For historical geeks or anyone interested in the human condition and social history - the grass roots, bottom up, minutiae of everyday life type of history - historical newspapers provide invaluable understanding of Australia's changing socio-culture.
In the century before journalism became an academic degree, colonial news editors often moonlighted as barristers, doctors or politicians. Australia's colonial newspapers are, therefore, peppered with subjectivity and fascinating insights into contemporary public opinions, actions and attitudes. They both give voice to, and silence, those who came before us, and in doing so, they track our human and community progression over time - the good, the bad, and the embarrassing.
Colonial newspapers were considered a reliable indication of cultural progress, providing information and a sense of social connection to the approximately seventy-five percent of male colonists who could read and write.
It was these comparatively successful and literate pioneers who were both the target audience and primary subject of colonial newspapers; nothing like a bit of propaganda and a pat on the back to make a sunburnt, mosquito-bitten Englishman feel a little better about his new lot in life.
The first newspaper to hit Beaudesert newsstands was the Logan and Albert Advocate which launched in 1890 and was printed in Stanley Street, Brisbane. This was quickly followed by the locally-produced Beaudesert Despatch, which was run from a building near the Logan and Albert Hotel by Mr Frederick Parker.
The Beaudesert Herald was simultaneously run from a small premises in William Street by Mr J. Sheppard.
On the 10th September 1908, the Herald and the Despatch formally amalgamated to create the Beaudesert Times. After Parker resigned as manager of the new paper, the position of managing editor was assumed by Sudan War veteran John Adamson Walker who retained the role until the death of his wife in 1929.
On the 18th January 1929, the Times reported that Mr Sterling Thursten Driberg had been appointed editor, a position he held until September 1945, having sought professional advancement in the drier pastures of the Longreach Leader. The Beaudesert Times reported that the town was losing its "best townsman". High praise indeed and one which arguably left impossibly big shoes for Driberg's successor, H. R. (Tommy) Tomlinson, to fill.
Despite his own rather grand send off three years later in May 1948, Tomlinson assured those present that he was not leaving of his own accord.
"I am", he cryptically clarified, "neither frightened of footballers, boxers or councillors; trying always to be fearless and fair in my reports".
Being fair and fearless has historically been somewhat of a double-edged sword for newspaper editors.
In the heady, comparatively lawless days of the nineteenth century, before a professional code of journalistic ethics, or a well-functioning system of litigation, colonial news editors were frequently challenged to duels by readers who perceived an insult in the printed word.
In all, at least twelve Australian colonial newspaper journalists and editors were involved in duels.
We know this because it was published in print. Colonial and post-colonial newspaper editors and journalists were fair and fearless enough to dodge a few bullets to ensure regional Australia's changing demography, attitudes and beliefs were captured for posterity.
The stories of everyday lives, the big moments and the small, are represented and held in trust through the pages of local newspapers like the Beaudesert Times. We are, after all, the history of tomorrow.
The History Hermit is a Scenic Rim resident with a passion for social history.
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