Biography John Shaw Neilson

John Shaw Neilson

photo of John Shaw Neilson
  • Time Period1872 - 1942
  • Place
  • CountryAustralia

Poet Biography

Neilson began his life in the South Australian town of Penola on 22 February 1872. When he was nine years old, his family moved to Victoria. The little hut they lived in has been re-erected in the town of Nhill.

He received very little schooling for he spent most of his time working with his father shearing, wheat cleaning and working on the roads. Although poor, he seemed to enjoy Nhill. He remembers it in a poem:

There is within the town of Nhill
A blest abode, a safe retreat
An intellectual oasis where
Men may refresh their souls
And where no horrid ‘barracker’
Can talk of kicks and goals.

Neilson then farmed at Sea Lake Victoria. This inspired him to write one of his most famous and richest poems, "The Orange Tree".

Then he worked on the Mirboo line road which was difficult and didn’t offer much pay. This was followed by a dangerous job quarrying in Warragul. In Yallourn he worked in a sump hole up to his knees in mud. And still he found the time and energy to write his wonderful thoughtful poems.