The death of Gwen Meredith

Another well known Australian has left this world; Gwen Meredith. I missed the announcement earlier in the week. I grew up listening to her world record making radio serial Blue Hills, continuing to listen to it well into adulthood.

Australian playwright and author Gwen Meredith has died at the age of 98, after creating the world’s longest-running radio serial.

She wrote radio plays, docos and serials in a 33-year relationship with the ABC, gaining prominence with The Lawsons, which ran for five years and 1,299 episodes in the 40s.

Soon after, she began writing country family saga Blue Hills, which went down in the record books for lasting 5,500 episodes and more than 27 years. Meredith wrote every episode.

While I was an avid listener, my mother was the really devoted fan. She would tune in to ABC Radio at 1pm every day, Monday to Thursday. I usually only listened to it in the school holidays but still didn’t miss much because each episode was repeated every evening. Of course we always joked that you could miss several weeks of episodes and not really miss out on anything because the plot seemed to be slow moving.

Quintessentially Australian

There is nothing like it on radio or television these days. It was the quintessential Australian country story, and it was no coincidence that it followed immediately after “The Country Hour,” a news, information, and opinion programme aimed at farmers. The story followed the lives, loves, tragedies and hardships of several rural families. I remember my father lingering just a few more minutes to listen if he was working close enough to home for lunch. If he was working further away from home and had taken his lunch, tuning in on the trunk or ute radio would have been irresistable.

Unusual Writing Method

Gwen Meredith had an unusual method of “writing” her radio scripts for Blue Hills. She would first record them on to tape. The tapes were then transcribed by ABC staff into typed scripts, ready for the cast to use in recording the programmes.

 

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