Les was a onetime Chatswood resident and an early Patron of The Concourse.
In 1965 Les married Valerie Morelli in Our Lady of Dolours Church, Chatswood. Valerie was from McCartney Avenue, Chatswood. Later they lived in Edgar Street, Chatswood near what is now Bartels Park. Valerie and Les had five children. One of them was on the Spectrum. Les could often be seen in the park playing lovingly with his son. He was a man with a huge heart.
Whilst living in Chatswood, Valerie and Les revived a tradition started by another world-class poet, Kenneth Slessor (Five Bells),also from Chatswood. They would host dinner parties for poets, mainly from Sydney and Melbourne. These included Slessor and other recognised poets and literary figures such as Douglas Stewart (Fire on the Snow), Geoffrey Lehmann (his co-conspirator on Murray’s first book of poetry), Christopher Koch, Mark O’Connor, Peter Porter, Peter Goldsworthy, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Alan Gould, Robert Gray, Jamie Grant and his wife Margaret Connolly.
Les penned many poems that resonate with imagery of Chatswood and the North Shore:
work’s turned its back on sweet brilliancebut when they start to loom, these towersdisappear. Dusk’s lightswitchers revealyellow business branching kilotailand haloed with stellar geometryMirror-glass skyscrapers
In addition to Les and Kenneth Slessor, Chatswood and Willoughby has produced an extraordinary number of highly renowned poets, writers and literary figures who either lived or wrote about the area. This includes Louise Mack, Mona Alexis Brand (Children of the Sun), Tad Orwell (Kangaroo Flat), Lennie Lower (Here’s Luck), Francis Webb (A drum for Ben Boyd), Kenneth Cook (Wake in Fright), Jennifer Rankin (Night ride), Barcroft Boake (Where dead men lie), Kate Grenville (Lillians story),Matthew Reilly (Scarecrow), Henry Lawson, Burnum Burnum (Wildthings),Nancy Wake (The White Mouse), Betty Roland (The touch of silk) and Gwen Meredith (Blue Hills),
Les Murray has won many literary awards, including the Grace Leven Prize (1980 and 1990), the Petrarch Prize (1995), and the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize (1996). In 1999 he was awarded the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry on the recommendation of Ted Hughes.
As an aside, many years ago it was suggested to name a memorial in Chatswood after Les. Les was very moved at the time. However, this was squashed. Mainly on two grounds – he was not dead and people were concerned he may say something embarrassing (yet that was the essence of the man).
The time is now opportune to reconsider how best way to recognise the contribution Les has made and his association with Chatswood.