Ion (Jack) Llewellyn Idriess 1889-1979

Dedicated to the Life and Works of

The Writers' Walk at Sydney's Circular Quay ignores Jack

A grave insult to the memory of Jack Idriess has been perpetrated at the the Writers' Walk from the Opera House to Circular Quay.

The plaques were intended to make a statement about Australians, our values and the kind of nation we want Australia to become. Jack's name does not appear.

Strangely, D.H.Lawrence (who, by the way, plagiarised Jack’s work) and a number of other foreigners have been honoured.

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EMAIL SENT TO MELANIE INGRAM, POLICY OFFICER, ARTS NSW

Hello Melanie. On behalf of all who appreciate Ion Idriess' life and work, I was encouraged by the letter from Mr Souris. I would really appreciate early information when new additions are being considered for the Writer's Walk. I would like to make a formal submission at that time for the inclusion of Idriess' name. Regards. Rob Coutts.

LETTER FROM THE HON. GEORGE SOURIS

Following an acknowledgement from the Premier, an encouraging reply was received from the Minister for Arts, the Hon. George Souris. In part it read:

"I appreciate your ongoing interest in this matter and thank you for taking the time to highlight Mr Idriess' significant contribution. Should a future opportunity arise, consideration will be given towards a plaque for Mr Idriess."

LOOKS GOOD! An acknowledgement was sent to the Minister.

A LETTER TO THE PREMIER OF NSW SENT ON 28 July 2013

The Hon. Barry O'Farrell MP
Premier and Member for Western Sydney
GPO Box 5341
Sydney NSW 2001

This letter concerns the Writers’ Walk at Sydney’s Circular Quay and seeks your assistance to remedy an oversight. That the list of 60 authors does not include the name of Ion Llewellyn Idriess is an insult to a great Australian’s memory.

I have no quibble with the latest authors to be honoured, although Bert Facey’s one (admittedly good) book does not compare with Idriess’ 53 titles. My problem with the selection of authors is that while it ignores Idriess, nearly 20% of the plaques honour people who have had, at best, only a tenuous connection with Australia.

For example, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain and James Michener came to Australia for just the one brief visit. Another two authors (Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson) made several short visits and Umberto Eco came to Australia to lecture at half-a-dozen universities. Why honour these tourists and ignore an Australian author who spent nearly half-a-century writing about Australia for Australians?

Charles Darwin is honoured with a plaque. Darwin did at least spend a couple of months in the country! But again, why include this man and ignore a true Australian who fought with the Light Horse at Gallipoli and the Middle East, wrote books that sold by the million and was honoured for his contribution to Australian publishing?

However, the insult is compounded by the inclusion of D H Lawrence who lived in Australia for just a few months in 1922 and wrote Kangaroo from his experiences. In Kangaroo Lawrence blatantly plagiarised the work of Idriess. This fraud’s name is included and not that of the man whose work he stole.

Why should the name of Ion Llewellyn Idriess be honoured with a plaque in the Writers’ Walk? Well, not only was Idriess one of Australia’s most prolific authors, he was also an extraordinary Australian. Most well-published and/or highly regarded Australian authors would regard the title “author” as an adequate summary of their life’s worth. Idriess would not want his life to be summed up so narrowly. He was “out there” and did things.

Idriess always wanted to be known as a man who wrote from practical experience. He would want his life to be measured (in some order or other) by his experiences as a soldier, a prospector/miner, explorer and only then as an author. More than likely, he would be happy to be labelled simply a man of the bush – a bushie.

Even so, it is Idriess’ work as an author that should be honoured in the Writers’ Walk. From his first attempt in 1927 to his final book published in 1969, Idriess published 53 books and he wrote uncountable thousands of newspaper and magazine articles. This is a serious literary achievement but if a dedicated collector set out to buy every edition of every one of Idriess' books the total would be 350 and still counting. More than thirty years after his death, there are still Idriess books in print.

Idriess’ record must also be set in the context of the Great Depression. At the height of his popularity in the 1930’s, when Australia was in the depths of depression, people bought his books by the million. Almost every Australian had bought or read an Idriess book. In ten of the twelve months of 1932 there was an Idriess book published – three new books, ten reprints and one second impression.

There is no doubting the number of Idriess’ readers. More than three million Idriess books have been sold. As just two examples among many, in 1931 the first edition (2000 copies) of Prospecting for Gold sold in ten minutes and in 1932 Men of the Jungle was released in September and reprinted immediately. In three months 6000 copies had been sold. In 1975 the Public Lending Right gave authors a fee when a book was borrowed. More Idriess books were being borrowed than any Australian author.

As recently as 2005, the Frankston (Victoria) library surveyed that community’s favourite books. Included in the “Top One Hundred” was Idriess’ The Red Chief along with books by Asimov, Tolkien, Tolstoy, Dumas, Le Carre, Courtenay, Cussler and some other authors (like Patrick White) who have never come near Idriess’ sales and readership.

Today Idriess’ name is largely forgotten by the wider reading public but there are always many of his books on sale through “ebay”. If a collector could find a copy of Cyaniding for Gold it would cost about $5000. A similar amount would be needed to buy the set of Idriess’ Guerrilla Series books.

If for no other reason, Idriess’ name should be included in the Sydney Writers’ Walk for his contribution to Australian publishing. He always championed the cause of Australian work being published in Australia and in 1967 he was awarded an OBE for his services to the Australian publishing industry.

Could you please give consideration to honouring a great Australian through inclusion of Idriess' name in the Sydney Writers’ Walk.

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Mr George Souris, MP
Minister for the Arts
Level 30, Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place
Sydney NSW 2000
27 November 2011

I have noted the fact that on 24 October 2011, you unveiled the latest additions to the Writers’ Walk at Sydney’s Circular Quay. That the list of 60 authors does not include the name of Ion Llewellyn Idriess is an insult to a great Australian’s memory.

I have no quibble with the latest authors to be honoured, although Bert Facey’s one (admittedly good) book does not compare with Idriess’ 53 titles. My problem with the selection of authors is that while it ignores Idriess, nearly 20% of the plaques honour people who have had, at best, only a tenuous connection with Australia.

For example, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain and James Michener came to Australia for just the one brief visit. Another two authors (Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson) made several short visits and Umberto Eco came to Australia to lecture at half-a-dozen universities. Why honour these tourists and ignore an Australian author who spent nearly half-a-century writing about Australia for Australians?

Charles Darwin is honoured with a plaque. Darwin did at least spend a couple of months in the country! But again, why include this man and ignore a true Australian who fought with the Light Horse at Gallipoli and the Middle East, wrote books that sold by the million and was honoured for his contribution to Australian publishing?

However, the insult is compounded by the inclusion of D H Lawrence who lived in Australia for just a few months in 1922 and wrote Kangaroo from his experiences. In Kangaroo Lawrence blatantly plagiarised the work of Idriess. This fraud’s name is included and not that of the man whose work he stole.

Why should the name of Ion Llewellyn Idriess be honoured with a plaque in the Writers’ Walk? Well, not only was Idriess one of Australia’s most prolific authors, he was also an extraordinary Australian. Most well-published and/or highly regarded Australian authors would regard the title “author” as an adequate summary of their life’s worth. Idriess would not want his life to be summed up so narrowly. He was “out there” and did things.

Idriess always wanted to be known as a man who wrote from practical experience. He would want his life to be measured (in some order or other) by his experiences as a soldier, a prospector/miner, explorer and only then as an author. More than likely, he would be happy to be labelled simply a man of the bush – a bushie.

Even so, it is Idriess’ work as an author that should be honoured in the Writers’ Walk. From his first attempt in 1927 to his final book published in 1969, Idriess published 53 books and he wrote uncountable thousands of newspaper and magazine articles. This is a serious literary achievement but if a dedicated collector set out to buy every edition of every one of Idriess' books the total would be 350 and still counting. More than thirty years after his death, there are still Idriess books in print.

Idriess’ record must also be set in the context of the Great Depression. At the height of his popularity in the 1930’s, when Australia was in the depths of depression, people bought his books by the million. Almost every Australian had bought or read an Idriess book. In ten of the twelve months of 1932 there was an Idriess book published – three new books, ten reprints and one second impression.

There is no doubting the number of Idriess’ readers. More than three million Idriess books have been sold. As just two examples among many, in 1931 the first edition (2000 copies) of Prospecting for Gold sold in ten minutes and in 1932 Men of the Jungle was released in September and reprinted immediately. In three months 6000 copies had been sold. In 1975 the Public Lending Right gave authors a fee when a book was borrowed. More Idriess books were being borrowed than any Australian author.

As recently as 2005, the Frankston (Victoria) library surveyed that community’s favourite books. Included in the “Top One Hundred” was Idriess’ The Red Chief along with books by Asimov, Tolkien, Tolstoy, Dumas, Le Carre, Courtenay, Cussler and some other authors (like Patrick White) who have never come near Idriess’ sales and readership.

Today Idriess’ name is largely forgotten by the wider reading public but there are always many of his books on sale through “ebay”. If a collector could find a copy of Cyaniding for Gold it would cost about $5000. A similar amount would be needed to buy the set of Idriess’ Guerrilla Series books.

If for no other reason, Idriess’ name should be included in the Sydney Writers’ Walk for his contribution to Australian publishing. He always championed the cause of Australian work being published in Australia and in 1967 he was awarded an OBE for his services to the Australian publishing industry.

Could you please give consideration to honouring a great Australian through inclusion of Idriess' name in the Sydney Writers’ Walk.

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REPLY FROM THE MINISTER - 23 January 2012

"Thank you for your letter of 30 November 2011 proposing the inclusion of Mr Ion Llewellyn Idriess in the Writers' Walk at Circular Quay.

I appreciate your interest in this matter and thank you for taking the time to write about Mr Idriess' achievements. I have asked that your correspondence be placed on file for consideration should there be any further additions made to the Writers' Walk.

If you have any further enquiries you may like to contact Ms Sally Webster at Arts NSW on PH: (02) 9228 3605 or [email protected] who would be pleased to assist."

 

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TO THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN "REVIEW" (14/12/11

THIS
(overlooked)
LIFE

The plaques of the Writers’ Walk at Sydney’s Circular Quay ignore a great Australian who was also one of the country’s most prolific and popular authors. The life and work of Ion Llewellyn Idriess is overlooked whereas nearly 20% of the plaques honour people who have had only a tenuous connection with Australia.

Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain and James Michener all came to Australia just once. Another two authors honoured with a plaque (Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson) made several short visits. Umberto Eco came to Australia to lecture at half-a-dozen universities. Why honour these tourists and ignore an Australian author who spent nearly half-a-century writing about Australia for Australians?

However, the insult is compounded by the inclusion of D H Lawrence who lived in Australia for just a few months in 1922 then wrote Kangaroo in which he plagiarised the work of Idriess. Lawrence is honoured but the man whose work he stole is ignored.

Charles Darwin, who spent a couple of months in Australia, is honoured with a plaque. Why honour Darwin and not a fair-dinkum Australian who fought with the Light Horse at Gallipoli and the Middle East and was wounded three times fighting for his country?

However, it is Idriess’ work as an author that should be honoured in the Writers’ Walk. From his first attempt in 1927 to his final book published in 1969, Idriess published 53 books and wrote thousands of newspaper and magazine articles. This is a serious literary achievement but if a dedicated collector set out to buy every edition of every one of Idriess' books the total would be 350 and still counting.

More than thirty years after his death, there are still Idriess books in print but he was at the height of his popularity in the 1930’s. When Australia was in the depths of depression, people still bought his books by the million. Almost every Australian had bought or read an Idriess book. In ten of the twelve months of 1932 there was an Idriess book published – three new books, ten reprints and one second impression.

More than three million Idriess books have been sold. As just two examples among many, in 1931 the first edition (2000 copies) of Prospecting for Gold sold in ten minutes and in 1932 Men of the Jungle was released in September and reprinted immediately. In three months 6000 copies had been sold. In 1975 the Public Lending Right gave authors a fee when a book was borrowed. More Idriess books were being borrowed than any Australian author.

As recently as 2005, the Frankston (Victoria) library surveyed that community’s favourite books. Included in the “Top One Hundred” was Idriess’ The Red Chief along with books by Asimov, Tolkien, Tolstoy, Dumas, Le Carre, Courtenay, Cussler and Patrick White.

Then if for no other reason, Idriess’ name should be included in the Sydney Writers’ Walk for his contribution to Australian publishing. He always championed the cause of Australian literature being published in Australia and in 1967 he was awarded an OBE for his services to the Australian publishing industry.

Rob Coutts
Tingalpa QLD

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A polite rejection email was received.


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