A croweater turned sandgroper

Stephen Crabbe was born a crow-eater. That’s the Aussie name for a South Australian. His ancestors—Scots, Germans, Cornish, and one or two of mysterious origins—settled in Adelaide among the first colonists. It’s a heritage he's still discovering after many years of frustrating research, bemoaning the failure of his forebears to pass on more information.

In his earliest years, Stephen was fascinated by music and language in all forms. He counts himself lucky to have parents who encouraged these pursuits, ensuring he received excellent tuition in classical pianoforte and access to a wide range of books. He sums up his childhood as a time devoted to music, literature, exotic languages, and all sorts of sport.

It took Stephen some years, once he had left school, to find a career-line that promised some satisfaction. He loved the freedom of university, spent hours browsing in the stacks of the library and as many more lifting weights in the gym. And then off to the beach to train for running and rowing competitions with a local Surf Life-Saving Club. What did that earn him? A dismissal from the university after two years. A couple of years drifting from one job to another led to something of an epiphany and the decision to take up education as a profession.

He married and children appeared almost immediately. The family moved from one place to another in South Australia to take up the positions offered by the public education bureaucracy. It was all general primary school teaching at first, but then came opportunities to specialise and so it’s not surprising that, after some years, Stephen was a music teacher. On the whole, it was intrinsically satisfying. They let him back into universities eventually, apparently convinced he had grown a brain at last, and a degree and a graduate diploma were added to his curriculum vitae. A spell as a school principal quickly convinced him that administration was not his cup of tea. When professional opportunities began to look far better in Western Australia, in 1993 he and his family crossed the Nullarbor Plain to live among the 'sand-gropers'. He dabbled in a few other things on the side, but music education remained the main focus until retirement.

One of those ‘dabbling’ activities for a long time was writing. As the years went by, Stephen treated it more seriously, had articles published, and saw a few of his scripts produced on the screen. When school-teaching began to fade from his working week, he could afford to devote time to what he had wanted to do since childhood: write fiction. Nowadays that’s his main focus.

Stephen still feels like a crow-eater at heart--his fiction, after all, is inspired by the history of South Australia--but he has remained in the West after retirement, living for some years in the beautiful rural setting of the Southwest. It was a highly artistic community which gave him oodles of chances to make music with friends and train for competition as a sprinter in Masters Athletics. Following a move to live in Perth, Stephen still pursues these interests. That is, when he's not writing.

Stephen was interviewed online by Fiona McVie. You can read the interview here.