Often Katharine Susannah Prichard wrote with great seriousness, striving to create art or to change the world. But other times she wrote to entertain and make some money. “Mrs Grundy’s Mission” (1932) is one such piece and is now freely available on the National Library of Australia’s Trove site—http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-610645577—complete with original illustrations.
“Mrs Grundy’s Mission” is a goldfields yarns narrated by Mick and Mary of the Far-Away Pub. They tell of the time a teetotalling Methodist minister visiting the settlement wouldn't step foot in their pub and went off to a hut called Mrs Grundy's Mission, not knowing it was actually a gambling house run by a crook. Katharine wrote once that she feared she hadn’t made her readers laugh enough, but this at least is one of her funnier stories.
The story came out of the week Katharine and husband Hugo spent at the Larkinville gold rush, south of Kalgoorlie, in November 1930. Katharine worked as a camp cook while Hugo tried to find gold. At night, the prospectors would tell stories; Katharine turned her notes into a number of short stories as well as weaving them into her trilogy of goldfields novels. She wrote of her Larkinville experience in an article for Daily News:
Unforgettable are those hot, still days under silver-blue skies beside the dry blowers; nights at the camp fire, yarning… Most of all, the night before we left camp when there was a sing-song and people came out from Widgie in trucks and motor cars for the party. Everybody sang. Peter O'Connor recited, his grand Irish voice vibrating far over the quiet country side. There were love songs, ballades and monologues, “Finnigan's Ball”, “M'Ginty's Goat”, and Paddy Hehir, on the accordion, making such music that our feet would not keep still and started dancing of their own accord in the dust and gravel before the camp fire.
You can read the whole article, “Rush to the Rush”, at http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83823326.
- More on KSP at https://nathanhobby.com.