Ron Edwards (1930-2008)

21. 2. 2008 | Rubriky: Articles,Lives

[by Ken Hunt, London] The Australian folklorist, illustrator, author and one of the pioneers of the Australian Folksong Revival Ron Edwards died on 5 January 2008. He wrote and published extensively over his lifetime on folksong, bushcraft, story telling and linguistics. Simply put, he was a hugely important and influential figure for Australian folk music and anthropology. From 1984 until 2007 he was president of the Australian Folklore Society and edited the Australian Folklore Society Journal. He also wrote widely about Australian folkways, whether Australian folksong, bushcraft or the aboriginal cultures of Australia and the Torres Straits. A skilled painter, he illustrated many of his books himself

Edwards was born in Geelong, Victoria on 10 October 1930. He was raised in an almost pre-industrial, pre-mechanised agricultural and fishing community. People made their own amusement, singing songs, doing recitations, visiting neighbours.

Amongst his books about the folklore and customs of the Torres Straits – situated between Australia and New Guinea – are Songs from Coconut Island, Songs from Darnley Island, Songs from Dauan Island, Songs from Murray Island, Songs from Saibai Island, Songs from Stephen Island, Songs from Wararber Island and Songs from Yorke Island. You get the picture.

Others included jointly credited works, with Anne Edwards, like An Explorers Guide to Kubin, An Explorers Guide to St Pauls, Moa Island and Children of the Torres Strait. The Torres Straits hold a particular vibrancy in British ethnomusicology. The earliest wax cylinder recordings were recorded there, ushering in a new generation of field recording, one no longer reliant on pen and paper. They are now amongst the 3000 or so surviving wax cylinders held in the British Library Sound Archive. The earliest in the collection are those made by Alfred Court Haddon on his anthropological expedition in 1898-9 to the Torres Straits.

Probably his most important work will prove to be The Big Book of Australian Folk Song (1976). It contained 308 songs and was about seven centimetres thick. But he exceeded even that with the 12-volume Australian Folk Songs. Thankfully this limited edition also went into a read-only CD-ROM edition.

For more about his contemporary Edgar Waters (1925-2008) on this site, visit

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