Clare Mallory
Page finalised 5th November, 2010.
Just ONE page on the
Collecting Books and Magazines web site, based in Australia.


'CLARE MALLORY' was a pseudonym of New Zealand author Winifred McQuilkan, who was born at Invercargill, New Zealand and educated at the Southland Girls’ High School and Otago University in Dunedin. She completed her education at Oxford University, England. On her return to New Zealand she became headmistress of Columbia College, Dunedin, until her marriage six years later.

During World War 2, working parties were held at the school to assemble parcels to send to England. Winifred, unable to find stories that would interest the girls (most at the school having been read many times), began making up stories about a group of girls in a similar boarding school. These adventures would eventually become the MERRY series and would be avidly followed by both Australian and New Zealand schoolgirls. Merry was, according to her author, her most popular character: 90% of all letters she received from readers were requests for more MERRY, or questions about the character.

In the 1960s, Winifred lived in Wellington, New Zealand, where she was working (on her own admission) on Merry in Australia. This was never, to our knowledge, published. If anyone knows why, or has more information about this author, we would appreciate hearing from you.

During the 1940s, when few intelligent girls' school stories were being published, 'Clare Mallory’s' novels stood out due to their mature content: the books questioned the morality of unreasoned demands for discipline within the school system and the rights of unquestioned authority.

Self-discipline was seen as one of the chief aims of the modern school system, rather than such discipline being imposed by outside forces. Although Clare Mallory's earlier books dealt with boarding schools, she introduced day schools into two 1950s novels: Leith and Friends and The Pen and Pencil Girls. The latter story involves the adventures of a group of girls who form a STORY CLUB. These girls soon discover that the best writing comes from personal experience rather than from following fashions of the day.

The Winifred McQuilkan photo above was taken from the dustwrapper of
The New House at Winwood.


Juliet Overseas, 1949

League of the Smallest, 1951

Leith and Friends, 1950

Merry Again, 1947

Merry Begins, 1947

Merry Marches n, 1947

New House at Winwood, 1949

Pen & Pencil Girls, 1948

Tony against the Prefects, 1949

Two Linties, 1950


Clare Mallory by Andrea Watson

Originally appeared in Otago Daily Times in Dunedin, New Zealand

Writing schoolgirl fiction was not the preserve of overseas authors. Dunedin has its own connection to the genre through the books of Clare Mallory, the pseudonym of author Winifred McQuilkan.

The demands of her role as principal of Dunedin's Columba College from 1942 to 1948 did not discourage Miss McQuilkan – born in Invercargill and a University of Otago MA graduate, winner of the Otago McMillan Brown prize (for English composition) and a top Oxford scholar – from writing during her tenure as headmistress. In 1947, she produced Merry Begins, the first in a series of books featuring the exploits of Merry Arundel at a school very similar to the Columba College of the time. Miss McQuilkan went on to become New Zealand's most prolific school story author with a bibliography of 10 books to her credit.

Bright and enthusiastic, the young headmistress of Columba College inaugurated a scheme for sending food parcels to wartime Britain, the object of fundraising ventures, such as fancy-dress balls and concerts, among the girls. It was not unusual for Miss McQuilkan, who was keen on music and the dramatic arts, to lend her Oxford cap and gown when required for costumes. As headmistress, she supported setting up a school tuckshop, headlined as "Event of the Month" in the school’s magazine, The Columba Herald, for April, 1945 – obviously, a popular move among schoolgirls.

Beverley Kovacs (nee Pollock), of Dunedin, a pupil of the college in Miss McQuilkan’s day, remembers her headmistress with great affection.

"She was a wonderful educator and way ahead of her time. But she wasn’t just an academic and interested in little else, Winifred McQuilkan even tried to teach us to play bridge ... In the beautiful Victorian drawing room I remember balancing my Latin For Today on one knee and a fine china cup and saucer on the other as we all took tea, while at other times she would teach us to knit and being war time, we would knit and knit."

However, the girls also saw a human side to their headmistress.

"I don’t remember quite what our reaction was when we found out she was courting in her future fiance’s car in the back drive, but it did make us realise she wasn’t the old woman we thought she was."

Miss McQuilkan used her pupils and their exploits as models for the characters in her school stories: "I know the boarders were positively encouraged to have midnight feasts."

"We always knew when a book was being written. When she didn’t stick her head out of her office to see what was going on, we knew ... She would emerge holding the manuscript open on her palms and if she ran into you and had that look in her eye, you knew you were somewhere in the book."

Although Winifred McQuilkan used the author’s device of combining the characteristics of one person into another, "we were all quite recognisable. My best friend was clearly ‘Merry Arundel’ and my chief moment of fame came in Juliet Overseas as the Honourable Caroline St Aubrey, but I didn’t have a soprano singing voice when I was the Honourable Caroline, I had a contralto. But I didn’t live it down, because the character was the heroine in a fire – Quilks didn’t ask me but I might have let the building burn down."

Re-reading Juliet Overseas it is easy to see reflections from the real-life Beverley in the character of Caroline. As well as being, like Beverley, an accomplished singer, the fictional Caroline, a house captain, organises the Juniors into giving concerts – all traits taken from life.

"We lived storybook schooldays. Life was never, ever dull. We had a wonderful start to life. Quilks gave us the expression ‘Columba girls can cope’ and we’ve all drawn on that through our lives."

The chairman of the Columba College Board of Governors in 1943, Stuart P. Cameron, recorded his impressions of Miss McQuilkan in the Columba College Chronicle as "... an inspiring teacher. Her winning personality, high principles, wide perspective and understanding of girls is making Columba a very happy school." The girls themselves said of her in their school magazine at the time of her resignation, "She created a happy, home-like atmosphere in the House and gave much of her time to the interests of the girls." Clearly, the empathy Winifred McQuilkan had with girls the same age as those she was writing about was a major factor in ensuring the popularity of her school stories.

Those who take a critical view of school stories should note that her works as Clare Mallory have won praise for their maturity. Many lesser girls' school stories often featured rather sentimental plots and characters at this time, but the Merry series and its successors, The Pen and Pencil Girls, The League of the Smallest, Juliet Overseas and others, feature talented and spirited young women – in today's terms, "staunch".

Not only private schools featured in school fiction by New Zealand authors. Phillis Garrard wrote the earliest school story set in New Zealand, Hilda at School, in 1929, and set it in a day state school in Taihape. Three Hilda books followed – The Doings of Hilda (1932), Hilda’s Adventures (1938) and Hilda Fifteen in 1944 – each emphasising the rural setting of Hilda’s life and the democratic nature of the New Zealand state schooling system of the time. Hilda’s determination to attend the local school instead of a girls’ boarding school reflects the mood of a country recovering from the Depression and about to elect a socialist government. Indeed, Hilda’s reason for objecting to the private school is that she is a "Labourite". The popularity of the Hilda series has ensured several reprints of the series, the last in the 1980s.

Specialists in children’s literature acknowledge the importance of New Zealand authors to the genre, shown by their growing popularity with collectors. It is increasingly difficult to find books by Clare Mallory and Phillis Garrard, as collectors snap up any books for sale. The rest of us have to make do with finding them in the Hocken Library’s reading room.#

Date: 28/03/07 8:18:13 AUS Eastern Standard Time
I have been meaning to look up this author for some time. I have perhaps all of the school girl stories and always wondered if somehow I missed out on the 4th "Merry" book. I see it was to be called " Merry in Australia" but at the end of my 3rd book it says the next in the series was to be called "Tremaynes Trans Tasman". I now have to accept that it was never published.

I loved the books - a real escape for me. I always thought she was influenced a bit by Dorita Fairlie Bruce who wrote the "Dimsie" series and others.

Thank you for solving a problem for me.
Sincerely, Anne (St. Marys, NSW, Australia)

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