Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bulcock, Emily Hemans (1877–1969)

by Marjorie Puregger

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Emily Bulcock, by Mary Lambert, n.d.

Emily Bulcock, by Mary Lambert, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 122089

Emily Hemans Bulcock (1877-1969), poet and journalist, was born on 28 July 1877 at Tinana near Maryborough, Queensland, daughter of Henry Burnett Palmer, schoolteacher, and his wife Mary Jane, née Carson. She attended bush schools, but was educated chiefly by her father, a scholarly man with a deep interest in European literature and history. A younger brother Vance Palmer became a distinguished writer.

In 1891 government economies left her father without assistance in a school of ninety pupils, so Emily became an unpaid teacher for four years, then at 19 was appointed the pioneer teacher of a new school at Razorback (Montville), where she also conducted evening classes for illiterate farm-workers. On 13 April 1903 at Cleveland she married Robert Bulcock (d.1924), an orchardist who owing to illness had later to give up farming; they moved to Caloundra in 1914, where Mrs Bulcock began to write regularly for Brisbane and southern newspapers. To mark the celebration of Anzac Day in 1922 the Sydney Bulletin devoted a full page to her poem, illustrated by Norman Lindsay. In 1917 the family moved to the Brisbane.

During the 1920s Emily Bulcock worked as a freelance journalist, writing regular columns for the Graziers' Journal and the Farmers' Gazette. She was a foundation member of the Queensland Country Women's Association, and of the Queensland Authors' and Artists' Association, of which she was a committee-member from 1925 and vice-president from 1936; when in 1958 the association became the Fellowship of Australian Writers (Queensland), she continued as a vice-president until 1965, when she was made a life member. In 1964 she was appointed O.B.E. for her services to literature and was presented with a collection of verses composed in her honour by nine Queensland poets.

Mrs Bulcock's first poem had appeared in the Ipswich Times in 1889, and her last published verses in the Courier Mail in 1966. During more than seventy years of writing her verse had appeared in the main Brisbane and Sydney newspapers, in the Melbourne Age and in many periodicals. In 1923 her first collection, Jacaranda Blooms, was published in Brisbane. In 1945 she produced her second book of poems, From Quenchless Springs, and in 1961 a small collection of occasional verse, From Australia to Britain. On her ninetieth birthday the fellowship held a reception in her honour.

Mrs Bulcock was a kind and generous woman, with a quick sympathy for all in trouble. She gave practical help to many young writers, and a number of refugees from Nazi rule remember her with gratitude. In her eighties she was an active member of the Save the Children Fund. She had an easy mastery of technique, and a gift for occasional popular verse, celebrating events in national life with aptness and appealing sentiment. But her best work was on a different plane, and in her mature years her contemplative and nature poems showed depth of feeling, vivid imagery, a passionate love of beauty and poetic discipline.

Emily Bulcock died in Brisbane on 4 September 1969, and was cremated. She was survived by a son and a daughter, both whom became authors.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland Authors' and Artists' Association minutes (copy at State Library of Queensland)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Marjorie Puregger, 'Bulcock, Emily Hemans (1877–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bulcock-emily-hemans-5420/text9191, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

Emily Bulcock, by Mary Lambert, n.d.

Emily Bulcock, by Mary Lambert, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 122089