Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Maslyn William's New England

While in Armidale to deliver my paper on social change in Australia's New England 1950-2000 I went book shopping. One of the books I brought was Maslyn William's His Mother's Country (Melbourne University Press, Carton, 1988). Answers.com describes his life in this way:

Maslyn Williams (1911-1999), born England, grew up in NSW on rural properties in the New England and Southern Highlands districts, after the deaths of both his parents. His early interest in writing, music and films led to a career in film-making. He was appointed as writer-producer to the Official War Film and Photographic Unit in 1940 and served in the Middle East and the Pacific. He subsequently made films in Europe, Australia and New Guinea, gaining several awards, including a gold medal at the Venice Biennale. In 1962 he gave up film-making to concentrate on writing and is the author of several books on China, Cambodia, Papua, New Guinea and Indonesia. He wrote four novels, The Far Side of the Sky (1967), The Benefactors (1971, published as Dubu in the USA), Florence Copley of Romney (1974) and The Temple (1982), and an autobiography, His Mother's Country (1988). In 1988 Williams won the FAW Christina Stead Award and the Douglas Stewart Prize in the 1989 State literary awards for His Mother's Country. Written in the third person, the autobiography describes both his experiences in 1920s New England, the lives and personalities of numerous individuals he encountered, and the distinctive identity of the landscape which ultimately claimed his loyalty. Williams was an emeritus fellow of the Literature Board of the Australia Council.

I knew of Maslyn Williams as an Australian writer and film maker, but had no idea of the New England connection. While there are elements of the book that I disagree with,  regional directors of education in NSW came later, it is a wonderfully evocative account of rural life on the Northern Tablelands in the 1920s.

Knowing the people and area in the way I do, I kept on adding bits to his story as I read!

The book is long out of print, but if you can find a second hand copy, I really would recommend that you read it. Like all good books, you don't need to know anything about the area to enjoy it. It stands completely self-contained.  

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