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Cronin, Bernard Charles (1884–1968)

by Sally O'Neill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Bernard Charles Cronin (1884-1968), author, was born on 18 March 1884 at Ealing, Middlesex, England, son of Charles Frederick Cronin (d.1887), and his wife Laura, née Marshall. Cronin arrived in Melbourne on 28 March 1890 in the charge of the captain of the Austral; his mother and stepfather had preceded him. He was educated at The Grange, South Yarra, Surrey College, Surrey Hills, and Dookie Agricultural College from which he graduated dux and gold medallist and with a diploma of agriculture in 1901. After jackeroo experience in Gippsland and northern Victoria, he joined his brother Laurie cattle-farming at Marrawah in north-west Tasmania. On 11 March 1908 at Toora, Gippsland, he married Victoria Maud Ferres, daughter of a farmer.

About 1913 Cronin returned to Melbourne almost penniless. He worked as a salesman before joining the Department of the Navy as a clerk, but devoted his spare time to writing. In 1918 he published his first novel, The Coastlanders, set in Tasmania. He went on to write some thirty full-length novels, countless short stories and several one-act plays, including the radio play Stampede (1937); he is also represented in anthologies of verse. Cronin wrote under several pseudonyms, including those of 'Hugh Bohun, Denis Adair, Tas East and Eric North'. His reputation rests mainly on his novels Bracken (1929) and The Sow's Ear (1933), both of which express his urge to expose what he termed 'wrong, stupid or uneconomic' in Australian life. E. Morris Miller described the latter as 'a novel of impelling interest, powerful handling and intimate characterization' but added that the characters were 'subordinated to the design of the story'.

In the 1930s Cronin worked for the Melbourne Herald. Later he set up a 'Literary Critical Service' in Flinders Lane, and freelanced. During World War II he was employed as a publicity censor in Victoria and Western Australia. After the war he ran correspondence courses in writing technique for the Melbourne Technical College. From the late 1950s he contributed regularly to the Melbourne Sun.

In 1920, with Gertrude Hart, Cronin had founded the Old Derelicts' Club for struggling authors and artists. Out of this in 1927 came the Society of Australian Authors; as first president in 1928-34, Cronin strove to improve conditions and win recognition for writers. The society was wound up in November 1936 because, according to Cronin, it was becoming 'infiltrated by politics'. In 1933 he founded the Quill Club. He was long a member of the International P.E.N. Club (Melbourne) and was accorded life membership in 1961.

From the early 1930s Cronin spent most weekends at his cottage at Upwey in the Dandenong Ranges, building with local stone and landscape gardening. In his 70s and 80s he took up painting and woodcarving. Craggy-faced with a thick mop of silver hair in old age, he remained vigorous until his last years, when asthma troubled him increasingly. Cronin was a keen student of the Bible and a supporter of the British-Israelite movement, though the family had been Anglican for generations. He died at his home in East Camberwell on 9 June 1968 and was buried in Springvale cemetery. He was survived by two sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Police Life, 15 July 1968
  • Wireless Weekly, 4 May 1934
  • Pix, 26 Oct 1946
  • Herald (Melbourne), 20 Apr, 16 July 1927, 17 Mar 1931
  • West Australian, 18 Apr 1933
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 20 May 1939
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 10, 14 June 1968
  • B. Cronin papers (National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Sally O'Neill, 'Cronin, Bernard Charles (1884–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cronin-bernard-charles-5826/text9893, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 24 May 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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