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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.

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McFadyen, Ella (1887–1976)

by Leslie Walford

As a child growing up on the outskirts of Sydney, Ella McFadyen wanted to read about Australia rather than childrens stories with an English setting.

So at the age of 15, she began writing her own — in nature pieces for weekly papers.

Miss McFadyen wrote four children's books, including the classic Pegmen Tales and over 37 years was a regular contributor of poems and articles to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Miss McFadyen's Big Book of Pegmen Tales was reprinted and published last year by Angus and Robertson, for whom she worked up till about four years ago as a manuscript reader.

She died recently aged 88.

The tales began originally as a daily serial for a Queensland newspaper and after running for three years were adapted for radio and then published into two books.

The Pegmen were a family of pegs made by children (cousin of the McFadyens) on the Macquarie River and launched in a flood for a trip around the world.

Miss McFadyen also wrote for a country newspaper, The Farmer and Settler.

For 20 years she edited the children's or Cinderella page for the Sydney Mail.

It was full of nature pieces, photographs and sketches of Australian animals and wildflowers.

Stories from the United States (about "Disney types with black nobs on their noses," as Miss McFadyen called them) were firmly rejected.

Associated with the page was a Boomerang Walking Club for which Miss McFadyen organised weekend adventure expeditions, teaching nature and bushcraft.

Members had to show they could walk 20 miles a day before they could go on treks and like boomerangs, had to return home under their own power.

Ella McFadyen developed her great love for the bush as a child.

She is survived by two brothers, Lindsay in Queensland and Clifford in Lindfield.

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Citation details

Leslie Walford, 'McFadyen, Ella (1887–1976)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 October 2021.

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