Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days, Volume 9, 1983-1988

Early West Australian Newspapers

A.C. Frost

(Read 17th August, 1983)

Frost, A.C. 1983, 'Early West Australian newspapers', Early Days, Volume 9: 77-88.


Newspapers have played a vital role in the history of Western Australia almost from the time the first settlers landed in the colony. Not only did newspapers provide a summary of events of the day and the comings and goings of people, but they also provided a medium of expression for the man in the street, even though in the beginning it was only on a weekly basis.

Those early newspapers (or such of them as are still available) have also provided us with a vivid picture of what life was like in the colony before the turn of the century. They reflect the views of the people and the changing attitudes of society.

The first newspaper ever to be published in W.A. was a single sheet of handwritten copy known as The Fremantle Journal and General Advertiser. It was edited and published by James A. Gardner of Fremantle. In the Battye Library is a single copy of this paper, dated 27 February 1830. No 5. This was less than twelve months after the first settlers landed at Garden Island. Another copy dated 1 June 1830 is in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. They are believed to be the only copies of this paper extant. The desire for news among the inhabitants of this fledgling State must have been very great to have enticed anybody to undertake the laborious job of producing a newspaper, however small, by handwritten manuscript.

The editor must have realised this as he requested ‘liberal encouragement for his hazardous undertaking’ and went on to apologise for having to ‘introduce the Journal in manuscript form for a short period. The whole duty (of the Journal) shall be to promote the welfare of the independent settlers already arrived'. The editor also stated that ‘the Fremantle Journalwith the support promised, will contain a weekly account of every interesting circumstance connected with W.A. and extracts from Journals of other countries that will be regularly forwarded to the Editor'. Quite a formidable undertaking by hand! An example of one of the announcements included in issue No. 5 reads:

‘Passage to England by way of India and other ports the fast sailing barque ‘Egyptian’, Capt. Niburio, will sail on Thursday, March 4. For freight and passage apply to commander on board or Mr. P. Dodd, agent, Fremantle. The ‘Egyptian’ will carry an experienced surgeon and has excellent accommodation for steerage and cabin passengers.’

Copies of a paper, the W.A. Gazette & General Advertiser and published also by James A. Gardner, are in the Battye Library. The papers were issued during the first half of 1830. They were larger than the Journal and even included a Poets' Corner. They were all hand-written manuscripts (and their price was 3/6d (35c). Whether Gardner changed the name of the Fremantle Journal or whether the W.A.


Gazette was a different paper is not clear. Gardner left Western Australia September 1830 and nothing more was heard of the Fremantle Journal or W.A. Gazette.

In 1831 William K. Shenton of Fremantle produced a hand-written newspaper when on 19 February he issued the W.A. Chronicle and Perth Gazette. This paper contained some advertising, together with the usual shipping notices and news items. The latter were mainly of a domestic nature; births, deaths, etc. But poetry must have been very much in vogue at that time as this paper also had its Poet's Corner. The paper usually found in Perth attached to a gum tree in St George's Terrace, could be bought for 3/- a copy.

But the days of the hand-written newspaper were soon to end. Earlier in 1831 a Fremantle businessman, John Weavell, brought from Tasmania the Ruthven press. This little hand-operated machine (which can now be seen in the Western Australian Museum), was made in England about 1800 and had been taken to Port Phillip Bay by Captain David Collins to print orders for the convict establishment. When the establishment was moved to Port Arthur, Tasmania (whither Collins had been appointed Lieut-Governor) he took the press with him. It was used to print the first newspapers in Hobart. The machine was not capable of taking a sheet much more than 10” x 5” and its printing rate was only fifty copies per hour. Printing ink was made from lamp-black and oil and the rollers dressed with treacle and glue.

When Weavel brought this press to Western Australia he leased it first to Messrs. Shenton and Macfaull who used it to produce the colony’s first printed newspaper, the Fremantle Observer. The machine was hired for £2.2.0 ($4.20) per week. Journalist Edmund Stirling was also involved in this transaction. Macfaull and Stirling had been shipboard companions.

Shenton lost no time in making the changeover from handwritten copy to the printed word. The last copy of Shenton’s handwritten Chronicle appeared on 11 April 1831 and the first printed copy of the Observer appeared a week later, on 25 April. With the press came a quantity of metal type. Further quantities of type were imported from England from time to time.

Shenton and Macfaull set up the press at Fremantle in a flour mill owned Colonel Latour. It is interesting to note that at the same time as the first newspaper was being printed, the first bushel of wheat grown in the colony (by W.L. Brockman) was being ground in the same building. However the partnership dissolved on completion of the third issue and Macfaull removed the press to Hamilton Hill, then out in the bush several miles. Here the paper and press were subsequently taken over by Francis Lochee, a financier, and Edmund Stirling, a journalist who had originally been involved in the Observer. The Chronicle was published in a tent for a year or two, but again ran into difficulties. The press was seized for non-payment of hire, and taken to the Cantonment. (The area then known as the Cantonment was the small hill at the southern end of the present Fremantle bridge.)


The press was subsequently purchased by Capt. William Temple-Graham formerly of the Royal African Corps, who, together with W. Nairn Clark, T.N. Yule and S.F. Johnston, commenced publishing the Western Australian and later the Inquisitor. The phraseology of some of the early editors is quite entertaining. Reporting on a coroner’s inquest into the death of a man in the Fremantle goal, the Western Australian of 5 November 1831 gave the verdict as ‘death by visitation of God’. They were God-fearing people in those days but whether that was the coroner’s official verdict or just the editor’s assessment of it is open to question.

But these gentlemen could no more agree than the original partners of the Observer. Their disagreement, however, had a much more tragic sequel. Johnston on one occasion went so far as to say that Clark was ‘no gentleman’. Stung by this rebuke Clark found it incumbent upon himself to ‘call Johnston out’. In the State’s only known duel the two partners decided the issue with pistols at the Cantonment, North Fremantle, on the morning of 17 August 1832. Johnston was wounded and died the following day. Despite efforts to hush the matter up, Clark was apprehended and imprisoned, and all three partners were later issued with bills of indictment for murder. They were brought to trial but the jury took a lenient view of the affair and returned a verdict of not guilty.

Needless to say this caused a temporary suspension of their newspaper. When all the fuss had died down, Clark removed the Ruthven press to Perth, where late in 1836 he commenced to publish the Swan River Guardian, in which he continued his anti-Stirling policy with increased bitterness. By May 1837, crushed under a burden of debt and routed by competition, the Guardian, in the words of one W. Charnley, ‘expired’ (West Australian 27/1/1928.) And the little press was again seized for non-payment of an advance. It was finally purchased by Edmund Stirling to print the W.A. Magazine; it was later exchanged with the Government for a larger machine, and it now rests in the West Australian Museum.

Shortly after the break-up of the Shenton-Macfaull partnership, Governor Stirling imported a Stanhope press from England. Macfaull, who was on good terms with the Governor, was given permission to use this machine for the sum of £75 ($150) a year on his undertaking to publish all Government notices as well as certain other departmental matters and to supply 20 copies of each issue of the Perth Gazette and West Australian Journal to the Colonial Secretary.

With this press and a guarantee of income. Macfaull commenced the publication of what was to become the West Australian newspaper as we know it today.

The first issue of the Perth Gazette was published on 5 January 1833. Macfaull continued to publish Government notices in his Gazette until 1836 when the Government decided to issue their own publication, with Macfaull as Government Printer. The first issue of the Government Gazette in its own right was on Saturday, 20 February, 1836.


Life was by no means a bed of roses for Macfaull. He was called upon to defend several libel actions arising from forthright comment in his journal. He won some and lost some, which did not help him financially. In one of these actions he sued for gross libel for a paragraph which appeared in the issue of 29 August 1835, allegedly reflecting on the character of one Francis Clarke, Captain of the brig Skearne and also on Clarke’s treatment of his passengers and his negligence as a navigator. This Francis Clarke must not be confused with Clark the solicitor. It was solicitor Clark, the survivor of the celebrated duel, who had a none-too savoury reputation, who represented Capt. Clarke in the libel action. A story is told that after the first day of the trial solicitor Clark cornered the chairman of the jury and promised him £5 ($10) for a spree if the jury found Macfaull guilty.

After lengthy argument Macfaull was fined £20 ($40) and it is understood that the jury had their ‘spree’.

A report of these proceeding was later compiled by Clark and published in booklet form. It was printed by W.T. Graham, another of the duel quartet. It became the first book as such to be printed in the colony. A copy is now in the Battye Library.

Charles Macfaull continued to print the Government Gazette until his death in 1846. It was then continued by his wife, Elizabeth, and subsequently in 1847 by Arthur Shenton at the office of the Perth Gazette.

By 1858 Government printing had increased to such an extent that the Government decided to do their own printing with the help of prison and convict labour at 'The Establishment’—as the Fremantle goal was then known. When the growth of Government printing outstripped the space available in the gaol it was decided to remove the plant to Perth to a building at the corner of Pier and Murray Streets which had previously been the home for destitute women. With the installation of this plant it became the Government Printing Office and opened for business on 1 August 1870.

In 1847 Arthur Shenton took over the Perth Gazette from the Macfaulls and in doing so acquired a complete new set of type and a new Stanhope press. For a long time the printing of the newspaper had been performed on a single Columbian hand-press. Later a single Wharfedale was used and steam was used as a motive power.

Arthur Shenton died in 1871 and a group of Perth businessmen took over the paper. The name was changed to the Western Australian Times and it was produced bi-weekly. In 1879 the name was changed again, to its present name, the West Australian. It became a daily paper in 1885, and the Western Mail (now the Countryman) was launched as a weekly. Although the Western Mail dealt almost exclusively with country news it was notable by its inclusion of a Children’s Corner, mainly for the benefit of country children, which in its turn gave rise to the Silver Chain Nursing Association. In fact I think it was originally known as the Silver


Chain Bush Nursing Association. [A letter to Aunt Mary of the Western Mail around 1904-5 from Arthur Grundy of Bencubbin (who was a rider along the Rabbit-Proof Fence) suggested that the children start a district nursing association, in a spirit of service, and to bring city and country into closer touch. As a result, each child contributed 1/- to form the Silver Chain Nursing Ledgue in 1906. In 1931 the name changed to the Silver Chain District and Bush Nursing Association. {Early Days} Editor.] To cope with the increased production of two newspapers, the company installed a double Wharfedale printing press. In 1895, by which time the paper had been acquired by Charles Harper and J. Winthrop Hackett, a complete stereotyping plant and Victor rotary printing machine had been introduced.

In July of the following year, 1896, the West became a limited liability company under the name of the West Australian Newspaper Company Ltd. In 1898-99. a Foster Rotary machine and a Cotterell machine for half tone (black and white) block prints for the Western Mail were added.

In 1899 came the first big technological change in the newspaper industry with the introduction of the linotype machine. Prior to this all newsprint in Western Australia was hand-set, a very laborious job and very labour intensive. This handsetting was carried out by an army of compositors, or ‘comps’ as they wrere usually known. The introduction of the linotype machine made the ‘comp’ almost redundant and many hundreds were thrown out of work.

In 1901 further linotype machines were installed, together with a three-decker Foster machine capable of printing three copies at once. So much store was set by the despatch of this machine from Preston, England, where it was made, that a Mayor of Preston, at a special function, champagne-christened the machine ‘King Edward VII'. This machine had a capacity of 24,000 copies per hour. It must have seemed a startling achievement after the 50 copies per hour credited to the little Ruthven press in 1831.

When Charles Harper died in 1912 Winthrop Hackett became the sole owner and Editor of the West Australian until his death on 19 February 1916, when Alfred Langler became Editor and trustee of the Hackett estate. On assuming the position of trustee, Langler found that Hackett had made bequests far in excess of his assets notably that to the University of W.A. It says much for Langler's business ability and devotion that before he died he was able to see that all the bequests were paid in full by the company.

The business was first of all turned into a public company under the old name of West Australian Newspapers Ltd.

In 1969 it became a subsidiary of the Herald and Weekly Times of Melbourne. It now has a circulation in excess of a quarter of a million copies daily. But let us go back to the 1860s. Around this time there appeared a quaint little weekly newspaper in Fremantle that went under the name of The Era. It wras printed and published by George Barrow at his lithographic printing office in High St. It was


only about 8” x 9” (20cm x 25cm), contained some twelve pages and sold for 2d. Terms for advertisements were: 8 lines 3/- (30c), every additional line 2d., but as columns were less than 2.5cm in width, a line did not carry many words.

A very amusing advertisement appeared in the issue of 23 November 1868.

The beautiful blue-eyed lady who travelled with a little lady friend from Fremantle to Perth in Mr deLeech’s omnibus would not object to be introduced to the gentleman who, in stepping out, made a stumble on the step, which caused a smile which was irresistible, and afterwards stood at the corner St. George’s Terrace with a carpet bag for another look. He will endeavor to find a mutual friend for that purpose. Reply requested per advertisement. Silence interpreted favourably Perth, Nov. 20 1868.

But the novelty of this little paper lay in the fact that it was set and printed by the lithographic process in the same manner as bank notes. To secure this result the whole paper, news, advertisements, leading article and serial story were first laboriously hand-written in fine copper-plate.

Lithography is a method of printing from a flat surface as against the raised surface of metal type. It is a very old method of printing and flat stones imported from Bavaria were originally used for this purpose. In fact the editor of The Era, in the issue of 19 October 1868, mentions the fact that owing to 'an accident to oneof I the lithographic stones’ there was delay in publication for 24 hours. The Era could well have been the first newspaper in the colony to use this lithographic process, but after six months of publication ‘W.A.’s most artistic newspaper passed out of existence’. (West Australian 27.1.1928.) Some copies of this quaint little journal are to be found at Stirling House and at the Battye Library.

George Barrow, however, was not easily daunted and despite the claim by the Daily News (26/7/1982) that ‘the Stirling Bros. helped start up the steam-powered| motor that produced W.A.’s first daily newspaper on July 26, 1882, research indicates that it was George Barrow who commenced publication of the colony’s first daily paper. This was the Express which first appeared twelve years earlier, 3 January 1870. It consisted of four pages and sold for 1d. per copy, but like most of the early journals it was largely sold on a subscriber basis, the rate being 6/6 (65c) per quarter. This paper went a step ahead of its contemporaries by declaring its intention of including some overseas news which was to be obtained by the payment of a special correspondent in London.

Without any apparent prior warning, publication appears to have stopped on 13 May of that year, 1870. However, the lapse was of short duration as it commenced again on 1 July 1870, but with George Inkpen listed as printer and publisher, for the West Australian Printing & Publishing Co. It appears that a change of ownership took place during the lapse in publication. It suffered another change of editors during the year when Wm. Harald Target took over. Copies of the Express in the Battye Library run only until 31 December 1870. Whether the paper continued beyond that date is not known, but there was nothing to indicate its forthcoming demise in the last available edition.


The name Express was not lost however, as two years later on 18 March 1872 another Express appeared. This journal was published in Perth as a bi-weekly on Mondays and Thursdays. According to its caption it was printed and published by Stephen Montague Stout and Frank Timewell at the Express office, Old Pier Hotel, Perth; Stout being listed as the proprietor. Like many of these early newspapers this Express also had but a short life of fifteen months, ceasing publication on 17 July 1873.

When William Tanner imported a new press in 1840, complete with a new set of type, Edmund Stirling and Francis Lochee made use of this equipment to produce the Inquirer. This was intended to be a weekly journal of politics and literature.

It first appeared on 5 August 1840 and sold for 1/- (10c) It was to become the forerunner of the Daily News although at one time the two papers were being issued together, one as a daily and the other as a weekly.

Lochee however was interested in this venture only as financier. He later became cashier and secretary of the West Australian Bank. It was Edmund Stirling who as editor directed the policies of the paper. Generally the paper was critical of the Government. Nevertheless it must have gained the respect of the community as it continued in publication until 1901 before bowing out in favour of the Daily News. This span of over sixty years was the longest period of publication of any of the newspapers prior to the turn of the century.

On 30 July 1887 a magazine-style journal which went under the colourful name of The Possum, made its first appearance. To highlight its name, a large size drawing of a possum decorated its front page. The journal was published on alternate Saturdays and was plentifully illustrated with cartoon drawings and sketches together with a full-page sketch of some prominent citizen. Its price was 3d.

H. Beresford Hartnall is given as the editor and the following is to be found at the foot of one page:

‘Printed for the proprietor, Alex. Forrest at the Inquirer and Daily News steam letterpress and lithographic office, St. George's Terrace, by Baldwin King Stirling.’

An introductory ‘squeak’ published in the first edition is worthy of note:

Tempora O Mores — To think that even the shy little possum should make so bold as to come out from the shelter of the forest to take part with sinner and publican in the public annivesary of his most gracious Queen.

Tho his tree knows no bells and his pouch no nobles he can at least ring his tail to honour the occasion. But his naturally furtive disposition has compelled him to appear only as Evening Peeper, which as Pat says, will be more shootable!

His endeavours however will certainly be to shoot the public and hit them on their funny bones — their comical sides so to speak — but he will insert his claws, if necessary, into any obnoxious Bills and he hopes his leaves will be a chef d’oeuvre to temper the wind from any shorn lamb. And trusting all will twig his meaning he respectfully makes his bow to the public.'


And so entered the Possum.

However he only lasted about six months before, in Jan-Feb 1888 Possum bowed out in favour of the W.A. Bulletin. The editor and format were the same and the only difference appeared to be in the front page which was minus the drawing of the Possum.

There is some doubt as to how long the Bulletin (or the Possum) continued but copies do exist, with some gaps, up to August, 1890.

A few years later, in 1896, a bright, racy little journal appeared in Fremantle. It was purely a sporting paper and went under the name of the Umpire. Three members of the literary staff of the Fremantle office of the West Australian T.M.Quinn, Charles Frost and H. Williams were responsible for its publication. They had no capital but there was a wealth of journalistic ability in those three names. Charles Frost later became Chief of Staff of the West Australian, a position he held for a long period. The paper gave a detailed account of all the sporting results, and included chatty comments on local matters. It had a brief existence, largely through lack of capital and within a few years was absorbed into the Morning Herald.

The oldest weekly paper in the State to retain in essence its original name is the Record. On behalf of the Very Rev. M. Gibney, Roman Catholic Bishop of Perth, it was first published on 6 July 1874 and printed at the Orphanage Press for distribution among the Catholic community of the colony. First appearing as the W.A. Catholic Record it was published on the sixth day of every month, irrespective of the day of the week on which the sixth fell, including Sundays. Four years later it became a bi-monthly journal and in 1884 it became a weekly and has continued as such ever since.

The Record was and is run and controlled by the Catholic Church and was mainly concerned with church news for the benefit and edification of the Catholic people.

We now go back to 1867 when another weekly paper made its appearance in Fremantle. This was the Herald which was brought into being by three ex-convicts: James Pearce, William Beresford and James Roe. The first issue appeared ) on 2 February 1867. It sold at 6d. (5c) per copy. It ceased publication in December 1888. During that time it was continually at loggerheads with its contemporary, the Inquirer. There was frequent sniping by the rival editors in their editorials.

Outspoken comments by editors of early newspapers frequently brought them into conflict with the courts and on one occasion resulted in a gaol term.

Following a court action in 1870 in which Mr Justice Burt convicted counsel, Henry Parker, for malpractice, very derogatory remarks were made in the West Australian Times edited by Arthur Shenton. Remarks of a similar nature were also published in the Inquirer, both papers being very critical of the judge’s decision. This so angered the judge that he had Shenton and Edmund and John Stirling (father and son) of the Inquirer, brought before him on a charge of contempt of court. The Stirlings were imprisoned for one month, but the judge could find no mitigating


circumstance for Shenton and he was sent to prison for two months and fined £100 (5200). It is on record that this decision upset Shenton to such an extent that it affected his health and he died in 1872.

The press used to print the Inquirer and other papers of that time were hand-operated machines until 1882 when the Inquirer imported a steam-driven machine.

In 1886 John Robert Topliss published a weekly paper in Fremantle known as the Weekly Times. This was quite a substantial paper of some 16 pages and included items of a magazine nature in addition to the news of the week. It was sold for 6d (5c) per copy. It ran from 18 August 1886 to 31 December 1887.

It was finally abandoned in favour of an evening daily paper, the Evening Times, which commenced publication on 2 January 1888. Its price was 1d. In an editorial appearing in the first issue, the paper justified its existence by claiming that the Perth press concentrated on the affairs of the city and tended to ignore the problems of Fremantle. It was considered desirable for Fremantle to have its own daily paper. From 1 March 1888 the Evening Times added Fremantle Advertiser to its name. In July of that year Topliss retired from the management. The new owner was H. Beresford Hartnall, who decided to commence a daily morning paper to be styled the Morning Herald. In March 1889 Morning was dropped from the title and it became known simply as The Herald. It was eventually taken over by the Stirling’s Inquirer.

Prior to this, on 26 July 1382 the Stirling Bros, issued the first edition of the Daily News from the Inquirer printery. To mark the occasion they issued invitations to prominent people to be present at the printing of the first edition by Lady Forrest.A prominent Perth journalist, Arthur Lovekin, became secretary of the company.

Arthur Lovekin was born in England in 1850. He came to Australia in 1880 and joined the staff of the Melbourne Age. Three years later he transferred to the Register in Adelaide and in 1886 he came West and accepted a position on the Fremantle Herald. Soon after the Herald was amalgamated with the Stirling brothers’ Daily News.

In the centenary issue of the Daily News, 26 July 1982, the paper tells the story of how the Stirling brothers, John, Frederick, Horace and Lewis, sons of Edmund, the founder of the Inquirer, approached financier, Francis Lochee, a co-founder of the Inquirer, with a request to borrow £1,000 ($2,000) to launch the Daily News. Lochee was reported to have replied that ‘there was not as much money as that in the colony!’ Somewhat reluctantly the Stirling brothers settled for £100 (S200) and started out on the publication of the Daily News at the Inquirer printery, a single storey building in St. George's Terrace between William St and the present Newspaper House. As the brothers approached the limit of their loan they were frequently warned by Lochee that their loan of £100 ($200) did not mean £101.

In 1893 Lovekin was sent abroad to purchase new machinery. On his return. Horace Stirling retired from the Daily News as editor and Lovekin was appointed editor and managing director of that paper.


In the meantime, the Inquirer continued to be published weekly until 1901 when it ceased publication. The Daily News up till that time had been published every afternoon except on Wednesdays which was the day for the Inquirer.

Lovekin considered there was a need for a morning daily, and in 1896 he persuaded his directors to launch the Morning Herald. He used the columns of this paper to voice his opposition to Federation. By 1901 Lovekin felt that his directors' meetings had become political meetings. This did not meet with his approval and he resigned from Stirling Bros, and the Morning Herald. The regime lasted only eighteen months before Lovekin was again asked to take over the management.

Late in 1902 Lovekin joined with A.E. Morgans, P.W.H. Thiel, and R. Lloyd in a lease of the Daily News with a right of purchase. He eventually acquired the interests of his partners and in 1916 became the sole owner. The paper was printed at several locations, all in the Terrace, until it finally settled on a site opposite Trinity Church, which it was to occupy for nearly fifty years. A paragraph in a souvenir brochure issued by the Daily News, when it finally vacated these premises in 1953, states:-

Among the many hidden rocks which accompanied the launching of the Daily News were the Fremantle Herald and its parent the Morning Herald, two papers published in what was then termed ‘the wilds of Murray St.’

'The wilds of Murray St.’ were probably no further west than Milligan St.

In the meantime the Morning Herald had passed into the hands of the Roman Catholic Church and was conducted in accordance with Church principles, particularly in regard to racing and the law courts. But the writing was on the wall and the Morning Herald went into liquidation with Arthur Lovekin as liquidator. One of the reasons for its decline is believed to have been its refusal to publish racing results.

For three years the Daily News made slow progress and of its first issue of 500 1 about 300 were returned to the printers. Because of its forthright policy and outspoken comment (characteristic of most editors of those early papers) libel writs rolled in almost every day. Damages claimed totalled approximately £20,000 (S40,000) and the claimants ranged from the Acting Chief Justice to a group of Chinese market gardeners.

Arthur Lovekin, who had become one of the foremost journalists of his day retired from the Daily News in 1926 and sold his interests to News Ltd of Adelaide. He was elected to the Legislative Council. He was one of the founders of King’s Park, and, on the death of Lord Forrest, became Chairman of the King’s Park Board.

In 1935 the West Australian Newspaper Co. Ltd. bought the Daily News and formed a subsidiary company to publish it from the Daily News premises. Since the paper vacated its premises in St George’s Terrace in 1953 it has been printed and published with the West Australian in Newspaper House.


The Sunday Times, the only other paper in Western Australian to circulation in excess of a quarter of a million copies, was in 1897 founded by Frederick Vosper, a radical journalist of the goldfields. Vosper was born in Cornwall in 1867 and emigrated to Australia in 1883. He became editor of the Coolgardie Miner and took up politics, winning the North-East Coolgardie seat for the Labour Party. This necessitated his transfer to Perth. He married and, with some of his wife’s money, he commenced the Sunday Times, which, under his editorship, soon became the foremost satirical magazine in the colony. It was first issued on 19 December, 1897, from an office in Wellington St and was Perth’s first Sunday newspaper.

Shortly afterwards, another Sunday newspaper, the Sun emerged at Kalgoorlie; first issued by J. McCallum Smith and Arthur Reid in October 1898, it enjoyed a lifespan of more than thirty years before its demise in 1929.

Frederick Vosper died on 6 January 1901 at the early age of 34. Following his death, McCallum Smith and Arthur Reid acquired the Sunday Times and for the next decade the Sun and Sunday Times became very closely connected, exchanging staff and sharing copy. McCallum Smith was not a journalist but he attracted many notable literary men to his staff, chief among whom was ‘Dryblower’ Murphy. 'Dryblower’ and the Sunday Times became almost synonymous terms. There followed a succession of editors, including Victor Courtney, who joined the staff in 1911. In 1935 Courtney, with his friend J.J. Simons, the founder of the Young Australia League, purchased the paper from McCallum Smith for £35,000 (570.000).

In his book All I May Tell, printed in Sydney in 1956, Victor Courtney had this to say about Perth newspapers:

Journalism in Perth was indeed a very personal matter, and quite violently personal at times. Paper was only 1d. (1c) a lb. and a good printer could be had for £3 ($6) per week. Advertising rates were cheap and costs but a fraction of what they are today. Perth had a variety of newspapers, three or four midweek papers usually printed by job printing firms and run as one-man propositions by a journalist who wrote most of his own copy and collected the adverts.

In 1954 the Sunday Times was taken over by News Ltd of Adelaide, one time owner of the Daily News, and is now part of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire.


Edmund Stirling, Story of the Ruthven Press.

T. Schouten, A Brief History of the Printing Industry in W.A. (Unpublished MS), 195-.

Newspaper House News, April 1956.

P.W.H. Thiel, ed., Twentieth Century Impressions of Western Australia, 1901.

W.H. Bourne, Jubilee of W.A. Printers' Union, 1941.

Past and Present, Shenton Press, 1957.

(All these items are held in the Battye Library)

Garry Gillard | New: 26 August, 2020 | Now: 17 October, 2020