News report at the Adelaide Launch

Can I call You Colin?

The Book Launch

l-r Stephany Steggall – author of the book, Barbara Wiesner – Director of the SA Writers’ Centre, Keith Conlon TV presenter of Postcards SA and many other items (we call him Mr. South Australia – he says Junior – in respect to Colin Thiele who was called the original Mr. South Australia by many).
Photo is © Luke Herriman, photographs may not be reproduced without Lukes’ written permission
Can I call You Colin?
That’s the name of a new book, launched on Friday 5th March at the Adelaide Writers Festival by Keith Conlon.
The book, written by Stephany Evans Steggall is an authorised biography of the life and achievements of Colin Thiele AC, South Australian born Author, Poet and Educator.

Colin Thiele was unable to attend in person (as Colin put it – “due to ill health and general decrepitude”). Colin, who is now 83 years old, has been suffering from ill health for many years, yet has remained positive and cheerful. His health was one of the reasons for moving to Queensland. He has a wonderful nurse in his good wife Rhonda.

We were all very happy to meet Colin’s wife Rhonda and their two daughters Janne & Sandy who flew down, “just for the day”, racing back that evening to look after Colin. Colin’s sister Avis Rhode and her children, and Eudunda identity Ray Thiele Colin’s cousin), and Eudunda Community Business and Tourism (ECBAT) Chairperson Bill Mader, John Bailey – Colin’s friend and artist of Storm Boy, and Adelaide artist, Lyn Wood who painted the portrait of Colin for this book’s cover were among those to attend. The area overflowed with people wishing to attend the launch.

Colin wrote a letter to the launch gathering about how “Detailed and Accurate the book is, about his and Rhonda’s life”. He wrote how at times he and Rhonda disputed a point in the book and how Stephany was able to show that she had the details correct, through written records, and that their own memory had faded.

Keith Conlon, on launching the book, explained that the launch was not so much about Colin Thiele – but about Stephany Steggall’s remarkable achievement in writing this book, and having it published in time for the launch. He explained that she did this as a mature age student doing a PHD at University of Queensland and that she dared to write the “Book that everyone wants to read – about Colin Thiele”. This is Stephany’s first published book and is a remarkable achievement about the “Giant of South Australia – Colin Thiele”.

Keith spoke about how Colin has touched all of our lives in some way, how he speaks to all of us, Teachers, Adult readers, Children, Conservationists, Publishers, Artists.
He spoke about how Colin has shown us that the Coorong is not a “salty smelly swamp” (this was Keith’s first impression – as with many of us) – but a wonderful natural area, full of life. After Keith read a passage from Colin’s book, we were again reacquainted with the wonderful writings of Colin and immediately saw the picture painted of the beautiful Coorong. Keith said this new book will drive you back to rediscover your Colin Thiele collection and seek out his other books. He told of how the Queen watched the movie of Stormboy as she sailed past the Coorong in 1957 on her way to visit S.A. Keith said “It’s a fine and readable book of our own literary giant, Colin Thiele.

He told of when Colin held much respect for his elders (Some of his tutors were names like Douglas Mawson and Carr) who held lectures while he was attending Teachers College and that when Colin held lectures that they were always packed, even on weekends.

Stephany Evans Steggall spoke about her meetings with Colin & Rhonda. She said that Colin – in his own words – “Has reached age where he does not even dare buy green bananas” and regretted that he could not travel down for the launch. She told of how she visited all his old haunts and spoke with many who knew him. She wished to thank everyone for the help. Stephany was very grateful for her publishers, New Holland in being able to publish the book in time for the Adelaide Writers Festival – which was in itself quite a feat. Stephany related some funny stories about her times in writing the book. She said how she had wanted to launch the book here at the Writers Festival as this event too had an association with Colin Thiele, as he had been involved in the event from when it first started in 1960.

After the launch, invited guests then retired to the R.A.A.F. Association rooms for sandwiches and drinks made by (in Max Fatchen’s words) “Stephany’s Sandwich Samaria”. (Max has been a long time friend of Colin’s and they stay in contact regularly).

Keith mentioned that Eudunda Community has developed a “Colin Thiele trail” and that it is a great tour. (he told us later that he had been able to take that tour when he came up to do the “Postcards SA” television article for Colin’s 80th Birthday Celebrations in 2000, before the tour had been developed).

Stephany had collected much more information than the book would allow, including photos and she has been working with the Eudunda Community, Business and Tourism Committee (ECBAT) to add some of this information to the web site they have created to promote the achievements of Colin Thiele. You can find this web site at (that’s this one)

l-r Rhonda Thiele, Keith Conlon, Stephany Steggall and Lyn Woodwith the original painting by Lyn used for the book cover
Photo is © Peter Herriman, photographs may not be reproduced without Peters’ written permission