On October 14 2012 Australia lost one of its living treasurers. Max Fatchen was a words craftsman. He was equally respected in the worlds of literature and journalism, having received prestigious awards including an Order of Australia for literature in 1980, an Advance Australia Award for literature in 1991 and a Walkley Award for journalism in 1996.
Max Fatchen was born in 1920 at Angle Vale in the South Australian plains. He walked away from farming life to embrace a life of words. He started his working life as a copyboy for the Adelaide News in the late 1930s. His love of journalism never waned. At 92 Max was still writing a column for a weekly newspaper in Adelaide as he had for the last 64 years - starting in The News in 1948 and then The Advertiser from 1955.
Having already had a successful career in journalism, Max began writing for children in 1966. When asked in an interview in 2010 why he took up writing for children, he reasoned, "Because they're the most challenging audience in the world. And I'm very fond of them, and they're fond of me, but let me tell you, children are critics and as one child said, 'Dear Mr Fatchen, I quite enjoyed your last book, but I think you could do much better. But I think you're quite promising.'"
Max was a prolific writer for children, covering the spectrum of stories, poetry and rhymes; many of which have featured in The School Magazine over the last forty plus years.
Many of The School Magazine team had the pleasure of speaking to Max during our long association with him. One staff member recalls talking to Max about an upcoming trip to Sydney to visit his son, including a ferry ride on Sydney Harbour eagerly anticipated by the then 89 year old. There was always the little boy ever present within him, looking on at his world in wonder and delight. The voice of the little boy was often heard in his poetry. His enthusiasm and positivity was contagious and expressed with wit and good humour. You couldn't help but smile when you spoke with Max.
Max always enjoyed the genuine pleasures of life with his adored wife Jean and his family, the land - particularly of South Australia and his beloved Murray River which forms the setting of his book The River Kings (reviewed in The School Magazine in 1968), his typewriter ‘Ivan the Imperial', and cream buns.
From a world of words at The School Magazine we salute a great writer and a gentleman who enriched our young readers' lives and will continue to do so through the wonderful words he so skilfully crafted.
tide talk (pdf 409 KB), a poem by Max Fatchen, appeared in Blast Off Issue 2 April 1990
Max's writing inspiration (pdf 133 KB) interviewed in Blast Off Issue 3 May 1990
Strictly for the birds (pdf 1040 KB) appeared in Orbit Issue 9 October 2011