays.
47.5 Copies of dedication from copies of his works given to PGO and Preface by Osborn to first and second volumes of Rattigan's collected plays. (typescript)
47.6 Copies of Rattigan's plays - bound typescripts except as indicated, most not annotated.  8 items. [Black Forest, Final curtain, Follow my leader, French without tears [Samuel French printed edition, 1937], Next of kin, A tale of two cities, adapted by Rattigan and John Gielgud [also rough notes], The Winslow boy, untitled (A play in three acts by T.R. and Philip Heimann)]. Note a copy of Gide's Le retour de l'enfant prodigue with a note to Terry asking if he wished to translate it into English, has been separately catalogued for the Theatre collection.

Series 48: John A. Osborn

48.1 Journal of a trip from London to Honolulu, 14 August-25 November 1872 and return across America and via New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific and China, 25 November 1872-26 July 1873.  2 v. with original photographs taken during the trip and various enclosures, including maps and brochures.  [PGO intended to prepare a commentary - see letter to Richard Osborn 7 July 1996]
48.2 Book of manuscript hymns, 1867.  1 v.

Series 49: T.G.B Osborn

49.1 Biographical and miscellaneous, 1929-73.
[Outline of talk by Peter Osborn re T.G.B. and E.M. Osborn to Field Naturalists' Society 1988; copies of early letters sent to him by family members (sent to PGO by Derry Osborn); notes for an article in the Australian Dictionary of Biography by Bob Robertson; obituaries and other newspaper items re T.G.B. Osborn, 1935-37 and 1973; photographs of memorial tributes and Koonamore memorial; lists of household expenses and of income and expenditure 1928/29 to 193; a history of the first decade of St. Mark's College, Adelaide, with references to T.G.B. Osborn marked]
49.2 Department of Botany, University of Oxford
[Booklet on opening of new building by Lord Rothschild October 1951; album of photographs September 1953; two articles on the Oxford Botanic Gardens by Osborn 1943 and 1951; Guide to the Oxford Botanic Gardens and postcards of Oxford] Some items held in MAP CABINET
See also correspondence Series 1-2 and related papers of T.G.B. Osborn at MSS 0020

Series 50: Miscellaneous

'A disappointing son: monologue for Peter Osborn' by Douglas Middlebrook, 1993, 3 p. typescript

Series 51: Playscripts and Excerpts.

51.1 Black-eyed Susan by Douglas Jerrold (Dick's Standard Plays no. 230)
51.2 The Unicorn from the stars: actor's part, Martin Hearne
51.3 Laura Garnett [part of Henry Garnett]
51.4 The last of Mrs Cheyney [part of Willie marked]
51.5 Untitled play [trial after Christ's crucifixion and removal from the tomb]
51.6 Unidentified manuscript play The Lord's Lieutenant: a play (William Douglas Home) and 'Shakespeare in peace and war', a lecture by John Gielgud, have been catalogued for the Theatre collection.

Series 52: Seals and Stamps

Collection of seal and embossed stamp impressions, together with indenture (1882) of Julius C. Habich to Dietrich Schmidt, engraver, his notebook and cards of attendance at School of Design lectures (1883-84), and seal of the Patent Office.
[the seal and stamps, mostly of South Australian businesses and government offices, were presumably designed or prepared by Habich.  Osborn's ownership of and interest in this collection is unclear]

This listing was revised in July 2014
Lee Hayes

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