Rest in Peace Colin Thiele (oh yeah, and Steve Irwin too)

Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) wasn’t the only person who died yesterday. Yeah, I know, lots of people did, and may God’s angels guide them all to heaven, but I want to just let the world know that another splendid chap, who will be remembered long after Steve Irwin is forgotten, also died yesterday: Colin Thiele, the renowned South Australian, Lutheran, Barossa-dwelling author of more books than you can poke a stick at(mostly for children, including the famous Sun on the Stubble and Storm Boy).

The notice on his website reads:

Monday 4th Sept. 2006, Colin Thiele died in hospital after a short stay due to breathing difficulties (and a failing heart). He was 85 years old.
He leaves behind his loving wife Rhonnie and two daughters and their families.

He was, of course, one of my people–or I was one of his: the Barossa Deutsch, that bunch of crazy, fanatical, pietistic, fundamentalistic German Lutherans who emigrated to South Australia between 1838 and 1855 all because a new worship book was being foisted on them by a new king which called into question the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

My father was born in Eudunda. My grandfather was a few years ahead of Colin in the same school when they were kids. To get some sort of idea of how tight-knit/insular/interbred this community was, consider this: my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather died in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills in the winter of 1839 (a famine). My father (count the intervening generations) grew up speaking German (or Barossa Deutsch) and only learnt to speak English when he attended school for the first time in 1946!

Enough of me, more of Colin: he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1977. But his list of awards is endless:

W.J. Miles Poetry Prize,1944, for the manuscript of Progress to Denial Commonwealth Jubilee Literary Competitions,
1st prize in radio play section, for Edge of Ice 1951
South Australian winner in World Short Story Quest, 1952
Fulbright scholar in the United States and Canada, 1959-60
Grace Levin Poetry Prize, 1961, for Man in a Landscape
Miles Franklin Award, 1962
Children’s Book of the Year Award, 1962
Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowship, 1967-68
Hans Christian Andersen Award , international honours list for Blue Fin in 1972
Writers Award, 1973, for The Fire in the Stone
Children’s Book of the Year Award, 1974, for The Fire in the Stone [commended]
Edgar Allan Poe Award, Best Juvenile Mystery, runner-up, 1975, for The Fire in the Stone
Visual Arts Board Award for Illustration, 1975, for Magpie Island
Children’s Book of the Year Award, 1975, for Magpie Island [commended]
Netherlands Award of the Silver Pencil ,1976, for the film of Storm Boy
Companion of the Order of Australia for his services to literature and education, 1977
Austrian State Prize for Children’s Books, 1977, for Magpie Island
Austrian State Prize for Children’s Books, 1979, for The Hammerhead Light
Austrian State Prize for Children’s Books, 1979, for the Sknuks
Advance Australia Award, 1980
Children’s Book of the Year Award, 1982, for The Valley Between
German Publisher Award ,1984
Austrian State Prize, 1986, for Pinquo
Christian Blind Mission International Book of the year, 1988, for The Seed’s Inheritance
Great South Australian Award – Services to the Arts, 1989
Family Award of Children’s Books – New South Wales Family Therapy Association, 1989
The International Board on Books for Young People Certificate of honor, 1992, for Blue Fin
Christian Book of the year, Children’s Award- Australian Christian Literature Society, 1994 , for Martin’s Mountain
Christian Book of the year , Children’s Award, 1995, for Gemma’s Christmas Eve
YABBA Shortlist, 1996, recommendation for Jodie’s Journey
New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards 1997
Wilderness Society Environment, 1997, Award for High Valley
Dromkeen Medal was awarded in 1997 for his contribution to children’s literature

That seems to me to beat getting chased by or chasing crocodiles as a claim to fame.

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1 Response to Rest in Peace Colin Thiele (oh yeah, and Steve Irwin too)

  1. Anonymous says:

    When I moved to the USA in early 2000 the first question anyone asked me was (…and ya’ll have to read this in a broad southern drawl…) “Do you know Steve Irwin?” And of course I had never heard of him, and for the next two years fended off inane questions about crocodiles and Australia Zoo. Which was as far away from where I lived as they were from Boston. Never mind all the other wonderful qualities of a Barossa Deustch, Colin Thiele-reading Australian. I’m afraid I shed few tears for Steve Irwin (and even less for Peter Brock days later).

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