By the Editor, Allan Hogan, Bulletin 10/2023, December
Fourteen new Blue Plaque recipients have been chosen to highlight significant people and events which have contributed to the rich history of NSW. They include Dorothy Drain, the journalist and war correspondent who lived at 52 Toxteth Road, Glebe.
The people being recognised in round two of the Blue Plaques NSW program include the artist Sir William Dobell and co-founder of the Country Women’s Association Grace Emily Munro.
The plaques have been chosen from 117 nominations made by the public and assessed by independent historians. Dorothy Drain was nominated by the Glebe Society.
On her retirement as Editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly in 1975, the magazine published an article on her career which included 38 years with the Weekly. ‘It was as a columnist and writer of verse that Dorothy became best known to (our) readers’, the article said. ‘Her page “It Seems to Me” was long an outstanding feature of the magazine, and drew a large volume of fan mail, much of it from men.’
The article continues, ‘her career was by no means all desk work. She went to Japan in 1946 in the hospital ship Manunda and was attached for three months to the Australian occupation forces, writing stories. In 1950 she was off to the Korean War, and on one occasion had to be withdrawn hurriedly from an area under imminent attack. She made a third sortie as a war correspondent in 1965, this time to Vietnam.’
Dorothy Drain ‘was also one of the few journalists who managed to obtain a good interview with Frank Sinatra. When he was making his first visit to Australia, Dorothy Drain flew to Suva in the hope of interviewing him. He refused for some time but relented at last in the aeroplane. Dorothy sat beside him and said, “You appear to be an intelligent man, Mr Sinatra, so I would like to ask you some serious questions.” He was surprised and evidently pleased by this novel approach, because from that moment on (as she put it) he never drew breath.’
She may have inherited her gift for writing verse from her father who was a regular contributor to the Bulletin. These were her thoughts after reading that the actress Elizabeth Taylor had become a grandmother:
What, Liz a grandma? Well, why not? But still
One feels a twinge, a touch of autumn chill,
Must she subside in placid middle age,
No headlines blaring from the printed page,
Perhaps become censorious and staid?
For glamor girls, alas, in time must fade,
Enshrined in magazines on dusty shelves,
But – do we sigh for Liz, or for ourselves?
Dorothy was succeeded as Editor of the Weekly by Ita Buttrose.
More about Dorothy Drain in the Glebe Society Bulletin, November 2022.