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Jim’s Australiana Spot – 2UE - April 16, 2017

Female Authors of Aussie Classic Kid’s Books  PART 1

Pamela Lyndon Travers (Helen Goff) b Maryborough Queensland 1899 d UK 1996

was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, Her mother, Margaret Agnes Morehead, was the sister of the Premier of Queensland. Her father, Travers Goff, was an unsuccessful bank manager and heavy drinker who died when she was 7. Called Lyndon as a child, Travers moved with her mother and sisters to New South Wales after her father's death, where they were supported by a great aunt (the inspiration for her book Aunt Sass). She lived there for 10 years, and boarded at Sydney's Normanhurst Girls School during World War I.

Travers had a rich fantasy life and loved fairy tales and animals and her writing talents emerged during her teens, when she began publishing poems in Australian periodicals. She was a dancer and an actress, appearing mainly in Shakespearean plays in Australia and New Zealand. In 1924, she moved to England to write and adopted the pen name Pamela Travers. She began publishing articles in various papers, including The Irish Statesman. Its editor, George William Russell, became a lifelong supporter of Travers.

Travers had a love of Irish mythology, perhaps stemming from her father's stories when she was a child, so the friendship had a special significance. Through Russell, she also became friends with the poet WB Yeats and famous 'mystic' George Gurdjieff.

 Her first Mary Poppins novel in 1934 was an immediate success. Seven more books in the series followed over the ensuing years: Mary Poppins Comes Back (1935), Mary Poppins Opens the Door (1943), Mary Poppins in the Park (1952), Mary Poppins From A to Z (1962), Mary Poppins in the Kitchen (1975), Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane (1982), with the last being Mary Poppins and the House Next Door in 1988.

Travers never married, but she had a long time partner, Madge Burnand. She adopted a boy when she was in her late 30s. During World War II, Travers worked for the UK's Ministry of Information, and later lived on a Navajo reservation in Arizona, acquiring an Indian name that she always kept secret. She wrote young adult novels, a play, essays on mythology etc because she feared not being taken seriously as a writer. She was writer-in-residence at colleges. The 1964 Disney movie Mary Poppins made her very wealthy but she HATED the movie ‘I couldn’t believe Disney could get it so wrong!"
The draft script of ‘Mary Poppins’ was part of the National Treasure exhibition … There is a statue of Mary Poppins, with her magic umbrella,  in Maryborough Queensland.

The 2013 movie 'Saving Mr Banks', with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, is a fairly accurate story of her life
Mary Grant Bruce Born: 24 May 1878  Sale, Victoria, Australia.  Died: 2 July 1958  Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, England.

Australia’s best known authors of children’s literature, was born Minnie Grant Bruce near Sale in Victoria, Australia on 24th May 1878.  Her parents were Eyre Lewis Bruce, a surveyor from County Cork in Ireland, and Mary Atkinson Bruce.  Her grandfather was the Squatter, William Whittakers, who bought the Snowy River Run in 1839 and who later had, successively, Tombong Station, Tubbut Station, and Fernhill Station.

Mary began writing when she was six and, from age 16, she entered and won the annual examinations of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society three times in a row whilst still a schoolgirl and she was editor of her school magazine. Much of Mary’s childhood was spent on her Whittakers grandparent’s and uncles’ cattle stations in Victoria.  This gave her an abiding love of horses.

After matriculation Bruce moved to Melbourne where she worked as an editor and wrote weekly stories for the Leader children’s page. Her first book A Little Bush Maid, originally a serial, was published in 1910. Between 1910 and 1942 she published 37 novels.

Along with her parents, her great-aunt, Miss Martha Moore, who lived with the family, was very important in Mary’s childhood.  She is the heroine of 'PORT AFTER STORMIE SEAS', one of Mary’s best stories, She had earlier founded Australia’s first girls’ school, Moore Hall, in Sydney.

Although she wrote many books, her most famous were the Billabong series, begun when she was writing weekly stories for A Little Bush Maid first appeared in serial form in the children's pages of the Leader, where. At her editor's suggestion she posted the completed novel to Ward, Lock & Co. in London where it was published in 1910 under the authorship 'Mary', regarded as more marketable than 'Minnie'. Other titles followed quickly. 'I was very firm about one point', she said in Table Talk in 1939, 'that there should be no love interest in them. Reviewers applauded the clean, healthy, wholesome, pleasant, and purely Australian character of the saga.

In 1913 Mary Grant Bruce had gone to London where English relations provided her with an introduction to Lord Northcliffe. She began writing articles for the Daily Mail. In 1914 she met a distant cousin, Major George Evans Bruce of the Norfolk Regiment, ten years her senior, who had served in the British Army in India and South Africa; he was also a writer of exotic melodramas and expert articles on fish and crustacea. They came back to Australia and were married in1914, but their stay at the seaside, described by her in The Peculiar Honeymoon, was cut short by the outbreak of war. Bruce was soon called to duty by the War Office. They sailed in the troop-ship Nestor to Cork, where Bruce, was second-in-command of the Dublin Fusiliers, training recruits. In the next three years Mary 'produced two babies and four books'. After the war, the family returned to Australia to settle at Traralgon, Gippsland.

In 1927 the family moved to Omagh, Ireland, with permanent residence in mind. Soon after their arrival their younger son accidentally shot himself. They left Ireland, and the next twelve years were spent on the Continent and in the south of England. In 1939 they returned to Australia to settle their son on the land. During World War II Mary worked for the Australian Imperial Force Women's Association, and broadcast three series of talks for the Department of Information.

Although much of her work was written in England, Mary Grant Bruce's patriotism is more Australian than British. After her husband died in 1948, Mary Grant Bruce returned to England, visiting Australia from time to time. Survived by her son, she died in Sussex on 2 July 1958, and was cremated at Hastings.


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