Guide to the Papers of John McKellar [MSS 203]

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Manuscript Name Papers of John McKellar
Manuscript Number MSS 203
Last Updated October 2021
Extent 4 cm (2 folders, 1 box)
Location Special Collections, UNSW Canberra
Abstract This collection includes photocopies of papers and correspondence in relation to Sarah Campion held in the Papers of John McKellar at MS 8113, State Library of Victoria, La Trobe Library, Australian Manuscripts Collection (VSL).

Date Range of Content


Biographical Note

John McKellar was born in Greenock, Scotland, and settled in Melbourne, where he worked as a journalist and developed connections with the Jindyworobak poets. He contributed to Merringek : for an understanding of Australia's history and traditions, primeval, colonial and modern, and published a series of pamphlets, 1946-54, to express his strong views on a range of subjects including conscription, evolution, Christianity and politics. He also published two novels, Sheep without a shepherd (1937), and Tree by the creek (1961), an imaginative account of the Burke and Wills expedition of 1860-61, narrated by John King, the sole survivor, and originally an award-winning radio script. He also published a book of essays entitled Digging at roots (1951).

Sarah Campion was born Mary Rose Coulton on 1 June 1906 in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England and brought up in the village of Shelford near Cambridge. She worked as a teacher in England, Canada, Scotland, before travelling to Germany to teach English to German Jews. In 1937, the Nazis expelled her. She then travelled in Canada, the USA, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, earning her living working as a cook until 1940, when she returned to live in England and worked in a variety of occupations.

In 1939, she stayed briefly on the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland, which inspired her six Australian novels, including Turn away no more (1940), Dr. Golightly (1947), Come again (1951); and 'The Burdekin trilogy', including Bonanza (1942), Mo Burdekin (1942) and The Pommy cow (1944). She returned to England at the outbreak of war, where she worked as an editor, reviewer, broadcaster and fiction writer.

She married the New Zealand writer, Antony Alpers in London in 1949, and emigrated to New Zealand with him and their son Philip in 1952. She became well known in New Zealand as a writer, commentator, radio broadcaster and political activist, and published no further fiction. She briefly revisited Australia in 1959, with her son Philip after her marriage ended.

Sarah Campion lived in Auckland, New Zealand until her death on 22 July 2002.

Oxford companion to Australian literature, 2nd ed. (1994), p. 495
'Obituary: Vale Sarah Campion, 1906-2002', by Elizabeth Lawson, Australian women's book review, vol.15 no.1, 2003.

Administrative Information


The collection is available for research.

Restrictions on Use

No copying is permitted without the permission of the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Papers of John McKellar, Special Collections, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, MS 203, Series [Number], Folder [Number].


This material was acquired by the Academy Library for use by Elizabeth Lawson in 1989.

Additional Information

Separated Material

John McKellar's manuscript papers are held at the State Library of Victoria, La Trobe Library, Australian Manuscripts Collection (VSL) in the Papers of John McKellar at MS 8113
Sarah Campion's manuscript papers are held at the National Library of New Zealand.

Access Terms

Personal Names

McKellar, John, 1881-1966 -- Archives

Campion, Sarah, 1906-2002 -- Archives

Topical Subjects

Authors, Australian -- 20th century -- Archives

Authors, New Zealand -- 20th century -- Archives

Container List

Box 1

Folder 1
Photocopies of correspondence, lecture, review and criticism, 1944-1959

Correspondence, including Campion, Vance Palmer, McKellar and C. A. McCallum, 1944-1950
Photocopies of annotated typescript drafts by McKellar regarding Campion and her published works
Annotated typescript drafts of a lecture given by McKellar entitled 'The daughter of a famous man : Sarah Campion, daughter of G. G. Coulton', held at the Public Library of Victoria, Thursday 16 November 1950
retitled 'A novelist gets under our skin', Friday 17 April 1959
Review of Campion's novel entitled Come again entitled 'Nature magnified', published in Southerly, vol. 14, no. 4, 1953, p. 262-264
Criticism by McKellar entitled 'Some Australian women authors'
Review by Nettie Palmer entitled 'Sarah Campion's three novels', published in Fellowship, September 1944
Review of Dr. Golightly entitled 'Triple style novel', published in the Age, 5/7/1947
Biographical details relating to Campion

Folder 2
Photocopies of manuscript and annotated typescript drafts of 'Sarah Campion', published in Southerly, vol. 11, no. 2, 1950, p. 70-81