Featured Member – Robert Young
An Ear for the Vernacular
Small acreage near the ocean, a fishing rod and a boat would see Robert happy and self sufficient for the rest of his days. This, he says, has been his dream since he was ‘knee high to a lobster’.
Born and raised in Deagon, Brisbane, Robert can remember when there was still white sand at the neighbouring suburb of Sandgate. Cabbage Tree Creek and the Boondall wetlands (formerly a large cattle station) were his barefoot boyhood fishing grounds.
He has salt water in his veins. His maternal grandfather worked on a Burketown –Thursday Island steamship run which went down in the Gulf of Carpentaria during a cyclone circa 1920. Robert himself learnt to swim in the Sandgate saltwater baths. He also joined the Mullygrubs (Cubs) and Brussels Sprouts (Scouts). At school he excelled at story-telling and writing. Like many GCWA members, he was often commended and his compositions were read out by his teachers.
He took up a career as a trainee salesman when he left home at eighteen, and claims he was able to ‘sell a deep freeze in midwinter to an Eskimo.’ At one time he also joined Queensland Rail in the clerical department.
Robert admires the spirit of self-made folk whose beginnings were humble; in particular Dick Smith who created the Australian Geographic magazine in 1985. A collection of all the back volumes since inception is in his proud possession.
A common theme in his writing is historical fiction. In the days when screenplay was a section of the GCWA adult writing competitions, Robert swept the board for several years. More recently he has written a trilogy of screen plays about the fortunes of an Irish girl, Mary, born in the early 1800’s to a tenant farmer. Her life is contrasted with that of the landlord’s son. Research for this story took years, and is ongoing as Robert writes the novels to accompany his screenplays.
Perhaps, though, because of his long association with the Ten Penners, a GWCA group that writes for children, Robert will always be better known in local circles for his recently published children’s picture-book Alec the Aeroplane. Ever the pragmatist, he will probably grin and say ‘That’s life.’