Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Judith O'Neill was born in Melbourne, Australia, the great-granddaughter of William Lyall and Anne Battersby, both convicts transported to Van Dieman's Land (as Australia was known at that time). Her great-grandfather was a Scot and great-grandmother, Lancastrian, both sentenced for the petty crimes of stealing tools and items of clothing. Judith was the first member of the family to unearth this fascinating fact during her research for the numerous novels written on her return to Britain in the '60s. It was a source of pride to discover that both great-grandparents had risen to become pillars of Australian society - her great-grandfather as Mayor, with everyone being unaware of their background. Several fine novels were written when Judith married and moved to Edinburgh - Jess and the River Kids; Deepwater and the evocative So far from Skye based on her research into transportation from Skye during the 19th century Clearances. Perhaps her most fascinating book was Transported to Van Dieman's Land, a non-fiction work based on her research into her ancestors' early struggles in their new life. Sadly, Alzheimer's took away her talent and no more books appeared. She died in Stockport, March 2006.

All books published by Hamish Hamilton/Puffin except Transported to Van Dieman's Land which is published by CUP.

Val Bierman

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