'Crienna Rohan' is the pseudonym for Deirdre Cash. 'Rohan' was one of two children of Leo Evaristus Cash, a writer and a Marxist, and his wife Valerie Eileen nee Walsh, a professional singer. The family's background was Irish Catholic working class and Leo Cash was involved in the left-wing New Theatre in Melbourne. Her father left the family when the children were small and their mother toured South Africa as a professional singer, leaving the children in the care of various people, mainly members of the family. 'Rohan's' spent her early childhood with her Irish grandmother on a farm in South Australia. In later childhood she returned to Victoria, brought up by her father's sisters and then attending the Convent of Mercy at Mornington as a boarder.
From her parents and grandmother 'Rohan' inherited a love of books and music. Barrett Reid comments that 'Alan Marshall (q.v.) had begun an interest in Rohan's writing when she was still a schoolgirl' (vi). He was both a friend and mentor to whom she would send sketches and stories for criticism while at Mornington Convent. In the words of June Factor, Marshall remembered 'Rohan''s 'enormous zest for life, her great enthusiasm, her conflicting mixture of Irish romanticism, Catholic mysticism, and intermittent rebelliousness' (46). Factor argues that 'Rohan' 'grew up a turbulent woman, emotionally very close to the heroine of her last book ... Like Lisha, she too alternated between a strong allegiance to her religion and an equally powerful defiance of all social restrictions, including those of the Church.' (46).
After matriculating 'Rohan' lived with her mother, now returned to Australia, in West Melbourne. She studied singing at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music for a year and in 1948 married a student at the University of Melbourne, Michael Blackall, with whom she had a son, Michael. The marriage did not last and 'Rohan' supported herself by singing and dancing in nightclubs in Melbourne and with dance bands in Melbourne and Brisbane. Irish folk songs, radical political songs and the blues made up her repertoire. She also taught ballroom dancing. Her second marriage in 1956 was to the seaman Otto Olsen whom Barrett Reid (q.v.) refers to as 'the great love of her life' (viii). They had a daughter, Leonie. Rohan moved to various ports to be near Olsen, but her health deteriorated seriously. At first it was thought to be tuberculosis. During a four-month spell in hospital in Perth she wrote The Delinquents. She went to London briefly. During continuing spells of illness and hospitalization she wrote Down by The Dockside, writing the last pages wearing an oxygen mask. It is believed that she also completed a third novel, 'House with the Yellow Door', although the manuscript for this has not been found. She died in Melbourne of bowel cancer at the age of thirty- eight.