Guide to the Papers of Don Watson


MS 8261 et al

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Don Watson
Papers of Don Watson
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 8261 et al
16.4 metres (35 boxes, 47 cartons, 1 folio box, 5 A3 cartons, 1 shoebox, 1 A4 carton, 1 oversize carton)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The Watson papers comprise manuscripts, typescripts, cuttings, research material and correspondence relating to his biography of the Melbourne radical Brian Fitzpatrick, his book on Scots in Australia, Max Gillies scripts and speeches written by Watson for John Cain.

Series 1 - Brian Fitzpatrick, 1973-90 (Restricted): Watson's interest in Fitzpatrick began in the mid 1970's with the research for a PhD thesis which he completed in 1976. His biography, entitled Brian Fitzpatrick, a radical life, was published in 1979.

This series includes a copy of Watson's thesis, extensive correspondence with associates of Fitzpatrick, research material, drafts and galley proofs of the book, as well as correspondence with the publisher Hale and Iremonger.

The correspondents includes Manning Clark, Sir Keith Hancock, Dorothy Fitzpatrick, Kathleen Fitzpatick, Noel McLachlan, Warren Osmond and Geoffrey Serle.

Series 2 – Caledonia Australis, 1980-87 (Restricted): This series includes research material, notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts and correspondence relating to Watson's book on Scottish settlers in Australia. It was published by Collins in 1984.

The research material has been arranged in alphabetical order according to subjects.

The correspondents includes Manning Clark, Lisa Highton and John Timlin.

Series 3 – The story of Australia (Restricted): The story of Australia was written for school children. The series includes research notes, drafts and correspondence relating to the book.

Series 4 – Max Gillies, 1985-89 (Restricted): The series contains a large collection of Max Gillies scripts written by Watson, both for television and stage performances together with original drafts, notebooks, correspondence, reviews and programmes.

The correspondents include John Timlin and Michael Shrimpton.

Series 5 – John Cain, 1985-89 (Restricted): This series contains speeches and addresses written by Watson for John Cain, and research material including cuttings, correspondence and notebooks.

The correspondents include Terry Moran and Evan Walker.

Series 6 – Manning Clark's History of Australia Musical, 1983-88 (Restricted): The series contain notebooks and correspondence relating to the scripts written by Watson for the Musical, which opened in Melbourne in 1988.

The correspondents include Manning Clark and Yvonne Dann.

Series 7 – The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Restricted): This series contains a file of miscellaneous leaflets and cuttings relating to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Don Watson was involved with the initial planning of the Comedy Festival and was co-author of the scripts for the Max Gillies concerts given during the Festival.

Series 8 – Other writings by Don Watson, 1986-89 (Restricted): This series includes typescripts of a screenplay entitled “Gippsland” and typescripts written for the B.B.C. Radio Australia Project.

Series 9 – Miscellaneous correspondence, 1963-85 (Closed): This series contains letters received by Watson and copies of some of his letters.

The correspondents include Peter Corris, Drew Cottle, Jim Davidson, Robert Darby, Robin Gollan and Demos Kroukos.

Series 10 – Miscellaneous files, 1973-90 (Restricted): The series contains miscellaneous correspondence, photocopies, leaflets and cuttings, including a file on A.L.P. advertising for the 1989 Queensland State Election and a file containing seminar guides used by Watson while he was a lecturer in Australian cultural history at the Footscray Institute of Technology in 1981.

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 Don Watson, National Library of Australia, [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers of Don Watson were given to the Library under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme in 1990.

Finding Aid Source(s)

Please note: This finding aid may comprise or contain descriptive information provided by donors, researchers and/or volunteers.

Collection Retrieval Advice

Please note: each consignment in this collection has a separate box number sequence (i.e. there may be multiple Box 1s). Please cite the relevant Class number as well as the Box number when requesting retrieval of material from the collection.

Biographical Note

Don Watson was born in 1949. He was an academic historian until 1983 and has since been a freelance writer of history, comedy, films, reviews and newspaper columns.

Watson has written a number of books including Brian Fitzpatrick(1979), The story of Australia (1984) and Caledonia Australis(1984). He wrote speeches for John Cain, scripts for both T.V. and stage performances of Max Gillies, scripts for the BBC Project and the co-author of the scripts for ‘Manning Clark's history of Australia the musical'. He worked as a consultant on Meanjin and was also involved in the initial planning of the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

Item Descriptions

Class MS 8261. Original consignment

Comprises the following series: 1. Brian Fitzpatrick, a radical life, 1973-1990. Material relating to the book and a copy of Watson's thesis on the same subject. Correspondents include Manning Clark, Dorothy Fitzpatrick and Geoffrey Serle. 2. Caledonia Australis, 1980-1987. Material relating to the book. Correspondents include Manning Clark. 3. The story of Australia. Material relating to the book. 4. Max Gillies, 1985-1989. Watson was the scriptwriter for Gillies and the series contains material relating to this part of his career. Correspondents include John Timlin and Michael Shrimpton. 5. John Cain, 1985-1989. Watson was the speechwriter for Cain and the series contains material relating to this activity. Correspondence include Terry Moran and Evan Walker. 6. Manning Clark's History of Australia musical, 1983-1988. The correspondent is Manning Clark. 7. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, 1987. 8. Other writings by Watson, 1986-1989. 9. Miscellaneous correspondence, 1963-1985. Correspondents include Peter Corris, Drew Cottle, Jim Davidson and Demos Kroukos. 10. Miscellaneous files, 1973-1988.

Contained in 32 boxes.

Series 1-1. Brian Fitzpatrick, 1973-90 (Restricted) - Research material (In alphabetical order) - Box 1-6

Series 1-2. Brian Fitzpatrick, 1973-90 (Restricted) - Manuscripts and typescripts - Box 6-8

Series 1-3. Brian Fitzpatrick, 1973-90 (Restricted) - Correspondence (In alphabetical order) - Box 9

Series 1-4. Brian Fitzpatrick, 1973-90 (Restricted) - Galley proofs and thesis - Box 10-11

Series 1-5. Brian Fitzpatrick, 1973-90 (Restricted) - Card index - Box 12

Series 2-1. Caledonia Australis, 1980-87 (Restricted) - Research material (In alphabetical order) - Box 13-14

Series 2-2. Caledonia Australis, 1980-87 (Restricted) - Manuscripts and typescripts - Box 15-17

Series 2-3. Caledonia Australis, 1980-87 (Restricted) - Correspondence - Box 17

Series 2-4. Caledonia Australis, 1980-87 (Restricted) - Card index - Box 18

Series 3. The story of Australia (Restricted) - Box 19

Series 4-1. Max Gillies, 1985-89 (Restricted) - Manuscripts and typescripts - Box 20-21

Series 4-2. Max Gillies, 1985-89 (Restricted) - Correspondence and agreements - Box 21

Series 4-3. Max Gillies, 1985-89 (Restricted) - Notebooks - Box 21

Series 4-4. Max Gillies, 1985-89 (Restricted) - Reviews and programmes - Box 22

Series 4-5. Max Gillies, 1985-89 (Restricted) - Miscellaneous - Box 22

Series 5-1. John Cain, 1985-89 (Restricted) - Speeches and addresses - Box 23-24

Series 5-2. John Cain, 1985-89 (Restricted) - Research material and correspondence - Box 24

Series 6. Manning Clark's History of Australia Musical (Restricted) - Box 25

Series 7. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival(Restricted) - Box 25

Series 8. Other writings by Don Watson (Restricted) - Box 26-28

Series 9. Miscellaneous correspondence, 1975-85 (CLOSED) - Box 28-29

Series 10. Miscellaneous files, 1973-88 (Restricted) - Box 30-32

Class Acc01.205. Consignment added 2001

Comprises papers and newspaper clippings concerning Watson's work as an historian, author and political speechwriter.

Contained in 1 box, 47 cartons, 1 fol. box, 5 A3 cartons, 1 shoebox, 1 A4 carton, 1 oversize carton.

Class Acc05.135. Consignment added 2005

Comprises 19 diaries kept by Watson while working as a speech writer for Paul Keating, July 1992-May 1996; a small collection of loose notes, letters and receipts; a transcript of tapes relating to the 1992 election; a computer disc and three audio microcassettes.

Contained in 1 box.

Class Acc05.147. Consignment added 2005

Comprises letters relating to Recollections of a bleeding heart; correspondence with Paul Keating; publicity material; papers relating to the launch of Recollections of a bleeding heart; and, reviews of Recollections of a bleeding heart.

Contained in 1 box.