Life and Writing

A Day in the Life of Bill 'Swampy' Marsh

Bill 'Swampy' Marsh was born in Sydney in 1950. His father was an itinerant 'Bank Johnny'; his mother, a 'House Mum'. He has two older sisters.

When Bill was five, his father was transferred to Moruya, on the south coast of New South Wales. Minus the elder of his sisters, the family followed. After three years his father received his first managerial posting to the small township of Beckom, in the south west of NSW. Minus his second eldest sister, Bill again accompanied his parents. Bill's experiences of bush life were to become the subject of his first book of stories, Beckom (Pop. 64).

With his primary schooling completed and no high schools within coo-ee, Bill joined the rough-and-tumble of an all-male boarding school, Yanco Agricultural High School, near Leeton. After achieving his goal of becoming Yanco Ag's First XI Captain, he passed his matriculation exams. Bill's second book, Old Yanconian Daze, chronicles this time.

A brief stint at Hawkesbury Agricultural College was curtailed because of illness, causing Bill to give up any idea of a career as a cricketer. And so began his hobby of writing.

Bill joined the C.S.I.R.O. (Irrigation Research, Griffith, 1969-72), then spent two years back-packing through three continents before returning to the welcome shores of Australia to work for the NSW Department of Agriculture (Viticultural Research, Griffith). In 1976 Bill moved to Adelaide, South Australia, to join Hardy's Wines.

In his spare time he wrote radio skits for Adelaide 5MMM's Four Course Breakfast Show, performed his songs in folk clubs and schools, and conducted writing workshops.

By 1985 Bill's writing had taken over. He 'retired' from Hardy's to take up his writing hobbies, concentrating at first on musical plays. (Read on to find out about Bill's plays.)

In 1990 Bill's father died after years of heart problems, and in 1994 Bill also suffered a heart attack. The cause was linked to an hereditary factor. Although their relationship had seemed distant, it suddenly became frighteningly close. Bill's personal journey culminated in his third book, Looking For Dad.

Bill's fourth book, Great Flying Doctor Stories went into its fifth print run within a year of publication.

Great Australian Shearing Stories, Bill's fifth collection of stories was released through ABC Books in late 2001 in book and CD format.

Great Australian Droving Stories, Bill's sixth collection of stories was released through ABC Books in late 2003 in book and CD format.

Great Australian Railway Stories, Bill's seventh collection of stories was released through ABC Books in late 2005 in book and CD format.

More Great Flying Doctor Stories, Bill's eighth collection of stories was released by ABC Books late 2007.

Goldie, Bill's first novel was released through ABC Books mid 2008.

Great Australian Stories: Outback Towns and Pubs was released through ABC Books late 2009.

The ABC Book of Great Aussie Stories for Young People was released mid 2010.

New Great Australian Flying Doctor Stories, featuring the work of legendary Broken Hill artist Howard William Steer was released late 2010.

Great Australian CWA Stories, including over sixty classic CWA recipes, was published in late 2011.

Swampy: Tall tales and true from boyhood and beyond was published in November 2012.

The Complete Book of Australian Flying Doctor Stories was released in early 2013.

Great Australian Outback School Stories was released in late 2013.

Amazing Grace/Great Australian Bush Priests Stories—Stories of faith and friendship in outback Australia was released in early 2014.

Great Australian Outback Police Stories was released in 2015.

Great Australian Outback Teaching Stories was released in 2016.

Great Australian Outback Nurses Stories was released in 2017.

Great Australian Bush Funeral Stories was released in 2018.

Great Australian Outback Trucking Stories was released in 2019.

Great Australian Volunteer Firies Stories was released in 2021 as was Great Australian Outback Yarns Volume 1.

Great Australian Ambos Stories was released in 2022 as was More Great Australian Outback Yarns.

Cricket (or any sport), theatre, people, cooking, writing & performing.
Intolerance, ignorance.
Most amazing moments when writing a book
Self discovery, and meeting people that I would never have met otherwise. For example, the bloke who worked in an outback town with my dad in the mid-1930s.
Most worrying moments when writing a book
When the bank told me I was overdrawn after my car broke down, again, and I was 2000 kilometres from home, with only two cans of baked beans in the esky. And when I ran out of petrol in the outback only to discover that my bankcard had already exceeded its limit and I'd already eaten the last two cans of baked beans.
My greatest asset
Hope and faith in life and people.

Plays and Songwriting

1986What the Crow Saw. Bill wrote the script and songs and toured schools with this play during South Australia's 150 Jubilee.

1987The Thong Song. Nomination in the Esso International Song Writing Pater Awards (Humour Section).

1988River. Commissioned to write the script, songs, and co-direct for the Adelaide Festival Theatre's Viz-Arts Department.

1988Do The Right Thing Mate. Sang the 1988/89 Northern Territory Government's Anti-litter Campaign jingle, appeared in the subsequent television promotion, and did voice-overs for the radio advertisements.

19891,2,3 Pick it up. Wrote script, songs, and presented the Northern Territory's Anti-litter Campaign video.

1990The Garbage Twins to the Rescue. Wrote the script and songs for this performance piece which was toured by theatre groups throughout the Northern Territory.

1991Taking Flight Takes It Off. As Writer in Residence, Bill researched, wrote the script, songs, directed and performed in Mount Gambier Youth Theatre Group's play.

1992Tellers Who Dunnit. Port Adelaide Youth Theatre.

1999Australia (Concept Media). Bill released a CD of his songs and stories, which was recorded in Adelaide's ABC studios after the enthusiastic response he received to his performance on the ABC's Sunday morning Australia All Over radio program and on Channel 9's Today television show. Listen to selected tracks from this CD.

2000When the Mailman Comes. Wrote song for the video soundtrack of the documentary 'Last Mail from Birdsville' (The story of Tom Kruse.) Aired on Channel 7's 'Discovery' and ABC's 'Landline' programs.

2001Source to Sea. Wrote songs and music for video soundtrack for the Year of Federation paddle steamers' journey down the Murray River. Aired on Channel 7, ABC's 'Landline' and SBS 'Global Village'.

'Source to Sea is a great piece of work. The cinematography, editing and music, especially, are first class.'
—David Franken (Program Director–Channel 7 Brisbane)

2002A Drover's Wife (Concept Media). A second CD of songs and stories to celebrate the Year of the Outback.

2007Glory, Glory A tribute to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. A third CD of songs and stories.

'We all stood 'round and listened. And we all got choked up and teary. It is so beautiful.'
—Kate Mayes (Publisher–Little Hare)

2017Open Roads (CD). The stories and songs of Bill 'Swampy' Marsh.

Songs and music from Bill's CDs were used on the soundtrack of the German travel documentaries Traumzeit auf dem Stuart Highway, RFDS Clinic Flights (Tilpa & Marble Bar) and Traumzeit in dem Kimberleys.


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