Archivist Graeme Rainbow was pleased to be loaned a copy of David Hammond’s biography “The Man on Mount Wellington” recently.

The book tells the story of Basil Griston.  Basil spent time at St Virgil’s College during the Depression  and the book tells of his experiences at the College.

Basil Griston bequeathed at least $300,000 to the University of Tasmania. He asked that the gift be used to endow a scholarship in honour of his sister Joyce, and that the scholarship be awarded to Tasmanian students deserving of assistance and studying in any faculty at the University.

The following is an article written by Charles Waterhouse and printed in The Mercury Newspaper on Monday August 3 1992. Basil Griston, once the self-declared king of Hobart’s Clutha boarding house (in Barrack St) and a great friend to battlers, is dead. Mr Griston, who was in his mid-70’s, died in the Royal Hobart Hospital on Saturday.

After a lifetime of wandering, Mr Griston, who was known as “King Bas” but called himself “Basic Bas”, returned in his old age to a bush block at Old Farm Rd behind the Cascade Brewery where he grew up.  Although he could afford much more, he chose to live in a caravan.

Mr David Hammond, who published Mr Griston’s autobiography, The Man on Mt Wellington, in 1988, said Mr Griston was a real character. “He was a rough, basic bloke but terribly generous right up to when he died,” he said.

The Head of the Kingborough and Huon police division, Inspector Ralph Belbin, said “All I knew him to do was run after other people and look after their problems”.

Although he detested the term do-gooder, Mr Griston fitted that description by getting surplus food from bakeries and supermarkets to distribute to pensioners and unemployed people. He will be remembered as the man who gave a $150,000 farm in Summerleas Rd, Kingston, to Hobart’s homeless and unemployed youth and gave $20,000 to the women’s shelter movement, $5000 to the Unemployed Workers Union and $4000 to neglected children in Victoria.  

Mr Griston said he wanted to give $250,000 to help disadvantaged students at the University of Tasmania if he could be granted a pension but when this was blocked he said the University eventually would get the money in his will.

Mr Griston served in the merchant navy during World War II, made a fortune through oil investments in the 1960s and travelled overseas extensively.

A Remarkable Old Virgilian

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