Born: Established: 8 Jul 1913 Sheffield ; Died: 3 Feb 2007 Adelaide
A son of the chief electrician at the Hadfield Steelworks in Sheffield, John Alan Roberts was first employed as a clerk and later canvassed for advertising for the Daily Herald. His friends included young writers associated with the progressive Sheffield Education Settlement which brought higher education to the working class. Roberts, interested in literature, theatre and politics, was influenced in his thinking and writing by Shakespeare, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud.
During the Second World War, Roberts was conscripted by the British army and, after the fall of Singapore he was imprisoned in Changi. He was transferred from there to the Burma Railway for six months, and it was from there that he was released when the Japanese surrendered. At Changi the concert party included several people who later went on to make a name for themselves, including Ronald Searle, the famous British 'cartoonist/satirist' and Jimmy Ellis who ended up in the long-running series Z Cars.
After the war Roberts trained as a teacher in Northern Ireland. Married, with six children, he wrote plays and performed for BBC radio in Belfast, and wrote a weekly commentary piece for the BBC. His short stories were published in magazines like Lilliput. By 1958 he had specialised in education of the deaf and in 1964 emigrated to South Australia where he taught at Townsend House.In the 1970s and 1980s he was employed by The Advertiser as a freelance writer. He retired from teaching in 1979 but continued writing theatre and book reviews, working with the Advertiser's then arts and literary editor, Shirley Stott Despoja (q.v.). A death notice in The Advertiser referred to Roberts as 'a distinguished theatre critic in the 1970s and 80s, who ushered in 'the era of professional theatre in Adelaide'.