The Harp in the South

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The Harp in the South
First UK edition (publ. Michael Joseph)
Author Ruth Park
Country Australia
Language English
Genre Fiction
Publisher Angus & Robertson, Australia
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 229 pp
ISBN 0-14-010456-9
Preceded by
Followed by Poor Man's Orange

The Harp in the South is the debut novel by New Zealand born Australian author Ruth Park. Published in 1948, it portrays the life of a Catholic Irish Australian family living in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, which was at that time an inner city slum.


Hughie Darcy:
Married to Margaret Darcy. Hughie often becomes drunk after work and his best friend is Patrick Diamond, even though Patrick is Protestant and he is Catholic. Father of Rowena and Dolour. Hughie wants to get out of Surry Hills and back to the bush but he has a family to support so is trapped.
Margaret Darcy:
Mother of Rowena and Dolour, Mother-in-law of Charlie Rothe. She is a devout Catholic and although generally accepting, sometimes fights with Patrick Diamond (their lodger) over his religious beliefs.
Rowena "Roie" Darcy:
Married to Charlie Rothe, they have one child, Moira. In her youth, she was courted by Tommy Mendel, but after sleeping with her, he disappeared. Roie secretly worked at two jobs to save enough for an abortion when she discovers she is expecting Tommy's baby but at the last minute cannot go through with it. On her way home, she is attacked and savagely beaten by a group of sailors and loses the baby.
Charlie Rothe:
Charlie is assumed to be part aboriginal although he doesn't know his parents as he was taken away as a baby and put in a home. He is married to Rowena Darcy whom he met when her younger sister, Dolour took part in a radio quiz show, "Junior Information Please". Roie was feeling sick and he helped her outside for air. Charlie knew there was no racial prejudice with Roie but . Margaret did not accept him at first and Dolour was angry with him because he was stealing Roie from her.
Dolour Darcy:
Dolour is the youngest in her family. A very bright girl, she aspires to get a good education and escape from Surry Hills. She is aunty to "Motty" Roie's child and good friends with elderly Chinese greengrocer, Lick Jimmy.
Patrick Diamond:
Protestant. Every St.Patricks day, he will get drunk and abuse (verbally) Mrs.Darcy. When he suffered a stroke, Lick Jimmy performed an emergency 'bleed' by cutting open a vein to ease the pressure. Pat was unaware of this, as he had passed out because Hughie, also drunk, had hit him.
Miss Sheily:
Mother to disabled Johnny Sheily, she constantly abused him. When he was knocked down and killed she seemed relieved rather than upset. Later, Roie saw her flagellating herself and crying Johnny's name. She marries a Swedish man named Gunnarson.

Sequel and Prequel[edit]

In 1949, Ruth Park published Poor Man's Orange as a sequel to The Harp in the South. A prequel, Missus, was published in 1985.


1964 British TV Version[edit]

The Harp in the South
Directed by Alan Burke
Written by Bruce Stewart
Distributed by BBC
Release date
10 July 1964
Running time
75 mins
Country Australia
Language English

The book was adapted for British TV in 1964. It was directed by an Australian, Alan Burke, with many Australians in the cast including Ed Devereaux.

Alan Burke had written a musical adaption of Harp in the South which has not been professionally produced.


  • Ed Devereaux as Hughie Darcy
  • Brenda Dunrich as Mumma Darcy
  • Bettina Dickson as Delie Stock
  • Veronica Lang as Roie Darcy
  • Andy Ho as Lick Jimmy
  • Muguette De Braie as Rosa Siciliano
  • George Roderick as Luigi Siciliano
  • Colette Martin as Dolour Darcy
  • Moya O'Sullivan as Miss Sheily
  • Bill Levis as Johnny Sheily
  • Kevin Brennan as Patrick Diamond
  • Lew Luton as Tommy Mendel

1986 and 1987 Mini series[edit]

Poor Man's Orange
Written by George Whaley
Directed by George Whaley
Country of origin Australia
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 2
Producer(s) Anthony Buckley
Original network Network Ten
Original release 14 September 1987

The Harp in the South and Poor Man's Orange were both adapted into TV miniseries, the former in 1986, the latter in 1987.[1]


Cast Role
Anne Phelan Mumma Darcy
Martyn Sanderson Hughie Darcy
Anna Hruby Roie Darcy
Kaarin Fairfax Dolour Darcy
Gwen Plumb Grandma Kilker
Syd Conabere Pat Diamond
Melissa Jaffer Miss. Sheily
Shane Connor Charlie Rothe
Brandon Burke Tommy Mendel
Ken Radley Johnny Sheily
Lois Ramsay Mrs. Campion
Cecil Parkee Lick Jimmy
Carole Skinner Delie Stock
Charles Tingwell Father Cooley


  1. ^ Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p229

External links[edit]