Margaret Winn (2020) The continual inner search: the life of Roy Winn, Melbourne, Kerr Books.


Margaret Winn, Roy’s grand daughter, has compiled this biography, published by Kerr Books in Melbourne in 2020. It is a labour of love, a task that has consumed a number of years, off and on. Margaret has sought to understand the rather remote figure of her grandfather who died in 1963, when she was 11 years old. He was not very interested in what she had to say, she recalls. But he was remembered by his psychoanalytic colleagues for his integrity and his contribution to the development of psychoanalysis in this country. This book, written for her family, is also Margaret Winn’s contribution to the history of psychoanalysis in this country.

Roy was born into a privileged family in Newcastle, New South Wales in 1890. He was the third of four sons of William and Janet Winn and a member of a leading, ‘God fearing’ family, members of the Primitive Methodist Church. His father and uncle Isaac Winn were active in church affairs but are also remembered for Winn’s Ptd Ltd, a super emporium store located in the middle of Newcastle. William Winn the deputy president of the Temperance Society – and young Roy took the pledge at the age of seven. Not unusual for young children in this age of evangelical Christianity. As a young man Roy wanted to be a medical missionary – the Australian Methodist Church had a mission in Fiji.

A significant section of the book is devoted to Winn’s war service… from his decision to sign up as a Medical Officer in 1915 until the war’s end. Winn lasted until the end of the war. After losing his foot towards the end of the war, he returned home and, eventually found his way to psychoanalysis. Reg Ellery, another psychiatrist interested in psychoanalysis, returned home at his own expense within a year of signing up. Winn’s Melbourne colleague, Paul Dane struggled with illness contracted in the field. And, like Winn, went on to use his war service in his later work with veterans.For her grandfather’s story Margaret Winn has consulted historians and libraries to trace her grandfather’s path through the war. Winn’s novelised version, ‘Men may rise’, is her guide. She thus contributes an account to the increasing pile of such family histories to the Australian historiography of war… and the foundation pile for historians of psychoanalysis in this country. For it is in Winn’s reflections, recorded in Men May Rise, that he comes to understand that he is both doctor and patient.

In 1920, newly married and with a child in tow, Winn and his wife travelled to England for Winn’s analysis with Robert Riggall, a member of the recently formed British Psychoanalytical Society. He returned to Australia in 1922 and tried to interest colleagues in the application of psychoanalysis to medical work. It did not work out and, in 1931, Winn left hospital practice altogether, and established his own practice in Macquarie Street Sydney. Margaret Winn also notes that her grandfather was not a trained psychoanalyst: he made use of what he had learned through his own analysis and reading, with patients. He was appointed as an Associate of the British Psychoanalytical Society in 1935.

Winn was actively involved in the effort to bring European Analysts to Australia during the 1930s. He was a liaison point for Ernest Jones in London, who, in one of the twentieth century’s great rescue efforts, found places in the United States, Britain and in some Dominion countries for a large number of psychoanalysts potentially trapped in Europe as the Nazis took control. Alone, and together with a number of leading figures in the Australian milieu of that time, lobbied the Australian government for their admission. Of the six who applied, only two succeeded: Andrew Peto and Elisabeth Kardos who were granted visas late in 1939. They decided not to emigrate. Clara Geroe, granted a visa with her husband, arrived in March 1940 and was subsequently appointed as Australia’s first training analyst through the British Psychoanalytical Society. Winn continued as an Associate until 1952. At this point he funded the establishment of the Sydney Institute of Psychoanalysis. By then Andrew Peto had arrived and, like Geroe, was working as a training analyst.

It was one of Winn’s colleagues, Janet Neild, who referred to the ”continual inner search’ that he carried through his life. This may have been his public face, or his working persona, or the place where he could carry out his own internal mission. Margaret Winn, a family member with a different experience of Roy, wants to understand her grandfather’s mind, as much as she can. She speculates about his ‘autistic’ side: wondering whether this contributes to him being something of an ‘outsider’ – and thus able to strike out on his own. ‘I am not sure he was autistic’, Margaret Winn wrote to me in an email. ‘ He might be the source of the genetic thread to later generations who do manifest high functioning autistic characteristics’. This is, after all, for the family’s understanding.

In another, professional, sphere, Roy Winn’s contribution is important for Australian psychoanalysis. He helped bring it into the medical fold and held its place within Sydney’s medical world. In a sense his work and dedication to seeing psychoanalysis established in this country was his quiet – and greatest- achievement.