Dallas, Ruth 1919- (Ruth Mumford)

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Dallas, Ruth 1919- (Ruth Mumford)


Born September 29, 1919, in Invercargill, New Zealand; daughter of Francis Sydney (in business) and Minnie Jane Mumford. Education: Attended Southland Technical College, Invercargill, New Zealand.


Home—Dunedin, New Zealand.


Poet, writer, and children's writer. Writer for children's page of the Southland Daily News (now Southland Times), 1932.


PEN (New Zealand), New Zealand Society of Authors (past president).


New Zealand Literary Fund achievement award, 1963, for The Turning Wheel; Robert Burns Fellow, University of Otago, 1968; New Zealand Book Award in poetry, 1977, for Steps of the Sun; Buckland Literature Award, 1977, for Song for a Guitar and Other Songs; D.Litt., University of Otago, 1978; Commander, Order of the British Empire, 1989; honored with a star on "Writer's Walk," Otago, NZ, 1998.



Ragamuffin Scarecrow, illustrated by Els Noordhof, University of Otago Bibliography Room (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1969.

The Children in the Bush, illustrated by Peter Campbell, Methuen (London, England), 1969.

A Dog Called Wig, illustrated by Edward Mortelmans, Methuen (London, England), 1970.

The Wild Boy in the Bush, illustrated by Peter Campbell, Methuen (London, England), 1971.

The Big Flood in the Bush, illustrated by Peter Campbell, Methuen (London, England), 1972, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1974.

The House on the Cliffs, illustrated by Gavin Rowe, Methuen (London, England), 1975.

Shining Rivers, illustrated by Gareth Floyd, Methuen (London, England), 1979.

Holiday Time in the Bush, illustrated by Gary Hebley, Methuen (London, England), 1983.

The Black Horse, and Other Stories, University of Otago Press (Dunedin, New Zealand), 2000.


Sawmilling Yesterday, illustrated by Juliet Peter, Department of Education (Wellington, New Zealand), 1958.

Curved Horizon: An Autobiography, University of Otago Press (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1991.


The Demon Lover: A Ballad, Caxton Press (Christchurch, New Zealand), 1948.

Country Road and Other Poems, 1947-1952, Caxton Press (London, England), 1953.

The Turning Wheel, Caxton Press (London, England), 1961.

Experiment in Form, University of Otago Bibliography Room (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1964.

Day Book: Poems of a Year, Caxton Press (London, England), 1966.

Shadow Show, Caxton Press (London, England), 1968.

Walking on the Snow, Caxton Press (London, England), 1976.

Song for a Guitar and Other Songs, edited by Charles Brasch, University of Otago Press (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1976.

Steps of the Sun, Caxton Press (London, England), 1979.

Collected Poems, University of Otago Press (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1987, second edition, University of Otago Press (Dunedin, New Zealand), 2000.

The Joy of a Ming Vase: Poems, Otago University Press (Dunedin, New Zealand), 2006.

Contributor to An Anthology of Twentieth-Century New Zealand Poetry, edited by Vincent O'Sullivan, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1970, and Ten Modern New Zealand Poets, Longman (London, England), 1974. Also contributor to literary quarterlies, including Landfall, Meanjin, and Islands, and to school journals. Mumford's manuscripts are collected in the Hocken Library at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Her books have been translated into German, Danish, and Swedish.


Author and poet Ruth Dallas is the pseudonym of Ruth Mumford, who is a native New Zealander and was raised on the southern tip of South Island. The name Dallas came from one of the author's Scottish grandmothers. "She is one of the most independent and unfashionable of New Zealand writers," wrote a contributor to Contemporary Poets about the author, "but her purity of diction and clear singing note seem likely to preserve her work when more aggressively modern verse is forgotten."

Dallas is best known, however, for her fiction for children and young adults. Because there were no children's books set in New Zealand when she was growing up, Dallas decided that she would write her own. Her books are often set in New Zealand's pioneer days, when the islands were first being settled by Europeans, and deal with the country's natural beauty and the lives and customs of its native inhabitants.

Dallas commented in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers that her first books were based on tales passed down by her own immigrant ancestors. "I had noticed," she states, "that children were growing up who did not know that much of their green farmland was once covered with the forest that is now found in reserves and that not only old pioneers had lived in the bush but children, too." "The Children in the Bush, The Wild Boy in the Bush, and The Big Flood in the Bush," explained a Twentieth-Century Children's Writers contributor, "all rather self-consciously teach about the life of the early settlers but are made vivid by the liveliness of their characterization." Each of them describes the way that the young protagonists adapt to the unfamiliar world in which they live. In The Wild Boy in the Bush, three adventuresome youngsters discover the bones of a moa (an extinct flightless bird), a cave that seems to be the ideal hideout, and, most surprisingly, a wild boy who is living alone in the bush.

Dallas set Shining Rivers in the 1860s, during New Zealand's gold rush. It tells the story of the young boy Johnie, who is lured to try his luck in the New Zealand gold fields before finally returning to the more stable life of a farmer. "His disenchantment with the rough scene" in the gold fields of Otago, wrote a Twentieth-Century Children's Writers contributor, "is tempered by the guidance and generosity of an old miner, and this carefully researched novel presents a thoughtful and convincing picture of the past."

Dallas's collection of poems titled The Joy of a Ming Vase: Poems was published in 2006 and features poems the author wrote since 1987. A contributor to the Internet Bookwatch commented that the short poems primarily focus on "the quiet pleasure of contemplation" and called them "gems of sparkling wisdom." Including free verse and some haiku, the collection's poems "show strongly rhythmic cadences; language that is straightforward and contemporary yet seldom colloquial … and a fondness for endings that point up what the poet has been saying," according to Bernard Gadd writing in World Literature Today. Gadd also noted in the same review: "Her poetry's distinctiveness lies in the way it moves from detail to wider focus, even to generalization."



Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Ten Modern New Zealand Poets, Longman, 1974.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press, 1995.


Internet Bookwatch, December, 2006, review of The Joy of a Ming Vase: Poems.

Landfall, December, 1965, Ruth Dallas, "Beginnings," pp. 348-358; November, 2000, Gregory O'Brien, "Southern Woman," p. 163.

Listener, May, 1991, George Griffiths, review of Curved Horizon: An Autobiography, pp. 59-60.

School Librarian, March, 1980, review of Shining Rivers, p. 54.

World Literature Today, May-June, 2007, Bernard Gadd, review of The Joy of a Ming Vase, p. 75.


Christchurch City Libraries—Interviews with Children's Authors,http://library.christchurch.org.nz/ (December 28, 2007), interview with author.

New Zealand Book Council,http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/ (December 11, 2007), profile of author.

New Zealand Literature File,http://www.library.auckland.ac.nz/ (December 11, 2007), lists author's works and reviews.

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Dallas, Ruth 1919- (Ruth Mumford)