Glen Innes History: Tales spring from a New England upbringing

New England background: D’Arcy, Joe and Beresford Niland, who grew up in Glen Innes.

New England background: D’Arcy, Joe and Beresford Niland, who grew up in Glen Innes.

D’Arcy, Joe and Beresford Niland were the grandsons of Irish-Catholic Thomas and Ellen nee Higham  and the sons of Francis Augustus Niland and Barbara Lucy nee Egan.

D’Arcy, 1917-1967, was  named after the boxer Les Darcy, and left school at 14.

It was Sister Mary Fidelis, his teacher at St Joseph’s, who had encouraged his writing  and later suggested he get in touch with a Ruth Park, who was then working on the NZ Star newspaper.

He was a good all-round athlete whilst at school being an excellent footballer playing five eighth, a good cricketer and could fight ‘like a threshing machine'.

They married in 1942 and the autobiographical The Drums Go Bang tells of their efforts to produce short stories, radio scripts and jingles. 

He was turned down because of a heart condition when he tried to enlist, so he went working in shearing sheds in north-west NSW 

The Glen Innes Examiner of May 1, 1957 reported: “One Man’s Kingdom… the story of an Australian family saga in 12 episodes by D’arcy Niland and Ruth Park, will be broadcast each Saturday at 7.30 and begins on May 4… 

“D’arcy Niland spent all his young life in Glen Innes and lived with his parents (and five siblings) in a house situated  on the approximate location of Dr Cuthbert’s surgery in Meade Street. (In 1956 Dr Cuthbert  had bought Dr Buddee’s practice, on the north-west corner of Meade and Church Street.)

“Mr Niland received all his education at St Joseph’s  School during the 1920s and 1930s where he was regarded as being the most outstanding essay writer of the time.

“Classmates still living in Glen Innes say that he was known as ‘Digger’ at school.

“He was a good all-round athlete whilst at school being an excellent footballer playing five eighth, a good cricketer and could fight ‘like a threshing machine’.

“On leaving school he went to live in Sydney and since that time he has corresponded regularly with the sisters of the convent and particularly with those who taught him...”

Possibly his best-known book was The Shiralee,  which was made into a film in 1957 with Peter Finch as the swagman.

In 1957, D’Arcy Niland  won a £600 Commonwealth Literary award.