Guide to the Papers of Ross Campbell


MS 8001

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Ross Campbell
Papers of Ross Campbell
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 8001
1.5 metres (6 boxes, 1 folio box)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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], MS 8001, National Library of Australia, Papers of Ross Campbell, [box number and series and/or file number]'.


The National Library of Australia received the papers of well-known Australian journalist and humourist Ross Campbell as a donation from his widow Ruth in May 1989.

Copies of photographs held by Ruth Campbell are housed in the Pictures Collection.

Biographical Note

Born at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia in 1910, Ross McKay Campbell graduated in English from Melbourne University, where he was co-editor of the student newspaper Farrago. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship and spent three years studying at Magdalen College, Oxford University in the mid 1930s, where C.S. Lewis was one of his tutors. On return to Sydney Campbell embarked on a career in journalism, working for the Daily Telegraph before enlisting in World War II. In the years following the war he consolidated his journalistic work, firstly as a feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald, before his 1954 move to Consolidated Press as a reviewer and satirical columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Australian Womens Weekly and The Bulletin. The pieces written during this period were to provide the basis of his published collections Daddy Are You Married? (1962), Mummy, Who Is Your Husband? (1964) and She Can't Play My Bagpipes (1970). An autobiography, An Urge To Laugh, was also published in 1981, just a year before his death in 1982.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Diaries, 1969-1974, 1976

From early in his journalistic career Campbell kept a series of pocket notebooks and diaries in which he recorded quips and ideas for his writing. Only to a lesser extent did he make diary entries to record appointments, addresses and names in the conventional sense. The eight diaries in this Series commence in 1969, and cover the period to 1976, with the exception of 1975. In 1973 Campbell kept two diaries.

1969 (File 1) - Box 1

1970 (File 2) - Box 1

1971 (File 3) - Box 1

1972 (File 4) - Box 1

1973 (File 5-6) - Box 1

1974 (File 7) - Box 1

1976 (File 8) - Box 1

Series 2. Notebooks, 1945-1975, 1960-1965, 1967-1968 and address book, ca. 1962

A collection of the notebooks which Campbell carried in which he recorded one-liners, short quotes, and words and idioms which captured his interest. This Series is made up of sixteen small, three medium and one large, dated notebooks covering the years 1945-1975, and ten undated notebooks which would appear to have been created in the mid to late 1950s. Also included is a small address book begun in about 1962.

Small, undated notebooks, ca. 1954-59 (File 1-10) - Box 1

Small notebook, 1960 (File 11)

Small notebook, 1961 (File 12)

Small notebook, 1961-62 (File 13)

Small notebook, Oct. 62 (File 14)

Small address book, ca. 1962 (File 15)

Small notebook, Jan. 63 (File 16)

Small notebook, Jun. 63 (File 17)

Small notebook, Sept. 63 (File 18)

Small notebook, Feb. 64 (File 19)

Small notebook, June 64 (File 20)

Small notebook, Oct. 64 (File 21)

Small notebook, Feb. 65 (File 22)

Small notebook, Jul. 65 (File 23)

Small notebook, Dec. 65 (File 24)

Small notebook, Feb. 67 (File 25)

Small notebook, Dec. 68 (File 26)

Small notebook, 1968 (File 27)

Medium notebook, 1945-1974 (File 28)

Medium notebook, 1974-1975? (File 29)

Medium notebook, undated (File 30)

Large notebook, ca. 1972 (File 31)

Series 3. Drafts

Although it was for his short satirical columns for which Campbell became best known, he was also the author of many sustained pieces, of which the typewritten drafts of three are contained in this Series.

Draft of Grounded 24 Hours (File 1) - Box 1

Draft of Rueful Rhodes Scholar (File 2) - Box 1

Draft of The Wild Life of a Naturalist (File 3) - Box 1

Series 4. Farrago, 1930-32 - Box 1

Whilst an undergraduate at Melbourne University in the early 1930s, Campbell became a co-editor and contributor to the student weekly newspaper Farrago. He was to maintain lifelong contact and friendships with a number of fellow Farragoans from this period. Included in this Series are two 1932 issues of the paper which contain his articles; a photocopy of a 1931 editorial; a 1953 letter from former co-editor H. Alwyn Lee (Al); a May 1982 letter and obituary by fellow Farrago hand Alan Benjamin; and a photocopy of a letter to Cyril Pearl from Ian Mair lamenting Campbell's death.

Series 5. Royal Australian Air Force, 1942-1946 - Box 2

Although originally enlisting as a gunner in the army in World War II, Campbell transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942, qualifying as an air navigator as part of the Canada Empire Training Scheme in December of the following year. For his part in RAF Bomber Command operations over Europe he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. This Series consists of a number of personal papers relating to his war service, including: his official identity card; certificates of service and discharge; flying log book; pay book (1945-46); DFC certificate; British Air Ministry memorandum of 1 March 1945; and an Allied war leaflet produced (in German) towards the end of the war persuading Germans as to the futility of fighting on.

Series 6. Consolidated press clippings files, 1954-1972

From 1954 until his retirement in 1978 Campbell wrote for a number of publications in the Consolidated Press (later Australian Consolidated Press) stable, firstly as a feature writer and reviewer, but as his talent for gentle satire became recognised, as a humorist. Through his anecdotes describing family and home life in 'Oxalis Cottage', he built up a loyal readership, endearing himself and becoming familiar to many Australians. On retirement from Australian Consolidated Press in 1978 he was given a number of 'back files' containing clippings of his columns, which had created by staff at ACP.

File 1: 10 Apr. 1954-1 Jan. 1956 (File 1) - Box 2

File 2: 18 Jan. 1956-28 July 1957 (File 2) - Box 2

File 3: 3 Aug. 1957-15 Nov. 1958 (File 3) - Box 2

File 4: 16 Nov. 1958-16 Nov. 1960 (File 4) - Box 2

File 5: 22 Oct. 1960-29 July 1962 (File 5) - Box 2

File 6: 11 Aug. 1962-26 Apr. 1964 (File 6) - Box 3

File 7: 6 June 1964-14 Nov. 1965 (File 7) - Box 3

File 8: 20 Nov. 1965-29 Oct. 1966 (File 8-9) - Box 3

File 9: 30 Oct. 1966-16 Dec. 1967 (File 10-11) - Box 3

File 10: 6 Dec. 1967-11 Aug. 1968 (File 12-13) - Box 4

File 11: 10 Aug. 1968-20 Sept. 1969 (File 14-15) - Box 4

File 12: 27 Sept. 1969-31 Oct. 1970; 12 Feb. 1972-27 Feb. 1972 (File 16-17) - Box 4

File [13]: 22 May 1955-17 June 1972 (File 18-19) - Box 5

Series 7. Australian Women's Weekly clippings books, 1956-1977

Campbell began contributing his weekly humorous column 'Ross Campbell Writes...' to the Australian Women's Weekly in 1956. This Series contains clippings of the column from the first instalment until a year before his 1978 retirement, including the 'Ross Campbell Abroad...' pieces composed during his eight month working holiday in London in 1971.

25 Jan. 1956-21 Aug. 1963 (File 1)

28 Aug. 1963-28 Apr. 1971 (File 2)

20 May 1970-30 Jan. 1974 (File 3)

28 Feb. 1974-9 Mar. 1977 (File 4)

Series 8. Miscellaneous newspaper clippings - Box 5

This Series contains loose clippings of Campbell's early work, including film reviews, from the Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald columns, as well as reviews of his book She Can't Play the Bagpipes, published in 1970.

Series 9. Miscellaneous papers - Box 5

A series of drafts, notes and letters pertaining to the period in which Campbell was employed as a columnist, as well as two letters and press cuttings relating to his period in London in 1971.

Series 10. Daddy Are You Married? anthology, 1963 - Box 6

Campbell published three consolidations of selections of his newspaper work. The first of these Daddy Are You Married? was published in 1963 and became a best seller. In this Series are preserved draft cuttings and preliminary paste-ups for the volume, including some brief editorial comments on selections.

Series 11. Letters - Box 5

Preserved in this Series are a number of complimentary letters from colleagues, readers and contacts, principally written in response to his retirement in 1978. Also included is a short signed recommendation for one of his books from Barry Humphries; a brief letter from John Passmore, containing some thoughts on morality; and three letters from his sister, Shirley, written in the early-mid 1970s.

Series 12. Publications

Mummy, Who Is Your Husband? [Sydney] : Ure Smith, 1969 (File 1) - Box 5

An Urge To Laugh. Sydney: Wildcat Press, 1981 (File 2) - Box 5