Nancy Fotheringham Cato

#259, b. 11 March 1917, d. 3 July 2000

Individual's Timeline

Birth11 March 1917Nancy Fotheringham Cato
Marriage15 May 1941Nancy Fotheringham Cato
Death of Father25 July 1949Raymond Herbert Cato1
Death of Mother1969[Olive] Mabel Edmonds Pearce
Death1971Eldred de Bracton Norman
Death3 July 2000Nancy Fotheringham Cato

Primary events

Secondary circumstances

  • Anecdote: Nancy Fotheringham CATO married Eldred de Bracton NORMAN on 15 May 1941. Nancy and Eldred had two sons and one daughter:
    Eldred de Bracton NORMAN died in 1971.
    Nancy Fotheringham CATO lives at Noosa Heads, Queensland
    Nancy is an authoress and an biographical index records 'Nancy Cato has traveled widely overseas. She has been 'off the track' in most parts of Australia from Cape York to Cape Leeuwin, and in the Northern territory and in the Centre. After working as a journalist in Adelaide from the age of 17, she studied English literature and Italian, with two years at the south Australian School of Arts. In 1984 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (A.M.) In 1988 she received the 'Alice' Award of the Society of Australian Woman Writers.'
  • Married Name: Her married name was Norman.
Some aspects of Nancy Fotheringham Cato's life. Nancy wrote a poem about our ancestor Joseph CATO.

Joseph, you had a stern and thoughtful face,
Or is it the long side whickers make it seem
So sad and grim? Almost as if you guessed -
And yet when this was taken you'd not dream
That all your careful planting would be lost,
Gone after a hundred years without a trace.

Then you walked in the green world below
The mountain's snow=capped crest, and in your hand
Bore seedling's of a softer English snow,
Pink-tinged and delicate. In the strange new land
Settled in Lenah Valley, out of town,
Planted a thousand trees and saw them grow.

They called it then "Vale of the Kangaroo",
The doomed, dark race. Now the stone suburbs spread
Where once they hunted, where your apples grew,
And all your seven sons have long been dead;
And, childless, your great grandson worked the last
Green orchard there: the seed you planted too.
Brushes with the LAW

Nancy was a well know author of both prose and poetry. She was actively involved in the Fellowship of Australian Writers and the Australian Society of Authors during the 1950s and 1960s.

There is a file of 101 pages covering Commonwealth Police fiiles in relation to Nancy's activities.

At a high level, the file shows she was active in the 'peace protest movement', she was an executive member of of The Writers Assoc and in this capacity arranged for a visit by some Russian writers (but it noted she did not have any communist leanings). The file even has transcripts of intercepted phone conversations.
Her life was recorded thus ~~ Name: Cato, Nancy Fotheringham
Dates: 1917-
mentioned: 1982
Occupations: writer; journalist
Groups: Authors, Book Editors, Journalists, Correspondents,
Editors, Critics
Country: Australia
Archive: Australasian Biographical Archive
Fiche: 49,245-261

Title of Source: Hungerford [= Short title]
Australian signpost. - Melbourne. - 1956

Title of Source: Hetherington [= Short title]
Forty-two faces / Hetherington, John. - Melbourne;
Canberra; Sydney. - 1962

Title of Source: Barnes V.S [= Short title]
The modern encyclopaedia of Australia and New Zealand. -
Sydney. - 1964

Title of Source: Alexander: 1965 [= Short title]
Who's Who in Australia. - 18th ed. - Melbourne. - 1965

Title of Source: Notable Australians [= Short title]
Notable Australians : The pictorial who's who. - 1st ed. -
Sydney. - 1978

Title of Source: Lofthouse [= Short title]
Who's who of Australian women / Lofthouse, Andrea. - North
Ryde. - 1982.2


Her death was commemorated by an obituary in the an unknown place newspapers on 4 July 2000 in Australia ~~ Author Nancy Cato dies - BRISBANE
Wednesday 5 July 2000.
* The internationally recognised Australian author, poet and conservationist Nancy Cato has died, aged 83. The prize-winning author, best known for the novel All The Rivers Run, died on Queensland's Sunshine Coast after a long illness.
* Ian Austin, a Sunshine Coast writer and friend of Dr Cato, said yesterday that the local community would mourn the loss of Dr Cato, who had lived in the area for many years. "After a wonderful life, complications set in and she decided that it was time to go," he said. "She was a very humble person and didn't let fame go to her head."
* Mr Austin said Dr Cato had a special interest in the conservation movement. She enjoyed life and fought very hard for the environment against people trying to destroy it."3

Research Notes

  • Research note 01: Obit of Nancy Cato. Novelist and poet capturing the spirit of the Australian outback. By Christopher Zinn, Guardian,
    Wednesday July 12, 2000
    * The first published novel of the Australian writer Nancy Cato, who has died aged 83, was a bestseller. All The Rivers Run (1958), a saga of life along the Murray, Australia's largest river, made her modestly rich and famous, popularised Australia overseas and became a television series.
    * The novel took a decade to write, and its success, especially in the United States, enabled Cato to give up journalism - she had been the Queensland correspondent of the Canberra Times - and focus on her writing and love of conservation. The book became the first of a trilogy - with Time, Flow Softly (1959) and But Still The Stream (1962) - which, when published in a single volume, became popular around the world.
    * Ever the patriotic, fifth-generation Australian, Cato was unimpressed when her British publishers mistakenly put a Mississippi steamer, with its stern paddle, on the cover instead of a Murray steamer, whose paddles are amidships.
    * Cato had discovered the Murray river on a holiday in the 1930s. Her family believed the first novel's leading character, Philadelphia Gordon, was in part modelled on the author, who married at 24 and had three children in three years.
    * In all, Cato wrote more than 10 big novels, often featuring strong, outback women. She also produced volumes of poetry, short stories and The Noosa Story: A Study In Unplanned Development (1979), an environmental work about her adopted Queensland home.
    * She started writing at the age of eight - when she composed a short poem about a violet - and 10 years later won a short-story competition run by the News, the local paper in her hometown of Adelaide. Her imaginary "interview" with Oliver Twist led to her being taken on as a trainee journalist - with time off to go to university - but she recalled that, as a woman, she had to fight to get into the reporters' room.
    * In 1941, she married the racing driver Eldred Norman and started writing seriously. There were short stories in the Bulletin magazine and, in 1950, she published her first poetry collection, The Darkened Window.
    * Cato was a founder member of the Lyrebird Writers, a group that published verse collections, and was part of the Jindyworobak literary movement, which respected and worked with the Aboriginal perception of the outback.
    * But her early novels were not always well received, and the manuscript of one ended up being flung into the Thames. It was read by Paul Scott, of Raj quartet fame, who said Cato had a good writer's eye - but still turned it down. "I had rejection, rejection, rejection," Cato recalled. "If you can't take rejection, you'll never be a writer." Seven years later, another collection, The Dancing Bough (1957), brought her wider acclaim before the appearance of All The Rivers Run.
    * Brown Sugar (1974), a novel about Queensland and the trade in indentured workers from the south Pacific, was another success. Cato also wrote three books about Tasmania, one about the last Aboriginal woman on the island, Queen Truganini (1976), and A Distant Island (1988), based on the life of botanist Ronald Gunn. The Heart Of The Continent, about two generations of outback and wartime nurses, followed in 1989. Cato was honoured with a doctorate of letters by the University of Queensland in 1990.
    * She became something of a local icon in the popular seaside resort of Noosa, where a park and a restaurant are named after her. She was a founding member of the local euthanasia society and received awards for her conservation work. In later life, she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and mini strokes, which never diminished her lust for life. Her daughter and two sons survive her.
    * Nancy Cato, writer and poet, born March 11 1917; died July 3 2000.

Children of Nancy Fotheringham Cato and Eldred de Bracton Norman

  • Bronley Norman
  • Michael Norman
  • William (Bill) Norman


  1. Trove Digitised Newspapers, The Advertiser Thursday 28 July 1949 Page 4.
  2. Unknown agency, British Biographical Archive, Australasian Biographical Archive Fiche: 49,245-261.
  3. The Age.