Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Brient, Lachlan John (1856–1940)

by Jill Waterhouse

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Lachlan John Brient (1856-1940), journalist, was born on 16 October 1856 and baptized a Catholic on 7 December in Hobart Town, son of Michael Joseph O'Brien (alias Bryant), carpenter, and his wife Margaret, née McLean. His father had been transported for ten years for stealing a handkerchief, and arrived in Van Diemen's Land in the Forfarshire on 12 October 1843. After two years on Norfolk Island in 1850-52, he received his certificate of freedom in 1853; in 1855 he was granted permission to marry Margaret McLean, who had been sentenced in Glasgow to seven years transportation for theft and had reached Hobart on 21 April 1853 in the Duchess of Northumberland.

Lachlan became a reporter in Hobart and on 5 April 1876 married Alice Harriet Alberta Tasker with Congregational forms. About 1878 he moved to Melbourne to work on the Age and later joined the Sydney Morning Herald. In 1883 he left to become news editor of the Daily Telegraph. With its chief editor F. W. Ward he helped to make the paper more pithy and arresting. Next year when the Daily Telegraph Newspaper Co. Ltd was formed he became a shareholder. In May 1890 with Ward and H. Gullett, he resigned after a dispute with the directors over future policy and limitations on editorial independence. At the end of the year Brient was recalled as editor.

In 1891 he also became Australian cable-correspondent for The Times (London). Under Brient's guidance, the Telegraph took advantage of technological developments and its reputation was enhanced by the quality of its maps, portraits and sketches accompanying reports on the South African War. The paper's editorial policy strongly favoured free trade. In the New South Wales general election in 1898 Brient launched an intensive campaign for (Sir) George Reid against (Sir) Edmund Barton; while the paper supported Federation, by next year when the second referendum was held it had changed to opposition. Reserved and somewhat mysterious to his staff, which included such notable journalists as (Sir) Frank Fox and W. Farmer Whyte, Brient was rarely seen in the office until late in the evening and would severely snub any proof-reader who dared to point out a mistake. He made the Telegraph into an 'audacious, unscrupulous, mendacious go-ahead sheet'.

From 1899 Brient had been a trustee of the Public Library of New South Wales, in which he took a keen interest although unable to attend meetings. Troubled by a heart condition he resigned in 1901 from the Telegraph and went to London, where he joined the editorial staff of the Morning Post, and survived into old age. He was a handsome man, with a neat George V beard, curling moustache and wavy hair, and was a member of the Savage Club. He died of cerebro-vascular disease at Walton-upon-Thames, Surrey, on 24 July 1940, survived by two sons. Although as editor he had written little himself, he was remembered as 'a great pressman with a wonderful nose for news'.

His son Albert Lachlan was born on 20 February 1877 in Hobart and was a reporter on the Daily Telegraph under his father. Later he became relieving editor of the Melbourne Argus and of the Australasian. He attended the opening of the first Federal parliament, was one of the earliest members of the parliamentary press gallery and became an authority on foreign affairs. He was a Freemason and belonged to the Yorick and Royal Melbourne Golf clubs. On 7 May 1946 he married Grace Sloan McMillan; she survived him when he died, childless, on 29 June 1955 at Leura, New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • Review of Reviews for Australasia, Oct 1892, p 73
  • Daily Telegraph Newspaper Co. Ltd, Annual Report, 1884-1902
  • Cosmos Magazine (Sydney), 30 Sept 1895, p4
  • Punch (Melbourne), 22 Aug 1901
  • Catholic Press (Sydney), 24 Aug 1901
  • Bulletin, 5 May 1904
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Nov 1940
  • Argus (Melbourne), 30 June 1955
  • Brient to E. Barton, Feb 1893, in D. Maughan papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Convict registers 1804-53, and parish registers (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Jill Waterhouse, 'Brient, Lachlan John (1856–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brient-lachlan-john-5356/text9057, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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