Ian Byford’s parents sent five-year-old Ian to the country to protect him from the Nazi blitz on wartime London, amusingly, to his sister’s all girls’ school, though he moved to a boys’ school a year later. Hating the separation from his parents, it did, however, forge an independent spirit at an early age.
Postwar, attending the City of London School, he joined the Dramatic Society, played Rugby, captained the First 15, competed in the Athletics and subsequently received an appointment to the position of Prefect.
Ian understood his sexuality young and it never caused him a moment of concern. He experienced no animosity at school and received unstinting support from devoted parents. On graduation, he undertook compulsory National Service before graduating with an Agricultural degree from Wye College. With better employment prospects in Australia, Ian migrated from the UK. He never looked back.
Working first as a jackaroo, he spent the rest of his working life with the Department of Primary Industries at the Ayr Research Station, then the Atherton Tablelands and finally Brisbane. One weekend he drove from Ayr to Cairns, almost 500 miles away, and immediately adored the place. When his parents retired and migrated to Australia, they too fell in love with Cairns and made it their home. Ian retired in the 1990’s and returned to live in Cairns.
In the 1980’s Ian volunteered for QuAC, caring for the sick and dying (including Ted Kelk) and helping with the Quilt Project. On retirement, he continued in that role in Cairns and became involved in the arts. Helping Rex Masters with the Pink Guide, he eventually took over the publication. Deeply troubled by the lack of recognition for the instigators of Gay Law Reform, Ted Kelk and Pat O’Hara, Rex and Ian decided to correct the omission, and from that endeavour, this book was born.
Ever a community stalwart, Ian takes great joy in his role in the Cairns LGBT+ community and in 2016 that community bestowed on Ian its highest ever accolade, The Pat O’Hara Award. Such is the regard for Ian in the community, every single nomination received, offered the same name… Ian Byford.
The dedication Ian has devoted to this project of writing the book, Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns 1876-1990, is breathtaking, starting in cooperation with Rex Masters and continuing after Rex’s death, compiling stories from a time when no records were kept, and sourcing photos which, when they were taken, were sufficient legal evidence to help lock men up for 14 years. Ian Byford is simply our own Living Treasure. More info