Snakey tales creep into town for festival

Snake Man Eric Worrell milking a snake. Photo: Contributed

Australian Snake Man Eric Worrell is best known for establishing the Australian Reptile Park on the NSW Central Coast and for his work in supplying snake and funnel-web spider venom for the production of antivenom.

He was born in 1924 and died in 1987 –  and during his life he was a prolific writer, publishing 11 books and more than 100 articles on reptiles, wildlife, Indigenous cultures and even the quirky life of sideshow carnies.

His most popular books included Dangerous Snakes of Australia and New Guinea, Reptiles of Australia and the autobiographical Song of the Snake. His many articles were published in popular magazines such as Outdoors and Fishing, Walkabout, Australian Outdoors, Wild Life, Pix and People. He also wrote monthly columns on wildlife in several magazines.

A panel discussing Worrell’s works is a highlight of the Kyogle Readers and Writers Festival in May.

The panel is called Song of the Snake Man and is chaired by Nancy Cushing from the University of Newcastle in discussion with Larnook-based Kevin Markwell, Drake herpetologist and friend of Worrell’s Richard Wells, and local website designer Kate McGain.

Markwell and Cushing published a biography Snake-Bitten: Eric Worrell and the Australian Reptile Park in 2010.

Since then, Markwell, who has more than a mild obsession with Worrell, has been systematically locating everything that Worrell had ever published, with many visits to the Queensland and NSW state libraries.

This labour of love has transformed into a unique online repository of Worrell’s writings, called The Eric Worrell Archive.

“I had this idea of putting together all of Worrell’s articles into an online space, but I really had no idea what it might look like or how it might be done. However, once I pitched my idea to digital creative, Kate McGain, she also became excited about the project. So, with Kate’s digital expertise and my ability to ferret out the articles, the Archive was created,” Markwell said.

“I love working on passion projects like this one” Kate said.

“It was initially a challenging project but once I had worked out the basic structure of how it would look and operate, it all came together really well.”

The panel is scheduled for noon on the IndyNR Stage, Kyogle Readers and Writers Festival on Saturday, May 18.

Festival program and tickets are available here.

Information supplied by KRAW.

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