When Margaret (Peggy) Balderson died on May 23, the Southern Highlands lost an acclaimed writer of prize-winning children’s books.
Peggy came to the Highlands in the early 70s, living in Colo Vale and working at Frensham in Mittagong, first as a house mistress then as school librarian until retirement in 1995.
She travelled extensively in Asia and the Middle East and particularly in Scandinavia, which was the inspiration for her first book, When Jays Fly to Barbmo, which was set in Norway during the Nazi occupation and published in 1968.
It was awarded the Children’s Book of the Year for Older Readers by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and was also runner up for the Carnegie Medal in England.
This was followed by A Dog Called George, published in 1975 and receiving a Highly Commended Award in 1976 It was translated into several languages.
Blue and Gold Day, a short novel about the joy of a child with a dog on the beach one summer was published in 1979.
More recently, Seabird, written with Elizabeth Smith, was published in 2002 followed in 2003 by Peggy’s last book, Junkyard Dogs, a picture book about a pair of junkyard dogs that befriend and head on a journey with two pampered pets.
It is written in galloping rhyme and illustrated by Janine Dawson.
Peggy also gave time and energy to encouraging writing in others, starting a children’s writing group, Kaleidoscope, which met for many years in Bowral and Moss Vale and spending time workshopping ideas with children at Colo Vale School.
Peggy’s other love was dogs. After retiring, she volunteered to ‘take a dingo for a walk’ at Merigal, the Dingo Sanctuary at Bargo, and she later became one of the regular dog walkers around Lake Alexandra with her dog Tenzing, named so because of his wide Sherpa smile.