D'Arcy Niland

Brief Biography

D'Arcy Niland was born in 1919 in Glen Innes New South Wales, into a large Irish Catholic family. He left school at 14 and for a time (at age 16) worked as a copy-boy for the Sydney Sun. The Depression ended this employment and for some years he travelled the country working in a wide variety of occupations. In 1942 he married the writer Ruth Park and they later settled in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.

D'Arcy Niland died in 1969.


The Shiralee 1955
Call Me When the Cross Turns Over 1957
Gold in the Streets 1959
The Big Smoke 1959
The Apprentices 1965
Dead Men Running 1969

Short Story Collections
The Ballad of the Fat Bushranger 1961
Logan's Girl 1961
Dadda Jumped Over Two Elephants 1961
Pairs and Loners 1966
The Penguin Best Stories of D'Arcy Niland 1987, selected by Ruth Park

Travelling Songs of Old Australia 1966, with Leslie Raphael

No Decision 1961, with Ruth Park

Make Your Stories Sell 1955
The Drums Go Bang! 1956 (autobiography) with Ruth Park

THE SHIRALEE bookcover   The Shiralee

Jacket illustration: Arthur Streeton Golden Summer, 1889, (detail)

Dustjacket synopsis:
"Probably no swagman, in life or in fiction, ever had such a strange companion on his wanderings as has Macauley, the central character in D'Arcy Niland's first novel, who tramps through the back towns of New South Wales accompanied by his daughter Buster. Buster, four-year-old bundle of loyalty and fortitude, combines these more adult qualities with a natural childishness, and the result is a character creation of almost startling conviction. Buster is no joy to Macauley, he treats her with an uncompromising firmness: she must go on walking when she is nearly exhausted, must stop chattering when he wants to be quiet, must not complain. But Macauley has, too, a certain grudging affection for her, and this affection develops until it is so threatened by circumstances that it must at last be openly admitted.

"Regarding his absorbing and powerful novel, Niland has said: 'It is a Biblical truth that all men have burdens. This is the simple story of a man with a burden, a swagman with his swag, or shiralee, which in this case happens to be a child. I have often thought that if all burdens were examined, they would be found to be like a swagman's shiralee - not only a responsibility and a heavy load, but a shelter, a castle and sometimes a necessity."

First Paragraph

There was a man who had a cross and his name was Macauley. He put Australia at his feet, he said, in the only way he knew how. His boots spun the dust from its roads and his body waded its streams. The black lines on the map, and the red, he knew them well. He built his fires in a thousand places and slept on the banks of rivers. The grass grew over his tracks, but he knew where they were when he came again.

He had two swags, one of them with legs and a cabbage-tree hat, and that one was the main difference between him and others who take to the road, following the sun for their bread and butter. Some have dogs. Soem have horses. Some have women. And they all have mates and companions, or for this reason and that, all of some use. But with Macauley it was this way: he had a child and the only reason he had it was because he was stuck with it.

From the Angus and Robertson hardback edition, 1987.


The novel was filmed (with the same title) in 1957. It featured Peter Finch and Dana Wilson, and was written and directed by Leslie Norman.
A television miniseres of the novel was made in 1988, also known as "Macauley's Daughter", it was written by Tony Morphett, directed by George Ogilvie, and featured Bryan Brown, Noni Hazlehurst and Rebecca Smart.

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This page and its contents are copyright 2000-01 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: November 12, 2001.