Proud to be in newspapers

Proud to be in newspapers
Rhonda Dredge

A book has gone on sale in the George Street café about the history of the newspaper men of early Melbourne.

Local resident Gary Morgan’s great grandfather gets just one mention in the book.

That just makes Gary more determined to focus public attention on an overlooked period.

During the Eureka Stockade William Williams published a newspaper on behalf of the diggers called the Diggers Advocate.

“The media of the day was on the side of the Eureka rebellion. It’s never been properly documented.” Gary said. “No-one has written up 1850-1860.”

Williams, Gary’s great grandfather, was radical and free-thinking and as a Welshman was against the English whereas other reporters of the day such as Irish-born Edmund Finn were wary of taking up the cause of the diggers.

“He’d seen the rebellion in Ireland and how the English sent out rebels to Port Arthur as political prisoners,” Gary said.

William Williams went on to be the publisher of The Newsletter of Australasia, The Illustrated Journal of Australasia and the first local newspaper The Collingwood and Richmond Observer, establishing a strong presence in Melbourne’s news establishment.

Gary’s father Ray worked as financial reporter for Keith Murdoch on The Herald and started up the Ray Morgan polls, and he is still executive chairman of Roy Morgan Research and publishes a daily news summary ABIX.


The outspoken local said he liked to speak the truth but “what I think doesn’t matter. What the people think counts. It needs to be properly interpreted. Journalists say what the public opinion is. We do the poll.”


To help focus attention on this dynamic period of early Melbourne, Gary has collected watercolours, engravings, publications and original diaries related to the publishing world.

The first woodcut engravings in the colony were done by Nicholas Chevalier who drew caricatures of leading political figures as well as landscapes.

An exhibition of works from Gary’s collection is currently being held at Mount Buller and will open at the Gallery of Fitzroy in May 2023.

“The main newspapers of the day were Melbourne Punch and The Illustrated Journal of Australasia,” Gary said and Chevalier’s depiction of governor Hotham in his top hat as “only a lodger” is rightly famous.

Chevalier was involved in all of the major stories of the day including William Buckley, the wild white man, and Thomas Bungaalene, the son of a Gippsland chief who learned to read and write.

“Some were a bit rough on the Aborigines, but William Williams was pro the Aborigines,” he said. •


Caption: Gary Morgan with newspapers published by his great grandfather.

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