Hatherly's First Fifteen by M.R. Clark

Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd., 1930.
254 pages; hard-cover; 19cm; col. frontis. & 4 b/w illus by F. E. Hiley


Hatherly's First Fifteen, an adventure story for boys, was written when Mavis Thorpe Clark was 18 years of age.

The story was set in a Sydney boys' school and based around a game that was virtually unknown in her hometown of Melbourne, Rugby football. Even at this young age, Mavis ensured that the story was factually correct:

"(A family friend from Scotland) drew a large plan on cardboard of a playing field, and night after night, rugby was played on the dining room table, using matches for players. Firstly the general rules and terms of the game were made familiar; then after deciding plot-wise, what needed to happen in each match, the incidents were played out on the table and devised to fit the plot."

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 57.

Other references relating to the game of Rugby football were also used. See the author's pencilled annotations on the plan of the playing field in Modern Rugby Football (Spalding's Athletic Library Group 11. No. 24., page 88) by Major Leonard R. Tosswill. London: Renwick of Otley, 1916.

Commenting on her approach to the task of writing this story, Mavis wrote:

"Hatherley's was written over a period of two to three months with not overmuch revision. The chart is still around … in which the 1,000 words a day were marked off. The length aimed for was 60,000 words."

- Trust the Dream (1999) pages 54-55.

Once the rights to the manuscript had been purchased for £30, no further negotiation with the publisher was undertaken:

"The book was published in England. The name was changed from Just One Term to Hatherley's First Fifteen. The manuscript had been submitted under the name of Mavis Rose Clark. Because the book was for boys, the author's name, without consultation, became M.R. Clark. It was probably considered that a boy's book written by a young female would have no appeal to boys."

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 56.

"I remember going into Robertson's bookshop in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne and seeing (Hatherly's) on the shelves, I picked it up. A saleslady appeared and told me, with some satisfaction, that the author was an 18-year-old Melbourne girl. I remember that I said at once: "That's me!""

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 58.


""You're the fastest man I've ever come against," Jim exclaimed. "My word! I'd like to see you run in a race. I don't suppose you'd care for a try-out between the two of us?" he added anxiously. "Of course, you'd beat me without thinking about it, but I'd just like to see what you really could do." It was the keen sportsman who spoke. He had forgotten all about Bob being blind."

- Hatherly's First Fifteen (1930) page 40.

Excerpt showing cover and text

Whitcombe's Gift Books: A Treasury of Adventure Stories for Boys and Girls featured Hatherly's First Fifteen which was selling for 5/-. Described as a "rousing story for rugby enthusiasts by M.R. Clark",
"Here is an ideal school-boy's story in which no fewer than four great matches take part in unfolding the plot. Many other attractions go to the making of this capital story, whose warp and woof are composed of thrilling episodes in the lives of two young Australian families, the Wentworths and the Mannings. An heroic blind boy, a football hero, a missing father, a mysterious prowler, an unexpected recovery, and a mystery cleared up at last, are some of the elements that make up a rich bill of fare such as boys and girls love."

See also Mavis' diary entries from 1928.

Last Next

Cover from Hatherly's First Fifteen

Cover of Hatherly's First Fifteen, 1930

Colour image of four students and a green frog.

Frontispiece illustration: Jim turned a severe eye on Tom. "You really want this frog?" he demanded.

Image from Modern Rugby Football page 88.

Page 88 from Modern Rugby Football by L.R. Tosswill (1916) shows Author's notations in pencil.