Robyn Annear

My books.

My published works, in brief…


Bearbrass | Nothing But Gold | The Man Who Lost Himself

Fly A Rebel Flag | A City Lost and Found


BearbrassBearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne

Mandarin, 1995; Black Inc, 2005

‘When I lived there, I made Melbourne my village. I’m not talking about suburban Melbourne, where rusticity can be as close as the corner shop: a few Scotch thistles, a galvanised iron roof and a flickering Peter’s ice cream cone can work magic on your sense of time and place. I made my village of central Melbourne – and it’s a village that takes some finding. I think of it as Bearbrass…’

Bearbrass (one of the local names by which Melbourne was first known) is an attempt to resurrect the village that was early Melbourne – from the arrival of white settlers in 1835 until the first gold rushes shook the town – overlaid with my own impressions and experiences of the modern city.


Nothing But GoldNothing But Gold: The diggers of 1852

Text Publishing, 1999

Within a year of gold’s discovery in 1851, the infant colony of Victoria was transformed from a sump for ex-convicts to a Land of Opportunity.

To be on the diggings in 1852 was to be in the thick of it. And in that astonishing year 75,000 adventurers learnt as much about housekeeping as they did gold-digging – the same shovel a digger used to fry up his breakfast might unearth him a fortune before lunch.

Australia became the talk of the world in 1852, a moment in our history when there was nothing but gold.


The Man Who Lost HimselfThe Man Who Lost Himself: The unbelievable story of the Tichborne Claimant

Text Publishing, 2002

Tom Castro, the Wagga Wagga butcher, had a jowly face and carried himself like an uneven load, tipping the scales at twenty-one stone. Roger, the young Tichborne heir – before he was lost at sea in 1854 – was all narrowness: long neck, hock-bottle shoulders and hips that were hardly there. He walked ‘like a Frenchman’.

Not even Roger’s mother could tell them apart.

After all, a man might change his shape in a dozen years; and so it was that Tom Castro declared himself to be the long-lost Roger and headed for London to claim his inheritance. By 1871 there was no more notorious celebrity in the British Empire than the charismatic Claimant: the subject of songs, plays, cartoons, endless speculation and one of the longest-running court cases in British judicial history.

But who was he, really?


Fly a Rebel FlagFly a Rebel Flag: The Eureka stockade

black dog books, 2004

The diggers were fed up with being hounded by the police, forced to show their gold licences on demand, like common criminals. At last the diggers of Ballarat made a stand for justice. They took up arms, built a stockade, and swore to defend themselves and each other against the authorities.

When government troops stormed the Eureka stockade the battle lasted just twenty minutes, but it changed Australia forever.

Was it a blow for democracy? A glorious rebellion? Or just a bloody massacre? You decide.
(For younger readers)


A City Lost and FoundA City Lost and Found: Whelan the Wrecker’s Melbourne

Black Inc, 2005

The demolition firm of Whelan the Wrecker was a Melbourne institution for a hundred years (1892-1992). Its famous sign – ‘Whelan the Wrecker is Here’ on a pile of shifting rubble – was a laconic masterpiece and served as a vital sign of the city’s progress. It’s no stretch to say that over three generations, the Whelan family changed the face of Melbourne, demolishing hundreds of buildings in the central city alone.

In A City Lost and Found I use Whelan’s demolition sites as portals by which to explore layers of the city laid bare by their pick-axes and iron balls. From beneath the rubble I bring to light fantastic stories of Melbourne’s building sites and their many incarnations, in a book about the making – and remaking – of a city.