Alan MarshallAlan Marshalli(A22423 works by)
Alan William Marshall)
Born:Established:2 May 1902Noorat,Terang area,Camperdown - Terang area,Geelong - Terang - Lake Bolac area,Victoria,;Died:Ceased:21 Jan 1984Brighton East,Brighton - Moorabbin area,Melbourne - Inner South,Melbourne,Victoria,
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.
Alan Marshall was born at Noorat, Victoria, a country area which he used as a setting for many of his stories. He was permanently crippled at the age of six after contracting infantile paralysis, but remained very active for the rest of his life with the assistance of crutches. As he said in later life, 'I have never let my crippled leg stop me doing what I want to do. I've never suffered from my affliction but I did suffer because of other people's attitudes towards it. What you give out, people take back, so if you feel a cripple they accept that and treat you accordingly. Your destiny is held in your own hands.' (McVitty, 1989)
His father was a horse-breaker and drover and also ran the general store, but the family moved to Melbourne in 1918 for Alan's education at a business college. During the 1930s, Marshall won several short story competitions while working as an accountant for a shoe company. When the shoe company closed down in 1935, he began work as a freelance writer, contributing sketches and columns to newspapers and magazines for many years, including a newspaper advice column for the lovelorn which ran for twenty years. He married in 1941, and during the Second World War travelled Victoria in a horse-drawn cart to gather stories and news to be printed for Australian soldiers serving in New Guinea and the Middle East. In 1947 Marshall spent nine months living with Aboriginal people in Arnhem Land, where he was dubbed 'Gurrawilla', the 'singing man', or 'teller of stories'. His collection of Aboriginal legends, People of the Dreamtime (1952), dates from this period.
Marshall published many other collections of his short stories and sketches, accounts of his travels around Australia and many other prose works, but he is best known for the first volume of his autobiographical trilogy, I Can Jump Puddles (1955), which was made into an award-winning film in Czechoslovakia by Director Karel Kachyna in 1970. In 1981 I Can Jump Puddles was made into an ABC television series, with Marshall as script consultant. His autobiography provides a vivid picture of rural Victoria in the first decades of the twentieth century, during which the young Alan comes to terms with his paralysis. The story has been translated into many languages, selling more than three million copies world-wide. The optimistic faith in humanity exhibited in this autobiography is found in most of Marshall's writing. Many of his narratives closely investigate the natural world, particularly children's responses to that world, employing the Australian idiom to great effect. Marshall said, 'I love children because they still possess the spirit of wonder. They look at the world with clean new eyes. If one wants to write truly one must never lose this sense of wonder, the feeling of looking at something for the first time.' (McVitty, (q.v.) 1989)
Marshall also wrote an account of Melbourne businessman, Sidney Myer, in The Gay Provider : The Myer Story (1961), and Pioneers and Painters : One Hundred Years of Eltham and Its Shire (1971).
A well-known public figure, he received many awards, including an OBE (1972), an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Melbourne (1972), the Soviet Order of Friendship (1977) and an AM (1981). In 1981 he was cited by the American Library Association for outstanding contribution to the literature on, for, or about the disabled.