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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hutton, Geoffrey William (Geoff) (1909–1985)

by Tom Heenan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Geoffrey William (Geoff) Hutton (1909-1985), journalist, was born on 18 October 1909 at Southampton, Hampshire, England, son of Thomas John Hutton, commercial traveller, and his wife Lavina Annette, née Shilling. Geoff’s education began there at King Edward VI School, was interrupted by his family’s migration to Australia in 1924, and resumed at Scotch College, Melbourne, where he edited the Collegian (1927) and won a scholarship to the University of Melbourne (BA Hons, 1931). His flair as editor (1930) of Melbourne University Magazine (for which he also wrote many articles under numerous noms de plume) secured a cadetship (1931) at the Argus, where he was to cover Australian politics and international affairs, and review books, theatre and ballet. On 12 June 1933 at All Saints’ Church of England, East St Kilda, he married Necia Noel Bednall, a secretary.

In 1935 Hutton travelled to Europe for twelve months as an Argus correspondent. Following the entry of Japan into World War II, he was assigned to General Headquarters in Melbourne, and then as a field correspondent at Townsville, Queensland. He relieved George Johnston in Port Moresby in August 1942 and, as an Argus correspondent, reported the fighting in Papua before covering the Allied offensives in New Guinea. In December 1943 he was transferred to Washington and then to the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, London. Landing in France shortly after D-Day, he followed the Allied advance from Normandy to the fall of Berlin. In March 1945 he was mentioned in despatches for his reporting of the Papuan and New Guinea campaigns. With the coming of the Cold War, his attention turned to eastern Europe, China, the Korean peninsula and Indo-China.

Necia died in September 1950 and, after a period as London correspondent, Hutton returned to Melbourne. On 17 March 1952 at South Yarra Presbyterian Church, he married Nancy Estelle Charlholmes (1917-1984), a divorcee and fellow journalist. He joined the Age in 1954 as a feature writer and, although suspected by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization of having once been a member of the Communist Party of Australia, and of retaining `communistic views’, he returned to London as the Age correspondent (1957-59). Back in Melbourne as chief leader-writer, he complemented his international reportage with theatre and literary reviews, and in 1968 became chief drama critic. Retiring in 1974, he was widely respected as—his editor, Graham Perkin, noted—`a writer of grace, style and temperate judgement’.

Hutton continued reviewing for the Age and served as the Australian’s Melbourne theatre critic. A handsome, urbane man, and a literary and artistic nationalist, he wrote a biography of Dame Nellie Melba (1962), a history of the Melbourne Theatre Company (1974) and studies of C. J. Dennis (1976) and Adam Lindsay Gordon (1978). He edited a historical anthology of the Age (1979) with the cartoonist Les Tanner, and Australia’s Natural Heritage (1981) for the Australian Conservation Foundation, and collaborated with Geoffrey Blainey in a revised edition of Blainey’s Gold and Paper 1858-1982 (1983). His wife’s career in journalism encompassed writing for leading magazines, including Woman’s Day (1952-58) and, from 1967 to 1980, a column in the Age; in 1971 she was a founding member of the Melbourne Press Club. Nan died of cancer on 2 May 1984. Predeceased by a son of his first marriage, and survived by the daughter of his second, Geoffrey Hutton died on 1 December 1985 at Prahran and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 Mar 1945, p 12
  • Age (Melbourne), 19 Oct 1974, p 17, 2 Dec 1985, p 5
  • private information.

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Citation details

Tom Heenan, 'Hutton, Geoffrey William (Geoff) (1909–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 27 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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