Generations Loved Her

New Zealand-born author Ruth Park, who moved to Sydney in 1942 and who was the author of classic Australian books such as The Harp in the South and The Muddleheaded Wombat, has died in her adopted home, aged 93. When Park crossed the Tasman, she took a newspaper job in Sydney and soon after married Darcy Niland, a fellow journalist and later author of The Shiralee. They raised five children while struggling to live as freelance writers. Park’s career as a novelist was launched when she won the inaugural £2 Sydney Morning Herald literary competition in 1946 for her unpublished first novel The Harp in the South. Angus & Robertson published The Harp in the South as part of Park’s prize, and a British publisher proclaimed it “superb, magnificent”. The book was translated into 37 languages. Park became one of Australia’s most-loved and awarded authors. She published eight more novels, including Poor Man’s Orange and Swords and Crowns and Rings, which won the Miles Franklin Award in 1977, and two dozen children’s books, including Playing Beatie Bow and The Muddleheaded Wombat, based on her long-running radio serial. Australian novelist Thomas Keneally said that Park resonated with a number of generations and remains very popular. “The most talented voices often come from the economic margins. Ruth Park’s depiction of Irish Australian poverty was remarkable,” Keneally said. “She spanned a long period of Australian writing – she was so accomplished.”

Ruth Park: 24 August 1917 – 14 December 2010

Tags: Obituary  Ruth Park  Sydney Morning Herald (The)  The Harp in the South