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Mabel Forrest Image from State Library of Queensland collection
Mabel Forrest Mabel Forrest i(A8075 works by) (birth name: Helena Mabel Checkley Mills) (a.k.a. M. Forrest; Mabel Burkinshaw; Helena Mabel Checkley Forrest)
Also writes as: M. Burkinshaw ; Reca ; Helena M. C. Mills ; M. F.
Born: Established: 6 Mar 1872 Yandilla, Pittsworth - Millmeran area, Darling Downs, Queensland, ; Died: Ceased: 18 Mar 1935 Brisbane, Queensland,
Gender: Female
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Mabel Forrest was the second of three children born to James Checkley Mills, station manager, and his English wife, Margaret Nelson Haxell. Apart from a year at a Parramatta (New South Wales) school Forrest was educated at home by her mother, who spoke several languages and had attended schools in France and Germany. Her sister, Ethel Mills (q.v.), was also a writer with stories and poems published in the Sydney Bulletin. James Mills's occupation meant the family lived on stations in several Queensland locations, including the Dalby, Stanthorpe and Goondiwindi areas, providing Forrest with experiences that she was later to draw on in her fiction.

Forrest married a selector, John Frederick Burkinshaw, in 1893 and her daughter was born in 1894 at Tulloona station in northern New South Wales. Burkinshaw was unable to support his family adequately and Forrest wrote to supplement the family income. She separated from Burkinshaw in 1896 and was divorced in 1902. Forrest never referred to her first marriage, but the experience underlay much of her lyric poetry. Her second marriage, to John Forrest, was more successful and she dedicated her novel Gaming Gods to his memory.

Forrest, whose first poem was published at the age of ten, was a prolific writer, publishing in The Queenslander, The Brisbane Courier, The Courier-Mail, Steele Rudd's Magazine, The Sydney Mail, The Australasian, The Bulletin, Smith's Weekly, The Triad, The Lone Hand and The Australian Woman's Mirror. She published collections of her short stories and poetry, regularly won literary competitions and was published in Britain and the United States. Her novel The Wild Moth was filmed as The Moth of Moonbi, scenes from her novels were performed in public and her play, 'The Highwayman', was staged at the Cremorne Theatre. Her narratives ranged from Australian bush life to issues such as city planning and suburbia. Her poem 'The City Hall' was read at the 1930 opening of Brisbane's City Hall and is engraved on a commemorative plaque. Forrest was joint author (with 'Excelsior, an Anzac...') of the poetry broadsheet Literary Exchanges and also wrote song lyrics, for example, 'Love's Pauper' (1937), music by Edna McClelland. Forrest's last poem 'Waning Moon' was published two days before her death from pneumonia after a long illness.

(Adapted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography - Online Edition)

Most Referenced Works


  • See also the full Australian Dictionary of Biography Online entry for Mabel Forrest (1872-1935).
  • DA lists 'The Luck Bringer' (1925) by Forrest, but it was either not published or it was the pre-publication title of the novel subsequently published as Gaming Gods (1926).

Known archival holdings

National Library of Australia (ACT)
University of Queensland University of Queensland Library (QLD)
State Library of Queensland State Library of QLD (QLD)
Last amended 8 Jul 2014 13:18:42
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