The well known  children’s novel They Found a Cave was written  by Tasmanian author  Nan Chauncy, and  published in 1948.

Some years ago my partner and I visited the writer’s longtime home, Chauncy Vale, near the small town of Bagdad. 

The adventure story was inspired by a sandstone cave on the property in which a bushranger is said to have hidden from his pursuers. Here is a brief summary of the book’s plot.

Brief plot of They Found a Cave,


Chauncy Vale has long been a wildlife reserve. Birdlife is prolific, and wallabies casually hopped across our path  as we went in search of the cave  through  unspoiled bush. Oh yes, and  I seem to remember a rustic  toilet block at the starting point  with a sign outside  saying ‘Beware Of Snakes.’ 

Twenty minutes later we clambered up a series of rocky outcrops and sheltered in the cave during a sudden downpour. I was delighted to find fragrant, wild boronia flowering in crevices nearby. Even the most sophisticated, world weary children love secret places and discovering this cave would  delight them, especially if they have read the book, which is still in print. A warning though, some passages, particularly where the youngsters are discussing Tasmanian Aborigines, would now be considered very insensitive.

In 1961 the novel was made into a film (it was released the following year).

Poster for the movie They Found a Cave.


Five hundred Tasmanian schoolchildren auditioned for the  leading roles. What an incredible experience it must have been for the five who were chosen.

The majority of the  movie was filmed on location at Chauncy Vale, with interior shots at Hobart’s  Elwick Showground.


This is my favourite image of the children, presumably taken after they had been in the bush for quite a while. 😎   I especially love the footwear of Nigel (Michael Nation) on the far right. Are they very distressed Dunlop Volleys he’s wearing?

The child stars of They Found a Cave.


The young stars even featured on the cover of The Australian Womens Weekly.    

The accompanying article included a brief profile of each child. 

Peter Conrad fulfilled his dreams. He was a Rhodes Scholar and became an academic teaching, English Literature at Oxford University. He wrote  several books, including the  memoir Down Home.

I wonder what became of the other child actors? 

An opening shot from They Found a Cave, as the children arrive  by train.




  1. I’m guessing the opening shot was filmed somewhere along the north-west coast, maybe Burnie area? As a young ABC reporter in the 1970s, I had the privilege of working with the TFAC cameraman, Merv Gray … I also met Barbara Manning while working for the Salamanca Theatre Company. Next, you’ll have to do John Honey’s film ‘Manganinnie’! R (Tasmania)

    • Pauline

      Yes, I thought that looked like the North West Coast rail line. I lived at Ulverstone in those days. 😊

  2. I saw the film about 60 years ago. Still remember the excitement.

    • Pauline

      I think I was taken to see it as a school excursion.

  3. Another great story, Pauline. You have reminded us of a much less complicated past compared to our lives today. Thank you.

  4. I seem to remember the book was serialised on the ABC radio. I would have been about 10.

  5. Pauline

    Someone else mentioned that Anne, so you may be right.

  6. Pauline

    It took very little to make us happy Warren. 😊

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