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Arthur Groom (1904–1953)

by J. Keith Jarrott

This article was published:

Arthur Groom, self-portrait, 1930s

Arthur Groom, self-portrait, 1930s

National Library of Australia, 23161990

Arthur Groom (1904-1953), conservationist and author, was born on 11 December 1904 at Caulfield, Melbourne, son of Arthur Champion Groom and Eva Rosabelle Groom. His parents moved to Longreach, Queensland, about 1911 and to Julia Creek about 1916. Arthur finished his schooling as a boarder at the Southport School near Brisbane. He was a jackeroo at Lake Nash cattle-station on the Northern Territory border in 1922-25, then went to Brisbane in 1926 to write for the Sunday Mail. He won second prize in a Bulletin story competition in the late 1920s and in 1930 published his first book, A Merry Christmas, in London. The story was set in Brisbane and far western Queensland.

In 1927-32 Groom worked as a salesman, first for the Engineering Supply Co. of Australia Ltd in Brisbane and then for Underhill, Day & Co. Ltd, engineers. At week-ends and on holiday, he headed with pack and camera into the rain forest from O'Reilly's guest-house on the edge of Lamington National Park. He was a founder in May 1930 and for four years honorary secretary of the National Parks Association of Queensland. In 1933 he helped to form Queensland Holiday Resorts Ltd and henceforth managed their Binna Burra guest-house on the north-east border of Lamington Park. He had to be jack of all trades—guide, entertainer, mechanic, builder of slab huts and sometimes cook. For many years everything was brought into the guest-house by flying fox up a steep hill.

Groom was an excellent outdoor photographer and, during World War II, lectured on survival in the jungle to the 50,000 Australian and American troops who passed through the Canungra jungle training centre. He continued to write, but abandoned fiction. One Mountain After Another (1949) told the story of the border-survey between New South Wales and Queensland, and of Lamington Park and Binna Burra, and pleaded for protection of 'The Scenic Rim' as he called a proposed reserve along McPherson Range and the Great Dividing Range. I saw a Strange Land (1950) covered his extensive walks with pack-camels in Central Australia. His posthumous publication, Wealth in the Wilderness (1955), dealt with the Northern Territory and its future.

Groom was a remarkable walker. About 1930 he walked across country by moonlight from O'Reilly's to Mount Barney, selected a camp-site, talked to landowners and returned, covering seventy miles (113 km), midnight to midnight. He died in Melbourne of coronary vascular disease on 14 November 1953 while engaged in tourist promotion, and was buried in Box Hill cemetery. He had married three times. His first wife, Catherine Edith, née Nicoll, whom he married in Brisbane on 6 June 1931, died four months later. His second marriage, in Brisbane on 16 January 1936 to Marjorie Edna Dunstan, ended in divorce in 1949; they had three sons. His third wife Isla Hurworth, née Madge, whom he married at Surfers Paradise on 22 August 1949, survived him with their daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Southerly, 15 (1954), no 3, p 219
  • Sunday Mail, 15 Nov 1953
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 15 Nov 1956
  • private information.

Citation details

J. Keith Jarrott, 'Groom, Arthur (1904–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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