Guide to the Papers of Robert Bruce Plowman


MS 1941

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2003

Collection Summary

Plowman, R.B. (Robert Bruce), 1886-1966
Papers of Robert Bruce Plowman
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 1941
0.36 metres (2 archive boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Content

The papers comprise letters (1912-1917) written by Robert Plowman to his mother and his future wife, Jean, while he was with the Australian Inland Mission in Central Australia. The collection also includes a typescript of his 1914 journal, drafts of his four novels, and articles, photographs and newspaper cuttings.


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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Robert Bruce Plowman, National Library of Australia, MS 1941, [series and/or file number]'.


The collection was donated to the Library by Cameron Plowman in 1968. Further papers were added in 1995 and 1997.


The small collection has been arranged into six series.

Biographical Note

Robert Bruce Plowman was born in Melbourne in 1886. He was educated at the South Melbourne State School until the age of 12 and later at Scotch College. His first job was with Patterson, Laing and Bruce in Melbourne.

Between 1912 and 1917 he worked as a volunteer for John Flynn of the Australian Inland Mission. He was ordained for the purposes of the Presbyterian Church and licensed to baptise, marry and bury. Plowman worked as itinerant minister in South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, including Beltana, Birdsville and Oodnadatta.

In 1918, following his return to Melbourne, Plowman married Jean Lillian Sinclair. They first lived in Queenstown, Tasmania, and in 1922 returned to Victoria. They lived in Bendigo for many years, where Plowman worked for a newsagent, a real estate business and an architect. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church. After the death of his wife in 1961, he lived with family members. He died in Melbourne in 1966.

Plowman was in poor health for much of his life and it was while recovering from illness that he started to write novels based on his experiences in Central Australia. His published works include The man from Oodnadata (1933), Camel pads (1933), The boundary rider (1935) and Larapinta (1939).

Item Descriptions

Series. Correspondence, 1912-1917

Letters written by Plowman, during his five year term with the Australian Inland Mission in central Australia, most of which were addressed to his mother and Jean Sinclair, who later became his wife.

Letters, 21 Dec. 1912 - 23 Apr. 1914 (File) - Box 1

Letters, 12 Mar. 1915 - 5 Nov. 1916 (File) - Box 1

Letters, 27 Nov. 1916 - 9 Nov. 1917 and undated (File) - Box 1

Series. Journal, 1914 - Box 1

Typescript journal, February to October 1914, kept by Plowman and giving an account of his daily work with the Australian Inland Mission in Central Australia. 18pp. (8 copies)

1 folder

Series. Literary manuscripts

'Oodnadatta and roundabout' (File) - Box 1

MS draft of novel 221pp.

'Larapinta' (File) - Box 1

Typescript draft of novel 318pp.

'The boundary rider' (File) - Box 2

Typescript draft of novel 332pp. Several pages missing.

'The overlanders' (File) - Box 2

MS draft of chapters 1-6 38pp.

Unidentified manuscript (File) - Box 2

MS draft of Chapter 25 of unidentified MS. 3pp.

Series. Articles - Box 2

Miscellaneous typescripts and manuscript of articles by Plowman about the development and work of the Australian Inland Mission and the Aborigines of central Australia.

1 folder

Series. Miscellaneous items - Box 2

Photographs of Wilpena Station and Port Kembla, a letter to Plowman from the Rev. Robert Steel (1912), a map, a contract concerning the employment of an Aborigine (1915), and a roneoed account of the first year of the Flying Doctor Service.

1 folder

Series. Newspapers cuttings, 1911-1939 - Box 2

Cutting book mostly containing reviews of Plowman's published works and photographs. There are also loose cuttings concerning Plowman, the Australian Inland Mission and central Australia.

2 folder

Series. Biographical material - Box 2

Typescript by Bruce Plowman and Jean Whitla about their father Robert Plowman (4pp) and a note on the Smith of Dunesk Mission at Beltana, South Australia (1p).

1 folder