In May 1905, at the age of twenty-one, Katharine Susannah Prichard set out to work for six months as a governess for the Quin family at the Tarella Station in far-western New South Wales. It was a critical season in Katharine’s life. She fell in love for the first time with a man she calls “Red Beard,” real name Alfred Quin. Years later, some people were perplexed by Katharine marrying Hugo Throssell, an outdoorsman who cared about horses rather than books. But with his physicality and love of horses, Alfred Quin was the prototype for Hugo and showed the sort of man she was often drawn to.

Although she makes only a veiled reference to it, she would have spent time with his sister, Tarella Quin, who was just emerging as a children’s author. It was also the longest she ever spent in the back-country which would inspire so much of her work.

Katharine wrote about her time at Tarella in a serial called “A City Girl in Central Australia,” which ran for six episodes in The New Idea in 1906 (not the same publication as the women’s magazine still published today). “City Girl” is a curious blend of autobiography and fiction. A spirited young woman named “Kit” (one of Katharine’s nicknames) writes letters home to “Ma-Mie,” detailing her observations of station life and her misbegotten romance with Billy Northwest.

I managed to find this photo of the Quins in a booklet written about Tarella Quin by some antiquarian Australiana booksellers. Redbeard does look rather debonair. And Tarella suitably writerly. Bill Holloway has written about her on his blog…/tarella…/. You can read about Katharine’s stay with the Quins in chapter 5 of The Red Witch, ‘Outback’.