20 years of ‘A Little Leaven’ celebrated with a new book

Beryl Rule and Jeff Gilmour at the launch of The Best of Leaven.

Speaking at the launch of The Best of Leaven last month, TMA Editor Roland Ashby thanked writer Beryl Rule and cartoonist Jeff Gilmour for the “many years of pleasure and mirth they have given [TMA readers]” in the monthly column ‘A Little Leaven’.

The book, which celebrates 20 years of the column and is a collection of 60 favourites, was launched at St Paul’s Frankston, Mrs Rule’s parish church, on 4 October.

Mr Ashby said TMA readers’ lives “would certainly have been much duller without such characters as the formidable Mother of the Bride or Beryl’s recollections of vestry meetings, captured brilliantly in Jeff’s drawings.

“When the world is seen through Beryl’s eyes we are given an important lesson in humility – one of the much neglected Christian virtues. We are able to laugh at human foibles and vanities... and we also better appreciate human beings’ humble position in Creation, especially in relation to the cat, or the ant!”

In launching the book, TMA journalist (and former Age journalist and religious affairs writer) Mark Brolly described Beryl’s writing as “wry, whimsical, insightful and self-deprecating” and praised it for its “human touch and great empathy”.

Mr Gilmour’s cartoons, he said, are also “the perfect complement to Beryl’s words”.

He added: “Newspapers can be terribly earnest and self-important at times, as can the Church. Beryl’s Leaven columns and Jeff’s cartoons/illustrations accompanying them have helped TMA be less ‘heavy’ than it might have been. Humour, and the insights it can convey, are a gift from God”.

Mrs Rule said that as a girl she had dreamed of writing a great tragic novel, but later, as a busy teacher and parent, never found the time, and so began to write short, light pieces for The Age. She joined the staff of TMA in 1994, and a year later began writing A Little Leaven.

About two years ago a reader thanked her for the column because a friend “was suffering a lot and reading A Little Leaven each month was a bright spot to which she looked forward.

“I was really moved to be told this… and finally decided that writing [short] pieces which made people smile was what I had been meant to do all along.”

The Best of Leaven can be purchased from the Mothers' Union Shop, Swanston Street, Melbourne, or from Anglican Media (postage and handling costs apply): phone (03) 9653 4269 or email