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Connolly, Roy Neville (1893–1966)

by Chris Tiffin

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Roy Neville Connolly (1893-1966), journalist and author, was born on 18 January 1893 at Gympie, Queensland, third of five children of Peter Joseph Connolly, a native-born bank clerk, and his wife Mary Dora, née Herbert, from Ireland. Roy was employed as a cadet journalist on the Gympie Miner, then worked on newspapers at Bundaberg, in Brisbane and at Toowoomba. After moving to Melbourne as representative for the Sydney Sun, he joined the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times in Sydney. On 29 August 1919 he married a typist Eileen Alice Stanislaus Searle at St Stephen's Catholic Cathedral, Brisbane; they were to have two children before being divorced in 1934. Connolly was editor (1923) of the short-lived Sydney Daily Mail and from April 1924 managing editor of the paper when it reappeared as the Labor Daily. Despite compulsory subscriptions from trade unions, working capital was so scarce that Connolly frequently had to draw the cartoons. His efforts to improve declining circulation by resorting to sensationalism, as well as his 'intemperance and obstinacy and contumacious disregard of the directions given to him', led to his sacking in September that year.

Sometime associate-editor of the Sunday Guardian, in 1931 Connolly became news editor of another short-lived Labor paper, the World. Next year he visited Ireland. While freelancing in London, he collaborated with Frank McIlraith on a dystopian novel, Invasion from the Air (London, 1934). It argued that future European warfare, if conducted by intensive bombing of civilian populations, would lead to political anarchy and bring down any government involved.

Back in Brisbane in 1934, Connolly became book reviewer for the Sunday Mail and a freelance writer for other papers, among them Smith's Weekly. He later contributed features to the Sunday Mail, occasionally using the pseudonym 'Neville de Lacy', and wrote columns for the Brisbane Truth. On 10 October 1940 at the general registry office, Brisbane, he married a 32-year-old schoolteacher Edna Alice Perkins. That year he published Southern Saga (London, 1940; Sydney 1944, 1945 and 1946), a novel based on careful research into the history of the Gayndah district where his Irish great-grandfather had settled. Its romantic plot is underpinned with considerable humour and sharp insights into race-relations. In 1941 and 1960 he was awarded Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowships, but two subsequent novels remained unpublished.

Despite—or because of—his experiences with the radical press, he developed a strong aversion to Labor politics and in 1946 became press secretary to (Sir) Arthur Fadden. For the 1949 election campaign, Connolly wrote You won't vote Labor when you've read this story!, a pamphlet denouncing state-enterprise in Australia. Friendship with the Drysdale family led him to write John Drysdale and the Burdekin (Sydney, 1964). Independent, gregarious, but somewhat litigious, Connolly exasperated his employers and fell out with his publishers. He was attracted to investigative journalism: though sometimes luridly presented, his work was tempered by a respect for history. In 1942 he had criticized inadequate surveillance of foreign nationals in northern Australia and was fined for refusing to divulge his sources of information.

Survived by his wife, and by the son and daughter of his first marriage, Connolly died on 13 September 1966 in Brisbane and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • R. B. Walker, Yesterday's News (Syd, 1980)
  • State Reports, New South Wales, 1925, p 398
  • Newspaper News, 1 Sept 1931
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 14 Sept 1966
  • Connolly papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Chris Tiffin, 'Connolly, Roy Neville (1893–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/connolly-roy-neville-9812/text17347, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 22 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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