Guide to the Papers of Allan Aldous

MS 9104

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Papers of Allan Aldous
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 9104
1.53 metres (6 boxes, 2 cartons, 1 file)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

These papers represent a small but varied collection of Aldous' personal and professional writing. The personal writing includes the unpublished autobiography completed in 1987 and a long series of wartime letters written to his wife, Jean, from London (1940-44).

The professional writing includes a selection of Radio Australia playscripts from two series, The Storyteller and The Australian Tradition; a series of discussion group book notes prepared for the Council of Adult Education in Victoria, and material relating to son et lumière presentations in Perth and Melbourne (1966-1970).

The collection also contains letters to Aldous from a wide range of correspondents, including Margaret Crosland, Charles Hadfield, James Parish and Nevil Shute Norway.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Allan Aldous, National Library of Australia [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers were donated by Allan Aldous on 1 April 1997.

Biographical Note

Author and playwright, Aldous was born in Leederville, Perth in 1911. In 1935 he won the Perth Repertory Club's one-act play competition with Enter the author. In England, three of his radio plays were produced by the BBC, of which the best known is Game as Ned Kelly (1939).

During the Second World War he served with the A.I.F. in London and later with Army Education in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Building on his experience in the Army Education Service, in the post-war period Aldous was closely involved in the early years of the Council of Adult Education in Victoria, giving lectures and preparing discussion group book notes.

Aldous was a prolific writer of children's fiction. His children's writings include the McGowan series of five novels, beginning with McGowan climbs a mountain (1945), as well as other novels such as Quitters can't win (1946) and Doctor with wings (1960). As a playwright he wrote many radio plays, particularly for Radio Australia, and produced the first, authentic son et lumière production, 'Western gateway', for the 1966 Festival of Perth, followed by 'Cook of the Endeavour' for the 1970 Cook bicentenary celebrations.

Item Descriptions

Class MS 9104. Original consignment

Comprises examples of both the personal and professional writing of Allan Aldous. The personal writing consists of a long series of wartime letters to his wife, Jean, from London, 1940-1944, and an unpublished autobiography completed in 1987. The professional writing includes a selection of playscripts written for Radio Australia, from the series "The storyteller" and "The Australian tradition", as well as scripts, programs and newspaper clippings relating to Aldous' son et lumière productions in Perth and Melbourne, 1966-1970. Also included are a series of discussion group book notes and other material relating to his work with the Council of Adult Education in Victoria, an unpublished manuscript on outback Australia and a collection of correspondence including letters from Margaret Crosland, Charles Hadfield, James Parish, Nevil Shute, Charles Court and Vivien Leigh.

Contained in 6 boxes.

Series 1. Autobiographical papers

Aldous' unpublished autobiography was completed in 1987 and titled, Jigsaw an autobiography of sorts. The series also contains several earlier autobiographical pieces.

File 1. Unpublished autobiography entitled Jigsaw an autobiography of sorts - Box 1
File 2. Earlier draft autobiography; three short autobiographical pieces - Box 1

Series 2. Letters to Jean Aldous, 1940-1944

The majority of this correspondence is written in diary form to his wife, Jean, recording Aldous' daily activities in London from the time his wife and daughter returned to Australia in July 1940. While in England, Aldous enlisted in the A.I.F. The correspondence concludes in September, 1944, when Aldous returned to Australia, prior to serving in New Guinea, India and Bougainville.

File 1-4. Correspondence with wife, Jean, 1940-43 - Box 1
File 5. Correspondence with wife, Jean, June 1943 September 1944 by airgraph - Box 1

Series 3. Correspondence, 1943-1967

This series of general correspondence begins around the time Aldous left London for Australia in 1944 and continues till 1967. The major correspondents are Margaret Crosland, Charles Hadfield and Peter Jones.

File 1. Correspondence, 1943-56 with Margaret Crosland (author) 1944-48; Charles Hadfield (author) 1943-54; and Peter Jones (actor and playwright) 1944-56 - Box 2
File 2. Correspondence 1946-67 with George Kerr, Lionel Lee, James Parish (playwright), Tom Ronan, Leontine Sagan (producer), Nevil Shute Norway (author), George Simpson, Ursula Winant (literary agent) and Tara Barry (actress) - Box 2
File 3. Correspondence 1946-67 including Charles Court, Douglas Glass, Vivien Leigh and Sir Harold White - Box 2
File 4. Correspondence, cards, invitations and ephemera - Box 2

Series 4. Radio Australia playscripts, c.1969 1970

The series contains many of Aldous' production scripts for two series of plays broadcast on Radio Australia. The first series, Storyteller, was broadcast on short wave and replayed from transcription tapes in a number of countries. The second series, The Australian Tradition, consisted on 27 minute dramatised features, each dealing with some event or personality from Australia's past. Again, these were broadcast on short wave and replayed on 16 overseas radio organisations. As Aldous recollects, in the United States Storyteller had an estimated 3.2 million listeners each week and The Australian Tradition had 9 million listeners.

File [unnumbered]. The Storyteller, volume 1 - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. No sense of direction - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. My friend, Demetrius - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. House on the plain - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The secret world of Andy McCrae - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The ghost of Lady Castelvane - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Money maketh - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Horns or halo? - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The crime clairvoyant - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The bowler hat - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The limit - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Where these's a will - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. All you need is a bit of capital - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The dream house - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Uncle Paddy, M.P - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Uncle Paddy and the champ - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The mystery of the mysteries - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. When you've lived as long as I have - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Chance happening - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The unbridged years - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The bridge - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. That Christmas at Saltbush Plains - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Charity begins at home - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Pools for the scooping - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. You can't tell a book by its jacket - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The Storyteller, volume 2: 1969-70 - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Series III The live ghost - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Series II The end - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Alter ego - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Series III Hi-jack! - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The frozen truth - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Murder must have a motive - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. His reverence, the con man - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Series II (Titles and synopses) - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. I only do it for the money - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Don't talk to me about flying saucers - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Hazardous freedom - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The golden girdle - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Withdrawal - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. (Radio Australia program guide no.36) - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Never speak to strangers - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Deadly tongues - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The moon to play with - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Dirt cheap - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Stop, thief! - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Money is such a comfort - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. A matter of mind - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Golf widow - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The Storyteller, additional scripts Series II (Synopses) - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Series II The little green men did it - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The Walter Mitty in me - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. No compromise - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. If it won't go it won't go - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Hit and run - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Chick-chick-chick-chick-chicken - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. An ugly work, blackmail - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The Storyteller, volume 3 - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Series III (Titles and synopses) - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Caterina's kitchen - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The monster - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The delectable dream - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Senior citizen - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Local boy makes good - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Unseasonable weather - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. (Titles and synopses) - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. 1969 A sucker is a sucker - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. I spy with my little eye - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Private self, public face - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The prodigal's return - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Opportunity seldom knocks loudly - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. It's all there in the stars - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Genius can't be taught - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Punishment and the crime - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The spider's web - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The perversity of people - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Dialogue with a rebel - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The siren song - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Ears to see with - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The Australian Tradition - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. (Titles and synopses) - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. (Correspondence re radio playscripts) - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Grace Bushell of Wallcliff - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Shackles off the press - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. A man named Flinders - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. His Honour the Superintendent of old Melbourne Town - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Europe's loss, Australia's gain - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The peripatetic philosopher - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. New Year at Nobbler Hall - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. A little loyalty goes a long way - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. His Honour the Superintendent of old Melbourne Town - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. James Blackburn - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. The Australian connection - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Gents of the fancy - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Murphy's firm - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Kojonup - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. A thief to catch a thief - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Kojonup - Box 2-4
File [unnumbered]. Radio Australia: miscellaneous material - Box 2-4

Series 5. Council of Adult Education, Victoria, 1948-1957

The series consists mostly of discussion group book notes prepared for the Council of Adult Education in Victoria (CAE). In his autobiography, the first CAE Director, Colin Badger, paid tribute to Aldous as one of those helping the organisation get off the ground. The notes were directed to people of ordinary education and the questions were designed to be pertinent and not university examination tests. Some of the notes were in use for more than twenty years.

File 1-5. CAE Discussion group book notes, 1948-57 - Box 4-5
File 6. CAE miscellaneous publications; includes a dedicated service award presented to Aldous in 1993 - Box 4-5

Series 6. Son et lumière productions, 1966-1970 - Box 5

Aldous was involved in several 'Son et lumière' (sound and light) presentations, the first being 'Western gateway' at the 1966 Festival of Perth. The most significant of these was the Captain Cook bicentennial presentation, 'Cook of the Endeavour', held in the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, 6-20 April 1970. The series includes correspondence, scripts, programs, newspaper clippings and photographs relating to these productions.

Series 7. Unpublished manuscript, The land beyond the skyscrapers - Box 5

Draft of an unpublished manuscript entitled, The land beyond the skyscrapers (approximately 84,000 words). The book was based on six extensive journeys to the remoter parts of Australia and considers such subjects as the 'real' Australia, the women of the outback, the battlers, the cattle industry, road trains, the problem of being an Aboriginal, the Australian Inland Mission and old and new mining towns.

Series 8. Family history - Box 5-6

This series contains several items relating to the family's history. The first is an architectural drawing dated 28 March 1846 by Charles Aldous, Allan Aldous' great grandfather. Aldous records that Charles came to Australia in 1852, hoping to find gold but was not successful. As there was little call for architects he began a carpentry business.

The second item is a photograph album recording a journey across the Nullarbor by car in 1930 by the Aldous family and others, including the press clipping from when the party reached Adelaide. Also included are some cuttings and a letter from a close family friend, Dr. Eric White, a pioneer in the development of radio, television and radar, as well as a file of miscellaneous family papers.

Series 9. Personal papers, 1933-1988 - Box 6

A miscellaneous collection of personal papers including: an article published in The Black Swan, July 1933, the magazine of the guild of undergraduates of the University of Western Australia; The Playbill, June 1935 containing 'Enter the author a fantasy in one act' by Allan Aldous, winner of the Perth Repertory Club's one-act play competition, 1935; Aldous' certificate of discharge from the army, 14 March 1946; two bicentennial certificates from the Children's Book Council of Australia; photographs and newspaper clippings.

Series 10. Miscellaneous - Box 6

This collection includes a draft manuscript which Aldous edited for Oxford University Press. The manuscript is entitled Alias Jimmy and was written by a former employee of B.H.P. who retired to the United States. Also included are further copies of The Playbill, March August 1935.

Class MS Acc00.140. Consignment added 2000

Comprises papers further documenting the career and cultural interests of Aldous.

Contained in 2 cartons.

Class MS Acc10.110. Consignment added 2010

Comprises 30 colour slides recording the lighting used at the son et lumière production "Cook of the Endeavour", held in the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, 6-20 April 1970.

Contained in 1 file.