John Collis Snaith 1876-1936

We include a cricket book by JC Snaith in our next list.

Willow, The King: The Story of a Cricket Match (London: Ward, Lock and Co. Limited: no date) [1899] Illustrated by Lucien Davis , R.I., comprising a frontispiece and three plates.

I was curious to find out something about the author. The most interesting source of information is Kevin Telfer’s book on JM Barrie’s cricket team, the Allahakbarries, Peter Pan’s First XI: The extraordinary story of J. M. Barrie’s cricket team. I’m waiting for a copy I bought to arrive in the mail, but meanwhile, I quote from it:

…the real cricketer of note who made his debut this year against the Artists was JC Snaith. Born in 1876…the left-handed John Collis Snaith played his one and only first-class game for Nottinghamshire in 1900. He made a reasonably promising twenty-one in his own innings in that game, but never got the opportunity to follow it up. He certainly excelled in club cricket and for the Allahakbarries proved to be a dangerous and greatly feared bowler who could skittle sides out – something which he accomplished the following month in the next match against the Artists. Charles Tennyson, who later played for the Alaahakbarries described him as ‘a medium or slow-medium left hand bowler, and on certain types of wicket he had the power of bringing the ball in very quickly off the pitch time after time, just bail high, with a ‘naturally unnatural’ break from the off, which was fatal to second class batsmen.’

The essay in which this description appears is called ‘The Too-Serious Snaith’, for Tennyson writes that he was an intense and introverted man who found it difficult to socialise and generally led a very private life. He was pale, gaunt and wore scholarly glasses, had straight black hair and slightly stopping shoulders. He enjoyed playing chess with a select group of companions and loved more than anything else to play cricket. And of course he was a writer, though not a writer with the fame of many of the other members of the Allahakbarries team. Tennyson, however, writes that Snaith’s story Willow the King, which was published in 1899, ‘has often been referred to as the best cricket story ever written’.

Snaith was so ardent about his cricket that one member of the Allahakbarries recalled that on the south lawn of Black Lake Cottage, ‘when the traditional match of Gentlemen (left-handed) against Ladies was being played wit customary hilarity, Snaith smote Mrs Barrie on the ankle with a fast Yorker and was with difficulty restrained from claiming lbw.’

He was sometimes called ‘the gloomy scribe’, such was his generally overcast disposition, and it seems that the rest of the team aimed some gentle jokes in his direction. He had first been introduced to Barrie in 1898 and, quite typically, Barrie saw him as an interesting character study. And when Prichard published the book about his travels to South America, Adventures through the Heart of Patagonia, in 1902, which described his hunt for the giant sloth, Barrie ‘immediately invented a shy and formidable and even more mysterious animal , The Giant Snaith, about which he delighted to weave grotesquely appropriate fantasies in his slow rich Scottish drawl.’

He does not, however, seem to have found his way into Barrie’s written fiction, but his exploits on the cricket pitch must have delighted the little Scot. In this first match of the season he took an unspectacular but useful four wickets and scored sixteen, but they still lost the match by twenty-two runs. Far better performances were just around the corner, and he proved to be one of the team’s strongest players.

To this one can add a piece of ephemera:

Snaith letter
JC Snaith’s letter on cricket auctioned in 2015.

John Collis Snaith. Nottinghamshire (one match) 1900. Two page handwritten letter from Snaith, dated 31st December 1932 to A.W. Shelton, Secretary (and later President) of Nottinghamshire C.C.C. enclosing a small donation for John Dixon’s Widow, Dixon died in June 1931, and played 235 matches for the county 1882-1905, he captained the side between 1889-99. ‘There was only one John Dixon’. Snaith adapts the famous lines on Alfred Mynn (William Jeffrey Prowse) after his death to lament Dixon’s passing ‘My friend [E.V.] Lucas may have kept them in mind. I rather hope so’. Signed in ink by Snaith. VG – cricket The Sale Room

Snaith picture

According to Wormwoodiana’s piece The Genius of JC Snaith, he is an unjustly neglected writer.

Several critics agreed, I later found, that J.C. Snaith was the author of a masterpiece. Unfortunately for him, none of them could agree which book of his that was, while all of them did agree that the others were not worth much attention. That must be a uniquely frustrating position. Essayist S.P.B. Mais acclaimed his novel The Sailor (1916): others lauded his humorous and Pickwickian cricketing novel Willow, the King (1899). There are champions for others of his books too.

Snaith’s reputation has suffered, I think, from his work being too various. Comedy, sport, historical romance, criminous thrillers, psychological meditations, visionary works, it was all too much for the reader and reviewer to get a grasp upon. Nevertheless, with the advantage of retrospect, we can winnow out those that stand distinctive. Whichever work one chooses, though, it is sure that Snaith was an original, as eccentric in his outlook and his style as, say, M.P. Shiel or Baron Corvo.

He was not always so neglected and, indeed, I think that Telfer may not have appreciated that in his day, Snaith was a notable and popular writer. Enter R. (Reginald) Brimley Johnson was a biographer, critic, and editor specializing in nineteenth century English literature and literary figures. In particular he was a noted authority on Austen and he edited Shelley-Leigh Hunt: how friendship made history and extended the bounds of human freedom and thought. 

Johnson, Reginald Brimley.

Adm. pens. at CORPUS CHRISTI, Oct. 1, 1886.
[Youngest] s. of William Henry Farthing (1843), schoolmaster, of Llandaff House, Cambridge [ Cambridgeshire ]. B. Dec. 6, 1867, at Cambridge [ Cambridgeshire ].
School, Llandaff House, Cambridge [ Cambridgeshire ], and Crawford College, Maidenhead [ Berkshire ].
Matric. Michs. 1886.
Established a small publishing business in London and Edinburgh [ Scotland ] in 1900, for the purpose of issuing early books by G. K. Chesterton, G. Lowes Dickinson, and others.
Founded, in October, 1909, The Gownsman and edited it, 1912-13.
Author, Jane Austen, a critical study; Jane Austen, her Life, her Work, her Family and her Critics; The Women Novelists ( Fanny Burney to George Eliot ); Fanny Burney and the Burneys, etc.
Also edited numerous collections of the novels, poems, plays, letters, etc. of many other well-known writers.
Died May 18, 1932, in London .
Brother of George W. (1876) and Augustine H. (1884), etc.
(Scott, MSS.; Who was Who, 1929-40; The Times, May 20, 1932; English Cat. of Books; Cambridge Review, May 27, 1932.)

In 1922 Johnson published his Some Contemporary Novelists (men), in the introduction of which he segues from DH Lawrence to JC Snaith. Indeed, where Lawrence, Buchan and EM Forster each receive 10 pages, Snaith has eighteen. One might add that Johnson does not even seem aware of Willow King, which is neither discussed nor mentioned in the works by Snaith that he lists, evidently under the impression that Snaith’s first novel was some years after this was published. Perhaps he was aware of it and in the scheme of the literary critic, a cricket book just isn’t cricket.

Snaith married Madeline Ruth Armstrong in 1913. She died in 1931. There do not seem to have been any children. He is listed in the Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club’s wiki page just above Garfield Sobers.

His quotes to be found online include:

Cricket is quite a gentle, harmless game, but he is a lucky man who has not to sweat some blood before he’s done with it .


Beside a perfectly-timed boundary hit on a hard ground from fast bowling, all other delights of this life are a nothingness.

He is credited by the Oxford dictionary with the earliest use of the expression ‘street person’ and also, in the fine tradition of turning nouns into adjectives, the first use of the expression ‘pince-nezed’ to mean, wearing a pince-nez.

Another contemporary appraisal reveals the high regard in which he was held.

The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer, Volume 45
Excelsior Publishing House, 1916 p. 187 The steady development of the literary genius of John Collis Snaith over a period of some twenty years is one of the remarkable incidents of contemporary English literature. Mr Snaith is a young Englishman who makes his home now in London. At the age of eighteen he wrote a remarkable novel full of the faults of youth full of the inspiration of a really imaginative mind. It had a marked success and still stands in a distinguished place amongst English modern fiction. He then produced in regular order half a dozen novels of different types, some historical, some contemporary, some with a political flavour, some with a strong romantic character development tone. Each book is very different from the last. The author very gradually finding himself, was way too original, too independent to stick to his last. The craftsman in him instinctively rebelled against any set mold for his work. Meanwhile the author himself, who is a quiet, reserved Englishman, a member of certain established literary and artistic clubs in London, lived his own life partly retired from the busy whirl of the great city, working out his own problems and the development of his art. Many times reviewers have noted as one book after another has appeared that some day Snaith would come into his own when he found the proper mediums for what was unquestionably real genius. After Broke from Covenden in 1909 came Ariminta, Anne Feversham and now his latest book The Sailor.  Both the America (sic) and British reviewers of this long novel have been quite unstinted in  their praise and in their acknowledgement that the author has at last reached the high place he was bound to occupy eventually. Mr Snaith is still a young man, hardly forty years old, and his great work is still ahead of him. The promise of another great British writer of the Thomas Hardy type is here.

Elsewhere in the issue, The Sailor is described as ‘one of the season’s big novels’.

His death on December 10, 1936, received a small notice in the Melbourne Argus, where it was listed above that of Pirandello.




Who is Woolmer Gatty?

I have updated this entry with new information to hand at the end of the original piece.

A Tea Party. Announced in The Mail Adelaide Saturday 25 March 1916

Miss Heather Hammond invited a few of her friends to Horncliffe, Wakefield street, on Monday afternoon to meet Miss Muriel Parsons, who has lately returned from a trip to England. We gathered in the drawing room, and Miss Heather Hammond gave a very clever impersonation of Mr. Frederick Dennett at the piano. It was wonderfully realistic in dress, attitude, and even the friendly smile’ he gives the andience. *She played the Rachmaninoff prelude in his best style, and was loudly applauded. Miss Parsons sang several songs. Miss Hazel Hammond played the mandolin, and Miss Dorothy Palmer tickled the piano keys with good effect. Mrs. W. G. Hammond hostessed the party. Tea and chatter filled up the rest of the time, and the guests included Mrs. David Power. Mrs. Aapas Parsons. Lady Bray, Mrs. Gavin Gardner, Mrs. G. M. Anstey,. Mrs. Neil Campbell, Mrs. David Paton. Mrs. B. Bevan, Miss Lucy Avers, Miss Harriet Simpson, and Miss Joyce Harrold.’ The Mail

Frederick Dennett was ‘…a dashing young concert pianist who was something of a pop star in the early 20th century.’ The Australian

A few years later there was a press announcement from K. H. Faulding & Co.— ‘A daily artistic calendar. The design is from an original watercolour by Miss Heather O. Hammond, a young Adelaide artist, and shows a very effective ‘treatment of treatment decorative of all Australian flowers — the Sturt Pea.’ The Register (Adelaide) Saturday 18 December 1920

Woolmer Gatty is the pseudonym of Heather Hammond, a writer and illustrator born and bred in Adelaide before marriage meant moving to a tea and rubber plantation in Ceylon, owned by her husband. She lived exactly the sort of life one might expect of a female of the period not quite able to shake off the bonds of her class and gender, if admiring of those who do.

Six years later an extract of her first, and as it turned out only, novel appeared in the Adelaide press: The Register (Adelaide) Thursday 5 January 1922

A notice of Tabitha Tries Turkeys (London, Stockwell), appeared two days later in The Register Saturday 7 January 1922. By the time the book appeared she was Mrs Rex Hamer of Kandy, or thereabouts, as J Penn states. After a favourable review, Penn quotes Hammond, who explains her desired, but foiled, anonymity:

Although it has been my ambition to write, I have never wanted my ‘works’ to appear in my own name. I would have kept it a dead secret always. Somehow there is a je-ne-sais-quoi of something not quite nice; almost one might say losing of caste, about a woman writer. It is a result of the long ages of repression we have endured at the hands of men. They make a great a parade of admiring the ‘feminine’ woman, which means to them the woman who stays unobtrusively at home and lets her brain atrophy for want of using, simply because they are afraid of her finding her power and coming into the world and competing with them to their hurt. It is Man who has put this world-side interpretation on the word ‘womanly’; it is he who has lauded all those gentle meaningless attributes that he professes to admire.

So cunning and insidious has been his campaign that women themselves have absorbed the creed, and are almost as vituperative as men in their outcry against the coming woman of brains and personality. And the men, poor shivering souls, are beginning to see their magnificent structure of the ‘womanly’ cult, that subtle protection of their own preserves, tottering at its foundations. Women are no whit more ‘womanly’ in its own right sense, nor do they make less perfect mothers for thus leaving their parasitic estate to make the best of their minds and capabilities.

Mes soeurs, do not let men push you back to dormant life with their specious arguments. It is only their final argument against the inevitable. Henceforth they must fight for their place in the sun.

But for all this theorising, which I have worked out in my own mind, to my own complete intellectual satisfaction, I myself am not really a follower. The prejudice is too strong, the ‘womanly’ germ too deeply imbedded for me to come out of the rut even sufficiently to put my name to a book. I am of the world which will doubtless very soon be called ‘old’. But I will try to sympathise and encourage the coming women doctors, lawyers, architects – particularly architects, for I am sure women would not make the kitchen premises so miserably inadequate as they often are – just to have a soupcon of the courage of the opinions that I feel sure I hold.

For the present my turkeys afford me simple occupation; and for odd moments, these intricacies that are called knitted socks. The Register

Now and again Adelaide newspapers report on her life in that privileged upper-class white position in Ceylon, this one upon a visit back to Adelaide by her.

LIFE IN CEYLON News Tuesday 15 July 1924
Mrs. Hamer Enthusiastic
If one desires a foretaste of Paradise one must go and live at Kladuganuawa. 10 miles from Kandy, in Ceylon. This was the impression gained during: a chat with Mr. and Mrs. Rex Hamer….She looks the picture of health, and speaks ecstatically of the fascination of life on her husband’s estate, which is planted with two thirds tea and one-third rubber. “Kandugannawa is situated ideally,” said Mrs Hamer. “It is away up in the hilly country, and our bungalow is built on a hill. The view in every direction is marvellously beautiful.
“How do I spend my days? I get up at 6 every morning,. because it is too wonderful outdoors not to enjoy every moment of the exhilarating air. We have early tea at 7, then I interview Appu, the head boy, concerning meals and so on. He really is a wonderful being, always dependable and most efficient. “Sometimes when I am in Kandy I send him a wire that I am bringing six friends out to dinner, three of whom will stay the night. When I arrive he has a delicious meal prepared and bedrooms ready for the visitors. No fuss or bother, and I do not have to worry at all. But about my day. After early tea I feed my chickens and potter round until noon when we have what we call breakfast. Everybody has a sleep after breakfast, and then comes tea at 4.30, followed by tennis or a walk, then dinner, which we have at 8 o’clock or 8.30.

(picture of Mrs Rex Hamer which unfortunately I can’t reproduce)

“Planters lead a quiet life,” said Mrs. Hamer, “and it appeals to me tremendously. Three days in Colombo are quite long enough; then I want to get back to my bungalow in the hills. Of course we have the cheeriest week-end parties, with dances, music, and tennis to our hearts’ content. “These shoes,” Mrs. Hamer said, displaying footgear smart and uncommon in pale tan and black crocodile skin; “they were grown on the estate.” “‘Do you keep pet crocodiles?” Mrs. Hamer laughingly replied:-“No; but the chap whose skin furnished these shoes was trying to break in and steal chickens. He was a cabragoya – a small species of crocodile.’

(and so it goes on, ending with):

Mrs Hamer said she as not written another novel since “Tabitha Tries Turkeys,” but she’had” had articles published from time to time, and this beauty of the district has constrained her to express herself in verse, some of which may be seen in the near future. The News

Aus Lit records one poem by her under the name Woolmer Gatty published in The Bulletin vol. 44 no. 2261 14 June 1923, but that was before this interview.

Pictures appeared in an exhibition in Perth in 1928 prompting this review:

PEN AND INK DRAWINGS The Daily News (Perth) Wednesday 14 November 1928
Work of Heather Hamer
‘ In the Booklovers’ yesterday afternoon an exhibition was opened of some un usual black and white drawings, the work of an Adelaide woman, who is now with her husband living in Ceylon. As
Heather Hammond. Mrs. Hamer was well known in Australia, more especially in Adelaide, her home city, by her literary work and her graphic illustrations. The pictures now showing manifest
some entirely new features. They are entirely imaginative, and remarkable effects of color and form are produced simply by line. Eastern subjects predominate, one, ‘The Reading of the Mahawansa,’ being especially striking, although each sample of her work shows new and individual treatment, and the expression by a Western mind of the mysticism of the East. Except in a few instances, they are not pictures which one would choose to live with, or to hang in one’s favorite room, but they express new ideas in illustrative work and are well worth a visit, especially from those who are associated with any form of art. Musicians will be interested in her line interpretations of some of the modern composers. In the ‘Cathedrale Engloutie’ mermaids below the surface of the water swim lazily In and out of the submerged archways of the building. The ‘Danse Macabre’ of Saint-Saens shows marked originality and extremely fine work, and MacDowell’s ‘Sea Pictures’ are finely Interpreted. The less pleasant subjects are strongly depicted, ‘Avarice,’ from Oscar Wilde’s poem, being most clearly expressed in the lines and pose of the figure. Mrs. Hamer has also some fine examples of bookplates, which in designing she has stamped with the personality of the owner of the plate. The collection is a comparatively small one, but very representative, and will on view for some days, during which all lovers of art will find a short visit will be time well spent, even if filched from some other activity.

Another report in the same paper commented:

Another Australian woman apparently is to arouse interest in the world of art. We were privileged yesterday afternoon to see some of the work of Heather Hamer….The work, which is purely line drawing, is distinctly unusual, and will shortly be placed on exhibition in Perth. It Is imaginative and, although black and white, strongly, suggests color, especially in her Oriental drawings, where draperies and curtains are of rich texture….One art critic has taken some Omar Khayyam drawings of Heather Hamer’s to London, and predicts the Issue of a new edition of that work as a result. The Daily News (Perth) 31 October 1928

The exhibition’s opening was covered:

Charmingly tracked in navy crepedechine with an Oriental scarf and biscuit Bangkok hat, Lady James opened the exhibition of black and white drawings by Heather Hammond (Mrs. Rex Hamer) in the Booklovers’ yesterday. She was very proud, she said, that except for etchings, the best, black and white drawings, done in Australia had been thus far the work of women. In thanking Lady James, Mr. G. Temple-Poole highly praised the work of Mrs. Hamer and wished the artist every success. The Daily News (Perth) Tuesday 13 November 1928

We can see another long notice about an exhibition of her work, this time in Adelaide eight years later.

UNIQUE DISPLAY OF ILLUSTRATIONS The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 21 April 1936

Sinhalese History And Legends


The exhibition of imaginative illustrations in black and white, by Mrs. Bex Hamer (better known, perhaps, as Heather Hammond), to be opened this afternoon by Lady Bonython at the gallery of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts, is unique and intensely interesting. To an extensive knowledge of Sinhalese history and legend. Mrs. Hamer has been able to add her undoubted gifts of facile freehand drawing, and a correct sense of perspective and proportion, as well as a sensitive gradation of line, and contrast in blacking in. To the uninitiated, the effect secured by an ordinary mapping pen, and a brush, will be surprising, as will also be the amount of detail devoted to costumes and their varied motifs. This work particularly has to be as carefully executed as it would be in the woven material itself, and Mrs. Hamer has been very successful through her careful and clean draughtsmanship, in securing a general effect of reality, though never monotonous in its details. The artist has a vivid imagination and versatility, which have inspired her to express on paper her love for the symbolism of her adopted country. The collection has been divided into four sections, all equally pleasing. In Nos. 1 and 11. ‘Sleep, Baby, Sleep,’ the figures are well drawn, and the posing quite natural. In No. 3, ‘Nina, Carry ing Pots,’ is a fine specimen of perspective, and No. 4, ‘My Son, Why Are You Crying?’ shows good expressions and careful handling of the drapery. In No. 9. ‘Our Mother Gave Birth To Seven,’ the variety of type and expression has been well developed. No.7. ‘On the Surface, the Lotus Blooms,’ is delightfully simple in line, except for the luscious bloom itself, which has all the wealth it needs; and in No. 6, ‘Grandfather. Shall I Pluck a Coconut?’ the difference in expression of young and old is well defined, and the palm tree well drawn.

Impressions Of Music This section is most original hi its conception and Inspiration. No. 25, ‘Danse de Puck,’ is delightful in its simple lines, and graceful suggestions, while in Nos. 24. ‘Barcarolle,’ and 26, ‘La FlUe au Cheveux de Lin,’ the delicate and intimate detail is well executed. In No. 20, ‘Sea Pieces,’ the bold sweep of waves is very fine, and No. 17, ‘Caprice,’ has much variety and Intimate* work: the peacock’s coloring is suggested cleverly, and the costumes are fun of originality. In No. 18, ‘Carnival,’ the peacock again attracts the eye, while the various figures and types of faces are full of interesting work.

Eastern Subjects Turning to No. 32. ‘There Was a Door,’ is good in its detailed drawing, and the figure is well modelled; and No. 35, ‘Saliroga and Asokamau’ is well grouped, and the detail simple in outline. No. 40. ‘Perahura,’ a picture of an Indian festival, is particularly well drawn, and bold in its construction, full of life and with much variety; the caparisoned elephant stands out well in all Its importance. ‘ No. 42, ‘Come, Fill the Cup,’ is also most interesting.

Miscellaneous. This small section contains much patient work, very successfully handled. So. 53, ‘London Bridge is Broken Down,’ is a medley of living figures, which, though crowded, allows each one its foil value. Medieval and modern faces are easily recognised, from Henry Vm. and Shakespeare to those of later times. No. 51, ‘At the King’s Pleasure,’ is a clever drawing of the same king, and his six wives: the different types show in pictorial form his evident desire for variety. No. 46, ‘Fairy Tales,’ a delightful study of a child, surrounded by pictorial representation of favorite stories, and No. 48, ‘Lady Godiva,’are well drawn; and No. 54, Rapunzal, the character In Grimm’s tales, who drew up her princely lover by her strands of hair, is graceful in outline, and yet strong. Mrs. Hamer, who is to be heartily congratulated on her work, has also a book of nursery rhymes, from the old Sinhalese, in which she has translated the words, as well as drawn the quaint illustrations. The Advertiser

In the 1990s this book of nursery rhymes was reprinted in India.

Hammond had a close relationship with Perth, as this 1919 newspaper report reflects:

At the present moment one of the most popular items of the English Pierrots is the delightful “Quakers,” as interpreted by Miss Langley and Mr. Austin, which was written and the music also composed by that chic little lady Miss Heather Hammond, of Adelaide, at present staying at the Esplanade Hotel, but whose visit to Perth will be all too brief for her many friends. Miss Hammond, who is veritably the lucky possessor of “all the talents” (as she shines as a black-and white artist with a very sure touch and an original style of her own) is besides a clever journalist and story-writer.

Miss Hammond and Mrs. Mortlock were amang the notables from the Eastern States present at the Pageant Bali at Government House on Monday, the latter stately in black shadow lace embroidered with jet, with an underdress of black satin. The younger lady was piquante in a costume that flashed sunrise upon us – an exquisite creation, with diaphanous angel sleeves of flame-colored cloudy gauze, disposed over an underdress of dawn pink, brilliants as dewdrops circled the corsage over the swathes of misted mauve and gold embroidery, and the morning touch of golden dawn was reflected in the veritable fairy shoon. Sunday Times (Perth) Sunday 12 October 1919

It may not be surprising, therefore, to see this report, much later, in 1940, a press report suggesting that she was settling in Perth. The report announces a small publication

OUR local Red Cross Society is to benefit by the proceeds of the sale in Perth of 50 copies of a delightful book entitled “Garden in Ceylon,” which was published last year in Ceylon, where it raised 100 guineas for the local Red Cross organisation. The author and illustrator is Heather Hamer who, with her husband, Mr. Rex Hamer, reached Perth from Colombo several weeks ago and Mrs. Heather Hamer intends settling here. Mrs. Hamer, who is a South Australian, has visited Perth on several occasions and some years ago, it will be remembered, exhibited a number of her black and white drawings at an exhibition arranged by Mrs. Temple Poole and opened by the late Lady James….In her “Garden in Ceylon” she writes of old and new Eastern gardens, and relates legends associated with them and with their trees and flowers. Her illustrations, which reveal her as a black and white artist of no mean talent, reflect in their exotic character her lengthy sojourn in the East. A foreword in verse by the Governor of Ceylon (Sir Andrew Caldecott) is an interesting feature. The 50 copies to be sold in Perth are the residue of the first edition published in Ceylon. They are available at the Red Cross,shop in London Court and also at the Booklovers’ and Franceska Libraries. The West Australian (Perth) Monday 30 September 1940

One wonders what is left, if anything, of her pictorial work. This same report says that ‘Two of her pictures are in the Adelaide Art Gallery and another is in the possession of Lady Gowrie, while an exhibition which she held in Bond Street, London, a few years ago met with considerable success and won her warm Press tributes.’ It’s hard to believe it could all have disappeared. Perhaps there are still private homes in Adelaide hanging her work. A report in The Australian Women’s Weekly Saturday 16 May 1936 says ‘Mrs. Hamer had intended to display
her work in Sydney shortly, but her exhibition in Adelaide has been so successful she has not enough pictures left’.

It seems evident, that although her novel had been well-received and she could have been encouraged to write more, that her forte was with the brush, not the pen. Perhaps the fact that she felt able to put her name to her art, but not to her prose, had something to do with it. Hence in an early piece published in WA ‘Little-Son-Galah’ Western Mail Thursday 4 December 1919 the story is attributed to Woolmer Gattey (sic), whilst the picture is by Heather Hammond. You can see it here.

In 1947 The Advertiser (Adelaide) Monday 12 May 1947 says she is living in England. Just a few weeks later an obituary for her father appeared:


Mr. William Gatty Hammond, who died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. G. R. Williams, of Old Beach road. Brighton, on Thursday, celebrated his 98th birthday on May 1. Well known in Adelaide amateur theatrical circles. Mr. Hammond once gave concerts for the purchase of a pipe organ at old Chalmers (Scots) Church. North terrace, city. He came to Adelaide with his wife in 1882 and for a time was associated with G. &R. Wills. Mr. Hammond left two daughters — Mrs. Rex Hamer, of England, and Mrs Williams. The Advertiser (Adelaide) 22 May 1947

There is no indication that Heather came back for her father’s funeral, though she did attend her mother’s much earlier in the 1920s:



Mrs. W. Gatty Hammond, whose death at Brighton occurred on November 8, had lived at Brighton since 1924, and made many friends there. She came to Adelaide with her parents (Mr. and Mrs. T. G. Drown) when she was about two years of age, in the sailing ship Irene, and made two visits to England when a girl in the days of sailing clippers. Later she paid another visit to the old country with her husband and children, and was wrecked in the Oroya in the Bay of Naples on the return voyage. During the last few years, in spit of advanced age, she twice went to Ceylon, to see her elder daughter, Mrs. Rex Hamer. All her journeyings were a source of entertainment to her friends on her , return, as she frequently gave interesting lectures on her trips. As a hostess she was full of charm, and was never happier than when entertaining her exceptionally wide circle of friends. She gave many entertainments to assist church work and in aid of charities. Mrs. Hamer will leave for Ceylon to-day. Chronicle(Adelaide) Saturday 12 November 1927

The last trace I have so far been able to find of Heather Hammond is talks she gave on radio in Australia during the war years such as ‘Personality in the Home’ and ‘Eastern Gardens’ during which time she is presumably still living in WA, perhaps Albany. Then the war ends, she is reported to be living in England and we never hear another thing about her. I hope to be able to fill in the missing pieces at some later point.

Bibliography of works by Heather Hammond/Heather Hamer/Mrs Rex Hamer excluding poetry and stories published in newspapers.

Tabitha Tries Turkeys
Author Woolmer Gatty
Illustrator: HGH;
Published London, England: Stockwell, 1921 157p.
Description: illus.

Garden in Ceylon /​ by Heather Hamer ; with a foreword by His Excellency the Governor, Sir Andrew Caldecott, K.C.M.G., C.B.E. .
Author Hamer, Heather.
Published Kandy, Ceylon : Millers Ltd., 1939.
Physical Description 24 p, [8] leaves of plates. : ill. ; 28 cm.

Old Sinhalese nursery rhymes and folk songs /​ collated and illustrated by Heather Hamer ; with a foreword by Solomon Dias Bandaranaike.
Author Hamer, Heather.
Published Ceylon : Colombo Apothecaries, 1935.
Physical Description 1 v. [36 p.] : ill. ; 29 cm.
reprinted in India in the 1990s

Subsequent to writing this, I have received more information from two sources. Sue Kelso, family history expert, was able to source Hamer’s records.

Heather Gatley Hammond was born in Adelaide on 3rd April 1885 to William Gatley Hammond and Clara Agnes Brown. Her parents married in the Camberwell registration district of London in the September quarter 1882. They were first cousins. That explains why the Gattey/Gatley name is used in both sides of the family. As Sue commented to me, that made the research confusing for a while. She died as Heather Gattey Hamer died in 1962.

The Times, Thursday 22 Feb 1962
HAMER – On February 21st, 1962, peacefully in a nursing home in Hove, Heather, dearly loved wife of Rex Hamer, 74, The Drive, Hove, formerly of Ceylon. Service at the Downs Crematorium. Bear Road Brighton, tomorrow (Friday) at 4pm. No flowers please.

The index to her will reads:

“HAMER Heather Gattey of 74 The Drive Hove Sussex (wife of Sylvester Richmond Hamer) died 21 February 1962 at 48 Westbourne Villa Hove Sussex Probate Lewes 24 September to the said Sylvester Richmond Hamer retired tea planter Effects 150 pounds 5 shillings.”

I confess to being surprised by this, I had assumed that she was young when she was married, but she must have been well into her thirties.

Her husband Sylvester Richmond Hamer was baptised 1st April 1883 St John, Preston, Lancashire, England. He was the child of Henry Hamer, Town Clerk, and Margaret, who lived at West Cliff. I’m not surprised, with this lot as names, that he was called instead ‘Rex’. The announcement of his death was almost two years after Heather’s:

“HAMER Sylvester Richmond of Flat 7 74 The Drive Hove Sussex died 16 December 1963 at 26 Wilbury Villa Hove Probate Lewes 27 January to Westminster Bank Limited and Aubrey Keith Alwyn Loadsman solicitor 16,273 pounds.”

Shipping documents confirm that Heather and Sylvester arrived in Fremantle on 27 July 1940, getting on the ship in Colombo. I would love to know why they left Colombo and why they decided to move to the UK after the war.

The other source of information is the South Australian Art Gallery who do still have the pictures referred to in the original story. Alice Clanachan, assistant curator, said it is possible to view the pictures, but it is by appointment and a couple of weeks lead time may be necessary. I am hoping she will give me some pictures to post here.

Ownership history. What you don’t get in a kindle

We have a copy of The Rape Of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression inscribed thus:

‘With best regards for Mr. F.L. McDougall the author St Mikolajczyk Washington, March 5th 1949’.

As the reader knows, my ignorance is next to boundless and I had to look both these people up.

From wiki we discover that the author had every reason to write this book, with the explicitly emotive title.

Stanisław Mikołajczyk (July 18, 1901 – December 13, 1966; Polish politician, was Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile during World War II, and later Deputy Prime Minister in postwar Poland, before the USSR took political control of Poland.

His importance in the period of the 1920s-late 1940s to the history of Poland would be hard to overestimate. If I were in the habit of using modern journalistic jargon, I would call him a key player. Fortunately I am not. The wiki entry continues:

Mikołajczyk’s family came from Poznań in western Poland, which in the 19th century was part of the German Empire and known as the Province of Posen. He was born in Westphalia in western Germany, where his parents had gone to look for work in the wealthy mining regions, as many Poles—known as Ruhr Poles—did in the 19th century. He returned to Poznań as a boy of ten. As a teenager he worked in a sugar beet refinery and was active in Polish patriotic organisations. He was 18 when Poland recovered its independence, and in 1920 he joined the Polish Army and took part in the Polish-Soviet War. He was discharged after being wounded near Warsaw and returned to inherit his father’s farm near Poznań.

In the 1920s Mikołajczyk became active in the Polish People’s Party “Piast” (PSL), and after holding a number of offices in the government of Poznań province, he was elected to the Sejm (the Polish Parliament) in 1929. In 1935 he became Vice-Chairman of the executive committee of the PSL, and in 1937 he became party President. He was an active opponent of the authoritarian regime established in Poland after the death of Józef Piłsudski in 1935.

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, Mikołajczyk was a private in the Polish army,[1] and served in the defence of Warsaw. After the fall of Warsaw he escaped to Hungary, where he was interned.[2] He soon escaped and made his way to Paris via Yugoslavia and Italy.[2] By the end of November, Mikołajczyk had reached France where he was immediately asked to join the Polish government in exile as deputy Chairman of the Polish National Council.[3] In 1941 he was appointed Minister of the Interior and became Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski’s Deputy Prime Minister.

In April 1943 the Germans had announced that they had discovered the graves of almost 22,000 Polish officers who had been murdered by the Soviets at Katyń Wood. The Soviet government said that the Germans had fabricated the discovery. The Allied governments, for diplomatic reasons, formally accepted this, but Mikołajczyk’s government refused to do so, and Stalin then severed relations with the government in exile.

When Sikorski was killed in a plane crash in July 1943, Mikołajczyk was appointed as his successor.[4] “We do not wish to see only a formal democracy in Poland,” he said in his broadcast to Poland on taking office, “but a social democracy which will put into practice not only political, religious and personal freedom but also social and economic freedom, the four freedoms of which Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke so finely. In any case there is and will be no place in Poland for any kind of totalitarian government in any shape or form.”

But Mikołajczyk faced daunting challenges. It was obvious by this time that the Soviet armed forces, not those of the western Allies, would seize Poland from German occupation, and the Poles feared that Stalin intended both imposing Communism on Poland and annexing Poland’s eastern territories, which were populated by Poles, Ukrainians and Belarusians.

During 1944 the Allied leaders, particularly Winston Churchill, tried to bring about a resumption talks between Mikołajczyk and Stalin, but these efforts broke down over several issues. One was the Katyń massacre. Another was Poland’s postwar borders. Stalin insisted that the eastern territories should remain in Soviet hands. Mikołajczyk also opposed Stalin’s plan to set up a Communist government in postwar Poland.

As a result, Stalin agreed that there would be a coalition government in the Soviet seized territories of Poland. A Socialist, Edward Osóbka-Morawski, became Prime Minister of the new Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej – TRJN), and the Communist leader Władysław Gomułka became one of two Deputy Prime Ministers. Mikołajczyk resigned as Prime Minister of the government in exile to return to Poland and become the other Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture.

Many of the Polish exiles opposed this action, believing that this government was a façade for the establishment of Communist rule in Poland. The government in exile maintained its existence, although it no longer had diplomatic recognition as the legal government of Poland.

Mikołajczyk immediately set about reviving the PSL, which soon became by far the largest party in Poland. He was helped, ironically, by the radical land reform pushed through with the support of the Communists, which created a new class of small farmers who became a firm political base for the PSL. The Communists knew they would never win a free election in Poland, and so they set about preventing one, despite the pledges given by Stalin at the Yalta Conference.

In June 1946 the 3xTAK referendum was held on a number of issues. The PSL decided to oppose the referendum calling for the abolition of the Senate as a test of strength against the Communists: two-thirds of voters supported Mikołajczyk, but the Communist-controlled Interior Ministry issued faked results showing the opposite result. Between then and the January 1947 general elections, the PSL was subjected to ruthless persecultion, and hundreds of its candidates were prevented from campaigning.

From 1946 to 1948, military courts sentenced 32,477 people, most of them members of democratic parties for ‘crimes against the state’. Only then the elections were held. In order to be sure that the elections would produce the ‘correct’ results, the Polish security apparatus recruited 47% of the members of electoral committees as agents.[5][6]

The elections produced a parliament with 394 seats for the Communist-controlled “Democratic Bloc” and 28 for the PSL, a result which everyone knew could only been obtained through massive electoral fraud. Indeed, the opposition claimed that it would have won as much as 80 percent of the vote had the election been conducted in a fair manner.[7] Mikołajczyk, who would have likely become Prime Minister had the election been honest, immediately resigned from the government in protest. Facing arrest, he left the country in April. Winston Churchill, upon seeing him in London, remarked: “I am surprised you made it out alive”. In London the Polish government in exile regarded him as a traitor for having co-operated with the Communists. He emigrated to the United States, where he died in 1966. In June 2000 his remains were returned for burial in Poland. His papers are in the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

As for the owner of this book, FL McDougall, we find him well-preserved in the records too, this time in the Dictionary of Australian Biography. Frank Lidgett McDougall (1884-1958), public servant and economist, is perhaps best described as as wheeler-dealer. After serving as an Anzac in WWI, he soon became indispensable to PM Bruce:

…who encouraged his advice and later observed that McDougall ‘brings me a new idea every morning’. Bruce summoned him back to the Prime Minister’s Department in Melbourne in 1924, then arranged for him to return in January 1925 as part-time secretary of the London agency of the Dried Fruits Control Board with the direction: ‘in your more uplifted moments you can call yourself the confidential representative of the Australian Prime Minister, when less inflated a secret service agent!’

He seemed spot on with his assessment between the wars of the problem of Germany:

A member of the Empire Marketing Board in 1926-32, during the Depression he preached that governments should increase food consumption and improve diets and that Australia should produce more food to feed the hungry. At the International Economic Conference in Geneva in 1927 and as a member of its economic consultative committee he extended his horizons, stressing the need to reactivate trade in Europe and substitute ‘a reasonably fat Germany for a desperately lean one’. McDougall was a regular adviser to Australian delegations at the League of Nations in Geneva from 1928 until its demise in 1940. At the 1935 assembly Bruce and McDougall evolved the slogan ‘Marry health and agriculture’, promoted so effectively by Bruce that a permanent committee (including McDougall) was set up to report back to the assembly on nutrition in relation to health and economics.

The ADB entry for McDougall is fascinating, do take a moment to read it in full.

The early 1940s found him in Washington, supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and dining at the White House. It is this Washington connection that we see joining the author and owner of the books. The ownership history of any book lends something to the book itself, but in such a case as this, the meeting of these two important figures of twentieth century history, it is all the more enticing. I find it hard to imagine we will sooner or later end up in a world where the book will no longer have its own history and memories. Humbug on technology!

Caroline Carleton – South Australian poet

As I’ve mentioned, I’m looking at Australian poets in the period mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries because we seem to be listing lots at the moment, and difficult lives is a common theme, particularly for the women.

Each has a unique story, and yet each is nonetheless typical in the struggles and privations experienced. For over 150 years now Carleton is remembered as the creator of the lyrics for one song, its impact being sufficiently longlasting that it came close to becoming our national anthem, losing out to ‘Advance Australia’. She won a handsome sum of money for her efforts and given that she had a gainfully employed husband, one might be forgiven for thinking ‘pin money’ then. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Caroline Carleton

Caroline had married in England and a few years later in 1839, with two young children, they boarded a ship to take them to a new life in Adelaide. Both children died during the voyage, the horrors of which I don’t think we can even imagine. Her husband had been a medical student when they married and never finished his studies. Perhaps this is reflected in his dizzy progression from job to job in Adelaide, which wiki describes thus:

After a few false starts making cordials, castor oil, and other commodities, Charles (who never completed his degree) became around 1844 medical dispenser to the Colonial Surgeon, Mr. James George Nash F.R.C.S. They may have resided at the Adelaide Hospital, where Caroline had two more children. In 1842 he was assayer with Alexander Tolmer’s expedition to Mount Alexander which subsequently escorted a quarter of a ton of gold to Adelaide. In 1845 he and a Dr. Davy built a trial lead-smelting furnace. In 1847 they moved to Kapunda, where Charles was employed as assayer and perhaps as medical officer.

In 1849 they returned to Adelaide, where he opened a chemist’s shop at 37 Hindley Street, then in August 1851 to ca.51 Rundle Street. He visited the gold diggings at Forest Creek, Victoria, perhaps working as an assayer and gold buyer, and returned to his Rundle Street shop with new advertising directed at miners. The shop was taken over early in 1853 by James Parkinson and throughout 1853 to May 1854 he was selling bottled English porter and stout at Blyth’s Building, Hindley Street.

He was returning officer for Grey Ward in the 1855 Census.

He took a position as superintendent of the West Terrace Cemetery in November 1855.

He may have taken on the position, but it was Caroline who did the work. He spent his time ill and then dying. It was towards the end of this period that she wrote ‘The Song of Australia’ under the name of Nil Desperandum. Surely, if you have heart strings, reading that tugs at them, doesn’t it? We read in a recollection of Carleton written in 1922, that the clergymen of Adelaide petitioned the government to permit her to continue on the work she had been doing for her husband, but the plea was declined. If her son has been old enough, it could have been awarded to him and she could have done it for him – or for any male – but not on her own account.

And so the government officials of Adelaide made the decision that Carleton should be a desperate mother of 5 children with no means of supporting them other than selling poetry. She set up a school – as was another common ploy of destitute educated women in the colonies – indeed, we recall the relatively successful example of MJ Franc in South Australia – but found it hard going and so we see her next in the court notices of the newspapers of the day:

South Australian Register
Thursday 8 August 1867 ‘The Undersigned, CAROLINE CARLETON, of North-terrace, Adelaide, Schoolmistress, do hereby declare that I am unable to meet my engagements with my Creditors. Dated at the hour of half-past two o’clock in the afternoon, this seventh day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven.’
Wednesday 28 August 1867 She is one of a long list of paupers listed to appear in court for insolvency.
Wednesday 18 September 1867 She is too ill to present herself to the insolvency court and so her case was adjourned.
Wednesday 9 October 1867 ‘In that of Caroline Carleton, the insolvent was again absent, aud the Official Assignee was empowered to issue a warrant for her arrest if he thought proper.’ and the same day:
Wednesday 9 October 1867 ‘In re Caroline Carleton, late of North-terrace, schoolmistress; an adjourned final hearing. Mr J. W. Downer for the insolvent. The insolvent did not appear, and after a few remarks by His Honor animadverting on her contemptuous treat ment of the Court, the Official Assignee was em powered to issue a warrant for her arrest if he thought fit.’
Wednesday 23 October 1867 In the matter of Caroline Carleton, the insolvent was awarded a second-class certificate without suspension.

She struggled on with her notion of opening schools and died utterly exhausted in her early fifties.

The Mail
Saturday September 1, 1934 published the following about Carleton written by Beatrice Bevan who I understand to have been a critic and poet.

Authoress of ‘The Song of Australia’

WHEN an Act of Parliament created the Colonisation Commission of South Australia to deal with the new colony’s settlement on lines worked out in Newgate by the notorious lawyer abductor of heiresses, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, there was in the house of the Gordon’s at Layal in the Azores, the baby who was later to come to South Australia and to be acclaimed ‘Australia’s National Poet’ and, in England was the girl who was to be the authoress of ‘The Song of Australia.’ ‘ Caroline was the daughter of William Baynes of Bonner’s Hall, near London. At 18 she mar ried Charles James Carleton, of an old English family, and a few years later left with him and their two little children for South Australia.. It was a sad voyage, for their two children died, but soon after reaching the new land Mr. Carle- ton was given a medical appointment in Ade- laide, and later, at the Kapunda mines. He had studied medicine in England, and intended some time to return and fully qualify for his degree. Prospects in South Australia were bright. Mr. Carleton bought up land at Glenelg, and opened a chemist shop.

THEN came the financial crisis. The Government was practically insolvent, and so were many individuals. Mr. Carleton was urged to go through the insolvency court, as others were doing. He and his wife decided somehow to meet their liabi- lities, without taking that step, and they did so, though with a young family to provide for, the struggle was too much for Mr. Carleton’s never too robust health. He was given the position of Superintendent of Cemeteries, not too cheerful an occupation, and too much work for his health. Caroline Carleton did the work in his name, and it was under these conditions that she wrote our ‘Song of Australia.’ which won the prize given by the Gawler Institute on the occasion of its second anniversary. Herr Carl Linger won the prize for the musical setting. On Mr. Carleton’s death the Governor was petitioned to allow her to keep on the work she had been doing in her husband’s name. There was objection to the position being held by a woman. Her son was too young for it to be in his name, so she lost it. She then began to teach. but. though her bright spirit remained indomitable to the end, she had reached the limit of physical resistance. She caught a chill was unable to teach, and went to live at Wal laroo with a daughter who had a school there. She died in 1874, four years after Adam Lindsay Gordon, died in Victoria. IN the Wallaroo Cemetery is the obelisk of polished red granite, set on a square base. One side has a scroll on which is inscribed:— ‘In memory of Mrs. Carlton, authoress of The Song of Australia.’ who was interred in this cemetery on July 12, 1874. Aged 54 years; Erected by her admirers. November. 1923.’ The baby from Layal has been acclaimed ‘Australia’s National Poet.’ and has the niche next to Lord Tennyson (another link with South Australian history) in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey. How shall we honor Caroline Carleton? By making her song the national song of Australia?

I’ve started thinking – too much perhaps – about the bravery of these women who came to Australia, leaving behind their families, their safety, their homes. To what extent was their poetry the thing that made it bearable for them? Carleton wrote this, a regular theme of these women who came to this utterly alien primitive place on edge of the world, while life was utterly desperate.

Oh, say not that no perfume dwells
The wilding flowers among;
Say not that in the forest dells
Is heard no voice of song.
The air is laden with the scent
Borne from the clustering flower
With which the wattle is besprent,
Like Danae’s golden shower.
And silvery wattles bending low
Sweet incense scatter far,
When light winds kiss the pensile bough
Beneath the evening star.
And forest flowers of varying dye,
Now white, now blushing red,
In modest beauty charm the eye,
And fragrant odours shed.

There’s perfume breathed from Austral flowers,
And melody is there —
Not such as in far Albion’s bowers,
Falls on the accustomed ear.
But thrilling snatches of wild song,
Poured forth from lonely glen,
Where winds the hidden creek along,
Far from the haunts of men.
And hoarser notes in wild woods heard
Sound like strange harmonies,
As flashes past the bright winged bird,
Gleaming in azure skies.
Then say not that no perfume dwells
The wilding flowers among.
Say not that in the forest dells
Is heard no voice of song.

They were able to elevate themselves above the shitty drudgery of life in exile and elevate their readers at the same time. Thousands of people turned out to remember Carleton on Centenary day in Adelaide, 13 March 1936. In the mid-1970s when the competition was held to decide the new national anthem, Carleton’s Song of Australia was one of only three which were seriously considered. There is no entry for her in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. There is one for the man who composed the music. When you read it, you might keep in mind that the only reason that there is a remembrance to him, created in the 1930s was because one was built for Carleton.

Carleton’s most famous legacy

Who is Alice Bunker Stockham?

I’m listing Tokology A Book for Every Woman reprinted many times and naturally got to wondering what on earth Tokology is.

tocology (also tokology): The science of childbirth; midwifery or obstetrics.

Dr Alice Bunker Stockman
one of the first female doctors in the US

Stockham would be one of my choices for the impossibly interesting dinner party. She was one of the very first female doctors in the US, and strongly advocated gender equality. wiki says this:

Alice Bunker Stockham (born November 8, 1833 in Cardington, Ohio – d. December 3, 1912 in Alhambra, California)[1] was an obstetrician and gynecologist from Chicago, and the fifth woman to be made a doctor in the United States. She promoted gender equality, dress reform, birth control, and male and female sexual fulfillment for successful marriages.

A well-traveled and well-read person who counted among her friends Leo Tolstoy and Havelock Ellis, she also visited Sweden and from her trips to schools there she brought back the idea of teaching children domestic crafts, thus single-handedly establishing shop and home economics classes in the United States.

Stockham lectured against the use of corsets by women, made public endorsements of the healthiness of masturbation for both men and women (still controversial when echoed by US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders more than 100 years later), advocated complete abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, and believed in women’s rights.[2]

Stockham was very concerned with the economic plight of divorced women with children and prostitutes who wanted to get off the street. She felt that these women had no marketable skills and would be unable to support themselves, so she had copies of her book Tokology, a layperson’s guide to gynecology and midwifery, privately printed and gave them to “unfortunate women” to sell door-to-door in Chicago. Each copy came with a bound-in certificate signed by Stockham and entitling the bearer to a free gynecological exam.

For more detail on the contents of the book go to Medical History

She also invented and wrote about the concept of Karezza, again I quote from wiki:

It refers to non-religious spiritual sexual practices that draw upon tantric techniques of body control but do not involve any of tantra’s cultural or iconographic symbolism.

She promoted Karezza as a means to achieve:

1. birth control (she was against abortion but she wanted women to be able to control pregnancies);
2. social and political equality for women (she felt that “Karezza men” would never rape their wives and would actually treat them “decently”);
3.marital pleasure and hence marital fidelity (she advocated Karezza as a cure for “failing marriages”).

Who were Frederick W Russack and Osmond Leonard Wilson?

In the Adelaide Advertise and Register on Wednesday 18 March 1931 the following obituary appeared:

Mr. Frederick W. Russack, senior commerce master at the Adelaide High School, died suddenly at his home, Hughes Street, North Unley, yesterday.

He was 64. The Director of Education (Mr. W. J. Adey), who was a boyhood friend of Mr. Russack in the Mount Pleasant district, where he was born, said that Mr. Russack’s studies covered a wide range of subjects. He was particularly gifted in English, and the classics were an open book to him. Many young men would grieve the loss of a true friend and a wise counsellor. His earnestness, enthusiasm, and love of children had gained for him the respect and esteem of many old pupils. After having passed through the Teachers’ College, Mr. Russack was assistant in various schools. From 1887 to 1893 he was on the staff of Way College. He returned to the Education Department in 1900, and in 1901 was appointed housemaster, lecturer, and accountant of the Roseworthy Agricultural College. On the opening of the Adelaide High School in 1908 he was given control of the commerce classes. A widow, three sons (Messrs. Roderick Russack, Lance Russack, and Allen Russack of North Unley) survive.

Maybe your eyes glazed over when you read it. ‘Yeah, so?’ It’s just the sort of thing people write in obituaries isn’t it?’ But it doesn’t mean it isn’t true….

and so over eighty years later, I’m sitting here listing this:

Wilson, Osmond Leonard, J.P., F.A.S.A., F.A.I.M., A.C.I.S. (Compiled by) You’ll Get Your Reward: The Story of the Russackvillains Club and some Commercial Classes at Adelaide High School 1908 – 1931 ([Adelaide]: Russackvillains’ Club: 1981) Pictorial wrappers (that is, paper covers) (292 x 210 x 10 mm thick). Illustrated. A remarkable story of the inspirational teacher, Frederick W. Russack and the students who kept his memory alive at luncheons and annual reunions for fifty years after his death in 1931. This book is written by one of the surviving Russackvillains, ‘with deep respect for a good man who achieved part of ‘his reward’ in the lasting love and remembrance of the ‘Russackvillains’.’ Loosely included is a ‘List of Russackvillains as at 2.11.1981’.

I find this quite moving and it made me see what I could find out about the author. It turns out that Osmond Leonard Wilson was a pioneer of the Blackwood area of Adelaide. He was a keen amateur photographer and the City of Mtcham has an OL Wilson Photographic Collection and there is also a .pdf you can download about Wilson’s life and photographs here.

Who is George Essex Evans?

After a genteel start in life, born 1863 in Regents Park, London, George’s family fell on hard times after his father died. Exile to Wales was followed by emigration to Australia. He struggled here, not least because of increasing deafness, even from a young age. It is as a poet he is remembered and as is so often the case in that field, what is popular is not what is critically praised. Still, who needs the support of the critic when the PM is on your side? In Parliament after Evans’ death, Deakin mourned him as ‘Australia’s poet’. The copy we have us signed and inscribed by the poet to CC Kingston, another famous national politician of the early Federation period.

George Essex Evans
‘Australia’s Poet’

Wiki gives this story regarding the circumstances of his death.

Essex Evans was a great advocate for the construction of a new road northward across the Australia and after falling ill in 1909 he became the first passenger to be transported over it when taken to hospital. The men working on the road were so overcome with sorrow for the poet who had worked hard to bring about the new road that they relieved the ambulance men of their duty.

He soon died after surgery, in 1909, aged 46 years old.

Affairs of a Painter by Icilio Federico Joni

This must be a fascinating read. Written in 1932 and savagely censored in the process, it is the story of a forger so highly regarded that there is a collecting demand for his work, not to mention forgeries of the forgeries. Be careful you are really being offered a Joni if you are in the market for one!

The censorship was due to his telling the truth about how the forging industry in Italy was run, embarrassing no few people in the process, I dare say. What you won’t see in it is the honest truth of the involvement of the (in)famous forgery detector Bernard Berenson. You can read more about this in the NYT report accompanying a modern reprint here. In particular it explains why the 1936 first English edition is so rare:

In the early 1930s Joni revealed his intention to publish his life story; a group of Italian antique dealers got together and offered him a substantial sum to desist, but he went ahead regardless. When the English version, entitled “The Affairs of a Painter,” came out in 1936, it was cut in several places, and Berenson’s name did not once appear in the text. The book vanished with remarkable rapidity from sale, very likely, according to Mazzoni, because Berenson’s colleague Joseph Duveen managed to purchase and destroy most of the copies.

For more on this story, there is also the blog article Famous Fake Friday: Icilio Federico Joni

Elizabeth Backhouse

My ignorance continues to fill these pages.

Sand on a Gumshoe – A Century of Australian crime writing says of her:

Elizabeth Backhouse wrote six mysteries, most of which featured Western Australian police detectives, Detective-Inspector Prentis and Detective Sergeant Landles. Death of a Clown (London, Robert Hale, 1962) is set in a circus troupe visiting Carnarvon while Death Climbs a Hill (London, Robert Hale, 1963) occurs in the Western Australian bush. The Mists Came Down (London, Robert Hale, 1959) takes place on Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth.

This is the one notable Backhouse novel which does not involve Inspector Prentis. The hero, Steve Gillman, is an American private eye who, together with a very stylised portrait of a misty island retreat, creates an interesting mix of old and new world approaches. There is nothing hard-boiled about The Mist Came Down, and neither is Gillman a sap-wielding Sam Spade. Rather, he is a thoughtful, intelligent hero in the English tradition, who solves a murder in a closed community with a measured calm that came to typify later Backhouse efforts.

This was, however, by no means all there is to Backhouse’s writing work. She was born 1917 in Northam, WA, served in WWII with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and then wrote scripts for Korda films before returning to Australia in 1951. Her diverse work included children’s stories, plays, a ballet and a musical. She died in April 2013.

I was curious to find out more about her Korda film experiences, but could find no acknowledgement of her online in this regard. Much later she did the screenplay for The Olive Tree, a 1975 WA movie which has its bare bones recorded on IMDB.

What does exist, and we have the Australian Women’s Register to thank for this, is a long recorded interview, which is available in transcript, but unfortunately not online. This is a real pity, one can only hope that at some point all this wonderful material will be readily accessible. For now, from the summary of contents of the 29 reels, we discover:

Backhouse speaks of her life and achievements as a writer of novels, children’s stories, plays, filmscripts, a ballet and a musical. She describes her family background; attempted rape; early writing; mother’s inability to show affection; secretarial studies; writing poetry; enlisting in WAAAF; writing Against Time and Place; ideas for books; having books published; The Iron Horse; Enone and Quentin; reviews; themes; In Our Hands; C.H. Pitman; living in England in 1940s; encouragement to write detective novels; working at Korda Films with Paul Vincent Carroll, Leslie Arliss; working for American film-maker Slessor; European travels; writing thrillers, methodology, characterisation; book covers; nursing ill father; living with her mother after his death; rejected novels; The Fourth Picture; The Thin Line; Mirage, and its adaption to film; working as a co-producer; Freemasonry; writing for radio; Kal; Rosie Fishman; Dickens’ Magic; A History of Masonry; Windmill in the Sky; writing and clarity; unpublished works; aborted film Cry of the Gulls; Sparrows in the Square; The Fishbowl; Tune on a Samisen; The Young Vagabonds; musical composition; sponsoring children; painting; relationships with men; Muriel Wenborne-Haynes; her clothing shops; writing income. The Australian Women’s Register

I note, further, the forlorn message left on a blog review of one of her books, it must have been just before her death, being dated 24 April 2013:

Nice to see something online. The author is my grandfathers sister my ‘Áunt Elizabeth’. She is in a nursing home now; my mother takes care of her as she never married nor had children and has recently taken a turn for the worse. Her contributions to the literary world and the air force during the war are remarkable.

And yet, even in this age of online, eternally available information – even leaving oneself all those words – one passes from this world all but unnoticed. There is an online obituary available, but only if somebody is willing to pay the price to have it accessible. And apparently nobody is.

Who is Josephine Margaret Bagot? nee Barritt

Her story of typical of its period – young girl, loved writing, but her stories were rejected in her teenage years. In 1908 at age 19, she married Walter Hervey Bagot, grandchild of Sir Henry Ayers and lived the life one would expect of an upperclass lady married to a prominent Adelaide architect. She travelled a lot and continued to write, but only for her private amusement. After her death at 55, her husband collected together some of her writings for private circulation.

The volume we have is inscribed by her husband, whose influence can be seen all over Adelaide, including the Bonython Hall and St Peter’s Cathedral.