Underwood, Under the Pines

The Peter Cowan Writers Centre is situated in a picturesque lakeside setting, on the campus of Edith Cowan University,  Joondalup, Western Australia …


… and was once the home of Edith Dircksey Cowan(1861 – 1932) OBE, a social campaigner, philanthropist, and the first woman elected to an Australian parliament.



 “The New ‘House’ Wife. An unflattering, if lighthearted, visual comment on the arrival of the first female member of an Australian Parliament” …


The house was purchased by the university in 1991, taken apart, transported north (from its original location at 71 Malcolm Street, West Perth) and then rebuilt  and relocated on the ECU campus in a park named Joondalup Pines


While it was interesting to learn more about a woman whose portrait appears on the reverse side of every Australian fifty dollar note …



… my main reason for visiting was to check out the typewriter owned by her grandson, Peter …


An Underwood Model 6-10 (1930s)?


Made in Canada “Product of Underwood Elliot Fisher Ltd.”


Born in Perth, Western Australia, Peter (Walkinshaw) Cowan (1914 – 2002) published five novels, eight volumes of short stories, and was a prolific essayist, biographer and literary critic.


Peter’s typewriter, writing desk and chair are on display in a room that was, at the time of my visit, occupied by a writer-in-residence, Ken Spillman, who kindly allowed me into the room take a  few pictures with my mobile phone.


A framed portrait of Peter stands alongside his typewriter. Also on the desk is a well-thumbed first edition of  “Practical Typewriting” by D Napper and C Whyte, published in 1965.


Other typewriters on display in Perth once belonged to West Australian authors Joseph Furphy and Katharine Susannah Pritchard.

Joseph Furphy wrote ‘Such is Life’ under the pen-name Tom Collins. He lived in Fremantle before moving to Swanbourne in 1906. In 1907 he built a cottage in Servetus Street, Swanbourne, now relocated to the Allen Park Heritage Precinct and known as Tom Collins House. It has been the headquarters of the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA since 1949.

One typewriter on display at Tom Collins house is the New Franklin typewriter once owned by Joseph Furphy. A second typewriter is the Remington Model 1 portable once owned by Katharine Susannah Prichard, author and founder of FAWWA. (The KSP (Katharine Susannah Prichard) Writers’ Centre  was established at Katharine’s former home in Greenmount in the Perth hills.)

To his credit, Rob Messenger restored both of the typewriters mentioned above and has recently blogged about them here.


7 thoughts on “Underwood, Under the Pines

  1. That’s a niiiice desk!

    The first time I saw an Underwood 5 I was surprised about how small it was for a standard. Still am when I walk by one. They’re not as bulky as a Remington!


  2. I’ve been trying to get hold of one for a while here in Australia. However, the earlier Underwoods aren’t very common here, as very few – if no – agencies sold them back when these machines were current.


  3. Scott, I’m sure if you can access one to type on you will be hooked. A much “snappier” feel than any portable I have, plus they just look very cool. I have two model 5’s, and both get used frequently.


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