THE “BARRIER MINER” (A paper presented to the Society by Mrs R.H.B. Kearns on behalf of her father, the late R.I.A. Richards)
The closure of the “Barrier Miner” newspaper on 29th November 1974 (first published on 28th February 1888) took my memory back to 1899 when I acquired a small paper round of a few dozen daily in the vicinity of the Excelsior and the Allendale Hotels in West Broken Hill.
After keeping the round for six years, I was summoned to the “Miner'” office in 1905 and offered a position as office boy at a salary of 7/6 per week.
I accepted and remained with the paper for over 15 years,12 as accountant.
Today, I think that I would be the only survivor of 25 or 30 employees of that period.
The proprietors in my time were Knight and Von Rieben Ltd., of whom Mr.S.H. Prior was an unnamed partner. In the earlier years, probably prior to 1890, the owners had been Messrs. Fenton, Knight and Mills.
About 1890, Messrs. Fenton and Mills sold their interests and Mr. O. Von Rieben joined Mr Knight as partners. In August 1888, Mr.S.H. Prior had accepted the position of editor and was given a one-seventh share in the paper.
Mr. Prior who at the time, was probably one of the youngest editors of a daily newspaper in Australia, remained until 1903 when he left to become editor of the “Wild Cats” column of the “Bulletin”. He afterwards was appointed editor of the “Bulletin” and, at the time of his death at the age of 63,was its principal proprietor.
Following Mr.Prior’s departure, the editor was Mr. E. R. Kellsall with Mr.R.D.S. Magnusson as sub-editor. In my early days, salaries were very low, as the editor was paid only 6 pounds 5 shillings per week. A sub editor 4 pounds, reporters 3 pounds or 3 pounds 10 shillings per week.
The ‘Barrier Miner” was originally published from a building in Argent Street, next to Dryen’s store, which afterwards became part of Dryen’s.
A sketch or block print of this building was included in the 1891 Business Directory published by the “Barrier Miner”.
The galvanised iron portion of the present location was occupied for all purposes as from 1894,until the stone building on the corner of Blende and Sulphide Streets was built and occupied in 1908. The contractors for the building were F.J. Fairweather and sons.
In 1907,both Messrs. Knight and Von Rieben retired. Mr. Knight chose Manly where he had already built a home on the harbour front near the “Spits, “and Mr. Von Rieben purchased a large residence at Rose Park, Adelaide, which left scope for real estate development. The Burnside Hospital now occupies the residence and grounds, the whole of which were a gift to the Council as a Memorial Hospital to soldiers. Mr Knight died in Sydney at the age of 76 and Mr Von Rieben at about 87 in Adelaide.
After the retirement of the principal proprietor, Mr.John Smethurst took over as manager editor and remained in this position until 1933 when he was succeeded by Mr. J. F. Williams.
Mr Smethurst was formerly a building contractor, one of his most important projects being the construction of the Town Hall. Mr. E. K. Lean, who joined the staff of the “Barrier Miner” in 1893 became assistant manager in 1918.
Old residents will recall the publication of the Sunday evening War paper during the 1914-1918 war. This special issue appeared for several years and ceased just before war ended. Letters from soldiers overseas were published and eagerly read by thousands of residents, many of who assembled on Sunday evenings outside the office to rush newsboys for copies as soon as publication was made.
Perhaps because of its criticism of unpatriotic activities by a small section of the community the “Miner” office was twice bombed during the war. The first bomb was thrown onto the roof of the linotype department, doing little damage. The second bombing took place on a Saturday night when a bomb was pushed through a broken lead light in the Sulphide Street door, damaging doors in the passageways.
In 1919,the ownership of the “Miner” changed hands again when it was purchased by Mr James Davison who had been managing editor of the Melbourne “Herald”.
At the same time, he purchased the Port Pirie “Recorder” which was later bought by Mr Horace Yelland, an early day employee of the “Miner”. The “Miner”, at this time, created a very interesting daily column contributed under the non de – plune of “3m Rule”.
Generally speaking, the “Miner” must have been a very profitable business in the 1890’s and, over as late as 1919,it was still profitable, though profits would have been curtailed by the advent of “Barrier Daily Truth”.
The cost of Newspaper in reels, landed in Broken Hill prior to the first World War,was 11 pounds or 12 pounds per ton, either from Scandinavia or Powell River, North America.
In 1905,the circulation reached 8303 daily and three editions of the paper were published-at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. The first and third editions were sold to business people along Argent Street and the second edition was for home delivery. The one o’clock and six o’clock editions were discontinued soon after Mr. Davison became proprietor.
Mr E.J. Horwood, Work Manager for the B.H.P. Company, was a regular caller at the “Barrier Miner” office each day on horseback, to collect the first edition on his way home to lunch.
In 1922,Mr Davison went to Adelaide and founded the “News” evening paper which is now controlled by the Rupert Murdoch group. He died in London in 1929 at the age of 61 years, while attending an Empire Press Conference.
I Left the “Barrier Miner” in November 1920 to join the Broken Hill and Suburban Gas Co .L.T.D. as secretary and remained there for 35 years, becoming General Manager and Secretary of the Company in 1935.