The Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol 7 1891–1939, A–Ch
Melbourne University Press, 647 pp, $25.00
In his uncommonly long life, Mahomet Allum, a native of Afghanistan, combined the vocations of camel driving, herbalism and philanthropy – not in Kabul, but in Adelaide. Allum believed himself ‘God’s messenger’, but a Crown Prosecutor described him as a particularly deceitful and cunning ‘quack’ and brought about his conviction under the Medical Practitioners Act.
The Afghan had the last laugh: a twenty-year-old patient he had married at the age of eighty-three bore him a daughter, and when he died, aged 106, the funeral procession from the mosque was more than a mile long.
Few of the entries in the latest volume of The Australian Dictionary of Biography are as exotic as that concerning Mahomet Allum, but, as dictionaries go, the ADB is remarkably readable. The new volume features the eminent A-Ch’s in the period 1891–1939, and is therefore marked by soldiering and socialism.