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My eulogy for Darrell Tryon

Serge Tcherkézoff
p. 279-280

Dédicace

Le texte qui suit est un éloge funèbre prononcé le 20 mai 2013 lors de la cérémonie à la cathédrale de Canberra. La famille m’avait demandé de prendre la parole sur cette part importante de la vie et de l’œuvre de Darrell Tryon que fut son activité pour animer puis renforcer les liens de coopération scientifique avec la France.

Photo 1. – Darrell Tryon

Image 1.png

(© Tryon’s family)

There are so many parts of our lives and so many aspects of scientific research on which Darrell had a huge impact. We could spend hours sharing our memories and praising his achievements. I will only touch on one particular aspect of Darrell’s life: for my country, France, and for the whole of the Francophone Pacific region, Darrell will always stand out as a dear friend and close colleague who worked tirelessly towards developing intercultural and scientific dialogue between the Anglophone and the Francophone communities in the Pacific region.

By a chance encounter it happened that, when he was a young Kiwi, a family from Noumea, New Caledonia, became close friends with Darrell’s parents in Christchurch. The young Darrell spent much of his school holidays in that Francophone community and became not only absolutely fluent in French, but he could talk and joke as only Noumea-born people can do. He told me a number of times that his “adoptive family” was in Noumea.

Other paths led him to become a senior scholar in linguistics, but of course that research led him to work with a number of indigenous linguistic communities living in New Caledonia, in French Polynesia, and in Vanuatu as well. He was at home everywhere in the Pacific.

That fact, but also Darrell’s dynamism and charisma, explains to us how Darrell could achieve something that no one else could have achieved. Darrell succeeded in creating close research partnerships between Australia-based and France- or French Pacific -based scholars, but at the same time he even managed to contribute significantly to bringing the various Francophone researchers in the field of Pacific social sciences closer together as well.

In that connection, in the mid 1990s, Darrell went on to visit the various Francophone research centres in France. With the approval of the Australian Ambassador in France, he invited all of them to attend a large workshop at the Embassy in Paris. Thus at the same time as he was creating this new link between France and Australia, he was instrumental in setting up dialogue between those French centres. A part of our sense of unity today, in French-Francophone Pacific research in the social sciences, started through this initiative, his initiative. Thank you Darrell!

That was in 1997. At the time he collaborated closely with the French diplomatic and scientific leaders to co-organise a vast pan-Pacific meeting in Noumea, and worked with the Ambassador Pierre Guarrigue-Guyonnaud, who was the French Ambassador to the Community of Pacific States. The meeting took place in the highly significant Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou. During those years, there were not many official exchanges between Australia and France, but Darrell’s efforts ensured that a dialogue continued.

France has recognized this outstanding success, in conferring upon Darrell its highest national honour, la Légion d’Honneur. This was given to him in a moving ceremony held at the French Embassy in Canberra in 2004.

The following years present such intense involvement by Darrell along those lines, that we can hardly list them. Limited time given to me allow only to say that, between 2003 and 2012, nearly every year he organised, co-organised, or helped us significantly to organise joint workshops or larger symposia, alternatively in Noumea and in Canberra, in anu, that brought together Anglophone and Francophone scholars.

Photo 2. – Darrell Tryon in his office at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies

Image 2.png

(© Tryon’s family)

In 2003 he co-organised a French-Australian symposium, Pacific Island States Today/ L’État des États, held at The Australian National University. In 2004, he participated in an international conference, Les Assises de la Recherche Française dans le Pacifique/ A Review and Evaluation of French Research in the Pacific again held at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea. In 2006, we both worked towards another workshop in Noumea, held at the ird (Institut de recherche pour le développement); one major result is the Livre Blanc de la recherche en shs en Nouvelle Calédonie, and the birth of the network agora-shs, based in New Caledonia but addressing issues relevant to the whole region. Major discussions centred on governance and economic development, again bringing together Francophone and Anglophone scholars from France and the Pacific region.

This was followed in October 2009 by two conjoint Francophone/Anglophone conferences, held at the ird Centre in Noumea. One was Stability, Security and Development in Oceania, organised by Darrell and David Hegarty, also of anu, and Darrell worked intensively to finalise the publication of the Acts, revising everything to the last. The book has been published by the anu-ePress. The symposium was sponsored by the French Fonds Pacifique and the State, Society and Governance Program at The Australian National University.

But that year we also co-organised the second agora symposium: the idea was to bring together Anglophone researchers who work on the Francophone Pacific, so that their Francophone Pacific colleagues and the wider public could meet them and hear about their work. A registry and summary of their works is being set up on our agora-shs website.

I could say much more about the workshops and symposia and edited collections in which Darrell was instrumental, in recent years. Another symposium held in Noumea is in preparation for publication. The last of these was in October 2012, held here in Canberra, at anu, as a joint initiative between Darrell, David, Jacky (directing the European centre) and myself. Our last discussion with Darrell to finalise the book resulting from the symposium, was at Easter time.

Now Darrell, you have left us, but know that your spirit is still with us to bring this work to fruition and to keep your legacy. In Samoa, my adoptive country in the Pacific, if I may be permitted to call it such, when a very high chief has just passed away, sacred words are pronounced. It can be rendered in English as:

« He has escaped and left us alone, but he did the immense task that he wanted to do for the good of the community, oh look, the Moon has turned red, as he is travelling there. »

Thank you.