Monday, 15 October 2012

Max Fatchen has

died. He was 92,
He will be little known outside his native South Australia but he should have been better known across Australia. Max was a journalist and a writer, or perhaps a writer who also happened to be a journalist.
He was, like his friend Colin Thiele, a farm boy. Colin went teaching. Max went into the state newspaper, "the Advertiser", as a journalist. He was taught some of the finer points of the English language by my old English teacher. It was my English teacher who introduced me to Max. Her unenviable other role was to try and train cadet journalists to use the English language.
Max wrote with humour, compassion, optimism and - on occasion - fury. His first newpaper article was written in 1948. His last column for the same paper was written this year.  In between there were thousands of articles and columns, daily and then in his final years weekly unless there was something else he wanted to say. There often was and the paper would find room for it.
Max wrote them all on a trusty Imperial typewriter. He was not a computer man. "After my time," he once told me with a little grin.
He loved books, loved the feel of them in his hand. I am certain nothing would ever have convinced him to use a kindle - or even to write on a computer. It was not the way he did things.
He "retired" from the paper in the mid-eighties. That meant he stopped going into work each day. He wrote from home instead. He wrote many things, including several books for children which won commendations in the Children's Book of the Year Awards. The best known, "The River Kings", talks about the River Murray - a river he loved with a passion. 
He wrote "ridiculous" verses for children and had an extraordinary memory for nonsense verses which he would recite to the delight of children. He borrowed my copy of Peter and Iona Opie's book on childhood verses "The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren" (and yes I did get it back) but never got around to writing the Australian version.
Then, in later years, there were the weekly columns when he would talk about apparently ordinary and everyday things. In Max's hands they were not ordinary and not everyday. He would talk about his wife. He would mention chooks. He would write about a recalcitrant plant. He would describe a meal or a visit from a friend. It was all done with wit but kindness. Max was a gentleman.
His wife's death hit him hard but he continued on with help. He had Meals on Wheels and, as arthritis set in, "a new female - Freda, the Frame" to help him get around. The trademark fishing tackle hat was never far away and neither were his friends.
His family said his death was "peaceful". I hope it was because as my father said when I told him the news,
         "Max was marvellous."


virtualquilter said...

I never met the man, but have read a lot of the words. those who knew him will miss the man, and I will miss new words, but thankfully the written word is still available.
Judy B

Sue Bursztynski said...

He was certainly well known in the children's writing area. I don't think too many teacher librarians hadn't heard of him.