National Library of Australia
The papers relate mainly to Irvin's writings about early Australian theatre, but also include transcripts of ABC broadcasts that Irvin gave in the last years of World War II relating to poetry.
Included in the collection are: correspondence; transcripts of broadcasts, interviews and talks; manuscripts and typescripts of Irvin's writings; newspaper cuttings; transcriptions of articles from magazines, newspapers and other publications; biographical files; indexes and registers of performers and their performances, plays, operas, musical works, and references in newspapers; photographs of early theatres, performers and playwrights; and photographic copies of various etchings, engravings and playbills.
Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn2076858).
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.
Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Eric Irvin, National Library of Australia, MS 8786, [box number and series and/or file number]'.
The papers were purchased by the Library from Margaret Irvin in 1994.
The material in Series 2, files 14-34 was kept together in suspension files and has been maintained in its original order. Many of the performers listed are discussed by Irvin in his manuscript 'Crowned with applause ten actors remembered for virtue's cause'. Irvin also worked on a volume entitled 'Register of musical works for the stage performed in Australia 1789-1918.' Irvin published an article in Australian Literary Studies (1975) entitled 'Marcus Clarke and the Theatre'.
Eric Irvin was born at Newtown, Sydney in 1908. He attended Bondi Public School. In 1922 he was apprenticed to a chemist in Bondi and attended night classes at Waverley Grammar school. He later gained employment in various department stores while studying art and window display at East Sydney Technical college. It was during this period that he began to write. His work, comprising articles about commercial art and window display, was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and other news publications, often accompanied by his own illustrations.
During the Depression years Irvin found work hard to obtain. He wrote some short stories but was not able to get them published. He was much more successful with his poetry, much of which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. In the mid 1930s he obtained employment as an art teacher in Catholic girls schools.
In 1940 he enlisted with the 7th Australian Divisional Signals. While in the Middle East he wrote poetry, much of which was published in The Bulletin. In 1942 his Division was brought back to Australia for training before being sent to Papua New Guinea. Angus and Robertson had by this time accepted his first book of poetry, A solders miscellany, for publication. Due to paper shortages this was not published until 1945. It included poems written in Syria and Papua New Guinea where Irvin fought on the Kokoda Trail, Buna and Ramu Valley campaigns.
After the War Irvin worked as secretary of the Wagga Wagga School of Arts. In this position he produced various plays also designing and building the sets. After 18 months he obtained a position as a reporter at the Wagga Daily Advertiser. He went on to become the paper's sub-editor in 1961. During this time he continued to write poetry but became increasingly interested in Australian history. He self-published three booklets on Wagga Wagga and the surrounding region, Place of Many Crows; a brief history of the foundation of Wagga Wagga, NSW (1953), The Murrumbidgee Turf Club: its early history (1960), Early inland agriculture: farming in the southern districts of New South Wales (1962), and edited a series of articles of anonymous contributors to the Wagga Wagga Advertiser and Riverine Reporter in 1875 entitled Letters from the river (1959).
Seeing little future for his children in Wagga Wagga, Irvin decided to return to Sydney after obtaining a position as sub-editor with the Sydney Morning Herald, where he remained until his retirement in 1973. He published another book of his poetry, A suit for everyman in 1968. He found, however, that the pressure of work was not conducive to writing poetry so turned to another interest, the theatre. He became interested in the man who established the first theatre in Australia, Barnet Levy, and wrote Theatre comes to Australia (1971). At this time he also wrote many articles on the theatre which were published in magazines in America and England. (See appendix A for further detail)
In 1972 he applied to the Australian Council for an Arts grant to do research for another book on Australian playwrights. After his retirement he wrote four further books, Gentleman George: the theatrical life and times of George Darrell 1841-1921 (1980), Australian melodrama: eighty years of popular theatre (1981), Dictionary of Australian theatre: 1788-1914 (1985)and one on architecture, Sydney as it might have been: dreams that died on the drawing board (1974). He also edited Colonial Experience, a play by Walter Hampson Cooper.
In his last years he completed an unpublished biography of Luscombe Searelle, who was a well known actor in Australia in the 1870s and who later achieved fame in Britain as a composer of opera. Irvin died in Brisbane in 1992, aged 83.
The correspondence (c.200 letters), which dates mostly from 1985-91, was kept by Irvin in a concertina file. It relates mainly to business matters such as publishers, libraries, and the Copyright Council, but includes quite a lot of letters from other researchers. Correspondents include Peter Kirkpatrick, Harold Love, Ross Thorne, Elizabeth Webby and Hale and Iremonger. There are some copies of Irvin's letters.
Transcript of ABC interview, ' New Australian voices' series, c. 1945
Transcript of ABC talk, 'Out of chaos comes beauty; some thoughts on the present poetic revival', 1945
Manuscript , 'George Crighton Miln (1815-1917), 1990
Anna Marie Quinn
These files relate mostly to actors of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and contain manuscripts and typescript notes, typed transcripts and photocopies of newspaper and other articles and some correspondence.
J. H. Anderson
James R. Anderson
G. W. Anson
S. and C. Cameron
R. H. Horne
G. R. Ireland
M. D. Isaacs
Sir John Jamison
A. W. Junker
E. W. O'Sullivan
Cora Urquhart Potter
Edwin Lewis Scott
Sir Oswald Stoll
J. H. Vinson
Folios 1-10 consist of typescript transcripts on theatre in Australia 1788-1976 (mostly 1788-1914), filed chronologically. The volumes contain extracts from newspapers and other sources on the opening and closing of theatres, reviews of performances and deaths of actors.
Biographical index of actors, listing performances and references in newspapers.
Card index of plays, indicating authors and where they were performed.
Biographical card index of nineteenth century theatre.