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Grover, Montague MacGregor (Monty) (1870–1943)

by Sally O'Neill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Montague MacGregor (Monty) Grover (1870-1943), journalist, was born on 31 May 1870 at West Melbourne, son of Harry Ehret Grover, old Etonian and former gold escort officer, from Hertfordshire, England, and his wife Jessie, née McGuire, of Melbourne, for many years a contributor to Melbourne Punch and the Bulletin's 'Red Page'. Monty was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School (1881) and Queen's College, St Kilda, and attended art school for two years. In 1888-92 he was articled to a firm of architects.

From about 1890 he wrote short pieces for the Bulletin. When the depression ended hopes of a career in architecture he decided to try newspaper work. An introduction to David Syme of the Age led to casual reporting assignments and in August to October 1894 he also worked on the short-lived labour weekly, the Boomerang. Late that year he was offered a permanent job with the Age; in 1896 he joined the Argus. Always fascinated by the theatre, in 1902-03 he travelled to England as secretary to J. C. Williamson.

On 29 May 1897 at Holy Trinity vicarage, Coburg, Grover had married Ada Goldberg; they had two sons and five daughters, one of whom died in infancy. The family settled at Bondi in 1907 when Grover joined the Sydney Morning Herald as sub-editor.

Grover maintained that a newspaper should sell news, not mould public opinion. His unorthodox views were appreciated by (Sir) Hugh Denison who in 1910 invited him to rejuvenate the evening Star. Grover renamed the paper the Sun and even designed the new mast-head. Many of the features he incorporated in the Sun were new to Australian journalism: bold, expanded heading types, lively headlines and brisk, tersely written news stories. Long-winded reports were out. Other innovations included crosswords and, in late 1921 in the Sunday edition, colour comic-strips featuring the work of his protégé Jim Bancks. The Sun's circulation soared; Grover's name became a synonym for news enterprise. As a colleague later observed, he 'found the newspapers of the Commonwealth rather stodgy and complacent; he left them awakened and aggressive'.

After editing the Sunday issue of the Sun from 1917, Grover represented the paper in London for a year, returning to Sydney in 1921. In 1922 he was appointed to launch the Evening Sun in Melbourne, Denison's rival to (Sir) Keith Murdoch's afternoon Herald. When Murdoch blocked production by flaunting a territorial agreement that had six months to run, Grover persuaded Denison to publish a completely new style of morning paper, the Sun News-Pictorial; it proved highly successful. The Evening Sun was launched by Grover in April next year and also sold well but when Murdoch bought it in 1925, he closed it down. Grover supervised the minor publications of the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd before leaving on a world tour. He returned to the Herald in 1929-30 as its magazine editor but found the post unchallenging. In September 1931 he was first editor of the Sydney labour daily, the World, which ceased publication fourteen months later.

Apart from writing verse and stories for the weekly press, Grover published The Minus Quantity and other Short Plays (1914); 'Gib it tshillin' was included in Best Australian one-act Plays (1937). Both pro-socialist ('before I had even heard of Marx') and passionately pro-Australian, he outlined his views in a popular treatise, The Time is now Ripe (1937). Earlier, his reminiscences had appeared in Lone Hand, July-November 1914. He was remembered for his unquenchable humour and puckish wit, his honesty, his hatred of opportunism and compromise, and his insistence that every person, regardless of status, sex or race, was worthy of respect. He was a teetotaller, but loved good company and talk.

Grover divorced his wife in 1914 and on 14 September 1915 at Hampton, Melbourne, he married 24-year-old Regina Roseville Varley; they had three children. His health was not good from the early 1930s; he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease on 7 March 1943 at his South Yarra home and was cremated. He was survived by his second wife and seven children, three of whom were journalists. The Montague Grover memorial prize competition for cadet journalists is held annually.

Select Bibliography

  • R. B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales, 1803-1920 (Syd, 1976)
  • J. Ryan, Panel by Panel (Syd, 1979)
  • Journalist, 15 May 1925, May 1973
  • Newspaper News, 1 May 1929, 1 Apr 1930, 1 Sept 1931, 1 Apr 1943
  • Bulletin, 31 Dec 1903, 16 July 1930
  • Punch (Melbourne), 20 Nov 1919
  • Australian Worker, 2 Sept 1931
  • Argus (Melbourne), 8 Mar 1943
  • Herald (Melbourne), 8 Mar 1943
  • private information.

Citation details

Sally O'Neill, 'Grover, Montague MacGregor (Monty) (1870–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/grover-montague-macgregor-monty-6500/text11147, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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