John O’Grady was born in Waverley on 9 October 1907. Soon afterwards his father resigned from his job as editor of the New South Wales Agricultural Gazette and moved the family to a remote farm in the Peel Valley near Tamworth, where he was eventually to go broke.
John was educated at home by his father along with several of his seven brothers and sisters. When he was twelve, John went to the Catholic school in Tamworth and later to St Stanislaus’ College, Bathurst. He hoped to become a doctor but there was no money and he graduated from Sydney University as a pharmacist, a profession he never much liked.
John O’Grady was married three times, and had four children. He wrote for most of his adult life, but did not publish a book until he dreamed up They’re a Weird Mob to win a bet. He was fifty when it came out. It remains one of the most successful titles in Australian publishing history. O’Grady abandoned pharmacy and went on to write fifteen more books. In 1959 he published his famous comic poem ‘The Integrated Adjective’, better known as ‘Tumba Bloody Rumba’ in the Bulletin. He died in Sydney in 1981.