From Upfront, Journal of the friends and supporters of the State Library of New South Wales 14(1)(Autumn/Winter, 2002), p.10.
Early English translations of Cervantes’ Don Quixote refer to that knight as the valorous, the ‘wittie’, the ingenious, the visionary and the admirable. All apply to Ben Haneman if one adds the scholarly, the generous and the modest.
Ben recently gave the Library his extensive personal collection of Don Quixote publications – a wonderful gift. Ben was also generous to the Library with his time. He had just completed a tenyear task compiling an index to all the major missionary journals, thus enabling Aboriginal people to ‘find’ their families and friends.
He was a member of the Library Society committee for over a decade and was acting chairman for the last year. In November 2001 he became an inaugural honorary life member of the society. He was a regular and inspiring speaker and his masterly talks – often on the history of medicine – were embellished by his scholarship and wit. His brilliant diagnosis of Captain Matthew Flinders’ last illness will assuredly be definitive. He wore his scholarship very lightly (a rare gift) but he took his jokes very seriously – and he enjoyed hearing them too.
His love of medicine and Spain was recognised when he was awarded an AM for services to medicine and the Spanish community in 1988.
In 1995 he promised to offer more volunteer time unless he were called to ‘that big library in the sky’. We are grateful to That Library for sparing us Ben for the years to 2001. We have lost a brave, witty, gentle and almost perfect knight.
Vale Ben – and adios.