Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 17, 2010

Vale Ruth Park (1917-2010)

As readers of this blog know, I am a great admirer of Ruth Park, and was much saddened to read in this morning’s paper that she has died aged 93.

She was a rare bird, our Ruth.  She wrote in a style that was true to the Australian spirit, and she was able to write literature that appealed to the non-literary reader.  She won the Miles Franklin Award for Swords and Crowns and Rings, while her best loved work, The Harp in the South was immortalised in a wonderful TV series starring the unforgettable Anne Phelan as Ma.  Her autobiography, Fishing in the Styx, is modest about her own achievements and a loving testament to her husband, D’Arcy Niland.

We shall not see her like again.

Update August 1, 2011

Click the link to see video of the Wheeler Centre’s The Late Great Ruth Park.


  1. I read her obituary in the Herald this morning. I was surprised to read that she was actually a kiwi! She was 25 when she moved to Sydney. I know she is seen as an iconic Aussie writer, and that her stories were set here. Now I feel even more badly that I’ve not read any of her work. I will definitely try to get some read in 2011. Her book Playing Beattie Bow is one of the 1001 Chilrens Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up, so I’ll squeeze that in somehow I hope.


  2. Sad to hear of Ruth’s passing-I enjoyed her work, from when I was studying at high school, right through to an adult!!!


    • Hello Debbie – lovely to see you here in my other life!
      She was a writer who inspired great affection, perhaps because her characters were so down-to-earth?


  3. Sadness, sadness. Suddenly I start to wonder where my old Muddleheaded Wombat books went.


  4. Yes, I was sad to hear this too, Lisa. But she got to a grand old age and left us an enormous legacy of books that our generation and future generations can enjoy.

    I wonder if someone will reprint Swords and Crowns and Rings, as I’d love to read it.


    • I confess to cherishing a slight hope that she was still writing something…


  5. Being a ‘Pommie’ I only came to read Ruth Park recently – mainly because I wanted to compare her picture of Depression era Sydney with the one my husband wrote about in his books. It took a bit of searching to find her and I had to ask in many bookshops. Perhaps other readers would like to know that Penguin have a one-volume edition of the three Harp in the South novels in their Modern Classics series and the ABC shops still have the DVD available. I also found the ABC were able to provide – on request – a DVD of Kylie Tennant’s Ride on stranger, another Australian classic. There’s a place for this kind of honest writing.


    • Yes, Ros, I agree. Another one of that era, though it hasn’t worn as well with the passage of time IMO is The Pea Pickers by Eve Langley. I got that one second hand from Brotherhood Books, I think. They’re a good source of out-of-print Aussie fiction – the link is in my blog roll.


  6. Oh no! I’ve been away, and missed the news – oh, it’s such a pity. I’ve loved her writing so much from childhood onwards and have a specially soft spot for “Fence Around The Cuckoo” and “Fishing In The Styx”. I’m so glad she wrote as, well, generously as she did – it’s quite a legacy. Vale, Ruth.


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