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Ron Edwards: 1930 - 2008

Ron Edwards died on Saturday 5th January 2008, after a long illness.


[Keith McKenry's obituary Sydney Morning Herald 7 February 2008]


Rock ArtIt would be hard to do justice to Ron. He was of course one of the pioneers of the Australian folk song revival, and publisher of over 300 books ranging the whole spectrum of folkish things from songs, yarns, a detailed index of Australian song published and recorded song, a folk magazine (Northern Folk) or two (he stood in as editor of Tradition for while), a journal (Australian Folklore Society Journal 1984-2007), 10 volumes of books on bush craft and much more.

Ron published the most comprehensive collection of Australian songs, The Big Book of Australian Folk Song, in 1976 with over 300 songs and about two inches thick. The book like most of his work was beautifully illustrated ... Ron was an artist ... he drew old style bush tools and home made gates, saddles and whips, knots and mudbricks, Chinese medicinal herbs and Aboriginal rock art. He was major collector of Australian folk song and people's stories and yarns and also of Torres Strait Island songs. He wrote children's books too.

My first meeting with Ron didn't actually happen! I was driving round Australian in 1968 and called into to see him at Holloways Beach in Cairns and he wasn't there so I signed the visitors book.

For more than half a century, his Rams Skull Press has kept publishing and you can visit it online at

Mark Gregory


Ron EdwardsI knew Ron, through my father in particular, but also, at one time, when I was teaching High School in Cairns, his daughter was a pupil.

I always found him to be even-tempered, with a quick & sometimes quirky wit, a keen observer of his fellow humans, an inquiring intellect, and absolutely committed to continuing unique Australian arts & crafts which have been all too often subsumed beneath that which attracts the ugly $$.

One of brothers has a painting of our father which Ron did many years ago, and I must say he captured a part of our father which we, his children, knew well. While we've always appreciated the painting, it will now become a highly treasured work.

Pat O'Shane


While our lives may be impermanent it is truly a mark of honour when so many positive things will continue after, to enrich the lives of so many. Such is the case with Ron Edwards - through his tireless effort and the continuing application of his many quite out of the ordinary abilities as an artist, folklorist, collector and story teller.

Such a good humoured, talented and generous spirit with its unbounded love and respect for people and their artistic and creative abilities and the Australian tradition will now continue to reap its own reward. Farewell Ron.

Dave de Hugard


Australia has lost another great folklorist.

Ron Edwards made major contributions to the collection, research and publication of our folksong, folktale and craft traditions. As if that were not more than enough, he was also a noted illustrator of his own books as well as those of others, his distinctive style complementing the words and music with which they were matched

It is difficult to single out any one of Ron's many works, but his Australian Folksong Index will continue to be the major research guide in the field. His works on the bush yarn are also an invaluable and almost unique documentation of what people actually said and of how they said it at a particular time and place. Any of Ron's many published works, large or small, will repay careful reading.

In addition to his own writings, Ron was the most significant editor and publisher of Australian folklore that we have had. He published the work of other folklorists through the Folklore Occasional Papers series. He also founded and edited the periodicals Northern Folk, later National Folk, and the Australian Folklore Society Journal, published like most of Ron's work through the famous Ram's Skull since 1984. All of these initiatives contain irreplaceably valuable fieldwork and research materials that would mostly not have been preserved without Ron's efforts.

Ron's passing is the latest sad loss from that generation of Australian folklorists who pioneered the serious collection and study of our folk traditions. He, like them, will be greatly missed by all those who try to follow in their footsteps.

Graham Seal


Ron Edwards had a great love of the bush and he celebrated this love through his drawings, paintings, folk song collections and his storytelling. He was always my 'wise old sage' when I needed encouragement and advice. Over the years, whenever we got together, Ron and I shared many beers, yarns and laughs. I first met him in the late nineteen sixties and was struck by his brilliance and somewhat eccentric behavior. My other 'mate' of the time was Wendy Lowenstein, another eccentric and lovable character. They were unbelievable sparring partners when they got together.

Wendy used to stay with me whenever she travelled through Sydney and once had me in hysterics recalling how she had been staying with Ron and Anne - and every night Ron would open two bottles of his homemade beer - for himself! He refused point blank to allow Wendy one drop of the precious green-tinged ale. "There's a bottle shop down the way", he'd say, "get what you want but I can't give you any of mine. I only make just enough for my own thirst."

At the National Folk Festival a couple of years back he told me he thought he come to just about the end of the line. No more books, no more indexing and probably a lot less beer. I thought he was invincible but he obviously knew better. His legacy will live on and we should all celebrate his astounding contribution
to preserving our bush culture.

Warren Fahey


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory