Lillian Maxwell Pyke was born in 1881, the youngest of ten children of Robert Mosely Heath and Susannah Ellen, née Wilson, who emigrated to Australia in 1862 (Heath). Lillian was educated at University High School under the Headship of L. A. Adamson, who later became Headmaster of Wesley College. In 1908 she married Richard Diamond Pyke and the pair moved to Kingaroy where her husband worked as a railway engineer. Lillian used these experiences for her novel, Camp Kiddies (1919) which is illustrated with original family photographs. The couple had three children, two daughters, Joyce Maxwell, and Phyllis Lillian, and a son, Lawrence Richard Diamond (born 1 November 1912). Her husband died in 1917 and Pyke supported her young family by writing children’s stories. She wrote 18 children’s novels, mostly for Ward, Lock & Co., from 1916 to 1927. She also wrote two adult novels under the pen name of Erica Maxwell, as well as a book on Australian Etiquette which was frequently republished. Lillian died on 31 August 1927 whilst in her mid-forties, leaving her children orphans. At the time her fourteen-year-old son was a boarder at Wesley College and he was adopted by L. A. Adamson (Meyer 138). L. R. D. Pyke later completed a BSc at the University of Melbourne and became a Rhodes Scholar. He was Headmaster of Newington College from 1952 to 1960, and had two sons and one daughter. He died in July 1987.
Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition: Pyke, Lillian Maxwell (1881 - 1927) by Beverley Kingston.
Heath Family Geneology Website by Clifford Heath.
Max the Sport. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1916. 250 pages. Illustrated 'J. Macfarlane', b/w frontis & 7 b/w illus.
1Thomas Hughes wrote a sequel to Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Tom Brown at Oxford, which was less popular.
Jack of St. Virgil's. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1917. 319 pages. Illus. 'J. Macfarlane', b/w frontis. & 7 b/w illus.
A Prince at School. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1919. 252 pages. Illustrated J. Macfarlane, b/w frontis. & 7 b/w illus.
2 Andi is allowed to go to Whitefield College, and though some of the boys are initially hostile to Andi, he soon gains popularity through his good nature. Arnold, Lola and Andi are worried they have been followed by Lola’s unwanted German suitor from Vilatonga, Mr Bernstein. Mr Lester secretly sends them to Queensland to recover from illness but Lola and Andi are kidnapped by Mr Bernstein. Mr Lester thinks they have been killed, as Mr Bernstein makes it look like they were mauled by an escaped lion. Mr Bernstein wants Andi to reveal where his father hid his tribe’s cache of guns and money, and he wants Lola to marry him. War is declared and Mr Lester is approached by the British navy to travel to Vilatonga to help the bases there and he takes Arnold with him. This direct involvement of some of the characters in the First World War is unique amongst Australian boys’ school stories. Bernstein threatens to kill Andi if Lola does not agree to marry him, but Andi manages to escape, and locating his father’s cache, is discovered by Arnold and some tribesmen. They form a party and rescue Lola and destroy the German boat. Lola and Mr Lester marry, while Arnold is to return to school. Andi’s father is restored as chief of Vilatonga.
2 See Elinor M. Brent-Dyer A Princess at the Chalet School, Dorothea Moore Guide Gilly, F. O. H. Nash Kattie of the Balkans, etc.
The Best School of All. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1921. 256 pages. Illustrated J. Macfarlane, b/w frontis. & 5 b/w illus.
3 See for example, Hylton Cleaver Captain of Two Schools.
Sheila the Prefect. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1923. 255 pages. Illustrated 'J. Dewar Mills', b/w frontis. & 3 b/w illus.
Sheila and her schoolmates’ adventures after school are continued in Three Bachelor Girls (1926).
Squirmy and Bubbles: A School Story for Girls. Melbourne: Whitcombe & Tombs Limited, . 164 pages. Illustrated 'Perce Clark', b/w frontis. & 2 b/w illus.
4 See for example, Gunby Hadath The New House at Oldborough.
The Lone Guide of Merfield. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1925. 256 pages. Illustrated 'J. Dewar Mills', b/w frontis. & 3 b/w illus.
Despite its title, The Lone Guide of Merfield, bears little resemblance to British girl guiding school stories of the period.5 The heroine is fifteen-year-old Mary Gaunt, a pupil teacher at Merfield College, a small private venture school of about 40 boarders and day girls, run by the three Maynard sisters. Mary used to be a boarder but became a pupil teacher when she was abandoned by her relatives, which leaves some of the pupils, including the wealthy Enid Hayfield, to look down on her as a charity pupil. Pupil teachers were a feature in private schools, though this is their only appearance in an Australian school story. Mary becomes a lone guide when there is not enough interest to form a company at Merfield. Pyke moves the story to the school holidays, as the Misses Maynard arrange for Mary to act as a companion to one of the younger pupils, Linda Sterne, when Linda’s family travel to Vilatonga aboard the ‘Palmetto’. Enid and her father are also travelling aboard the ship and Enid is often rude to Mary. The ‘Palmetto’ is caught in a tropical cyclone and sinks. Mr Hayfield, Mary, and one of the Sterne children, Bobby, manage to make it to an island, where they discover Enid. The value of guiding is illustrated through Mary’s use of her training to help the others survive, and gradually Enid overcomes her dislike of Mary. This classic storyline of how a schoolgirl heroine is looked down upon by an enemy, whom she later wins over, is used by Pyke with a guiding and adventure background. The group are rescued by a Natural History professor and his son, and taken back to Vilatonga where they meet Prince Tui Andi and his wife Lala, characters from A Prince at School, and Sheila the Prefect. The story concludes with a romantic identity motif. Mr Hayfield discovers he is Mary’s father, and adopts her. The girls of Merfield are inspired by Mary’s courage, and a company of Guides is established.
5Eg. Dorothea Moore: Judy Patrol Leader, Brenda of Beechhouse.