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Vale Mary Wright, a tribute by Carolyn Gould

Mrs Hazel Mary Wright, known as Mary, passed away on Wednesday 18 April 2018 at the age of 96.

Mary Wright was a Life Member of the Australian Writers’ Guild.

In the early days of the Guild, Mary volunteered in the administration area. In 1968 she won the Ragus Plaque award for the winning Associate’s script Knight in a Shiny White Sports. Presented at the first AWGIE Awards in 1968 by Lord Ted Willis, from the British Writers’ Guild, this was the only time the Ragus Plaque was awarded. It was later replaced by the Monte Miller awards for unproduced works. The Ragus Plaque itself, the work of sculptor John Aurel Ragus, was returned to the Australian Writers’ Guild for safekeeping in 2015.

Mary, who had trained as an artist, originally typed her husband Brian’s scripts for the radio shows Biggles, Hop Harriganand Tarzan. When television started in 1956, she saw a need for a different kind of presentation. She wrote children’s stories and illustrated them herself on large format paper. She produced one of these a week for ATN 7. She also wrote Captain Fortune’s Yarns –letters from overseas which spun a yarn based on some geographical point. She did three per week for six months. When her husband, Brian Wright, moved from reading the news at ATN to management, he became her boss. Wanting no hint of nepotism, she stopped writing for ATN.

After working as a researcher for radio documentaries, Mary started to write them as well. For ABC Education she wrote dozens of radio scripts. In 1968 she attended the Australian Writers’ Guild school on Drama Writing, taken by Harold Lander. She joined ABC TV as a writer/researcher on a projected TV Series Big Cityat the same time as writing scripts for migrants on Contact.

Mary received an Australia Council grant to write five television plays about ordinary women – each of whom lived in varying periods of Australia’s history. Whilst writing these plays, she wrote half hour scripts for Migrant Educational Television based in Wollongong. These were written at the pace of the language being taught to adult migrants in the other half hour of the program. ABC TV Education asked her to submit a fun series for migrant children. Waterloo Street was the result. It ran for many years.During the same period, Mary wrote several one hours plays (ABC TV, Trident/Yorkshre TV), a stageplay and an episode for Catch Kandy. She also wrote scripts for ABC Radio Education, Talks and Religion and Behind the Legend for ABC TV.

In 1975, Mary joined Reg Grundy Ltd as storyliner/scriptwriter on Class of 75. She also assessed scripts for the Australian Film Commission and assessed students’ input for the Film Radio and Television School correspondence section.

Both Mary and Brian then joined Crawford Productions. Mary became a trainee script editor and scriptwriter on Cop Shop, and then part of the writing team on The Sullivans for several years. She later assessed film, miniseries and series projects submitted to Crawfords and was employed to come up with new projects on Australian subjects.

Mary was the joint winner of the Drama Section of the Society of Women Writers (NSW Branch) Diamond Jubilee Competition. Both plays were produced at Sydney University.

Sugar and Spice followed in the late 1980s for L J Productions. Mary wrote the storyline for the 20 episode series and a large percentage of the scripts. It was broadcast on ABC TV and sold to many countries. Mary’s novel based on the series was published by Penguin and translated into other languages. It was also a Braille Book and a Talking Book. A new DVD set of the completeSugar and Spice series was released in 2008.

Mary Wright was often linked in with her late husband, Brian, a writer, broadcaster and Life Member of the Australian Writers’ Guild. Mary was a prolific, award winning writer and held her own place in their professional careers. She was particularly proud of her Life Membership of the Guild.

Mary and Brian were happily married for 67 years. Possibly the only couple in their retirement village with two computers. Mary is survived by her two daughters, four grandsons and three great grandsons.

Carolyn Gould (daughter)


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