The Raymond Priestley diaries

Raymond Priestley was a significant figure across a number of fields. He was born on 20 July 1886 in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, England. Educated at Tewkesbury Grammar School, where his father was headmaster, Priestley went on to read geology at University College, Bristol (1905-1907). Before the completion of his degree, he was invited to serve as a geologist working in association with Edgeworth David upon the British Antarctica ‘Nimrod’ Expedition (1907-1909) led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. 

Upon the completion of the ‘Nimrod’ Expedition, Priestley worked at the University of Sydney; it was here that Priestley was recruited as the geologist and meteorologist for the British Antarctic Expedition (1910-1913) led by Robert Falcon Scott.

As a member of the ill-fated British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition, Priestley was dispatched with the Northern Party to Cape Adare (1911) before being landed a further 200 miles south for a short period of field work. In summer clothes and with eight weeks provisions, the six man party found themselves trapped at Terra Nova Bay when the expedition ship could not get through the ice to pick them up as scheduled. It is here they wintered for six and a half months in a snow cave surviving on penguin and seal meat.

Returning to England in 1920, Priestley resumed his work writing up the findings of the British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition. It was his research on glaciers that led him to take his Bachelor of Science (1920) after which he studied a Diploma of Agriculture (1922) at Christ’s College, Cambridge. He became a fellow of Clare College (1923) and from 1924 to 1934 Priestley served the University of Cambridge as concurrently the Assistant Registrar, Secretary to the Board of Research Studies and Secretary-General of the Faculties.

On the strength of having excelled in holding several simultaneous positions at the University of Cambridge, Priestley was offered the first salaried Vice-Chancellorship of the University of Melbourne, a position he held 1935-1938.

Priestley’s diaries

The University of Melbourne Archives holds the originals and photocopies of Raymond Priestley’s diaries, 1935-1938. The 1935 diary was digitised for the 2018 Digital Humanities class and the following blog posts were written from this diary:

Priestley’s Penguins by Andrew Furhmann

More than a “degree shop” by Ravando

An Antarctic joke and the journey to Australia by Alice Margrison

Diary Entry Dated February 3rd, 1935 by Christopher Orrell

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