Fife born author follows in footsteps of explorer John MacDouall Stuart for new book

A book detailing a Fife born writer’s trek through the outback of Australia will tell the story of how she followed in the footsteps of a Dysart-born explorer.
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Kirkcaldy-native Rosemary Cadden set off to follow in the footsteps of fellow Fife native, explorer John MacDouall Stuart who became the first European to lead an expedition through the centre of Australia in the mid-1800s.

Rosemary followed a similar path to MacDouall Stuart, culminating in her creative non-fiction book McDouall StuartHitches A Ride. It is available online at

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Rosemary was a reporter with the Fife Free Press from around 1969 to 1975 when she emigrated to Australia, but admitted she didn’t know much about her fellow Scot until she began noticing signs commemorating the renowned explorer.

Rosemary Cadden with her new book (Pic: Submitted)Rosemary Cadden with her new book (Pic: Submitted)
Rosemary Cadden with her new book (Pic: Submitted)

She explained: “I was working for an Aboriginal organisation and I was driving around quite a lot. I kept on seeing a little cairn here, and a memorial there, or a little plaque. It said that he was born in Dysart and it just piqued my interest. When I came back down to Adelaide I thought, I want to find out a little more about this guy. I did a little research and my sister who still lives in Scotland sent me some information.”

John MacDouall Stuart was born in 1815 and emigrated to Australia in 1839. He led six expeditions Down Under, culminating in the crossing of Australia between 1861 and 1862. According to Rosemary, he was a different type of explorer to his contemporaries.

She explained: “There's another couple of explorers called Burke and Wills who are very important. They were exploring at the same time as John McDouall Stuart, but they travelled very differently to him. He travelled very light.

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“He was very careful and very risk averse. Finding water was, as you can imagine, a huge issue for a lot of the time that he was out there. He always made sure that when they were heading anywhere, that there was water ahead. He'd send out people and make sure there was water so everyone survived on his expeditions.”

John McDouall Stuart (Pic: Submitted)John McDouall Stuart (Pic: Submitted)
John McDouall Stuart (Pic: Submitted)

On a return visit to Scotland, Rosemary was able to visit MacDouall Stuart’s former home in Dysart, which was then a museum. It was then that she decided to follow in his tracks and keep a blog.

Rosemary explained: “I was looking for something to do. We have this thing called ‘long service leave’ in Australia if you work in the same place for a number of years, so I decided to follow his tracks through the centre of Australia and do the blog.”

Travelling alone through the remote areas and sleeping in a swag - a type of sleeping bag - Rosemary called the experience “grounding”.

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“I don’t even think I saw a kangaroo some days, there was nothing,” she said.

An initial print run of 300 has already sold 200 copies and digital copies are available through the Amazon Kindle store. However, the ambition is to get physical copies into national retailers.

Rosemary said: “It's in Waterstones catalogue, but it's not in their stores. I'm just thinking if enough people ask for it, they may actually put it up on the shelves, who knows?”