The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.
Jack McLaren was the son of a Presbyterian clergyman. He studied at Scotch College, Melbourne before running away and travelling widely throughout the Pacific. McLaren worked his passage back to Australia around 1901-1902. He spent time in North Queensland as a miner, pearl and beche-der-mer diver and (according to the Bulletin, 11 October 1950) tasted 'the delights and bitter fruits of beachcombing.' McLaren also worked in Malaya, the Solomon Islands and Fiji. He managed copra plantations and acted as an overseer. McLaren returned again to Australia in 1911 and settled on Cape York until 1919 when he moved to Sydney. In 1924 he married novelist Ada Moore (q.v.) before travelling to London in 1925. McLaren remained largely in the U.K. for nearly thirty years. During this time he wrote for and took part in many British Broadcasting Corporation television programmes. The individual pieces from his collection Stories of the South Seas were originally published as a regular feature in the London Evening News, and Isle of Escape was produced as a Hollywood film starring Myrna Loy.
McLaren's 'experiences of life on the outer rim furnished him, like Louis Becke (q.v.) and others, with a seemingly endless supply of plots and characters, which on his return from his wanderings he soon began to turn in to marketable literary products.' McLaren published over 30 books and was a frequent contributor to the Bulletin; he wrote the the regular column 'Abo' and also supplied stories of the South Seas. His non-fiction work, Gentlemen of the Empire : The Colourful and Remarkable Experiences of District Commissioners, Patrol Officers and Other Officials in Some of the British Empire's Tropical Outposts, an account of the work of district commissioners, patrol officers and other officials in some of the British Empire's tropical outposts, was published in 1940. Some of McLaren's books were translated into other languages including French, Spanish, Swedish and German.
(Source: Bulletin, 11 October 1950, p.19 (source of quotations) and Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 10.)