Nan Chauncy (‘1920)

Children’s Novelist and Environmentalist.

Nan Chauncy (28 May 1900 – 1 May 1970) and her twin brother were born in London in 1900. She immigrated with her parents and siblings (including Peace Activist and Inspiring Alumni Eve Masterman) to Tasmania in 1912, where she attended St Michael’s Collegiate School (1912 to 1920) and lived in the Boarding House during the week, returning to her family on the weekends.

In 1914, the family bought land at Bagdad to start an orchard, living on a neighbouring property while clearing the land and building a slab hut. This experience of the bush made an enormous impression on Nan as she explored the caves, creek and wildlife of the area. Nan’s eldest brother, Kay, bought an adjoining block of land on which the family built a cottage, ‘Day Dawn’. This is the house at Chauncy Vale where Nan wrote her novels.

In the 1920s, Nan travelled to England to see family and study to be a Guide Leader. Guiding was a lifelong interest for Nan and in 1921 she was appointed as Captain of the First Claremont Company. In the 1950s, she became a Commissioner of Guides and editor of the official journal The Camp Fire.

From 1923 until 1930, Nan was employed as a women’s welfare officer at the Cadbury-Fry chocolate factory in Claremont. Retrenched at the beginning of the Depression, she again travelled to England where she lived for several years.

In 1938, Nan returned to Australia and married Anton Rosenfeldt. Kay gave the couple ‘Day Dawn’ as a wedding present. Their daughter, Heather, was born in November 1939. They changed their names to Chauncy, the surname of Nan’s paternal grandmother, in 1949 to avoid the stigma attached to German names at that time. Nan and Anton bought 1000 acres of bush next to Chauncy Vale and in July 1946 the property was declared a wildlife sanctuary. This was the first area of dry bushland to be conserved and the largest conservation area at that time in the Southern Midlands.

Nan was contracted to write 30 scripts a year for the Tasmanian ABC Youth Education Department. Her bestselling novel, They Found a Cave, was published in 1948. It sold over 50,000 copies and was made into a film in the 1960s.

Nan’s interest in wildlife, aboriginal culture and pioneer country living is reflected in her 14 children’s novels. Her books Tiger in the Bush (1956), Devil’s Hill (1959) and Tangara (1961) won acclaim in Australia and overseas, winning three Children’s Book Council, Book Of The Year awards, and several international awards. Her books were translated into 14 languages and Braille. Nan’s books broke new ground in children’s writing in Australia. She pioneered realistic novels and an interest in conservation. Anton bequeathed the Chauncy Vale Wildlife Sanctuary to the Southern Midlands Council in 1988, with Heather Chauncy simultaneously gifting the house and home paddocks.

After she left School Nan acted as Captain of the Collegiate Girl Guides Company in 1924 and 1925.

Tangara at Collegiate’s Anglesea is named after one of Nan’s books.