ISSUE 8 - JUNE 2003

Australian Folklore Network
Australian Folklore Research Unit
Curtin University of Technology


We lead this edition of Transmissions with an obituary of a pioneering Australian folklorist, Bill Wannan, whose work will be familiar to many of our readers.

We also carry the obituary of a folklore organisation, the Victorian Folklife Association.

On a happier note we report on news of the National Library's Folk Festival Fellowship, the recent successful AFN Forum at the NLA, together with other news and items of interest to folklorists.

We also attach our list of Affiliates and an application form for anyone who would like to affiliate with the AFN.

The next edition of Transmissions will be around August, please send in any contributions (notes, queries, reviews, brief articles, etc.) by email.

Please feel free to pass Transmissions on to anyone who might be interested. The publication now goes to well over 150 addresses around the country and around the world.

Graham Seal


Bill Wannan's name will be familiar to many readers of Transmissions. From the early 1950's with the publication of his classic work The Australian (1954), he contributed extensively to our knowledge of Australian folk traditions. The Australian was followed up with a number of other works that built on Bill Wannan's extending interests in Australian folklore and literature, including Come in, Spinner (1964, under the title Fair Go, Spinner) and My Kind of Country (1967).

Bill Wannan's main interest was in folktales, especially in the form that many consider to be characteristically Australian, the yarn. Most of his works revolve around this interest and provide (in addition to Ron Edwards', Bill Scott's and, more problematically, Bill Beatty's work in this field) much of the recorded evidence for the English-language folktale in Australia. His work on the Crooked Mick cycle of stories (1965) is especially valuable in this respect.

Bill Wannan was for many years a journalist with the iconic popular magazine, the Australasian Post, a job that, for 25 years, put him in an ideal position to collect yarns. Readers from across the country sent in the anecdotes, tall tales and straight-out lies they heard or told themselves and many of these were published in the magazine, which thus represents a significant resource for Australian folktale research.

In addition to his interest in the yarn, Bill Wannan also wrote on customs and language (Folklore of the Australian Pub, 1972; The Wearing of the Green, 1965, on Irish traditions in Australia), folk medicine (Folk Medicine, 1970) and aspects of Australian history, notably his history of Australian bushranging 'Tell 'em I Died Game' (1963) which is still the only reasonably comprehensive history of bushranging to have been published since Charles White's two-volume work of in the nineteenth century and Frank Clune's more selective work. He also published a dictionary of Australian folklore (1970), together with many anthologies of traditional humour, folk speech, short stories and folk heroes in a publishing history spanning half a century. In recent years some of his classic works have been republished by Penguin Books.

Bill Wannan's considerable achievements in folklore and literature were celebrated in the 1995 issue of Australian Folklore (10). The list of his published works covered eight pages of the journal and there is a considerable amount of information about his life included that will be invaluable for any future biographer.

Bill Wannan died on April 20, aged 87. His legacy will be the pleasure his books brought to many people, together with his considerable quantity of published works and his extensive papers, which will hopefully soon be safely and usefully housed in the National Library of Australia.

- Graham Seal


The Convenor's Report covered: There was a discussion on the National Folklore Centre issue, including: Future directions and projects Brian Dunnett outlined the Railway songs and stories project, which was applauded by all.


The National Library of Australia has established a Folk Festival Fellowship to further encourage studies in Australian folklore. Details are on the Library's website at:


The newsletter of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) is online at


Julia Bishop of the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language, Sheffield University, writes:
I'm delighted to be able to inform you that the online catalogue of the James Madison Carpenter Collection (mainly containing traditional song and drama) is now available.
The URL is


Keith McKenry writes:
I have for some years been collecting parodies of well-known Australian songs and poems. Thus far, with 36 entries, Australia's national anthem "Advance Australia Fair" is with Australia's 'national song', Waltzing Matilda equal top of the list of the most frequently parodied pieces, and these two are way ahead of the rest of the pack. This fact causes me to wonder whether the parodying of one's national anthem / song is a peculiarly Australian phenomenon, or if it is done world-wide.

I would be grateful if any of you can advise me of any parodies of other national anthems /songs, or if you can point me in the direction of references or people who might be able to assist me.

- Keith McKenry -


For anyone interested in railway songs and poems I have recently updated a site called Australian Railway Story at

Here you can find the words of songs and poems (and listen to excerpts from them) as well as hear railway workers talking about their lives in the industry and the possibilities for the future of rail.

- Mark Gregory


After a feisty contribution to folklore and folklife activities, the Victorian Folklife Association has fallen victim to the usual 'funding cuts' axe. Mark Moravec of the Australian Folklore Association mourns the VFA's demise:

One of the saddest developments, in what seems to be the perpetual life and death struggle for government recognition and funding of Australian folk culture, was this year's closure of the Victorian Folklife Association.

Over a period of twelve years, the VFA contributed greatly to Victorian cultural life, through its folk concert and education programmes, quarterly Folklife newsletter and other activities designed to increase the profile and appreciation of Australian folk culture.

The VFA's crowning achievement was undoubtedly its organising of the International Folk Narrative Congress in Melbourne in 2001. For the first time, some 200 scholars from all around the world gathered here to discuss folk narratives in all their diversity. They, and us, were exposed to the richness of Australian folk culture and to the excellent research emanating from this usually hidden part of the world. Overseas delegates were greatly impressed by the success of the Congress, going by the feedback I have received.

On behalf of the Australian Folklore Association, I would like to offer our profound thanks to Director Susan Faine and her dedicated team for their very valuable contributions to fostering our Australian folklife, in Victoria and beyond. And for fighting the good fight despite the odds.

The elites may be doing well like usual whilst the everyday culture of the people continues to be ignored. But we will continue to fight back in whatever ways we can!

- (from Australian Folklore Association Newsletter, May 2003)


Folklore Australia - resource base
Australian Folklore Research Unit - Australia Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology
Simply Australia Online magazine of folklore and social history
National Library of Australia Oral History/Folklore Archive
Trad&Now - Australian Folk Music magazine
Play and Folklore- Australia's journal of children's folklore
Australian Folklore - journal of folklore studies


Australian Children's Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria
Bill Scott
Bill Wannan (dec.)
Bob Bolton
Brian Dunnett
Brian Shepherd
Brian Wilkins
Bruce Cameron
Bob Rummery
Bush Music Club
Campbell Irving
Chloe Roweth
Chris Kempster
Chris Woodland
Chris Wright
Christine Mimmocchi
Colin McJannett
Dani Rocca
Danny Spooner
Dave Hults
David De Santi
David Mulhallen
Dawn Anderson Dieter Bajzek
Folk Alliance Australia
Graham Seal
Gregan O'Leary
Gwenda Davey
Hugh Anderson
Ian Russell
Jan Orloff
Jason Roweth
Jenny Gall
J D A Widdowson
Jeff Corfield
Jim Low
John Harpley
John Low
J S Ryan
June Factor
Karl Neuenfeldt
Katie Andrews
Keith McKenry
Kel Watkins
Luisa Del Giudice
Mark Cranfield
Mark Gregory
Mark Moravec
Martin Chatfield
Martin Goreing
Mike Martin
Moya McFadzean
Museum of Childhood, Edith Cowan University
Noris Ioannou
Olya Willis
Patrick Watt
Peter Ellis
Phyl Lobl
Rob Willis
Roger Hargraves
Ron Brown
Ron Edwards
Ruth Hazleton
Social Science Department, Aranmore Catholic College
Steve Gadd
Susan Faine
Terry Clinton
Top End Folk Club
Valda Low
Vic Orloff
Victorian Folklife Association
Warren Fahey
Wendy Corrick
Brian Wilkins
Western Australian Folklore Archive