brisbane courier mail and brisbane newspapers

Courier Mail Brisbane Newspaper History

From 'In The Early Days'

Birth of the 'Courier'

The 'Courier's' rival - 'The Free Press'

Editors from 1846 to 1919 and after

A line of over 80 years

The 'Moreton Bay Courier' was established in 1846, and in 1861, its name was changed to the Brisbane 'Courier,' which we know today, and on which I have served with a few breaks for journeying overseas, since 1882, a period of about 45 years.

It is a long time, but it does not seem long. That is rather a reversion of the reply of the insurance agent to the man who was considering the wise course of taking out a policy. 'Why do married men live longer than single?' The reply of the agent was: 'They don’t, but it seems longer!' The years have sped in my busy life.

It seems only the other day that Mr. Charles Hardie Buzacott, (Bio)after I had done some 'casual' work, sent for me, and made me a very liberal offer to join the staff. William O’Carroll then was Editor, Carl Feilberg sub-Editor, and Mr. Buzacott was Managing Director, and laid down the lines of policy.

The Brisbane Newspaper Company has been good to me, and I think I may say that I have given it loyal service. The original 'Courier' was founded by James Swan, a printer who had been in the composing room of the 'Empire' in Sydney, when that paper was in the hands of Henry Parkes, (Bio) afterwards one of the most distinguished of Australian politicians, and T. W. Hill and J. Power, both of whom put in many years on the Brisbane Courier in my time, had 'frames' there at the same time. In later days, the world went very well with Mr. Swan. He made money and was called to a seat in the Legislative Council, but he was always of the old Radical School.

The first Editor was A. S. Lyons, a well-educated Sydneysider, who had been interested in the pastoral industry. The second Editor was William Wilks, a scholarly man, whose portrait appears in this volume and indicates strength and refinement. The old Brisbane Courier files show that in his time, the paper had in it a literary 'touch,' but we have no record of the writers. However, it is pretty safe to assume that the Editor wrote the leaders.

In later years there was an exception, when Charles Lilley, (Bio) afterwards Premier of the Colony and later still, Chief Justice Sir Charles Lilley, wrote leaders and did law reports.

After Wilks came, with one exception, the Editors whom I have known. Ten of them I served under, and Theophilus P. Pugh (Bio) I knew in years after he was Police Magistrate at Beenleigh. Thus I may count him in with 'Courier' Editors whom I have known. But if we include George Hall, the brilliant 'Bohemian' of the 'Telegraph' in the 1880s, who was Editor of the 'Courier' for a period. I knew a dozen of them, and in relation to each, there are pleasant memories.

T. G. Pugh was Editor 1859- 1863 and was in that position when the 'Courier' became a daily paper. Mr. Pugh was a straight-from-the-shoulder writer, and on one occasion when it was found that New South Wales was not giving the new colony of Queensland its financial due, the 'Courier' came out with a very caustic leader headed, 'Stop Thief!'

My old friend, Charles Melton of the 'Queenslander' literary staff, and who is in his seventieth year of service with the Brisbane Newspaper Company, presented a boyish enthusiasm when speaking of T. P. Pugh. When I met him at Beenleigh I found him a smart well-dressed little chap with a very keen mind, but with horticultural rather than literary tastes. To be sure, the two make a very pleasant, and not infrequent combination. George Gissing may

be quoted as a case in point. Pugh was for sometime member of the Legislative Assembly for North Brisbane. Of his appearance before the Supreme Court for some real or imagined offence by the 'Courier,' I have written in an earlier chapter. His portrait given was taken in his younger days, probably when he was editor of the 'Courier.' After Pugh came R. Belford, who had been on the 'Queensland Times,' but of whom I have no other record.

Mr. D. F. T. Jones succeeded Pugh as Editor. He has been mentioned earlier as head of the Parliamentary 'Hansard' when I came to Brisbane- a tall, bearded man as will be seen by his portrait, scholarly and a very fine organiser. Mr. Jones was quite of the English journalistic school, though his forbears were mainly Welsh.

I have not been able to get the exact period of his service as Editor of the 'Courier,' but it would be after 1863, and probably before the coming of William O’Carroll. He lived on Red Hill in a bright cottage, vine-embowered, and with a delightful garden, not far from St. Bridgid’s Church and over the road, but on the higher level from where Wishart’s stores were for many years.

William O’Carroll succeeded D. F. T. Jones, the date of his coming into the Queensland literary firmament I cannot give, but I have seen a photograph of an illuminated address presented to him on his retirement from the Editorship in 1869. He rejoined the staff later, and served until 1883.

Mr. O’Carroll came to Queensland on one of the immigrant ships, and under the auspices of Bishop O’Quinn. He was not satisfied with certain conditions after his arrival, and wrote a series of articles in the 'Courier' criticizing the authorities and also Bishop O’Quinn’s organisation for bringing out immigrants. The good Bishop was very displeased with the articles, but the 'Courier' people were very pleased with O’Carroll’s literary method, and secured his services, first as a contributor and later on the regular staff.

Mr. O’Carroll is also referred to in an earlier chapter. He was a man of strong political views with a Conservative pose of mind, a very straightforward and independent man with the inflammable temperament of the Celt and with its inclination to sentiment. He had a great love for Scottish poetry and for Scottish songs. Mr. O’Carroll was about middle height and of slight, even frail physique, but he had wonderful vitality.

His portrait is very good, the domed forehead, and scanty hair, the prominent Celtic nose, and the rather straggling beard of the Dickens style. He was my first experience of a 'Courier' Editor, and it was a happy one, though William O’Carroll was somewhat of a taskmaster. On the illuminated address spoken of above were portraits of the 'Courier' literary staff.

Carl A. Feilberg, Editor 'Courier' September 10th, 1883 to October 29th, 1887 when he died, was a literary genius, a picturesque and rapid writer and a great worker. He was born in London but was of Danish extraction. Before settling in Brisbane, he had been on the papers at Cooktown and Maryborough.

A man of about middle height, bearded as shown in his portrait, and he wore glasses, a necessity which was less frequent in the early 1880s than it is today. Feilberg was a good comrade with his staff, and on Sunday nights-every second Sunday- he had some of us over to his house and with Mrs. Feilberg, who was a charming hostess with a wonderful wealth of beautiful hair, gave us a very happy time.

The death of Carolus was a great loss with the 'Courier' and a great grief with the staff. The name Carolus was given him by Francis Adams, the poet and essayist, in a clever appreciation published in a short lived little paper of the magazine type brought out by Adams and others.

William Kinnaird Rose, Editor 'Courier' January 1888, to November 12th, 1891, was a distinguished war correspondent as already stated, but the portrait given shows him in the infantry kit of the Queensland Defence Force with which he held a captain’s commission. He was a Scottish advocate or barrister, had been as stated earlier was correspondent for the 'Scotsman' with the Russians against the Turks in the 1876-1877 war, and after leaving Queensland, was war correspondent with the Greek Army in the war against the Turks.

Rose was a tall, breezey chap with a flowing red beard, and he was a picturesque figure walking down Queen Street of a summer afternoon, his beard dividing and blowing back over his shoulders. He wore a light coat and slacks, the coat unbuttoned and showing a bright blue cummerbund about 9 inches deep.

Distinctly he was a personage, a very bright writer, and a very cheery companion. He abhorred dullness, and sometimes late at night when the centre of a merry party, he would suddenly remember his paper, start up- but sit down again with the remark: 'It will be all right; Barton the ever faithful is there.' Now Mr. Barton was the sub-editor.

Dr. F. W. Ward, (Bio) editor 'Courier' January 1st 1894 to November 12th, 1898, was one of the keenest and most devoted of newspaper men who, as already stated, had graduated through the Primitive Methodist Ministry. He was above middle height, of fairly heavy build, and as the portrait shows, had a great flowing beard of deep copper red. Dr. Ward was a worker who put his paper first and expected everyone else to do the same.

Before coming to the 'Courier,' he had been editor of the Sydney 'Daily Telegraph' as he was later upon leaving Brisbane. He did much through the 'Courier' to develop agricultural settlement and production in Queensland, and his watchword was 'Service.' Dr. Ward was in later years editor of the 'Telegraph' in Brisbane and the first President of the Press Institute.

Mr. C. Brunsdon Fletcher (Bio) editor 'Courier' December 25th 1898 to April 4th, 1903, after a brilliant school and college career, qualified as a surveyor and practised his profession in Queensland for some years. He was one of Dr. Ward’s 'finds' and joined the staff of the Brisbane Newspaper Company as a contributor to the 'Courier' and later became regular leader writer for the 'Courier' and 'Observer.'

On Dr. Ward’s retirement from the editorship, Mr. Brunson Fletcher was appointed to the position and, like his predecessor, was a keen newspaper man and a great worker with a scholarly literary method and a fine knowledge of Australian and Pacific affairs.

In 1903, Mr. Brunsdon Fletcher was offered and accepted the position of Associate Editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald,' and in the later months of 1917, was appointed Editor. He took to the 'Herald' the good experience and practical training in newspaper work obtained on the 'Courier.' He is the author of valuable works on the Pacific.

Mr. Brunsdon Fletcher is above middle height, slight but as 'hard as nails,' and has stood the test of long days in the field on Queensland surveys as in burning the midnight oil as Editor of a daily paper. Mrs. Fletcher is a daughter of the late Sir Arthur Rutledge, K.C. who did much for the political life of Queensland and at the Bar.

Mr. E. J. T. Barton, Editor of the 'Courier' April 5, 1903 to May 5, 1906, went to the Brisbane Newspaper Company, when little more than a lad, being then a shorthand writer and earnest student. He became Chief Sub-Editor when Feilberg took over the Editorship, and office records show that he was Acting Editor for a couple of months in 1887, from June 1891 to December 1893, and again for a few weeks in 1898. Mr. Barton was a most devoted worker, extremely painstaking, and cared for the 'Courier' as for his ownconscience.

He was a very religious man always, and though he had sometimes a pretty swift team to handle in some of us in the old days, I may say on behalf of the element which caused him occasional disquiet, or perhaps a chronic disquiet, that he always had our respect. We knew that he was sincere, charitable in word, and in deed, often the victim of too plausible humbugs, but never unresponsive to a call for help.

With Mr. Barton it was not whether a man deserved help, but whether he needed it. He lived out at Paddington in a pleasant cottage with big weeping figs shading it from the smiting suns of our summer afternoons, and at times, I have called there for him on Saturdays when we used to ride out to the hills and have a quiet day.

They were, to me, very happy days. And it was the same with Walter J. Morley who, with one or another of his hefty boys, loved a day in the hills. Barton and Morley were lifelong friends, and when I knew them first spent their leisure time in sailing, and had their own comfortable little yacht. Mr. Barton is still actively engaged in journalism and church work, and philanthropic work generally, and he will leave the world sweeter and better than he found it.

John J. Knight (Bio) was Editor of the 'Courier' from May 6, 1906 to June 3, 1916, and is now Chairman of Directors of the Brisbane Newspaper Company, as stated elsewhere. Serving under Mr. Knight on the company’s papers, it is impossible for me to say all that I would like to say of his service, in our long comradeship while I was reporting with him, writing leaders on the 'Observer' when he edited it, and doing general work and leaders at times on the 'Courier' from the time he took over the control.

In my dedication of this volume, I refer to his work for his papers and for the State, but much might have been added descriptive of his untiring zeal and personal pluck in the developments of civil aviation. Mr. Knight has been responsible for a valuable work 'In the Early Days' and other historical publications and he shaped and edited and made into a coherent volume Nehemiah Bartley’s 'Opals and Agates.'

Under his guidance, the 'Courier' and associated papers have made unparalleled progress and on modern lines for he has not only literacy ability and experiences but also technical knowledge possessed by very few in Australia.

In the older days, Mr. Knight with his family loved bush jaunts in a smart sulky and pony; then came the motor boat stage, and then the motor car, and our chief has always been his own expert. Mr. Knight is above medium height, clean shaven, and resolute of face as shown in his portrait, and in younger days delighted in athletics and music, not an uncommon blend of qualities.

John Macgregor was editor of the 'Courier' June 4th 1916 to June 14, 1919. He came to the company from the Sydney 'Daily telegraph' as Associate Editor and 'took the chair' when Mr. knight became Chairman of Directors. Mr. Macgregor was the second 'Courier' Editor to go to the 'Sydney Morning Herald' as Associate Editor. He is a keen practical journalist, a keen controversialist and of wide knowledge.

Tall and robust with the strong blood of his Scottish ancestry, Mr. Macgregor has wonderful vitality and an abounding love of work, with side lines in rose growing and poultry raising. He has a fine son, Bruce, a 'dinkum Anzac,' who represented the 'Sydney Morning Herald' for some years in London and is now back on the staff of the paper in Australia.

Richard Sanderson Taylor was appointed Editor of the 'Courier' on June 15, 1919, and at the time this was written, was still in that position. Born in England, Mr. Taylor had his first newspaper experience on the Sydney 'Daily Telegraph.' He joined the 'Courier' staff in 1890, and his more conspicuous work was in musical and dramatic criticism and in law reporting, the 'Courier' reports being taken by the authorities as official. In June, 1916, he became Associate Editor.

Mr. Taylor is recognised as a writer of perfect English, which is something in these days of slip-shod work. As in the case of Mr. Knight, it would be easy to say many pleasant things of the present Editor, but like the Chief, he is not 'looking for compliments' from one of his staff. Mr. Taylor has a son who served in Egypt and France from 1915 to the close of the Big War, a journalist not only of promise, but of achievement.

Two outstanding names in the history of the 'Courier' are Gresley Lukin and Charles Hardie Buzacott.

Each in his time had been Editor-in-Chief, but they had under them men who practically if not always, were nominally Editors. Both Mr. Lukin (Bio) and Mr. Buzacott have been referred to on occasions in this volume as managing partners of the Brisbane Newspaper Company. They were high-minded men, and their services to Queensland should never be forgotten. Mr. Lukin made the 'Queenslander' well known throughout the British Empire, and he set a very high literary standard to the best writers of the day, being employed on both 'Courier' and the weekly newspaper.

Mr. Buzacott placed the 'Courier' to the forefront, but unhappily had to dispose of his interests after the financial crash of 1893. In political, as in literary life, and in the pioneering of newspapers, he made a reputation greater in value than much gold and when he went to his rest, it was with the consciousness that he had done the State some service.

Mr. Charles Melton tells me that George 'Bohemian' Hall was at one time Editor of the 'Courier.' I had not known that. The period would probably have been after O’Carroll’s temporary retirement in 1869. I regret I have not a portrait of Mr. Hall to include in this volume.

- Reginald Spencer Browne

The 'Courier,' was always the first and most progressive of all Queensland newspapers.

I well remember a brand new set of machinery being installed. It had been brought out from England and was placed in position by a Mr. Frazer, who became the 'Courier' engineer. He subsequently lived Enoggera way, and his place was called Frazer’s Paddock, a name which it holds today (1922).

The 'Courier' building (then in George Street) was extended by filling in the lane between it and Wyllie’s the tin-smith. This gave much more room for the machinery and a larger composing room upstairs.

The stately Bunyas in the 'Courier' garden have long sincedisappeared, but they were a sight of beauty at one time. At the eastern end of the garden was a road or vacant allotment, which led to a house occupied by a Mr. Wright and his family.

John McLennan lived at the corner. I knew him later very well at Sandgate, and he ever was to the time of his death the sport and gentleman I felt him to be in my youthful days.

I returned to the 'Courier' and took up duty as assistant proof reader at a salary of 30/- a week – a big rise from 10/- early in 1874. I had previously earned this amount of pay feeding a sluice box at Stanthorpe in 1872.

- Reginald Spencer Browne (Portrait) (Bio)