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Ella May McFadyen (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.

Original publication

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Citation details

Leslie Walford, 'McFadyen, Ella May (1887–1976)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Ella McFadyen, 1951

Ella McFadyen, 1951

State Library of New South Wales, 110630979

More images

On being offered a role with the Sydney Mail
National Library of Australia
13 July 1972

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Cinderella

26 November, 1887
Stanmore, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 August, 1976 (aged 88)
Lane Cove, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Military Service
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