Pied Piper's chats with children led to laughter and insights

Expelled from school at 13 because his parents refused to pay the fees, Keith Smith went on to have a career in radio and TV that spanned decades and involved him interviewing about 2 million children in his role as a self-described ''Pied Piper''. He also wrote a sitcom and published almost 30 books, ranging in topic from jokes for children to parenting tips. He published his 27th book, a collection of interviews about the Depression called Australian Battlers Remember, at the age of 86.

Fame found on the count of three

After a life of scrabbling to make ends meet, Pat Quinn hit upon a winning formula at the age of 35. In fact, he hit the jackpot. As the Great Franquin, hypnotist extraordinaire, he wowed packed houses in his homeland New Zealand, as well as in Australia and Hawaii, earning enough money over three years to keep him and his family in style for the rest of their lives. At the height of his popularity, he received up to 4000 letters a week from people seeking cures for their ailments, he was often quoted as saying he was just an entertainer.

Fever inflamed creative talents

A severe bout of rheumatic fever interrupted Marguerite ''Madge'' Moloney's schooling, but it set her on the path to a career as a successful ceramicist in prewar Sydney. Moloney's Noelene ware - each piece crafted by hand in her city studio, which she set up and ran herself - was eventually sold exclusively by the department chain Farmer & Co. The company paid £600 for the first order and thereafter bought all that her studio, which employed nine women and one man to throw the clay, could produce.

Late blooming of a southern soul queen

Although she was 39 before she began singing professionally, Marva Wright quickly staked her claim to a place in the Louisiana blues pantheon, drawing sobriquets such as ''Marvalous Marva'' and ''Blues Queen'' - no mean feat in New Orleans, a city with a rich musical heritage. ''She was one of the best soul singers I've ever heard,'' said Peter Noble, who booked Wright and her band, the BMWs (Band of Marva Wright), to play at his Byron Bay Bluesfest and produced three of her albums.

Shakespearean tragedy: bright star of pop cut short by scandal and alcohol

FAME can be a cruel mistress, but the kind of fame that comes out of nowhere and disappears just as fast may be the cruellest of all. The pop singer William Shakespeare, who died this week at the age of 61, knew this all too well. Born John Stanley Cave, the son of a greengrocer, in Sydney's inner west, he was blessed with an extraordinary falsetto. He sang in suburban pubs and clubs for $30 a night until he came to the attention of the writer-producers Harry Vanda and George Young.

A champion who made her mark in and out of the water

A talented young swimmer who defeated many competitors who later represented Australia, Bess Barrie was forbidden to pursue the sport at an elite level because her father didn't believe it was an appropriate career for a woman. Barrie, however, bided her time and when her own children had grown up, she competed at a senior level - both nationally and internationally - regularly setting world records for her age group.

Changi survivor became squash pioneer

Jack Garrett vowed that if he ever made it through World War II alive, he would become a squash champion. Three years as a prisoner of war in Changi didn't do much for his chances - he suffered beriberi, dysentery and dengue fever, among other tropical illnesses, and malnutrition. When he returned home, he weighed little more than 32 kilograms and was functionally blind, but survive he did and, in 1951-52, he became Australia's reigning squash champion.

Diva's childhood call not 'nunsense'

In 1959 Rupe - still wearing suits and known as Trevor - hopped on a boat to Sydney. Not long after arriving, she met a young Aboriginal lad at the Cross who recruited Trevor for his group of male prostitutes known as ''the delivery boys''. She began performing in Sydney, adopting the name Carmen after Dorothy Dandridge's character in the movie Carmen Jones and working as a dancer (hula and exotic, with snake) at such clubs as the Jewel Box and the Venus Room. In 1963 she began performing with

Pioneer of plant genetics

Four decades ago the plant geneticist Erna Bennett, with her colleagues Sir Otto Frankel, W.K. Agble and J.R. Harlan, warned the world about biodiversity loss. Today 22 per cent of the Earth's plants face extinction. The issues discussed by the group then, on the inevitable destruction of diversity due to agriculture and the transportation of non-native species - such as palm trees used in the production of palm oil from Africa to the Far East - are still widespread problems.

Psychologist broke barriers and never gave up

Helen Beh was a driven woman who smashed academic gender barriers and responded to two separate cancer diagnoses by undertaking further study and living well beyond the initial prognoses. She was an internationally recognised expert in sleep research, psychophysiology, human performance and sports psychology. In a university career spanning 38 years, she published four books and 73 papers in peer-reviewed journals.