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Buzacott, Charles Hardie (1835–1918)

by Clem Lack

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Charles Hardie Buzacott (1835-1918), publisher, journalist and politician, was born on 3 August 1835 at Torrington, Devonshire, England, son of James Buzacott and Ann, née Hitchcock. In 1852 he decided to migrate with his elder brother William to Sydney. There Charles learnt the trade of a compositor on Henry Parkes's Empire, while William, a journeyman printer by trade, set up a jobbing office and published a weekly religious journal.

When Queensland achieved separation in 1859 Charles was attracted to the new colony. In 1860 he moved to Maryborough, then the port of the squatters of the Burnett and Dawson watersheds, as the place to establish a weekly newspaper. His journal, the Maryborough Chronicle, first appeared on 21 November 1860. He sold it in 1864, when with E. J. Fried he launched the Peak Downs Telegram on the Clermont goldfield. In a flood at Clermont his office was washed away but Buzacott managed to rescue some type-cases and other plant; from a tree overlooking the flooded main street he wrote an account of the flood and printed it when he was able to resume publication. In 1869 Buzacott disposed of his interest in the Telegram and moved to Gladstone where he took over the Observer.

Meanwhile William, influenced by his brother, had followed him to Queensland in May 1861 and had decided to establish a newspaper at Rockhampton. He shipped a printing plant from Sydney, and on 9 July 1861 the Bulletin (later Morning Bulletin) first appeared as a four-page newspaper three times a week. In 1870 Charles joined his brother at Rockhampton and next year assumed control of the Bulletin. He became its second editor when William was appointed leader writer on the Brisbane Courier. William returned in 1873 to the Bulletin as editor and partner; he died on 12 July 1880 at the age of 48.

In 1873 Buzacott was elected to the Legislative Assembly as member for Rockhampton. In 1874 and 1876 he initiated bills to establish a statutory eight-hour day, but neither bill survived the committee stage. He resigned his seat in 1877 and next year became leader writer on the Brisbane Courier. In 1879, however, he was returned to the Legislative Council and became postmaster-general in Sir Thomas McIlwraith's first ministry. During his two years in office the separate Post and Telegraph Departments of the colony were amalgamated and the telephone was introduced. He was an ardent advocate of a direct mail service between Queensland and London, although later McIlwraith was responsible for opening the direct Torres Strait route from Brisbane to London for overseas mails. Buzacott drafted several legislative measures and was the reputed author of the Divisional Boards Act which became the foundation of Queensland local government legislation, serving as a model for later statutes. His Act gave power for the constitution of divisional boards, which were made coincident with the electoral divisions of the colony.

In December 1880 Buzacott bought Gresley Lukin's interest in the Brisbane Courier and retired from politics in 1883 to become managing director and partner of the Brisbane Newspaper Co. Ltd, publishers of the Brisbane Courier and Queenslander. He showed keen business acumen in his conduct of the Courier which in 1883 was increased to eight pages and reduced in price from 3d. to 2d. Fearless in his reporting, he was a strong critic of Hansard. After an experiment with sending copies to his subscribers quickened no interest in parliamentary affairs, he told a government committee that 'if the House wishes Hansard read, it must make Hansard readable'. For his forthright comments the government, strongly supported by the Legislative Assembly, brought an unsuccessful action against the publisher of the Brisbane Courier (R. v. Hill) in 1884. Soon afterwards Buzacott took over the Daily Observer and bought the corner site at Queen and Edward Streets where the fine five-storied Courier Building was erected. There in the largest and most modern Australian newspaper office the Courier, Observer and Queenslander were first published in May 1887, with the Observer as the evening edition. Buzacott continued as managing director until the company was reconstructed in 1894 and he retired.

From 1894 to 1901 Buzacott was again a member of the Legislative Council. With S. W. Hartley as partner he bought from J. C. Browne the Northern Argus, chief rival of the Rockhampton Bulletin and changed it into the evening Daily Record. Walter Sewell, a son of William, was editor of the Daily Record, in which for a time Tom Ryan, later Queensland's first Labor premier, had an interest. Renamed the Evening News, it was acquired by the Morning Bulletin in 1929 and continued publication until 1941. Buzacott returned to journalism in Brisbane when in May 1903 he floated the Brisbane Daily Mail. Its first issue appeared on 3 October, with Buzacott as managing director and chief editor. Failing health compelled him to retire in 1906 to Stanthorpe, where he continued to write regularly for the Daily Mail almost until his death on 19 July 1918.

Buzacott was a brilliant and forceful writer. At the press banquet in Sydney at the founding of the Commonwealth, he was the oldest Australian journalist present and received an ovation. On 25 December 1857 in Sydney Buzacott, who was a member of the Church of England, had married Louisa, daughter of George and Sarah Whiteford of Liverpool, New South Wales. Of their eight children, three sons and two daughters survived him. The most notable was William James (1866-1959) who was associated with the Brisbane Newspaper Co. as a journalist from 1883, and editor of the Queenslander for many years.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty Years (Brisb, 1919)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1884, 1, 437
  • A. G. Davies, ‘Queensland's Pioneer Journals and Journalists’, Journal (Historical Society of Queensland), vol 3, no 4, 1936-47, pp 265-283
  • C. Lack, ‘A Century of Brisbane Journalism’, Journal (Historical Society of Queensland), vol 4, no 4, Dec 1951, pp 471-93
  • A. A. Morrison, ‘Some Aspects of Queensland Provincial Journalism’, Journal (Historical Society of Queensland), vol 4, no 5, Dec 1952, pp 702-08
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 8 July 1961.

Citation details

Clem Lack, 'Buzacott, Charles Hardie (1835–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/buzacott-charles-hardie-3133/text4669, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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