Tom Hungerford, (‘Tom’), often known as TAG Hungerford, was a celebrated author of Australian novels, short stories and plays. He started and finished his life in Perth, Western Australia, writing novels, plays, poems, a children’s book, as well as non-fiction, book reviews and newspaper articles. He was always witty, direct and opinionated.
His parents were Arthur Townshend Hungerford [H.8a] and Minnie Hedley [H.8a=], who married on 30 March 1910, in St Mary’s Anglican Church, Busselton, WA. Arthur emigrated to NSW for health reasons, arriving in Sydney, NSW on the Australasian on 14 August 1886, aged 19 years, and he then moved to Perth, WA. He began droving cattle in WA, where he was variously a cameleer, farmer, carrier, shop-keeper and gold miner. He was appointed Protector of Aborigines at Jigalong, WA, until his retirement in 1932. Arthur and Minnie had four children – Harry, Mary, Alice and Thomas. Their mother, Minnie Hungerford (née Hedley) died on 9 August 1938, in South Perth, WA, aged 48, and was cremated at Karrakatta, WA. Arthur died on 20 July 1939, South Perth, WA, aged 72.
Thomas Arthur Guy Hungerford was born on 5 May 1915, at South Perth, WA. He attended Perth Boys’ School. In 1932 he started a decade at the Daily News (Perth, WA), working as a linotype mechanic.
He served with the Australian Army in World War II from 1941, attaining the rank of Sergeant in 2/8 Cavalry (Commando) Squadron and was Mentioned in Dispatches. His service number was WX14902. Tom’s war service took him from semi-rural South Perth to Darwin, then New Guinea, Bougainville, and Morotai, and for a period serving with the Occupation Forces in Japan. After the war, he enjoyed a short stint working as press secretary to Billy Hughes then joined Australia News and Information Bureau (ANIB) as a journalist and travelled throughout Australia as well as to Antarctica and New York.
After Tom resigned from ANIB, he worked as freelance journalist and travelled, visiting Macao in 1970 and Russia in 1976. He worked as a press officer for two Western Australian Premiers, John Tonkin and Sir Charles Court, until his retirement in 1978. Tom continued to write and to travel widely.
Literature prizes Tom has won include the Crouch Gold Medal for Literature in 1951, the Patricia Hackett Short Story Prize in 1962 and the WA Weekly Literature Prize for Fiction in 1964, followed by the Patrick White Award in 2002, for writers without adequate recognition. The Western Australian Government hailed him as a living treasure and he was named Citizen of the Year in 2005.
Tom’s first published story was in 1942, in the Sydney Bulletin. The first of his five novels, the Australian war classic, The Ridge and the River was published in 1952. His other novels were Riverslake (1953), Sowers in the Wind (1954), and Shake the Golden Bough (1963). His short story collections include his autobiographical trilogy, Stories from Suburban Road (1983), Knockabout With a Slouch Hat (1985), and Red Rover All Over (1986). Other works include travel books, anthologies, a children’s book Swagbelly Birdsnatcher and the Prince of Siam (1989). Stories from Suburban Road became a celebrated stage play. Tom also wrote the play The Day It All Ended. There were radio plays, articles, documentaries and poems. Tom was appointed a member Order of Australia (AM) on 13 June 1988, for services to literature. He did not marry.
Thomas Arthur Guy Hungerford died on 20 June 2011, South Perth, WA, aged 96. The TAG Hungerford Award for an unpublished manuscript is named in his honour. A portrait of TAG hangs in the National Library of Australia.
Crouch, Michael, The Literary Larrikin: A Critical Biography of T.A.G. Hungerford, University of Western Australia Press, 200.
Crouch, Michael, “Book closes for widely lauded WA writer Tom Hungerford”, in HAFS Newsletter No 42, August 2011, p5.
Australian War Memorial, website: Thomas Arthur Guy Hungerford: Honours and Awards.
Adams, Phillip, “A conversation with TAG (Tom) Hungerford”, from ABC’s Late Night Live, 6 October 2003, in HAFS Journal, Vol 7, No 4, November 2004 pp2-23.