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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Norman Eric (Norm) Gledhill (1905–1947)

Into an open grave at Karrakatta the rain was thudding. A squally shower lashed the dead man's friends as they huddled under the shelter of puny trees.

Grimly they watched another funeral fighting forward through blinding rain, the ever present poignancy of any cemetery heightened by the squall.

lt was a scene that only a man with the gift of bending words to his will could portray, a writer in whose words were magic and drama, joy and pathos—a man like John Gary.

But it was too late now.

John Gary was in that open grave where the rain was spattering. The magic of his words was stilled.

Many have enjoyed the writing of John Gary.

Many more have enjoyed the writing of Norman Eric Gledhill.

They were the same man.

John Gary was a penname adopted in the last couple of years, perhaps out of the modesty of a great writer; perhaps because the ravages of the disease that was tearing him down had withdrawn some of the happiness he used to take in his work.

For Norm Gledhill was a man who loved writing, who was in fact one of the finest writers in Australia.

Right from the days when from the mustiness of the Perth Library he emerged as an unknown with a prize for the novel Yellowstone. he showed that he had the gift of great authorship.

In the newspaper field he continued his unexcelled writing.

In everything he wrote there was zest and color.

He could portray a scene to a reader as though it were actually happening before his eyes.

It was the same in sport. His racing reports caught the drama of the thud of hoofs.

He wrote boxing so vividly that you could almost smell the liniment.

One night he came into the office with his thin face lit with something I had never seen before.

He held up a tiny hand.

A proud hand.

It was the hand that Jack Dempsey had just shaken.

Old Goldflelders often talk of the magic that was in his writings of the Fields.

But a few years back a persistent cough began hacking. Still, it was typical of him that when he stood in the line for the wartime army he calmly told the army doctor he felt fine.

Grinning he was passed A1.

Friends spoke about him next day to the army doctor, suggested a check-up on his X-rays.

It was a check-up that tore that wry smile from his lips.

TB ... a bad case.

In the few years that have seen him nearing the inevitable end, he still did a lot of writing.

There was a stronger note of grimness in it.

But it was still beautiful, still written in a style that we others envy. Then ...

On Sunday death came quietly. Death had raced the John Sands printing presses publishing his children's book.

Many children, will enjoy it when it appears.

None more so, I hope, than the 4 little kiddies to whom "John Gary" was Daddy.

Original publication

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Citation details

'Gledhill, Norman Eric (Norm) (1905–1947)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 July 2024.

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