Ruth Park: Harp In the South Novels

What can I say another “Aussie” born in Kiwiland but hey we’re practically cousins, so who’s counting, certainly not I.  Ruth Park wrote several novels, childrens books along with a couple of non-fiction books, during her writing career. 

The best known of these are the “Harp in The South” novels.  I studied both “The Harp in The South” and “Poor Man’s Orange” while in High School and I never knew, until recently, that their was a third novel in this series, a prequel entitled “Missus”.

“Missus” is the first of the novels and covers the lives of Kilker Clan, which consists of Margaret, her sister’s Josie, Delia & Kathleen, Auntie Alf, Rowena, her mother & John, her father, along with the Darcy boys Jeramiah & Hugh.  John Kilker & Hugh Darcy’s father are Irish migrants who move to country Australia in search of a better life, bear their children and bring them up as Australians in a town called Trafalgar, which is located somewhere near the Queensland & NSW border.

These 3 stories cover the heritage and lives of Margaret Kilker and Hugh Darcy, who meet and live in country Australia and then eventually move to the ‘big smoke’,  Sydney which is still a small town beginning to grow and prosper, where they settle into an unlucky house, number 12 and a half (renumbered by their landlord from number 13) Plymouth Street, which is located in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills.  They are surrounded by the seedier underside of city life which is very different to the country town life, from which they came, money is scarce and life is certainly not easy.  They  both try to raise their family, as best they can surrounded by run-down border houses, grog shops and brothels. 

Missus covers the family heritage of our characters and Harp in The South & Poor Mans Orange continue through their lives covering the daily trials and tribulations of the Darcy family, which is made up of Margaret & Hugh Darcy, their two girls Roie and Dolour and they did have a younger brother Thady but he disappears early in the story ‘Harp in the South”. 

The characters are colourful and beautifully described by Ruth, they will make you laugh and cry along the way, as she pens their lives with convincing depth and in careful detail. The language used is very irish/australian, lots of old sayings and terms from the time period which give you a great feeling of how family life was back in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and the reader can easily identify with the day to day trials faced by the loving and warm hearted Darcy clan. Life was tough back at the turn of the 19th to 20th century but all the characters deal with the trials and tribulations of the time in their own way and family life is very rural and real.   If you love reading about Australia and the Australian way of life back when times were tough and very basic, you will love these 3 books, as they paint a real picture of how life was back then.