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I

THE story of the two newspapers that I edited and partly owned, the Kalgoorlie Miner and its weekly, the Western Argus, may well be described as a romance of journalism. The story is associated with the sensational rise and progress of Western Australia during the closing decade of the last century, when an un-inhabited and apparently worthless wilderness became in a few years dotted with thriving, prosperous towns, replete with the conveniences, comforts and luxuries of civilisation.

It was in September, 1892, that Arthur Bayley applied for a reward claim for discovering a payable reef at Coolgardie, and it was in June, 1893, that Paddy Hannan reported the discovery of gold near the site of the present town of Kalgoorlie. These and other sensational finds brought to the locality tens of thousands of enterprising spirits, and also caused capital to flow from London, Adelaide and elsewhere.

Newspapers were quickly started at Coolgardie. Later, many of the outback centres had their own journals to supply their readers with the world's news.




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Messrs. Mott Bros., printers, thought that Kalgoorlie ought to be able to support a paper. On November 24, 1894, they published the first issue of the Western Argus as a weekly. Pessimists predicted its early demise. The first issue had a leading article which stated: “We have been told that the paper won't pay or last. Our reply is that we are quite prepared to risk it, and that we have come to stay.”

For some months the new weekly did well. Then it began to struggle for existence. The alluvial was getting worked out. Mines from which much had been expected were not maintaining values at depth. The Great Boulder and adjoining shows were suspected of being merely wild cats.

At this time Coolgardie possessed a couple of daily papers. Amongst the journalists there was Mr. Sid Hocking, who, with his brother Percy, was the chief owner of one of the dailies and also a weekly journal. Sid Hocking had extensive experience as a journalist in South Australia and at Broken Hill. He went to Kalgoorlie to report for his papers on the mining prospects. A keen judge of mines, he readily recognised, after an underground inspection, the immense wealth of the Boulder group. Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie were but twenty-four miles apart, but in the days before the two were joined by a railway and before motor-cars or aeroplanes were known, that was a much greater distance than it is thought to be to-day. When he returned to Coolgardie he said to his brother, “Let us sell everything we have in Coolgardie and shift to Hannan's.” This was arranged. Those who knew them were unanimous in saying they were making the mistake of their lives.




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Mott Bros. eagerly agreed to sell to the Hocking brothers the Western Argus, together with the building, land and plant—the plant, consisting of a small hand press and old type, for £350. The sellers felt they had made a good deal. When the deal was completed they returned to the eastern states, happy at having got clear of a goldfield that they were convinced was rapidly petering out.

It was not long before the consistent and rich crushings from the Boulder mines convinced the world that an El Dorado had been found. The Western Argus grew in size, circulation and prosperity. In September, 1895, it became the proud parent of a daily—the Kalgoorlie Miner. The leading article in its first issue was prophetic. It stated: “Within a short time Kalgoorlie will have a population numbering many tens of thousands, and this paper will equal any daily published in the western part of the continent.” When that was written Kalgoorlie was a collection of hessian humpies and bag shanties, with trees growing in its roadways, which were ankle deep in dust. Yet in a few years the twin cities of Kalgoorlie and Boulder were centres of a population of some 80,000 people, and were probably more up to date then than any other cities of their size in the world. The Kalgoorlie Miner had progressed with its environment. Mr. Sid Hocking went to London and purchased the best linotypes and printing machines on the market, brought mechanics from London, and on the arrival of the new plant it was installed in commodious three-story stone and brick premises.

The newspaper property that had changed hands for £350 had grown in a couple of years into a concern that


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the purchasers would not have sold for £100,000. Our success prompted the starting of an opposition paper, the Daily Standard, a venture that had plenty of capital behind it. After a vigorous life of about twelve months it died a natural death, and the promoters are reputed to have lost heavily. Mr. Edward Irving had been brought from Melbourne to edit the new paper, and soon after its decease I was fortunate in securing his services as my second in command at the Kalgoorlie Miner office. A Balliol man, he was erudite, sound in his judgment, a wide reader and a student of literature, tolerant in his views and something of a Bohemian. His grandfather was the celebrated preacher, Edward Irving, first lover of Jane Welsh, afterwards Mrs. Thomas Carlyle. It was Irving who introduced Jane Welsh to Carlyle, and thereby hangs a romantic tale. It has been variously told, but it is certain that had they never met it would have been better for three people—Irving, Jane Welsh and Carlyle.

Irving was the founder, some speak of him as The Apostle, of the “Irvingite,” or Holy Catholic Apostolic, Church in 1832.

His passionate religious convictions and fervour so wore him out that in 1834 he died with all the external symptoms of old age, though only in his forty-second year.

The grandson and namesake did not take life so seriously. Pleasant, even-tempered, cultured and beloved by all who knew him, a true friend and loyal colleague, he was for more than a quarter of a century on our editorial staff, and died in harness when well over the allotted span.




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One after the other newspaper rivals of the Kalgoorlie Miner disappeared, and it eventually became the only morning daily paper of the goldfields.

When in the summer of 1909 the idea came to fruition of bringing together newspaper men of the Empire to confer in London on matters of common interest, Dr. (afterwards Sir) Winthrop Hackett, editor and part proprietor of the West Australian, Perth, and I were selected as delegates from Western Australia.

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