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John Neilson John Neilson i(A1231 works by)
Also writes as: R. G. S.
Born: Established: 15 Jan 1845
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 1922 Leongatha, Leongatha area, South Gippsland, Gippsland, Victoria,
Gender: Male
Heritage: Scottish
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John Neilson was born at Stranraer in Wigtonshire, Scotland, the son of William Neilson and Jessie McFarlane. He migrated to Australia with his mother and step-father, John Shaw, in the 1850s at the age of nine. Neilson spent his youth on farming properties and recalled seeing Adam Lindsay Gordon (q.v.) ride in a steeplechase at Penola, South Australia. Neilson continued working on the land in the Wimmera of Victoria with his sons John Shaw Neilson (q.v.), William Neilson and Frank Neilson. His first wife died in 1897, and he remarried in 1911. He was the father of nine children, six of whom survived him.

It appears that Neilson began writing verse in about 1876, in his early thirties. Although entirely self-educated, he developed a reputation as a bush poet and contributed verse to local newspapers in Mount Gambier and the Adelaide Punch. His first published poem was 'The Bellbird' (date and source unknown as of 4 September 2006). His work was also published in Borderwatch, the Australian Star, the Australasian, the Ballarat Courier, and in some West Australian and New South Wales newspapers. A poem by Neilson won the prize offered by the Australian Natives' Association of Melbourne in 1893, and in 1897 he was awarded a prize for verse at a Warrnambool exhibition. Sadly, much of his verse has been lost.

Most Referenced Works


  • Some sources give his date of birth as 1844; however, a hand-written biographical note from Neilson to A. G. Stephens states that his date of birth is 1845. (Source: Australasian Autobiographies, Manuscript held in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. Copy held at ADFA) A typescript copy of Neilson's poems gathered from the Australasian and other sources and edited by A. G. Stephens is held by the Mitchell Library.

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon Poem for Recitation : Love's Summer in the Snow i "The ashes fell, his gaze was bent", Nhill : Murphy and Son , 1893 Z1322093 1893 single work poetry
— Appears in: The Men of the Fifties 1938; (p. 3-5)
1893 winner Australian Natives Association Literary Award Prize poem

Known archival holdings

National Library of Australia (ACT)
Last amended 26 Feb 2007 15:35:40
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