Guide to the Papers of Bill Wannan
MS 9924, MS Acc10.081
National Library of Australia
- Wannan, Bill, 1915-2003
- Papers of Bill Wannan
- Date Range
- c. 1926-2002
- Collection Number
- MS 9924, MS Acc10.081
- 10.8 metres (57 boxes + 6 cartons + 1 folio item)
- Language of Materials
- National Library of Australia
Scope and Content
The papers consist largely of research material compiled by Wannan during his career as a folklorist, columnist, editor, writer and anthologist. They comprise correspondence, publications, cuttings, photocopies of articles, notes and notebooks, scrapbooks, pictorial material and a comprehensive selection of Wannan's own publications. A large part of the correspondence scattered throughout the collection is from readers of his Australasian Post column, 'Come in Spinner' (1955-1980).
Writers and folklorists with whom Wannan associated and who are well-represented in the correspondence include Alan Marshall, Len Fox, Mona Brand, Olaf Ruhen, Stephen Murray-Smith, Cyril E. Goode, Judah Waten, F. Bert Vickers, Ron Edwards, John Ryan, Edgar Penzig, Wendy Lowenstein, Gwenda Davey, Gary Shearston, Bill Scott and Barry Jones. Other correspondents include agent Tim Curnow, family members and various publishers.
The collection is available for reference.
Copying and Publishing
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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 Bill Wannan, National Library of Australia [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.
Wannan's papers were donated to the Library in 2003 by his daughter and son-in-law, Paula and Roger Hyland. A collection of 49 books by Bill Wannan were purchased from Wannan's estate and can be found in Series 3.
A Biography file on Wannan is available in the Newspaper and Microform Reading Room.
The Library holds all of Wannan's publications.
Wannan used a number of different methods to control the research material he compiled, including: manila files of correspondence which have been retained in the order in which they were received; scrapbooks, mainly arranged chronologically, which have been grouped into a single series by the Library; manila files of subject material with titles in his handwriting, which have been separated into two alphabetical series of persons and subject files; and concertina files of material arranged alphabetically. The concertina files contained publications, press cuttings and some correspondence and this material has been allocated to appropriate series by the Library, as has a quantity of loose, unarranged papers.
William Fielding Fearn-Wannan was born in Princes Hill, Melbourne, on 28 May 1915, the son of William Llewellyn Fearn and Ruby Roberta Wannan. Wannan spent his primary school years in Bairnsdale, Victoria, and later attended University High School in Melbourne. In 1943 he married Ora White and they had two children.
During the depression Wannan worked at various jobs, including fruit-picking and road-mending. He began writing as a child and his first adult work to be published was in The Age when he was a 21-year old journalist. In 1938 he travelled to Japan as a freelance writer reporting on the changing political mood. During World War II Wannan served with the AIF in Darwin, New Guinea, Morotai and Balikpapan. After the war he worked in Postwar Reconstruction, for the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce and as a crime reporter on the Melbourne Truth.
Wannan's career as a writer on folklore commenced in 1952 with a daily column for The Argus, 'Plain Australian', and a weekly feature, 'Colonial Cavalcade'. He published his first collection of folklore material in 1954, The Australian. In 1955 Wannan began a weekly column in Australasian Post, 'Come in, Spinner', illustrated by Vane Lindesay, which continued until 1980. An armchair collector, Wannan used the column as a means to collect and re-cycle legends, yarns, bush medicine and other Australiana. He published more than fifty books on Australian literature, legends and humour, many of which went into several editions, and he provided the material for a Channel 9 television series in 1984.
Wannan was an active member of the Victorian Fellowship of Austalian Writers, a founding member, including secretary for two years, of the Australasian Book Society and a member of the Melbourne Bread and Cheese Club, Realist Writers Group (including editing two issues of Overland in 1952), Left Book Club, Australian Journalists Association and Australian Society of Authors, as well as a number of human rights organisations. In 1965 he attended an International Writers Meeting in Berlin and Weimar. Wannan was awarded membership of the Order of Australia in 1991 for services to literature and folklore.
Wannan died in Melbourne on 20 April 2003, survived by his wife and daughter.
Fahey, Warren. 'A bowerbird of the Australian way', The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 June 2003, p. 40.
McLaren, John. Writing in hope and fear : literature as politics in postwar Australia. Melbourne : Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Ryan, John. 'An ear attuned to a nation's voices of literature and legend', The Age, 7 June 2003, p. 23.
Comprises research material compiled by Bill Wannan during his career as a writer and anthologist. The collection includes correspondence, publications, cuttings, photocopies of articles, notes and notebooks, scrapbooks, pictorial material and a comprehensive selection of Wannan's own publications. A large part of the correspondence scattered throughout the collection is from readers of his Australasian post column, "Come in Spinner", 1955-1980. Writers and folklorists with whom Wannan associated and who are well-represented in the correspondence include Alan Marshall, Len Fox, Mona Brand, Olaf Ruhen, Stephen Murray-Smith, Cyril E. Goode, Judah Waten, F. Bert Vickers, Ron Edwards, John Ryan, Edgar Penzig, Wendy Lowenstein, Gwenda Davey, Gary Shearston, Bill Scott and Barry Jones. Other correspondents include agent Tim Curnow, family members and various publishers.
Contained in 56 boxes, 6 cartons, 1 folio item.
This series includes Wannan's military papers, Ora Wannan's citizenship certificate, correspondence relating to Wannan's mother's estate and family history material compiled with the help of correspondents in the United States. The military papers and Wannan's mother's estate correspondence were extracted from various correspondence files by the Library.
This series consists of correspondence between Wannan and his agent, Tim Curnow of Curtis Brown, various publishers, readers of Wannan's Australasian Post column and of his many publications on the subject of folklore, Australian writers, family and friends. In business matters Wannan was diligent in retaining copies of his own letters. Amongst the correspondence also are book reviews by Wannan and reviews of his books, press clippings, photographs and newsletters.
Much of the correspondence was inside manila files when received by the Library and this material has been transferred to new files in the order in which it was received. Correspondence which was loose and unarranged has been placed in files maintaining as far as possible the order in which it was removed from the cartons. Apart from a short run of alphabetical files of correspondence, a number of files of royalty statements (Files 61-65) and some correspondence relating to specific publications and television projects, all other files of correspondence have been arranged in a rough chronological sequence. There is considerable overlap between files and many of them cover long periods.
Files 49-57 contain a sequence of files in alphabetical order by correspondents' names, some of which were also numbered by Wannan (numbers 1-2 and 8 of 16 are missing; number 3 is a file of miscellaneous correspondence which can be found in File 6 in this series). Correspondence with these people may also be found elsewhere in this series. Wannan's military papers and correspondence relating to Wannan's mother's estate which were originally in correspondence files can be found in Series 1, Files 2 and 5 respectively.
Correspondence from Wannan's agent, publishers and readers appear in most of the files in this series. Significant correspondence with specific people are highlighted in the list of files below, but letters from the same people may also appear elsewhere in this or other series. Correspondence can also be found in many other series, particularly in Series 7, Persons files and Series 7, Subject files.
Includes papers relating to the launch of Wannan's book, The Australian, in 1954.
Includes correspondence relating to a Literature Board grant application in 1962 and letters from Roy Thomas.
Includes correspondence with various authors regarding the publication of Wannan's Treasury of Australian wildlife stories, including Dal Stivens, Marjorie Barnard, Kylie Tennant and Henry G. Lamond, as well as letters from John Meredith about 'Waltzing Matilda'.
Includes letters from F. Bert Vickers and others referring to an International Writers Meeting in Berlin and Weimar in 1965 and correspondence with Flexmore Hudson, Olaf Ruhen, Stephen Murray-Smith and Wilbur Howcroft.
Includes notes on shearing and 'Click go the shears', as well as a shearer's ticket dating from 1905.
Correspondence transferred from concertina files, including with David Carter about Judah Waten and activities of other writers and writers' groups, a letter to David Bowman describing a meeting with Mrs Petrov in 1960-61 and letters from John Ryan, Roy Thomas and Wannan's brother-in-law, John Béchervaise.
Including correspondence with W.R. Hutchinson and a synopsis for a television program on the murderer F.B. Deeming.
Including correspondence with Gary Shearston and papers relating to the International Meeting of Writers in Berlin and Weimar in 1965.
Including information on the International Meeting of Writers in Berlin and Weimar in 1965.
Including correspondence about a Literature Board grant awarded to Wannan in 1973 and a letter to Colin McJanett of the Monaro Folk Music Society, explaining Wannan's approach to Australian history and folklore.
Includes correspondence relating to Wannan's retirement from The Australasian Post in 1980.
Including an exchange with David (Bowman?) about a meeting with the Petrovs and correspondence with Len Fox and Jim Hamilton about a history of the Fellowship of Australian Writers.
Includes Wannan's letter of resignation to the Australasian Post in 1980 and correspondence with Barry York about an issue of the Independent Australian magazine on Ned Kelly in 1979.
Including correspondence with John Ryan regarding articles for Australian folklore journal.
Alphabetical files: Ben Botkin, Mona Brand, Ross Campbell, A.R. Chisholm and Clem Christesen.
Alphabetical files: Frank Davison, John J. Dedman, Ron Edwards (including one letter transferred from a concertina file), Thelma Forshaw and Len Fox.
Alphabetical files: Neilma Gantner, Cyril E. Goode and Jessie Goode, Barry Jones and Frank Hardy.
Alphabetical files: Bertha and Will Lawson, G. Legman, Norman Lindsay (photocopies), Lance Loughrey, Elsie McConnell (sister of Alan Marshall) and Maisie McKenzie.
Alphabetical files: John Manifold (including the text of a lecture by Manifold on 'Australian folkmusic'), Leonard Mann and David Martin.
Alphabetical files: Oscar Mendelsohn, Bernie Meyer, Stephen Murray-Smith and M. O'Reilly ('Mulga Mick').
Alphabetical files: Edgar Penzig, Kenneth Porter and Denton Prout (Charles Phillips).
Alphabetical files: Stuart Sayers, Bill Scott and Graham Seal.
Alphabetical files: Russ Singleton ('Ironbark'), Brad Tate, Danny Webb and K.G. Willy.
Correspondence with Ian Fairweather and other Channel 9 staff, a shooting script, synopsis and contract relating to a television series, 'Bill Wannan's mysteries of Australia'.
Newsletters, minutes etc, mainly of the Left Book Club and including a letter from Laurie Aarons describing setting up the Club in 1987.
Royalty statements and contracts, including one with April Music for a Gary Shearston project.
Including royalty statements, contracts and an income journal covering 1955-1973.
Consists of Wannan's own collection of his published works, arranged alphabetically by title. It does not contain all editions of all works.
Wannan began writing at an early age, possibly encouraged by his schoolteacher father. This series includes juvenilia, a children's story set in Borneo, some early newspaper articles and various loose papers relating to Wannan's books and articles.
This series consists of different types of lists and indexes. Some are lists of references to information within books that Wannan used as research sources. Others appear to be chronological and alphabetical indexes to information in his own collection. Yet others are lists of possible subjects for the books he was writing. In some cases the lists are interfiled with cuttings and other material.
Some pages on which Wannan had pasted quotations appear to have been re-used to write lists. Similar pages not re-used in this way have been compiled and moved by the Library to Series 8, Subject files, File 32.
Includes poem by Wannan: 'Christmas' (1992), Wannan's 'Personal' list and article, 'Thoughts at 78', written for Australian Folklore journal (1993).
This series consists mainly of a numbered set of scrapbooks in which Wannan compiled material in chronological order, either by date of subject or date of publication. Filed between the pages of the scrapbooks are cuttings, letters, publications (some quite rare), photocopies, notes, manila files, drafts of Wannan's writings etc. Topics include Australian art, history, folklore, politics and crime. Scrapbooks number 19, 22 and 23 were not received with the collection. Items 22-24 are not part of the chronological sequence but are scrapbooks compiled by Wannan in a similar way.
Includes a 1964 letter from John Morgan of the Dalby Court Petty Sessions Office enclosing original forms relating to the Queensland shearers' strike of 1890.
Includes Sidelights on Socialism : a speech by Mr Wilson Wilson (1905).
Includes papers relating to performances by Sophie's Concert Party in the Dutch East Indies in 1946
Includes Australian songbook : souvenir of the Australian Delegation to the Third World Youth Festival for Peace (1951) and letters from John Morrison and other papers regarding the anti-Communist campaign in 1951.
Tayside linoleum sample book used by Wannan as a scrapbook and containing press clippings and mockups of an issue of Bohemia (Bread and Cheese Club).
This series consists of files of subject material on individuals. The files have been arranged by the Library in an alphabetical sequence and contain correspondence, clippings, journal articles, poetry, anecdotes and notes.
Dunbar, J.A. ('Crowbar')
Freer, Mrs M.M. (deportation fiasco)
Governor, Joe and Jimmy (assisted by Jimmy Underwood)
Griffin, Sam (a.k.a. known as Sam Knott?)
'Holler Tom' (glutton)
Lane, William ('New Australia')
McMahon, William, Sir
'The Man from Snowy River' (Owen Cummins and John Riley)
Pitt, Marie E.J.
Quong Tart (MacTart)
Richardson, George ('Old Fluke')
Rudd, Steele (Arthur Hoey Davis)
Rumsby, Ann and Bragge, William
Scott, Andrew ('Captain Moonlite')
Sequia (hawker, spruiker)
Tyson, James ('Hungry' Tyson) (and Locky McVean ('Locky the Sod'))
This series comprises files of material on particular topics and events. It includes press clippings, correspondence and Wannan's drafts. There is a short range of chronological subject files, with the remainder arranged alphabetically. Amongst the subject files are those identifiable as research topics for Wannan's books and Australasian Post columns, as well as subjects which appear to be of more personal or political interest (eg medical, Israel, anti-vilification etc). There are many 'Spin-a-yarn' letters from readers in a file entitled 'Folk tales' (File 14), but similar letters occur throughout Series 2, Correspondence. File 32, Quotes, consisting of pages with single quotes attached, was compiled and added to this series by the Library. Similar pages can be found in Series 5, Lists, where they appear to have been re-used by Wannan as scrap paper.
Including: material dating from Wannan's time in the Dutch East Indies, including musical arrangements of songs in Indonesian performed by Sophie's Concert Party; Folklore, work and studies, including letters from Wendy Lowenstein and Alan Scott; and folk tale themes.
Including: idiom; 'The Immortal dinner', including biographical material about Joseph Ritchie, maps of Africa, handwritten notes and a newspaper article by Wannan (see also Series 4, File 4 for related material); and Israel.
Including: 'tales, awfully funny, terribly rude', including a photocopy of a poem attributed to Kenneth Slessor, entitled 'Lines written on the occasion of the transposition of the Ladies' and Gents' lavatories on the 9th floor'; and tall tales.
This series largely consists of notes taken by Wannan whilst researching aspects of the history of Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. There are series of numbered notebooks on Africa and Australia, with 'Australia' notebooks 5 and 8-9 and 'Australia controv' notebook 1 apparently missing. Files 7-14 contain quantities of loose notes which were in different boxes when received by the Library.
This series consists of monographs, journals and photocopies of entire books or journal issues. The material has been drawn together from: published material which was loose in boxes when received by the Library; four alphabetical concertina files of research material; and files created by Wannan either as subject or author material similar to Series 7 and 8, but consisting only of publications. It has been arranged in a single alphabetical sequence, either by subject, author or publication title, maintaining Wannan's alphabetical allocation where discernible. Many of the monographs have been signed by authors and some have correspondence inserted.
Including poems by Bartlett Adamson and P. Lloyd-Smith and issues of Australian Children's Folklore Newsletter (1981-1988, incomplete) and Australian Tradition (1964-1974 incomplete).
Including publications by Mona Brand, John Béchervaise and Fred C. Biggers and issues of Birth (1919-1921 incomplete).
Including Noel Counihan illustrations in Symphony for peace by Nat Seeligson, with a forward by Wannan (1953).
Including The Wild Colonial Boy : the life and times of Jack Donahoe by John Meredith (1982).
Including publications by Ron Edwards and one issue of Every Saturday, 1906.
Including issues of The Gap, a school magazine circulated in the Bairnsdale district (1920-1925 incomplete) and Gumsuckers' Gazette (1961-1963 incomplete), Going into battle with a song : Australian poems of struggle, published for the World Youth Festival in Berlin in 1951 and items by Cyril E. Goode.
Including Frank Hardy's The man from Clinkapella and other prize-winning stories (c. 1951).
Including poetry by Louis Lavater and R.H. Long.
Including books about Loddon by Edgar Morrison and Loose leaves by Walter Murdoch (c. 1910).
Including the poetry of John Shaw Neilson and issues of Northern Folk : North Queensland folklore magazine (1966-1968 incomplete).
Including poetry by Marie E.J. Pitt and Marjorie Pizer, a Pioneer song book 1844-1944 to commemorate the Centenary of the Rochdale Pioneers (1944) and Going into battle with a song : Australian poems of struggle, published for the World Youth Festival in Berlin in 1951.
Including the first issue of The Queensland bush telegraph (no date), Realist writer issues 1,3-4 (1952) and 13 (1963) and Australian fantasy and folklore by John S. Ryan (1981).
Including issues of Singabout (1956-1966 incomplete).
Including The war America lost by Cyril E. Goode (1968) (Vietnam).
This series consists of notes on persons, slang terms, place names etc which were received loose in the collection. Some of the material appears in Australian folklore : a dictionary of lore, legends and popular allusions (1970) and Wannan may have used them in the preparation of other publications. Many of the notes have cuttings, letters or notes attached, are annotated with references or are cross-referenced to other terms. The notes have been arranged in rough alphabetic order by the Library. Similar notes are contained in the scrapbooks (Series 6) and amongst other papers where Wannan filed them.
This series is a compilation of press clippings removed from four alphabetic concertina files and from manila files which Wannan had arranged alphabetically by subject. The clippings have been amalgamated by the Library into a single alphabetical sequence. Additional loose unsorted cuttings have been placed in files and added to the end of the series. The earlier cuttings include reviews of Wannan's publications, whilst the later cuttings reflect Wannan's general interests in social, political, religious, historical and medical issues in addition to folklore topics. Hand- and type-written notes and publications in the manila files of cuttings have been left in place. Press clippings also appear in most of the other series, in particular the correspondence (Series 2), scrapbooks (Series 6), and persons and subject files (Series 7 and 8). Correspondence from the concertina files and amongst the loose cuttings has been transferred to Series 2, Correspondence, File 13.
This series consists of two bundles of miscellaneous photocopies, cuttings, photographs and prints and manila files of photographs compiled by Wannan. Subjects include Australian colonial art, early settlers, Aboriginal people, Japanese art, cartoons and portraits. Two copies of Wannan's Christmas poem are included.
Includes a letter from Geoff Towart, 1957, describing enclosed negatives of outback Northern Territory and New South Wales, early postcards of Darwin and a photograph of Adam Lindsay Gordon's cottage.
In 1938 Wannan travelled to Japan to work as a freelance journalist. This series contains a journal in letter form of his voyage by sea via Thursday Island, Mindanao, the Philippines and Hong Kong, a journal documenting a trip to Hokkaido, handwritten notes and letters and postcards from his father and friends, including Miné Suko. A letter of introduction to the US Consul-General for Japan and a Japanese hospital bill originally filed in a miscellaneous correspondence file have been transferred to File 9 in this series. File 9 also contains some papers apparently unrelated to Japan but dating from the late 1930s and 1940s. One letter dating from 1962, from Wannan to 'Jack' of the Australasian Book Society, has been moved from this series to File 6 in Series 2, Correspondence.
Includes cuttings and one draft of early newspaper articles by Wannan, a contract with literary agents, James B. Pinker and Son dated 1939, a draft review by Wannan of Coast to Coast : Australian stories 1946 and press clippings on Japan from the 1970s.
This series includes English literature course notes that Wannan prepared after returning to Australia from a trip to Japan in 1938, an email from Wannan's daughter and son-in-law in 2006 about Wannan's personal and professional life, and material collected by Wannan when he attended an International Writers' Meeting in Berlin and Weimar in 1965. A postcard and letters from Judah Waten, F. Bert Vickers and Flexmore Hudson referring to the Meeting can be found in Series 2, File 6 and official correspondence about the Meeting in Series 2, Files 17-18 and 22.
Comprises publications, typescript and manuscript writings, correspondence and news cuttings. They include papers of Wannan's father, William Llewellyn Fearn, consisting of his published and unpublished writings and letters from his literature course students; together with typescript, manuscript and published writings of Bill Wannan, including poetry, short stories, cartoon captions and children's stories. Amongst the papers are several handbound typescript volumes, including a collection of Wannan's father's poems, an anthology of children's verse by various poets, a volume of Bill Wannan's own poems titled "Plum bloom and other songs and broadsheets", and a children's story by Wannan, "The wonderful adventures of Moppet".
Contained in 1 box.