State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 83 May 2009


Terence O'Neill
Joan Lindsay: a time for everything

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is Fact or Fiction, my readers must decide for themselves.’ Thus does Joan Lindsay gently tease her readers in an introductory statement to the novel. Unfortunately, many become so obsessed with this question that they scarcely notice that the author concludes her few lines of introduction with the observation that, as the events took place so long ago, finding the answer ‘hardly seems important’. So, at the very beginning of her most famous book, she draws attention to the role of time, the paradoxical nature of which was such a great influence in her approach to life.1
There are many examples of Joan Lindsay's unusual attitude to time, as measured by man – not the least of which being the title of her book of reminiscences: Time without Clocks. Even dates did not concern her.2 A few years before her death, she wrote to me with a rather surprising request – could I possibly find out when she was born?3 For most people date of birth is something of supreme importance, but for Joan Lindsay it was not really significant in the grand scheme of things. I was able to tell her that she was born on 16 November 1896 in East St Kilda, an affluent and leafy suburb about four miles from the centre of Melbourne. She was the third daughter of Sir Theyre àBeckett Weigall (1860–1926) and his wife Annie Sophie Henrietta, née Hamilton (1866–1941). Theyre Weigall was a barrister and judge. Two of his great uncles – Sir William àBeckett (1806–1869), the colony's first Chief Justice, and Thomas Turner àBeckett (1808–1892), a prominent politician – played important roles in the early history of Victoria. Yet in spite of his ‘establishment’ background, Weigall could be unconventional and indifferent to appearances. Joan describes his first meeting with his son-in-law, Daryl Lindsay: ‘In small matters my Father had small regard for the conventions…Daryl on the watch for a taxi disgorging an elderly gentleman in dark Sunday clothes as befitted a K.C. and a Judge of the Supreme Court was delighted when a slightly raffish bicyclist shook him cordially by the hand’.4
Despite the turbulent economic times following the depression of the 1890s, Joan grew up in a comfortable and stable home environment, yet one she described as ‘gloriously eccentric’.5 She was close to her mother, whose father, Robert George Hamilton, was from 1887 to 1893 Governor of Tasmania. Mother (‘very sweet, rather vague’)6 and daughter would discuss matters of mutual concern as friends rather than as parent and child. The household at 151 Alma Road was frequently enlivened by visits from guests such as ‘cousin Edie’ (Lady Harrison Moore), the anthropologist, Baldwin Spencer, the academic, Archibald Strong and the judge, Isaac Isaacs, who in 1931 became the first Australian born Governor General.7 Perhaps, for Joan, the most welcome guests of all were cousins on her father's side of the family, Penleigh and Martin Boyd, who would later distinguish themselves in the art and literary worlds respectively. Sharing her àBeckett ancestry, they reinforced the

Joan Lindsay, View of the Yarra [looking towards Richmond from Toorak], [ca.1925] Watercolour on cream paper, 13.5 × 31.0 cm. Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria H91.30. PIC LTFBOX/L w/c

unconventional elements in the Weigall household, which Martin Boyd portrayed in his novel Outbreak of Love (1957).8
Joan Weigall received her early formal education from a series of mostly uninspiring governesses, with only one of them, Margaret Tripp,9 having a beneficial influence. At the age of fourteen, Joan was sent to Clyde Girls Grammar School in East St Kilda, where she was dux of the school in 1913. She was briefly editor of the school magazine, The Cluthan,
and designed the school crest. After leaving school she became Secretary of the Old Girls Association and would have followed with interest the move of the school in 1919 to Woodend in Central Victoria.
The Woodend-Macedon area, once home for the Wurundjeri people, was a favourite destination for those Melbourne residents, many not long out from the ‘old country’, who
were anxious to escape the city's summer heat. Its cool climate, reliable rainfall and elevated location in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range were ideal for European vegetation. At Macedon the colonial gentry built mansions and surrounded them with elegant and exotic gardens.10 And yet staring Macedon in the face, as it were, was a startling contrast – a primeval landform, the timeless, brooding volcanic outcrop, Hanging Rock.11 Joan had gone there on picnics as a little girl, as the Weigalls frequently holidayed at Macedon. The fact that her old school had moved to Woodend, with Macedon on one side and Hanging Rock on the other, would eventually prove irresistible for Joan's imagination and enable her ‘to translate a long-seen vision into words’.12
Although she downplayed any direct connection, Clyde School did become in many aspects the model for Appleyard College in Picnic at Hanging Rock.13 Like the schoolgirls in the novel, Joan had been educated at Clyde in an English style which seemed incongruous in the Australian landscape. Her reflecting on the coming together of her Edwardian young lady's education with the holiday freedom she associated with Macedon (and the strange Rock nearby) helped, ultimately, to bring about her timeless novel.
There is a direct borrowing from life in the genesis of the novel. This is not the disappearance of the three girls – Miranda, Irma and Marion – and a teacher on Hanging Rock on St Valentine's Day 1900, for which so many readers and critics have tried in vain to find a real life incident.14 It is a more mundane, yet significant connection: a brief article in the Clyde school magazine by a Miss McCraw. The author of the article shares her uncommon surname with the mathematics teacher who disappears on the rock. Miss McCraw was a teacher at Clyde during Lindsay's time there; and when the school moved to Woodend in early 1919, Miss McCraw moved with it. Then, in December 1919, she wrote an article in the The Cluthan15 describing a school photographic excursion she led to Hanging Rock.
There are striking parallels in Lindsay's novel to a number of the descriptions in the article. In both, the picnic party is accompanied by a teacher named Miss McCraw; in both the girls, as they approach the Rock, have difficulty crossing a stream;16 in both they arrive at the foot of the Rock in the late afternoon. In the article they depart the school ‘freshly clad’ and return at night as ‘sorry objects’. In the novel they leave as ‘orderly rows of girls in hats and gloves’ (p. 62) and yet those who eventually return (also at night) are ‘hatless, dishevelled, incoherent’ (p. 41). The real Miss McCraw and her charges climb to the summit, which they reach in the dark, and see ‘the moon through her film of misty clouds’, while in the novel Irma exclaims ‘If only we could stay out all night and watch the moon rise’ (p. 30).
It seems extraordinary that the girls on that first excursion to Hanging Rock, on Thursday 6 November 1919, should have been allowed to climb to the summit, even today a hazardous undertaking in the dark. Time also seems to have been of little concern, as it must have been close to midnight before the girls arrived back at Clyde on a hired dray. No doubt they had exciting stories to tell the rest of the girls. It soon became a tradition to tell

Joan Lindsay, c. 1920. Scan taken from print supplied by Terence O'Neill. Location of original unknown.


William Ford, born England 1823, arrived Australia 1871, died 1884
At the Hanging Rock 1875
oil on canvas, 79.2 × 117.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1950

‘spooky stories’ on the way home from picnics to the Rock.17 Following the 1919 excursion, there was a picnic to the Rock each year for the next 40 years. The 1938 picnic was special, as, almost as a portent of what would take place decades later, it included the filming of a play performed on the Rock by the girls.18 Joan's cousin Barbara Weigall perhaps best summed up the special affinity of Clyde school with Hanging Rock when she wrote in The Cluthan in 1929: ‘somehow we feel we own it…sometimes we see it as a mysterious island when the valley below is filled with the white clouds of a “mystic lake” ’.19
When Joan left school she intended to study architecture. Instead, however, from 1916 to 1920 she was a student at the National Gallery of Victoria, where the most influential of her teachers were Bernard Hall and Frederick McCubbin. She later described these years as ‘some of the happiest of my life’.20 She shared a studio, in Bourke Street in the City, with Maie Ryan, daughter of the Melbourne surgeon Sir Charles Ryan. In 1920 they held a joint exhibition of their paintings, which they, as a jest, called the ‘Neo-Pantechnicists’. As‘Lindsay

Frederick McCubbin, Australia 1855–1917
Hanging Rock, Macedon 1912
Oil on canvas, 50.9 × 77.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1949

Ryan’ they later co-authored a novel ‘Picture of a Dancer’,21 about a ballet dancer in Vienna, which was, however, never finished. Ryan, who in 1926 married Richard Casey, later Governor General of Australia (1965–69), remained one of Joan's closest friends.
Joan Weigall seemed destined for a career as an artist. Towards the end of her NGV course she moved to Warrandyte, an area on the Yarra River favoured by artists. In addition to the joint exhibition with Maie Ryan, she held a solo exhibition of her paintings in 1920, which was reviewed favourably in the Argus.22 She also exhibited her landscapes in the early 1920s with the Victorian Artists Society and the New South Wales Society of Artists. At the same time she enjoyed social life, being vivacious, charming, a stimulating conversationalist, possessing an independent mind and a delightful, if sometimes absurd, sense of humour. Yet she hated fuss and so invited just a few close friends when, on St Valentine's Day, 1922, she married at the Marylebone Registry Office in London, Ernest Daryl Lindsay (known as Daryl or Dan) an artist and member of the talented Lindsay family. If dates meant little to
Joan, St Valentine's Day was an exception. It intrigued her from an early age: ‘St Valentine's Day has always been a very romantic and marvelous day to me’.23 On that day in 1912, while a schoolgirl at Clyde, she wrote the poem ‘Your Valentine’.24 The Weigall family had an old book of valentines which was produced on special days: ‘we never knew who sent them, we thought they were from a mysterious man who appeared on St Valentine's Day and sent us these cards’.25 These memories are of St Valentine's Days at the beginning of the twentieth century. Significantly, St Valentine's Day 1900 was the fateful day in Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Joan had gone to England in 1921. Her marriage there a few months’ later – in a registry office to a member of a rather bohemian family of artists – no doubt caused a few raised eyebrows in her family and among her Melbourne friends. Was she breaking free from what was expected of a young woman with her social standing, or just following in the unorthodox àBeckett tradition? ‘I'm rather glad to feel that there was a streak of eccentricity in me, I wouldn't say madness, but it's rather better than being a straight-out person who's cut to pattern.’26
After returning to Australia, Joan and Daryl held two joint exhibitions: the first, in Melbourne, opened by their friend, Dame Nellie Melba, and the second at the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney.27 The State Library of Victoria holds one of Joan's watercolours from this period, ‘View of the Yarra’. However, despite being, according to art critic Alan McCulloch, ‘a fine artist’, with her drawings possessing ‘the lyrical quality’ that would later distinguish her writing,28 Joan gradually changed direction. There is some evidence of a desire not to detract from the development of her husband's career.29 Perhaps she sensed that he would never become a first rank artist and felt uneasy with the thought that her work might ultimately be regarded more highly than his.30 So she turned to writing. Literary talent was not uncommon in her family. Among her relatives on her father's side was Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, a co-founder of London Punch, while William àBeckett, in addition to being Chief Justice of Victoria, was also a poet and travel writer.31 Her mother wrote an autobiography, My Little World,32 and her brother Theyre Hamilton Weigall was the author of a novel and a travel book.33 Her sister, Marian (Mim) Weigall, had several poems published. And then there was, of course, Martin Boyd, who was to become one of Australia's most highly regarded novelists. She could also draw inspiration from her husband's family. Her brother-in-law, the painter Norman Lindsay, was also a successful novelist and the author of the immortal Australian children's book The Magic Pudding. His two sons, Daryl's nephews Jack and Philip Lindsay, both became prolific novelists and authors in England.
In the early 1920s Joan began contributing articles, mainly on art and artists, and short stories to newspapers and periodicals, in particular the Sydney journal, Home. Her story ‘The Awakening’, illustrated by her husband, was selected to appear in the beautifully produced Table Talk Christmas Annual 1924.34 One of several poems published was ‘To G.W.L’, which appeared under the pseudonym ‘Beckett Lindsay’ in Art in Australia in 1930,35 on the occasion of the death of the Lindsays’ friend, the artist George Lambert. Quite early in her writing life she began to explore the realm of the uncanny and the macabre, with plays
(unpublished), such as ‘Wolf!’ and ‘Cataract’. ‘Wolf!’, which was performed in Swanage, England, in May 1930,36 was a joint writing venture with her friends, the sisters Margot Goyder and Ann Joske, who under the pseudonym ‘Margot Neville’, were for many years among Australia's best known detective story writers.37 In ‘Cataract’ Lindsay uses several motifs she would later develop in Picnic at Hanging Rock including the spiritual force of an exotic and seemingly hostile landscape, and our paradoxical relationship with time.
When they returned to Melbourne from London the Lindsays lived briefly at St Kilda and for some time at 16 Bruce Street, Toorak. However, their home for most of their married life was ‘Mulberry Hill’ at Baxter, on the Mornington Peninsula, to which they moved in 1926. ‘Mulberry Hill’, a delightful American colonial style residence38 was built by the Lindsays, incorporating the existing 1890s cottage on the property, to plans by their architect friend Harold Desbrowe Annear. The house was soon decorated with their splendid collection of artworks and Georgian furniture and was visited by a steady stream of friends – a favourite being Daryl's brother, the artist Lionel Lindsay. Other close friends lived nearby – Russell Grimwade at Frankston, Keith Murdoch and his wife Elisabeth at the neighbouring Cruden Farm, while Maie and Richard Casey were at Berwick. However, with the onset of the Great Depression the Lindsays decided to rent out ‘Mulberry Hill’. In April 1930 they were fortunate to find an idyllic refuge – a cottage at Bacchus Marsh, the centre of an apple growing area between Melbourne and Ballarat.
The Lindsays spent some time in England and on the Continent in the early 1930s and in 1937–8. This enabled Joan to become familiar with some of the great art galleries, despite her predisposition to museum fatigue, a phenomenon she would later explore in her writing.39 She was also able to indulge her love for the ballet, and spend time with her cousin, Martin Boyd, then living in London.
Joan provided Boyd with the outline of the plot for his unusual and rather eerie novel Nuns in Jeopardy (1940) and thereby once more demonstrated her fascination with the macabre and the mystical, which would find its ultimate expression in Picnic at Hanging Rock. Two strange encounters with nuns had left a lasting impression on her. Once when travelling with Daryl to his birthplace, Creswick, in Central Victoria, she saw nuns running across a paddock. Daryl saw nothing. She later learned that this place was the site of a convent which years earlier had been destroyed by fire.40 In 1933, the Lindsays had sailed to Europe on the German cargo boat, ‘Mosel’.41 Among the very few passengers on board were three German Lutheran nuns who were occasionally seen, but never spoke. So when Boyd told her that he was at a loss to find a plot for his next novel, she suggested the shipwreck on a desert island of a group of nuns traveling from Australia through the Pacific.42 Meanwhile, in 1936 Chatto had published, under the pseudonym ‘Serena Livingstone-Stanley’, Joan's own desert island story, Through Darkest Pondelayo. This, her first book, is a delightful spoof which parodied the type of travel books popular at the time and which contains, according to Boyd, ‘one of the best collections of malapropisms in the English language’.43 The review in the Observer compared its humour with that of the Marx Brothers.44
In 1934 Joan's mother Annie, who had been a widow since 1926, married Thomas George Tucker, an Englishman who had been Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Melbourne. Joan was very fond of him and referred to him as ‘my beloved stepfather’.45 After their marriage he and Annie settled in England, which provided another incentive for Joan and Daryl to spend some time in the ‘Mother Country’, as it was still then referred to in Australia.
Shortly before the Anschluss with Germany in 1938, the Lindsays witnessed at first hand the effect of the rise of Nazism in Austria. Together with Martin Boyd, they visited Joan's sister, Mim, in Vienna. She had married the Viennese philologist, Hans Pollak,46 but his Jewish origins would soon force them to flee Austria and eventually seek refuge in Australia.
With the Second World War looming, the Lindsays returned to Australia and the pleasant routine at Mulberry Hill. To help the war effort, they jointly produced in 1941 The Story of the Red Cross, written by Joan and illustrated by Daryl. His appointment that same year as Director of the National Gallery of Victoria disrupted life at Mulberry Hill. The war caused staff shortages at the Gallery, which led to Joan, becoming a ‘museum wife’ as she called herself,47 working there three days a week as Daryl's assistant. She was also contributing regular art criticism to the Melbourne Herald and Sun newspapers. As she became familiar with the Gallery's substantial collections, one painting, which was acquired during Daryl's Directorship for the Australian section, created for her a particular resonance – William Ford's ‘At the Hanging Rock’ (1875) [see page 46]. Did she see the picnickers in the painting as alien figures in a primeval landscape? Another painting which was added to the Gallery's Australian collection a year later, Frederick McCubbin's ‘Hanging Rock’ [see page 47], possibly also had an impact on her.
During this period the Lindsays acquired ‘Angel Cottage’ in East Melbourne, returning at weekends to Mulberry Hill, where after the war ended they entertained international visitors. In 1948 these included Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, for whom Joan wrote a skit ‘My Kingdom for a Chocolate Blancmange!’, while in 1949 the distinguished art historian Sir Kenneth Clark came to stay. That same year Joan collaborated with the Gallery's Keeper of Prints, Ursula Hoff, and the art critic Alan McCulloch, in the writing of Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Victoria. A related interest was given expression in 1953 when she co-authored with Maie Casey and others, Early Melbourne Architecture, 1840–1888. She was also an active member of the Lyceum Club, a club for professional women. There, in 1956 she gave a talk ‘Repeat Pattern’, on the recurrent nature of time, to a group known as ‘The Catalysts’.
Yet, although Joan was very much at home in Melbourne's art and literary circles, she saw this as subservient to her role in the community as a whole. She took particular interest in the work of the Brotherhood of St Laurence and was, therefore, acutely aware of the plight of the city's less fortunate residents. This prompted her to write a letter to the editor
of the Herald expressing her concern – a letter which, to her delight, ‘brought a wonderful response in hard cash for the Brotherhood of St Laurence’.48
Daryl's retirement in 1956 was followed by a knighthood in 1957. Now known formally as Lady Lindsay, Joan resumed her comparatively tranquil routine at Mulberry Hill, although in 1958 she agreed to become President of the Arts and Crafts Society, a position she held for several years. At the same time, perhaps as a consequence of Daryl's retirement, she was enjoying the most productive period of her writing career, producing in quick succession three books which, in different ways, involved looking back not only to what had happened in the comparatively recent past, but also to her youth. Time without Clocks (1962), a series of loving, at times even nostalgic reminiscences of her life in the inter war years, was followed in 1964 by Facts Soft and Hard,49 a much brisker account of her 1952 trip to the United States with Daryl, who had been awarded a Carnegie grant to explore the art scene in that country.
In 1967 her most famous book, the evocative and enigmatic Picnic at Hanging Rock, was published.‘I wrote that book as a sort of atmosphere of a place, and it was like dropping a stone into the water…The thing that happened on St Valentine's Day went on spreading out and out in circles.’50 The final chapter, which partly explains the disappearance on the Rock of the three girls and their teacher, was deleted by Lindsay before publication, at the request of the publisher. The air of mystery which this lent to the book was a major factor in the success of the internationally acclaimed film version, which was released in 1975 with the screenplay by Cliff Green and directed by Peter Weir.51 Despite being pestered for the rest of her life by both the media and public as to what, if anything, had actually happened in 1900, Lindsay remained steadfastly uncommunicative on that matter.52 The deleted final chapter was eventually published in 1987, almost three years after her death, as The Secret of Hanging Rock. It revealed that understanding the paradoxical nature of time is central to explaining the girls’ disappearance.
Previously, in Time without Clocks, Lindsay had alerted the reader to her unusual relationship with time and the fact that she could not wear a watch without it stopping. When launching that book, Sir John Latham had described its author as being ‘chronologically impaired’. Only in the sense that Lindsay refused to live a life governed by clocks, might this description be justified. ‘Chronologically insightful’ would now be regarded by many as a more appropriate designation.
The routine of life at Mulberry Hill was once more interrupted, this time by a car accident in central Victoria in 1969. Daryl escaped reasonably unscathed, but Joan, then aged 73, sustained quite severe injuries and spent some time in intensive care at the Ballarat Base Hospital. Nevertheless, neither the accident nor her age constrained her; she returned home and lived just as before in a house full of art treasures, but with steep stairs and big rooms with no central heating.
After Daryl's death in 1976, Joan's life settled into a new rhythm, undisturbed by clocks. At 80 her vitality seemed undiminished. Her active social life included regular visits to the Lyceum Club and to the McClelland Gallery in nearby Langwarrin. There in 1972, many years after she had given up painting, she had held an exhibition with Maie Casey, completing, as it were, the circle she and Maie had begun with their 1920 ‘Neo-Pantechnicists’ exhibition.
On most days, however, Joan was happy just to sit and observe the gnarled old mulberry tree, after which her house was named, to laugh at the behaviour of her bantams and guinea fowls,53 to tend her beloved vegetable garden, or to sit on the floor in her ‘scribbling room’ surrounded by drafts of whatever she was working on, which included a new novel ‘Love at the Billabong’, based on people she knew. ‘I write sitting on the floor, surrounded by sheets of paper in a sort of fairy ring. It's bliss’.54 Living alone in a big house, she felt particularly blessed by the presence, in a cottage on the property, of the young artist Ric Amor, whose work she encouraged and supported. Her rapport with the Amor children led her to resurrect a story she had written years previously for the son of Ray Clements, her housekeeper. Syd Sixpence, her only children's book, was published in 1982, with illustrations by Amor. Unfortunately she put ‘Love at the Billabong’ aside and it remained a fragment.
Two years later her wheel of time was completing its rotation. Miranda's philosophy in Picnic was no doubt Joan's own: ‘everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place’ (p. 132). After a short illness, she died on 23 December 1984, a date which like her birthdate she would have thought unimportant.55 In addition to her books, Joan Lindsay's legacy to future generations is Mulberry Hill. Bequeathed to the National Trust (Vic), of which she and Daryl had been founders, this atmospheric house is, for a steady stream of visitors, a journey into a world where time is elusive and clocks do not hold sway.


I would like to acknowledge the advice and help given by Dr Brenda Niall and Ric Amor in the preparation of this article. In addition, Lyn Norvell at the British Library has been most generous with her time in checking items not available in Australia.
Editor's note: A detailed listing compiled by Terence O'Neill of all of Joan Lindsay's writings and known art work will be published in a forthcoming issue of the La Trobe Journal.


‘I've been terribly interested in time always. I always felt that it was something that was all round one, not just a long line in a calendar. I feel that one's in the middle of time and that the past, present and future is really all round’ (Video interview by John Taylor, Sydney: Australia Council, 1975).


She boasted that she included only one date in Time without Clocks – the date of her wedding (‘Author Who Writes to Please Herself’ Age, 1 November 1962).


Letter dated 7 January 1980. In a subsequent letter thanking me for the birth certificate, she referred to it as a ‘mysterious document’ and added: ‘Apparently I was ‘not present’ at the date of my birth! A miracle worthy of Hanging Rock!’ (letter of 28 January 1980).


Time without Clocks, pp. 8–9. Joan was well aware of the long tradition of eccentricity in the àBeckett family: ‘There were some eccentrics allright in that family, which I'm rather proud of’ (Interview by John Taylor, 1975).


Geoff Slattery, ‘Joan Lindsay Turns Her Hand to Entertaining Children’ Age, 3 July 1982. Part of this ‘glorious eccentricity’ was being ‘brought up mostly in a great big garden’ (John Taylor Interview, 1975).


John Taylor Interview (1975).


‘All these people of wit and wisdom gave a non-educated child with an enquiring mind glimpses of truth and beauty that came as a flash of light in the darkness’ (Joan Lindsay ‘Scattered Memories of a Non-Education’, Melbourne Studies in Education 1982, p. 56).


‘I have travestied it [the Weigall household] slightly in Outbreak of Love, but I hope not unkindly’ (Martin Boyd Day of My Delight: an Anglo-Australian memoir. Melbourne: Lansdowne, 1965, p. 45).


For Joan's affectionate reminiscences of Margaret Tripp see ‘Scattered Memories of a Non-Education’, Melbourne Studies in Education 1982, pp. 50–51.


In Picnic at Hanging Rock, Melbourne: Cheshire, 1967, Lindsay likens the Macedon mansions to ‘exotic fungi’ and describes Appleyard College as ‘a hopeless misfit in time and place’ (p. 2). On the other hand the gardens are ‘lush luxuriant’ with ‘a heartbreaking innocence…redeeming the undistinguished architecture of red roofed houses …’ (p. 77).


In geological terms it is a mamelon, with an altitude of 722 metres. It stands more than 100 metres above the surrounding plain and seems to have been regarded as a special place by the Wurundjeri people.


‘Scattered Memories of a Non-Education’, Melbourne Studies in Education 1982, p. 54.


Nevertheless in one important aspect there is a big difference, as Lindsay had affectionate memories of Clyde, which she described as the ‘school we have known and loved’. (‘On Leaving School’, The Cluthan, 1, 2, December 1914, pp. 15–16).


Attempts to solve the mysterious disappearance have led to numerous articles and two books: Yvonne Rousseau, The Murders at Hanging Rock, Fitzroy, Vic.: Scribe, 1980, and Maureen Bushell, A Storm in a Tea-cup: the solution to the mystery of Hanging Rock, Coorparoo, Qld: Mermaid Publishing, 1993.


The Cluthan, 1, 12, December 1919, p. 27. See also Olga J. Hay The Chronicles of Clyde, Melbourne: Brown Prior Anderson, 1966, p. 155. Perhaps the event described in The Cluthan article is what Lindsay is referring to in this incident related by John Taylor: ‘one day she handed me some more letters from people who had been researching fruitlessly through old newspapers, hoping to find the ‘real’ events. ‘Yes’, said Joan – and then absently, ‘but something did happen’ (‘The Invisible Foundation Stone’ by John Taylor in The Secret of Hanging Rock, p. 17). Note: there is a misprint at the end of The Cluthan article – it is signed N.E. McCraw. However, elsewhere in The Cluthan and also in The Chronicles of Clyde her name appears as H. E. McCraw. A Helen Elizabeth McCraw was born in1883 in Rokewood, Vic. and died in 1965 in Melbourne (when Joan Lindsay was writing the Picnic at Hanging Rock!)


Five Mile Creek, a tributary of the Campaspe River. Through a combination of drought and climate change, the volume of water in the creek is now much less than it was 100 years ago. In the novel the creek seems also to play a symbolic role, marking the boundary between the everyday world and the timeless world of the Rock.


Melanie Guile Clyde School, 1910–1975: an uncommon history, South Yarra, Vic: Clyde Old Girls’ Association, 2006, p. 224. It is interesting to note that the organizers of the annual picnic were privileged to go on ahead of the rest of the girls in a spring cart, which is reminiscent of Miranda, Irma and Marion being ‘allotted the coveted box seat in front beside the driver’ (Picnic at Hanging Rock, p. 9).


The Cluthan, 4, 2, December 1938: 15. See also The Chronicles of Clyde p. 97. As Guile reports (Clyde School, p. 176), Joan visited Clyde on a number of occasions over the years and no doubt would have heard reports of the annual picnic to Hanging Rock.


The Cluthan, 3, 3, June 1929, p. 26.


In a talk titled ‘Repeat Pattern’ given at the Lyceum Club, Melbourne, 1956 (copy held by T. O'Neill). For an account of life for students at the NGV see Lindsay's essay ‘Student Days’ Overland no. 98, April 1985, pp. 59–63, together with Brenda Niall's ‘Life Class’ (Meanjin, 62, 2, 2003, p. 120).


Work on the novel continued sporadically for a number of years and the title has been variously referred to as ‘Anna’, ‘Portrait of Anna’, ‘Picture of Anna’, and ‘Portrait of a Dancer’. My copy has the title ‘Picture of a Dancer’. According to Maie Casey, with whom I discussed this work in the early 1980s, the character of Anna was a composite portrait of herself and Joan.


The Argus, 12 July 1920, p. 9. The Exhibition was held at the Decoration Company's Gallery, Collins Street, Melbourne in July 1920. For more information see Silas Clifford-Smith ‘Joan Lindsay’ in Dictionary of Australian Artists Online (


John Taylor Interview 1975. Phillip Adams, who was a close friend of the Lindsays, wrote that ‘St Valentine's Day is her magic day, when the commonplace is overwhelmed by the extraordinary’ (‘Into Another Dimension’ Age, 1 November 1975, p. 12 – reprinted in The Unspeakable Adams, West Melbourne: Nelson, 1977, pp. 63–8. This is perhaps the best known of the numerous articles seeking a solution for the disappearances on the Rock).


Copy held by T. O'Neill.


John Taylor Interview, 1975.


John Taylor Interview, 1975.


The Melbourne exhibition was held at the Fine Arts Society Gallery in June 1924. The Macquarie Galleries exhibition in Sydney ran from 14 to 24 July 1926.


Alan McCulloch ‘Lady Joan: vital and independent’ Herald (Melb.), 24 December 1984.


‘When I married a painter, not because he was painting too, but I thought, well, I'll think I'll switch over and I began to write’ (John Taylor Interview, 1975).


When Daryl rather disparagingly refers to her ‘minor talent’ as a painter (The Leafy Tree: my family, Melbourne: Cheshire, 1965, p. 128) was he perhaps subconsciously absolving himself from having influenced her decision to give up painting or even refusing to consider that her talent matched, or was even greater, than his own?


He published two books of poems, The Siege of Dumbarton and Other Poems (1824) and The Earl's Choice and Other Poems (1863). His travel book is Out of Harness (1854).


A. S. H. Weigall My Little World: recalled, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1934.


The novel is One Tree Hill (1928) and the travel book Boom in Florida (1931).


Table Talk Annual, Christmas 1924, pp. 42–3, 64.


Art in Australia, 3rd series, no. 33, August-September 1930, p. 4.


It was reviewed favourably in the Swanage Times and Directory, 30 May 1930, p. 8.


For a full listing of their many works see The Bibliography of Australian Literature: K-O, pp. 526–7.


In Day of My Delight Martin Boyd remarked that ‘the house was perfect in every detail, and yet with an atmosphere of great domestic ease and comfort’ (p. 237).


See, for example, Facts Soft and Hard, pp. 15–16.


Referred to by John Taylor in ‘The Invisible Foundation Stone’, his introduction to The Secret of Hanging Rock (p. 16).


Joan calls it the ‘Anna Spitzen’ in Time without Clocks (p. 130).


For further details see Terence O'Neill ‘Literary Cousins: Nuns in Jeopardy and Picnic at Hanging Rock’, Australian Literary Studies 10, 3, May 1982, pp. 375–8.


Day of My Delight, p. 47.


‘Pondelayo, Here We Come’ by Maurice L. Richardson, Observer, 11 October 1936, p. 9.


‘Scattered Memories of a Non-Education’, Melbourne Studies in Education 1982, p. 56.


Mim's marriage apparently caused consternation back home in Australia among family members and her circle of friends; understandably so at a time when the situation for Jews in central Europe was becoming so threatening. Wolfie in Martin Boyd's novel Outbreak of Love is probably based on Hans Pollak.


Facts Soft and Hard, p. 12.


Undated letter to T. O'Neill (early 1980s), in which is enclosed a newspaper clipping of the original letter to the editor (also undated, but early 1950s).


The original title was ‘Facts Hard and Soft’ which Cheshire, much to Joan's annoyance, changed to Facts Soft and Hard. This book was not quite so well received as her other titles – in particular in Alix Macdonald's review ‘A “Soft” Look at America’ in the Melbourne Herald (17 December 1964).


John Taylor Interview, 1975. These words are strongly reminiscent of the first paragraph of chapter 10 of the novel. The book was launched by Sir Robert Menzies on All Saints Day 1967 at Capers Courtyard, Melbourne. Ironically the copies of the book intended for sale at the launch went missing. ‘Sir Robert Menzies registered a notable literary feat in Melbourne yesterday. He launched a book which its publisher says doesn't yet exist’ (‘Unveiling of the Book That Isn't’, Age, 2 November 1967).


Shortly after the release of the film the number of copies of the book sold reached 100,000. By 1985 the Penguin edition alone had sold 350,000 copies. Maureen Bushell claims in A Storm in a Tea-cup (1993) that the novel had ‘eleven million readers world-wide’ (p. 7).


Maie Casey, however, was quite willing to read her friend's mind – ‘the earth rejecting what does not belong’ (from notes from a conversation with Maie Casey in the early 1980s). She no doubt had in mind passages from the novel such as ‘Insulated from natural contacts with earth, air and sunlight, by corsets pressing on the solar plexus, by voluminous petticoats, cotton stockings and kid boots, the drowsy well-fed girls lounging in the shade were no more a part of their environment than figures in a photograph album, arbitrarily posed against a backcloth of cork rocks and cardboard trees’ (p. 18). John Taylor is obviously referring to Maie Casey when he wrote that ‘Lady – …knew the secret’, as it had been revealed to her by Joan (‘The Invisible Foundation Stone’, The Secret of Hanging Rock, pp. 10–11).


‘I think everyone who has fowls learns a lot from them’ (John Taylor interview, 1975).


‘Author Who Writes to Please Herself’ (Age, 1 November 1962).


She died at Peninsula Private Hospital, Frankston, of bowel cancer and was cremated at the Springvale Crematorium.