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D'Arcy Francis Niland (1917–1967)

Australian author and radio dramatist D'Arcy Niland, who died in Sydney on Wednesday of a heart attack, aged 48, once said, "I had many ambitions as a boy but the only really powerful one was to write — to write anything".

And so at the age of 14 when he left school at St Joseph's, Glen Innes, to join his father wool-classing in the sheds, he began writing stories and poems for magazines and children's papers.

Drawn to the city a few years later, he worked as a copy boy on the Sydney Sun until his ambition took over and he began to roam and pour out a stream of short stories.

In 1953 he had his first real break when he was awarded $1,200 by the Commonwealth Literary Fund to write a novel. Out of this came The Shiralee which was later made into the film of the same name.

D'Arcy Niland married writer Ruth Park, a school-teacher who was born in New Zealand. They had five children and together wrote Niland's autobiography — The Drums go Bang — published in 1956.

Niland carried off many prizes during his career, including a Sydney Morning Herald Literary Competition prize in 1949 with Gold in the Streets, and the Commonwealth Jubilee Literary Competition second prize for a novel — The Big Smoke.

His other writings include Call Me when the Cross Turns Over (he sold the film rights for this), Logan's Girl, Dadda Jumped, and Pairs and Loners.

He had just completed a book, Dead Men Running of which his wife said, "I think it was his masterpiece. It deals with the conscription issue in World War I".

Ruth Park will edit the novel.

His funeral will leave for Northern Suburbs cemetery after a service at St Cecilia's Roman Catholic church, Balgowlah, today at 10am.


Maurice Dunlevy writes:

D'Arcy Niland was one of the few genuinely professional writers practising the craft full time in Australia.

In The Drums Go Bang he and Ruth Park made it clear that the profession was difficult and unrewarding but they showed also that it could be something of a lark if money meant little and laughs meant much.

When he wrote his little how-to-do-it book Make Your Stories Sell he summed up his approach to his craft and to life: "A writer must have a capacity for gruelling labour, not sporadic, but consistent. He must have energy, grit, and perseverance. He must learn to be unwanted. He must learn to be lonely. He must learn to suffer despair and conquer it. He must learn to put up with jibes, misunderstanding, jealousy, but he must keep on writing".

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Niland, D'Arcy Francis (1917–1967)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 October, 1917
Glen Innes, New South Wales, Australia


29 March, 1967 (aged 49)
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

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