Third of 11 children of Mark Albert Kennewell and his wife Dinah Ann (Adams), Myrtle Rose Kennewell was born in a tent 'during one of the worst dust storms ever seen in New South Wales', while her father was getting lost finding the midwife. She spent most of her childhood in the Barossa Valley, and completed her education at a small private school in Williamstown. At the age of 22 she was staying on a station near Broken Hill when she met her future husband, manager of a nearby station. From that time on she lived most of her life in the outback. She married Cornelius (Con) White in 1910. Her two sons were born during the seven years her husband was station manager at Lake Elder near Lake Frome in north east SA (the setting for No Roads Go By).
In 1922 they moved to the West Darling district, where Con managed a group of stations for Sir Sydney Kidman, including Wonnaminta Station, about 136 miles north of Broken Hill (the setting for Beyond the Western Rivers). Her book No Roads Go By is acclaimed as influencing John Flynn to maintain and extend the Flying Doctor Service to remote regions of Australia. When Con was forced to retire in 1938 they opened 'Cricklewood', a guest house in Aldgate. Con died 3 years later. Their son Garry was listed as missing in action in World War II, and the elder son Alan, a pilot, flew for 4 years in the Middle East and England and was twice decorated.
The White's daughter Doris and her husband Jim Chambers took over Wonnaminta Station in 1948, and Myrtle spent some time visiting them, and also travelled overseas with them. She assisted several orphanages in India. She died at Lalla Rookh Station, near Port Hedland, northern WA, while visiting her son Alan and family. Her wish was to be cremated and have half her ashes interred in her husband's grave in Adelaide and the other half returned to Wonnaminta in outback NSW. This caused some problems as the nearest crematorium was in Perth, 1,200 miles away. The family needed a coroner's certificate to take the body south of the 26th parallel because of an ancient Act due to fear of leprosy at the time, and the coroner was on circuit somewhere between Wittenoom Gorge and Onslow.
In addition, an autopsy had to be conducted before the body could be taken south. The local carpenter/plumber made a casket but the airline had no freight plane to take it in, so Myrtle's son Alan and the Shire Clerk drove it all the way to Perth as quickly as they could in a Combi van, driving through temperatures of 120 degrees in the shade. They caught up with the coroner on the way and had the papers signed. It took them seventy-two hours. On the way the casket split, and they had to have it repaired at Carnarvon. Alan said afterwards that his mother would have enjoyed all the drama - 'it was typical of the way she'd have wanted to go' [personal communication]. Before her death she had been working on another novel, Come With Me, a story of the adventures she and her son-in-law and daughter had experienced on a recent trip abroad.