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23 January 2010

Margaret Paice (Margaret D. Paice-Harriss)

Margaret was born on 1 September 1920 in Brisbane, Queensland, the daughter of Sydney Cantle, an engineer. She had at least one sister, Stella. Margaret spent much of her childhood living in central Queensland though she did spend one year at Moreton Bay High School in Wynnum, Brisbane (McVitty, Authors and Illustrators of Australian Children’s Books 164). She moved to Brisbane following the outbreak of the Second World War and joined the Women’s National Emergency League. In 1942 she met Herbert Paice, Supervisor of the Telegraph Section of the Post Office. They married soon afterwards, living in Townsville for the remainder of the war. They had two children, Jeanette, and Peter who was born in 1946 (McVitty, Authors and Illustrators 164; Anderson 77).

In 1955 Hubert died and Margaret moved with her young family to Sydney where she finally realised her childhood ambition of being an artist. She enrolled at East Sydney Technical College to study illustration. Paice-Harriss is also credited with having studied illustration at the National Art School Sydney and painting at the Royal Art Society (Adelaide, Australian Women Writers: A Bibliographical Guide 150). Colin Roderick, the editor of educational publishing at Angus & Robertson was impressed with an illustrated story she wrote about an Aboriginal girl which was later published in 1955 (McVitty, Authors and Illustrators 164). In 1960 Margaret married high school teacher, Wilfred Harris, and they had one son, Christopher. The family lived in Winmalee in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. Wilfred died in 1975. Paice-Harriss has written over 20 children’s novels and her Depression-era trilogy, Colour In The Creek, was made into a children’s television series in 1985.

The Secret of Greycliffs. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1961. 147 pages. Illustrated author, b/w illus. throughout text.

The Secret of Greycliffs is the sequel to The Lucky Fall (1959). In The Lucky Fall, heroine Kathy Brown, discovered a gold rush. Paice mixes mystery plots with school routines. Fourteen-year-old Kathy Brown arrives as a new girl at Greycliffs, which Paice modelled on her own experiences of schooling at Moreton Bay High School in Brisbane. Kathy makes friends with two of the girls, Gerry and Peg, and they meet a local girl, Julie, who had saved Kathy’s life in the previous summer. Kathy learns that Julie’s Great-Grandfather, Christopher Alroyd, built Greycliffs, but when he died penniless, the property was left to a distant cousin because of a family dispute. Julie thinks that he hid money somewhere in Greycliffs, and Kathy and her friends promise to look for it. The trio find an old book of Alroyd’s detailing where he hid his fortune, but suspect one of their classmates, Jane, is trying to find the treasure too. The girls search in some old cellars but are locked in by Jane. A fire breaks out and the girls manage to escape through a secret passage, but the wing is destroyed. The treasure is discovered when workers are demolishing the ruined wing. A new will is found which leaves Alroyd’s estate, including a large sum of money, to Julie’s family. This fairly standard school story plot prevalent in the period contains unconventional realism through the portrayal of Julie’s family. Her drunken father has fits and rages and struggles to look after his family.


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