MS 8982
Papers of Ellis Blain (1914-1979)

Scope and Content Note

  • Papers 1961-1978, 70cm (5 boxes)
  • Available for reference

The papers were donated by Ms Jenny Blain, the wife of Ellis Blain, in 1994 and relate to the later part of Blain's career as a broadcaster. Letters from family, publishers, and the listening public make up the bulk of the collection. The fan mail to the program 'Let's find out' in both 1968 and 1970 is quite considerable. Blain received rejection letters for several of his publishing proposals, including a book on the ABC which was eventually published by Methuen.

There are scripts for radio plays and feature programs, drafts of 'Life with Aunty', photographs, cutting books and newspaper clippings. There is considerable research material for his programs.

Biographical Note

Ellis Blain was born in Sydney in 1914. He was educated at Knox Grammar School, and worked for the Australian Broadcasting Commission for almost 40 years before retiring in 1974. He is best remembered for his long-running programs 'Let's find out' and 'Away from it all'. 'Let's find out' came to an abrupt end in 1970 when Blain made a strong attack on international arms trafficking between the UK and South Africa. Blain's other programs in the 1960s included 'Treasury of Sound', 'Words and music', 'Workshop for Jazz', 'Rhythm unlimited', and 'Ellis Blain's guests'.

Blain married for the first time at the age of 22 and in 1959 he married Anne Deveson. Jenny Blain was his third wife.

His personal recollection of life behind the microphone, Life with Aunty : forty years with the ABC, was published in 1977, two years before his death at the age of 64 in 1979.

Series Description

Series 1 - Correspondence, 1961-78

The correspondence is with family and friends, publishers, and the public who listened to Blain's various programs.

The family letters are mainly from three of the four children of his first marriage, Cath, Simon, and Virginia, and from Anne Deveson, his second wife.

(folders 1-5)

Blain received rejection letters for several of his publishing proposals, including a volume of collected interviews, a book based on his program 'Let's find out', and a book on the ABC, eventually published by Methuen. There are letters from publishers including Geoffrey Dutton (Sun Books), Peter Taylor (Hutchinson Group), Lee White (Macmillan), Richard Walsh (Angus & Robertson), and Barbara Ker Wilson (Hodder & Stoughton), and from T. S. Duckmanton, (Australian Broadcasting Commission), Tess van Sommers, and Harold Hort.

(folder 6)

Most of the listener correspondence is fan mail. A large number of letters were written to 'Let's find out' throughout 1968 and an equal number were written when the program's demise was announced in the same year. There is a folder of unposted replies to questions to 'Let's find out, and two folders of requests to Blain for his photograph. The program's popularity is again reflected in the number of letters in 1970. Clair Dunne, Diana Fisher, Sheila Scotter and Freda Lesslie were regular members of the 'Let's find out' team, with Charmian Clift, Coral Lansbury and Dita Cobb occasional members. Two folders have letters to various programs, including 'Treasury of Sound', which were aired 1964-75.

(folders 7-20)

Series 2. - Writings by Blain

There are typescripts with varying titles including 'Know your ABC', 'The ABC of it', and 'A life for the ABC', which are drafts for Blain's major work Life with Aunty. Other writings include scripts for radio plays and feature programs, including 'In my fashion', a biography of Ernest Dowson, and 'Quality Street', a biographical sketch of Ernest Dowson. Other titles are 'Tasmania's lost world', 'Recording an opera', 'Dinner with the duke', 'Secret weapon', 'Music has charms', 'Decca's Traviata', 'Slow sleeper'and 'Rouben Mamoulias', a brief biography and full filmography.

'Documentary records' reviewed by Blain in Electronics Australia (1964-66) are included here.

(folders 21-26)

Series 3. - Research Material for Programs, Including Music Segments

Profiles, information sheets, press releases, interviews, questions for interviews, handwritten notes, articles and newspaper cuttings are included in the information files for use in programs. There is material on Florence Austral, Walter Susskind, Birgit Nilsson, Roger Woodward, Florence Taylor, Peter Dawson, and The Proms; transcript of a taped interview with Mirrie Hill talking about her husband Alfred Hill (1971); an interview with Ian Cugley; and a list of music inserts for an interview with James Christiansen. There is also material on James Cameron (1970), Mary Whitehouse, David Cassidy, Professor Jerome Frank, and Hugh Paget.

(folders 27-29)

Series 4. - Scrapbooks, 1965-71

The newspaper photographs in the two scrapbooks are mostly of Blain, and regular and special guests who appeared on his programs.

(folder 30)

Series 5. - Photographs

The photographs are not identified or dated. There are photographs of Blain and Anne Deveson.

(folder 31)

Series 6. - Newspaper Clippings, 1968-71

The clippings are mostly about the ABC and include reviews of Blain's book Life with Aunty: forty years with the ABC.

(folders 32-33)

Series 7. - Literature on Recording Equipment

Maintenance and operating manuals for tape recorders, including magnetic ones, and for tuners.

(folder 34)

Series 8. - Miscellaneous

This series includes an architect's plan for Blain's house at 48 Riverview Road, Avalon, 1960, copies of Radio Active (1973-74) and ABC Radio Guide (1967-73, incomplete), blank postcards, and programs for the opera 'The Martyred' (1971) and the tour by Duke Ellington and his orchestra (n.d.).

(folders 35-36)

Box List

Box                     Series                   Folder                   

1                       1                        1-8                      
2                       1                        9-16                     
3                       1                        17-20                    
3                       2                        21-24                    
4                       2                        25-26                    
4                       3                        27-29                    
4                       4                        30                       
5                       5                        31                       
5                       6                        32-33                    
5                       7                        34                       
5                       8                        35-36