THE difficult early years of George Essex Evans may well have helped shape his career as an international poet, explains historian Mark Muller.

George was born on June 18, 1863, in Regents Park, London, to where his family had moved from Haverfordwest following the election of his father, John Evans QC, as Liberal MP for Haverfordwest and Boroughs.

Mary Ann Evans, John's wife and George's mother, was of the Bowen family of Llwyngwair in the north of the county. She was well educated with a fluency in Greek and Latin and a wide interest and knowledge of English and Welsh literature.

After her husband's death in 1864, Mary brought one-year-old George, along with his brother and sisters, back to Haverfordwest, where for a time they lived in Foley House.

George attended Haverfordwest Grammar School for around two years, but his school career was greatly handicapped by an increasing deafness that no doubt accounts for why his teachers considered him 'a dull boy from whom little could be expected'.

Although John had left his family in an extremely comfortable position, a series of poor investments after his death led to financial problems, and in 1873 Mary took her children to live in Jersey.

Sadly the move did little to improve the family's fortune.

After finishing school, George attempted to join the army but his deafness barred him from a career in that direction.

In 1881, he, his brother and his two sisters decided to emigrate to Australia, partly to try and find a future for themselves and partly to reduce the strain on the family’s by now exhausted finances.

On arrival in Queensland the two brothers started farming, but almost immediately, George suffered a severe injury when his horse threw him against a tree.

The consequences of this accident meant that he had to seek an alternative way of earning a living, and for the rest of his life he found the financial side a constant struggle.

The varied positions which he held, teacher, clerical officer, journalist, registrar of births, deaths and marriages were in the main part-time or temporary, but they each seemed to dictate a direction which involved the use of a pen more and more.

He started contributing poetry and articles to many Australian and British newspapers and in 1891 his first volume of poetry, ‘The Repentance of Magdalene Despar and other Verses’, was published in London. It received attention and was favourably commented on.

His style throughout his writing life was jingoistic, intensely patriotic of Britain and empire but in time his adopted country of Australia created a bias in his feelings,

Not as the songs of other lands

Her song shall be

Where dim her purple shoreline stands

Above the sea!

As earst she stood, she stands alone;

Her inspiration is her own.

From sunlight plains to mangrove strands

Not as the songs of other lands

Her song shall be.

In 1892 he felt sufficiently confident to edit a literary annual, “The Antipodean”. It was published in London with the aim of getting an English as well as Australian audience. Although it achieved sales of over 13000, it proved uneconomic to continue. Evans unsurprisingly had a close liaison with Andrew (Banjo) Paterson, the author of ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Although Paterson’s hugely popular song was adopted as Australia’s national song, it was Evans who continued in the poetry forefront of the country.

Evans died in 1909 following an operation for gall stones. There was a major reaction to his death in Australia with among many others, the Prime Minster of Australia Alfred Deakin, who said: "Australia will mourn the loss of her national poet".

In 1934, a monument was erected to Evans’ memory at Toowoomba in Queensland, his adopted home city.

Every year, a pilgrimage is made to the memorial by many Australians.

Now, here is the remarkable bit to this story:

Three weeks ago I contacted the Telegraph to say that I was planning on submitting the above as an article.

One day later, completely out of the blue, I received an email from Heather Little, Secretary of the Toowoomba Literary Society, asking me whether I had any knowledge of a chap named George Essex Evans.

Heather told me that she and her husband were to visit Haverfordwest in mid October to research George’s early life in Pembrokeshire.

It really is a very small world!

Understandably I am looking forward to their visit, and will of course tell you more in two weeks time.