Nina Murdoch was an Australian poet, broadcaster and journalist.
She was born Madoline Murdoch in Melbourne in October 1890. The family soon relocated to Woodburn, which is situated in New South Wales where she enjoyed her early years. Her poetry writing really began during her teenage years at Sydney Girls’ between the years 1904-1907 and much of her work was of the lyrical variety, displaying her great affection for the bush.
When she finally left school she began teaching at Sydney Boys’ Prep and, in 1913, won her first poetry prize with a sonnet all about Canberra. Nina, as she was now called took up journalism and was, in fact, one of the original Australian female reporters while working for the Sydney Sun. She continued with her poetry though and, in 1915, her first collection was published. Nina was very much involved in the Sydney literary and journalistic set attached to the Bulletin and she met and married a former journalist and teacher just before Christmas 1917. Her husband had sadly only one arm after losing the other fighting in the First World War and the pair were given a farewell party before moving to Melbourne by the celebrated Sydney writer and socialite Rose Scott. She described Nina as
Nina Murdoch was perhaps a lady ahead of her time, being a confident journalist and solo traveller. She visited England and other European countries alone and wrote and published a number of accounts of her travels. Her first effort was published in1930, and was so popular that it had been reissued at least five times by 1934.
This was the time of Depression, more or less all over the world, but she put on a brave face in her broadcasting on the newly inaugurated Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She used the pseudonym ‘Pat’ to create the Argonauts Club on the radio, specifically aimed at younger listeners, and she pledged the following:
She went travelling once more and her account She Travelled Alone in Spain was published in 1935. These were dangerous times in Europe though and she wrote articles for Australian newspapers warning of the growing threat from Nazi Germany. It’s remarkable to think that she achieved so much as a writer and broadcaster while devoting so much time to the care of her blind mother, who survived to the age of 105, and also her husband who suffered with asthma, until he passed away in 1957. She made light of her responsibilities though and it was reported that, perhaps explaining why her writing output had diminished, she commented
Most of her published output in book form was dedicated to travelogues and “pot boiler” style novels but she had at least 80 of her poems published in the Sydney-based Bulletin between the years 1913 and 1922. She often used the pseudonym ‘Manin’. Here is an example of her work – a bitter, accusing piece aimed at the culpability of the “old men” who send young men to war, leaving their women behind. It is called Warbrides:
Nina Murdoch died, childless, on the 16th April 1976, aged 85