A member’s personal tribute
I only knew Ben Haneman slightly at first from several Book Collectors’ Society meetings at John Fletcher’s home in the late 1980s and some joint meetings of the Friends of Fisher Library and the Book Collectors’ Society after that time. I was privileged to hear eulogies by Ben and Brian Taylor at the funeral Mass for John Fletcher in June, 1992.
Ben was a quiet, unassuming man who was always offering to help people. So he was nominated as President of the Book Collectors’ Society in September 1995 after Brian McDonald retired from that position. Ben was an erudite person who had many literary and book collecting interests. As chairman of our quarterly meetings he would also provide a gift for the speaker, usually an attractively wrapped bottle of wine!
I want to illustrate Ben’s kindly and compassionate nature. When Ben moved to Double Bay he would collect Suzanne Mourot and me at the Edgecliff Centre for the Saturday meetings of the Society and later deliver us back to our homes in the Eastern Suburbs. On these journeys he would point out the secondhand bookshops in Parramatta Road; he knew them all, and had bought books from most of them. (I don’t think many of these shops are still trading – more’s the pity!) En route Ben would often play a cassette of Jewish devotional music with beautiful cantor singing. He would have been to the Great Synagogue in the morning, raced home, picked up Book Collectors’ Society material and come to Edgecliff. Sometimes on the back seat of his dark red sedan there was his stethoscope, a sign that he was still treating patients.
In the car Ben would sometimes tell jokes and humorous stories, with the customary Irish, Scottish and Jewish flavour, and a rabbi and Catholic priest as the protagonists. I wish I could recall those stories. They were always told sympathetically and without bias.
At the wake for Ben at the State Library, one of the people attending told me that at some time previously Ben had treated him when he had taken a bad turn, I think in the street. Ben had taken him to St George Hospital and continued to look after him. They had become good friends and were planning to travel to Spain again – sadly, that did not take place.
Besides taking Suzanne and me, Ben often brought friends to the Book Collectors’ Society meetings in Sydney, as he was anxious to build up the Society’s membership. Sometimes he would be getting ready to leave for travel overseas – to Spain or South America – after dropping us home.
Ben was a kind and courteous gentleman. I miss him.