Guide to the Papers of Alan Seymour

MS 9198 et al

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary


Papers of Alan Seymour
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 9198 et al
6.95 metres (31 boxes, 4 cartons, 1 folio packet)
Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The papers include approximately 600 letters (in-letters and out-letters), cards and faxes about personal and business matters, notebooks, research notes, drafts of published and unpublished plays, novels and screenplays, reviews, newspaper clippings, photographs, printed material and papers relating to Seymour's travels and domestic life.

The major correspondents are his sisters, Mary, Eleanor, Winifred and Mabel, his niece Anna Petterson, his nephews David Petterson and Clem Gorman, his great-niece Nicole Petterson and partner Ron Baddeley.

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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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 Alan Seymour, National Library of Australia [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers were purchased by the Library from Alan Seymour in three consignments dated 17 May 1993, 18 July 1996 and 9 September 1996.


Seymour's consignments were received by the Library in unsorted bundles of files and packages with some bearing brief labels describing general contents. Although the Library staff have attempted to arrange some of the correspondence in rough chronological order, the basic random arrangement of papers has been preserved. While preparing his papers for delivery to the Library, Seymour added many explanatory comments and notes.

Other personal papers from Seymour are held by the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.

Biographical Note

Alan Seymour was born on 6 June 1927 in Perth, Western Australia. He was brought up by his eldest sister May, after the death of his parents when he was nine years old. He was educated at Perth Modern School, leaving at 15 after failing to complete the Junior Certificate. After leaving school he found work as a radio announcer in a commercial radio station 6PM. During his two years there he wrote a number of short radio plays that were broadcast live.

In 1945 Seymour moved to Sydney where he worked as an advertising copy-writer with 2UE. He returned to Perth after the war where he worked as a free-lance writer for ABC Radio, choosing the music and writing the script for a series 'A little night music'. Seymour became ABC Radio's film critic, writing a quarter-hour script each week reviewing new films. He joined a commercial radio station 6KY as an announcer and copy-writer and after six months was offered an announcing post at the ABC. After the death of his sister May in November 1949, Seymour returned to Sydney where he became an educational and freelance drama writer for ABC Radio and later television. From 1953 to 1957 he was theatrical director for the Sydney Opera Group. His first play, Swamp creatures, premiered by the Canberra Repertory Society, was a finalist in the London Observer play competition in 1957.

In 1960 his play, The one day of the year, was first performed by an amateur organisation, the Adelaide Theatre Group. The play had been rejected by the Adelaide Festival's Board of Governors on the basis that it might cause offence to former armed forces personnel for its treatment of Anzac Day commemorations. In 1961 the play was performed professionally with great success in Sydney with the support of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. It was also performed in London. Seymour flew to the U.K. to attend this production.

In 1961 Seymour left Australia to live overseas where he resided for over 30 years. Initially, he lived and worked in London where he became a successful television writer, producer and editor with BBC and was also theatre critic for the London Magazine, 1963-65. From 1966 to 1971 Seymour lived in Turkey and wrote novels, stage plays and magazine articles. In 1974-81 Seymour was a script editor and occasional producer with BBC Television, after which he returned to free-lance writing. Seymour returned to live in Australia in January 1995.

Seymour has won the following awards:

Sydney Journalists' Club competition, 1960 for Donny Johnson

Royal TV Society special Creativity Award, 1979, for Eustace and Hilda

BAFTA Award, 1984, for Box of delights.

A production of The one day of the year by John Sumner and the Union Theatre Company won an Awgie Award for best TV drama production in 1962. Although Seymour is best known in Australia for The one day of the year, his reputation overseas relates not only to this early play, but also to his many screenplays, television scripts and adaptations of novels for film and television.


Swamp creatures, 1958.

The one day of the year, 1960 (published Angus and Robertson, London, 1962)

Gaiety of nations, 1965 (produced in the U.K.)

A break in the music, 1966.

Pope and the pill, 1968 (produced in London)

'The shattering', 1973. (never produced)

Structures, 1973.

Float, 1980.

The wind from the plain adapted for the theatre, from the novel by Yashar Kemal.

Film, television and video scripts and adaptations for the screen

Calling Sydney Harbour (Australian Commonwealth Film Unit, Australia, 1960)

The earth reveals (Australian Commonwealth Film Unit, Australia, 1960)

North of the centre (News and Information Bureau, Australia, 1960)

Not by choice (Double Crown Productions, Australia, 1960)

The living north (Australian Commonwealth Film Unit, Australia, 1960)

41 backyards, 1962.

The Runner, 1962 (produced by ATN Channel 7 in 1960 or 1961)

Lean liberty, 1962.

It wasn't just the feathers, 1962.

Auto-stop, 1964.

Trial and torture of Sir John Rampayne, 1965.

Stockbrokers are smashing but banks are better, 1965.

Eustace and Hilda, dramatised by Seymour, from the trilogy by L.P. Hartley, 1977.

Sara Dane adapted by Seymour from the novel by Catherine Gaskin for ABC Radio in the 1950s and for television (South Australian Film Corporation) in 1981.

The fortunes of Richard Mahony dramatised for television by Seymour for the South Australian Film Commission, from the trilogy by Henry Handel Richardson (not produced).

Frost in May dramatised by Seymour, from the four autobiographical novels of Antonia White, 1981. The three other novels aired under the title Frost in May were The lost traveller, The sugar house and Beyond the glass.

Box of delights, dramatised by Seymour, from the novel by John Masefield, (BBC TV, 1984).

Care of time, (ITV, 1989).

Tudawali written by Seymour, photographed by Michael Edols, produced by Julia Overton, Paul D. Barron (SBS, Australia, 1987)

Menace unseen, 1988.

The chronicles of Narnia dramatised by Seymour, from the novels by C.S. Lewis (BBC TV in association with Wonderworks, London, 1987-88)

The house of Eliott, Series 1, vols 2-3 (BBC Worldwide, London, 198-)

'One red rose for Valentino' (feature film outline- not produced)

'Narrow corner' (feature film outline - not produced)

Radio scripts and adaptations for radio

A winter passion, 1960.

Donny Johnson, 1965.

Little moron.

Sara Dane by Catherine Gaskin.

Swamp creatures.

Other writings

The coming self-destruction of the United States of America (novel, published by Souvenir Press, London, 1969)

Anzac : meaning, memory, and myth, edited by Seymour and Richard Nile (London, Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, 1991)

The one day of the year, (Souvenir Press, London, 1967) - a novel-adaptation of his play


Contributions to various Australian publications including Sydney Morning Herald, Western Mail, Meanjin, Overland, Bulletin, Age, and Masque and to various overseas publications including Observer, London Magazine, and New Stories

Item Descriptions

Class MS 9198. Original consignment Show allonly 1

Comprises over 600 pieces of correspondence pertaining to personal and business matters; notebooks; research notes; drafts of published and unpublished screenplays, novels, and plays including The one day of the year; reviews; newspaper clippings; photographs; printed material; papers relating to Alan Seymour's travels and domestic life. Major correspondents include Seymour's sisters, nieces, nephews, Ron Baddeley, Sumner Locke Elliot, Margaret Fink, Gillian Armstrong, Michael Thornbill, Katharine Brisbane, Brandon Lunney, Shiela Geddes and Laurence Collinson.

Contained in 12 boxes, 1 folio packet.

Series 1. Correspondence, 1957-96 Show allonly 1

The correspondence has been arranged in rough chronological order. Correspondents include family members, friends, business contacts, writers, publishers and producers. As well as in-letters, Seymour has included copies from 1957 onwards of many out-letters, either carbon copies, or printouts from computer discs or copies of faxes. Seymour's out-letters contain lengthy analyses of his thought processes and methodology and he has added many comments about the success or otherwise of film or play proposals. In his copious explanatory notes, some of which were made when preparing the instalment for the Library, Seymour has identified and made comments about the background of many of his correspondents.

Some of the correspondence relating to individual plays or publications, such as 'Edens lost', Eustace and Hilda, 'Mateship', 'Ned Kelly', 'But Chinese Morrison walked unarmed', Wanderers and The one day of the year, is included with the relevant title in Series 2.

File 1. Out-letters, 1957-87 - Box 1 Show allonly 1

Comprises 21 letters to Sheila Geddes, 1957-70. Subjects of letters include performance of his new play The one day of the year, imminent departure for London, production of Seymour's plays, production of Ray Lawler's Summer of the seventeenth doll in London, films, Australian culture, life in Lebanon and Turkey, ideas for projects, comments on scripts by others, comments about people such as Joan Hammond, John Sumner, Doris Fitton and Stefan Haag.

Also contains 26 computer printouts of letters, 1987. Correspondents include family members, Terry Stapleton (first person to play Alf in The one day of the year), Keith Richards, Harold Lander, John Sumner, George Mikell and Steve Jodrell.

File 2-3. Personal, family (ca. 50 letters), 1972-84 - Box 1 Show allonly 1

Family members include sisters, 'Girl' (Mary), 'Nelly Bly' (Eleanor Mary), Win or 'Fat' (Winifred), 'Mabs' (Mabel) and nephews and nieces, Anna, Nicole and David Petterson and Clem Gorman.

File 4-6. Personal, friends (ca. 200 letters), greeting cards, post cards, 1971-84 - Box 1 Show allonly 1

Correspondents include business contacts, writers, publishers, producers, Marlis Thiersch (drama teacher, UNSW), Michael Powell (producer), Brian Smedley-Aston (producer), Tony Harrison, Margaret Whitlam, Katharine Brisbane, Philip Parsons, Mesut Onen (ex-student of Ron Baddeley), Laurence Collinson. Contents include discussions of the theatre and arts scene in Australia, discussion of reviews and comments about The shattering.

File 7. In-letters and out-letters, 1973-74, marked 'Brendon' - Box 1 Show allonly 1

Carbon copies of out-letters (5) to Brendon Lunney and others, 2 letters from 'Ben', 1 from Barbara Ramsay, carbon of poem 'To Explain a Long Silence'.

File 8. In-letters and out-letter, 1968, marked 'Correspondence Summer 1968' - Box 2 Show allonly 1

Long letters (10) from Seymour's partner, Ron Baddeley, and copy of 1 out-letter. Two letters from Irene Brewster.

File 9. Out-letters, 1970, 1973 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

Seven letters, 1970, from Seymour to Baddeley. Five letters from Seymour to Ron Baddeley, annotated 'Communications from Australia - trip home March 1973'.

File 10. In-letters, some out-letters 1972-84, relating to the theatre - Box 2 Show allonly 1

Correspondents include Tony Harrison, Brian Smedley-Aston (Assay Productions Ltd.),Margaret Whitlam, Eric Thompson, Michael Powell, David Dawdy (Olympia Press), Richard Broke (BBC TV), Michael Rudman, Ron Bryden, John Lloyd, Gabriella Falk, John Rosenberg, Catherine Itzin (Theatre Quarterly), George C. White, New Statesman and The Sunday Times. Also includes a copy of application for C. Day Lewis Fellowship, a photocopy of an article (not by Seymour) in The Advertiser (1980) with a photocopy of the typed reply by Richard Wherrett (Director, Sydney Theatre Company).

File 11. Business correspondence, 1967-93 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

Includes copy of contract with Souvenir Press for The coming self-destruction of America. Other letters relate to taxation, finances, passport, travel, accommodation and property.

File 12-14. In-letters and out-letters, 1995-96 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

About 88 items including long word processed letters and faxes by Seymour about his writing projects, research, descriptions of life in Perth, Tim Winton, letters to and from Corille Fraser about the Hole in the Wall Theatre Company's production of The one day of the year (1996) and a note about reworking A break in the music. Other correspondents are Aubrey Mellor, Katie Duncan, William Humble, David Roberts, John Sumner, Michele Field, Barbara Ramsay, Bet Empson, Anne Head, Andrew Ross, Ron Haddrick, Eric Rolls, Elizabeth Perkins, Sheila Geddes, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Viccy Harper and Peter Whitehead.

File 15-17. In-letters, 1970-91 - Box 3 Show allonly 1

About 93 letters, mainly from family. Correspondents include Dennis Glenny, 'Nelly Bly' (sister, Eleanor Mary), 'Girl' (sister, Mary), Nicole Petterson (niece), David Petterson (nephew), Ray Lawler, Gerry Glaskin, Hilary Linstead, Clem Gorman (nephew), Don Moisen, Noel Barnard, Gordon Watson. Subjects include Shirley Hazzard, letter to National Times about problems of playwrights in Australia. There are also cards, postcards and invitations, some with quite long messages, and some with explanations by Seymour.

Series 2. Drafts Show allonly 1

Drafts, typescripts of plays, novels, screenplays, published and unpublished, arranged largely in alphabetical order, with articles and notes placed last. Seymour has annotated some of the typescripts and added many explanatory notes and comments. Additional material, such as correspondence and reviews, has been placed with the relevant title.

File 1. Juvenilia, 1938. Photocopy of Young fifth magazine, 1938, with compositions by Seymour, aged 10. The black overcoat was declared to be the best composition of the week - Box 3 Show allonly 1
File 2-5. Antonia White quartet, autobiographical novels by Antonia White dramatisation by Seymour, 1981. Frost in May - typescript summary of each episode, cast list, photographs, biographical notes on actors and on Seymour. Photocopied reviews, 1982, of Frost in May. Frost in May, rehearsal script, 1981. The lost traveller rehearsal scripts, 1981 (2 copies) - Box 3 Show allonly 1
File 6. Auto-stop. Carbon copy typescript of play by Seymour (n.d.) [1964?] - Box 4 Show allonly 1
File 7. 'The blood must flow', TV play in two acts by Seymour (n.d.) [1960s?]. Typescript, no corrections - Box 4 Show allonly 1
File 8. The box of delights by John Masefield, adapted for television by Seymour. Rehearsal script for Episode 1. Photocopies of cuttings of reviews and notices of play - Box 4 Show allonly 1
File 9. A break in the music, play by Seymour. Revised version, 1992 - Box 4 Show allonly 1
File 10. 'But Chinese Morrison walked unarmed', a play by Seymour loosely adapted from the book Morrison of Peking by Cyril Pearl. The project stalled after the production of an outline and a few sample scenes. Annotated typescript. Correspondence, 1972-73, with George Ogilvie, Artistic Director, South Australian Theatre Company - Box 4 Show allonly 1
File 11-13. 'Edens lost' - screenplay by Seymour from the novel by Sumner Locke Elliott. Annotated drafts of screenplay and associated correspondence, 1981-82, with Gillian Armstrong, Sumner Locke Elliott and Margaret Fink. Annotated copy of paperback version of the novel - Box 4, 5 Show allonly 1
File 14-18. Eustace and Hilda, Seymour's screenplay of the L. P. Hartley trilogy: Eustace and Hilda, The shrimp and the anemone, The sixth heaven. Annotated photocopy of typescript of Eustace and Hilda and associated correspondence, 1977, with James Cellan Jones, Ben Travers and Margaret Ramsay. Annotated drafts with corrected copy of 'The shrimp and the anemone. Eustace and Hilda typescript No. 3, rehearsal script, 1977, and shooting script, 1977 - Box 5 Show allonly 1
File 19-21. The fortunes of Richard Mahony from the trilogy by Henry Handel Richardson, dramatised for television by Seymour. Typescript drafts of Episode 3 with notes (first draft), Episode 4 with notes, Episode 5 (first draft) with notes - Box 5, 6 Show allonly 1
File 22. 'Grey dancer in the twilight' - typescript of a novel by Seymour (n.d.) - Box 6 Show allonly 1
File 23. 'The hair raisers' - typescript of a play by Seymour (n.d.) - Box 6 Show allonly 1
File 24. 'Kangaroo' - carbon copy of typescript annotated by Seymour 'My adaptation (1965) of D. H. Lawrence's Kangaroo'. Adapted for BBC TV but not produced - Box 6 Show allonly 1
File 25. 'Mateship' - a play by Seymour [1974?]. Includes copies of 2 letters to Kate [?], 1975, asking for advice on suitable theatre companies for the production - Box 6 Show allonly 1
File 26-27. Narnia: the lion, the witch and the wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, adapted for television by Seymour. Typescripts of Episode 1 and Episode 2, 1988 - Box 6, 7 Show allonly 1
File 28. 'Ned Kelly'. File on collaboration with Barry Conyngham, 1974-77, on the production of the opera 'Ned Kelly'. Typescript of script and libretto 'Mark 2' (Acts 1 and 2). Correspondence with Barry Conyngham, Tony Frewin, Roger Covell and Hilary Rubinstein - Box 7 Show allonly 1
File 29-33. The one day of the year, a play by Seymour. Complete text in Australia Theatregoer, No. 4, May-July 1961 - Box 7 Show allonly 1

Correspondence including a substantial letter by Michael Thornhill, 1972, on the proposed adaptation by Seymour of The one day of the year for film; letters from Tony Buckley, 1972, about filming The one day of the year and about the decision to shelve the project;letters from Laurence Fitch of Film Rights Ltd, 1976; letter from Wayne Fairhead, 1979, about the inclusion of part of the play in an anthology; letter from Viccy Harper, 1982, to Laurence Fitch about publication of the play; photocopies of press cutting of reviews.

Typescript The one day of the year. London, November 1961

Typescript The one day of the year. Revised version, December 1984.

File 34. 'An oven for the sixties: a fantastickal play' - typescript, some annotations (n.d.) - Box 8 Show allonly 1
File 35-37. 'The shattering' - typescript of a play by Seymour as revised by 12th June 1971 - Box 8 Show allonly 1

Annotated and revised typescripts of 'The shattering', 1971-72.

File 38. 'A shock to the system' - typescript and handwritten fragments of an unfinished novel by Seymour, 1966-71 - Box 8 Show allonly 1
File 39-40. Southern Cross - typescript for the television screenplay by Seymour of the novel by Terry Coleman. Episodes 1 and 2. Correspondence from Joan Fulcher, 1985, re filming by Geoff Reeve Films Television Ltd., London - Box 8 Show allonly 1
File 41-42. 'Stonehouse' - a television drama in four episodes by Seymour. Typescript of Episode 1, with notes on first draft of Episode 1 by Seymour addressed to Greg Smith, Stewart Chilton and Terry Jennings, 1988. Outlines of Episodes 2, 3 and 4 - Box 9 Show allonly 1
File 43. 'Virgin, child, bag of gold' - photocopies of outline of a 'Play for today' series by Seymour, 1982. Covering letter by Seymour to Michael Wearing, producer, 'Play for today' - Box 9 Show allonly 1
File 44-46. Wanderers - a play in two acts by Seymour. Typescript of first rewrite, October 1973, with some handwritten notes and amendments, 1976 typescripts, and correspondence with Ronald Eyre, Coral Browne, David Copelin and Eddie Kulukundis - Box 9 Show allonly 1
File 47. 'The wind from the plain' - annotated photocopied typescript of a play by Seymour - Box 9 Show allonly 1
File 48. Articles and notes: Handwritten script for a play, 'Furbuck' [?]; article Patrick White : a short estimate; typescript of a play with music, 'Donny Johnson'; fragments of stories, articles, some annotated; proof copy of a story for Meanjin - Box 10 Show allonly 1
File 49. Articles and notes: Articles and reviews, 1968-70s, mostly typescripts, some handwritten - Box 10 Show allonly 1

Includes: 'Mobile'; 'Odd jobs'; 'An experiment with some very tough characters' (about the Snowy Mountains Scheme); 'No wonder'; 'The beard'; 'Travel : does it really broaden the mind'; 'Misalliance (Mermaid)', review by Seymour; article from 'Modern Turkish Theatre'; 'The Turks'; notes and articles about Turkey.

File 50. Articles and notes: Notepad, early 1980s - Box 10 Show allonly 1

Includes handwritten notes/ideas for 'Hollywood Road', 'Percy', 'Fragile paradise' 'One living animal' and 'Hong Kong River'. Also includes notes on finances, lists, reminiscences, April-July 1985, addresses.

Series 3. Research material Show allonly 1

File 1-2. Large amount of material labelled 'My Turkey Book' - Box 10 Show allonly 1

Comprises background material for proposed book including press cuttings and newspapers, 1968-72, brochures, tourist leaflets, information on history and culture and terrorist attacks. Handwritten and typescript drafts of articles and stories including 'Male among the Arabs', 'Dislocated man', 'Samimisms', 'Turkish and American radio : a comparison' 'Izmir journal, February 1968', 'Frederick ; thoughts 1968', 'This month in Izmir, December 1968' and 'Turkey: its government, educational system and customs'.

File 3-4. Handwritten transcripts, photocopies of press cuttings and of historical documents about early Australian settlement - Box 11 Show allonly 1

Includes information about crimes and transportation, livestock and plants on the First Fleet, Aborigines, landscape at Port Arthur, the Rum Corps, D'Arcy Wentworth, Governor King, Governor Macquarie and John Macarthur.

Series 4. Miscellaneous Show allonly 1

File 1. Includes: issues of Theatre Australia, Feb-Mar 1977, June 1980 and Plays and players, Nov 1973, containing reviews and articles by Seymour; photographs (Seymour's injured hand, Sydney scenes); press cutting; address book; travel documents; brochure for Arts Vietnam (Sydney season of drama, music, poetry and painting); typescript of comments on Arts Vietnam. - Box 11 Show allonly 1
File 2. Maps, guides and brochures relating to Italy, West Asia. Engagement diary, 1971, with a few one-line entries - Box 11 Show allonly 1
File 3. Bank statements, March 1982 - April 1983 - Box 11 Show allonly 1
File 4. Desk calendar, 1971, with brief entries and shopping notes - Box 11 Show allonly 1
File 5. Video and transcript of an interview with Seymour by Jenny Byrne on the Sunday program during the 1980s - Box 11 Show allonly 1
File [unnumbered]. Photographs: Portrait of Seymour in early 1970s (three copies). Poster for Swamp creatures by Seymour, world premiere performance by Canberra Repertory, 1957 - Folio-Box 1 Show allonly 1

Class MS Acc99.067. Consignment added 1999 Show allonly 1

Comprises scripts, screenplays, correspondence, cuttings, diaries, publications, photographs, 22 videocassettes and 9 computer disks.

Contained in 14 boxes, 4 cartons.

Class MS Acc99.173. Consignment added 1999 Show allonly 1

Comprises typescript plays, radio scripts, correspondence, cuttings, photographs contained in a springback binder and two folders, dated ca. 1949-1959.

Contained in 1 box.

Class MS Acc01.037. Consignment added 2001 Show allonly 1

Comprises further papers documenting Seymour's projects.

Contained in 1 box.

Class MS Acc01.137. Consignment added 2001 Show allonly 1

Comprises personal correspondence, 1976-1996, professional correspondence, 1995-1996, cards and annotated theatre tickets

Contained in 1 box.

Class MS Acc03.133. Consignment added 2003 Show allonly 1

Comprises letters, emails, cards and notes.

Contained in 1 box.

Class MS Acc04.203. Consignment added 2004 Show allonly 1

Comprises British letters and faxes, mostly relating to writing contracts, 1996-July 2002; business letters, 1993-2002; business letters to Seymour, 2002-2003; personal letters, 1996-July 2002; and, further business and personal letters (loose), 1995-2000.

Contained in 1 box.