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Lockwood, Alfred Wright (1867–1956)

by Allan W. Lockwood and Rupert Lockwood

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Alfred Wright Lockwood (1867-1956), journalist and newspaper proprietor, was born on 9 December 1867 at Lancefield, Victoria, second son of Matthew Lockwood (d.1870), farmer, and his Scottish-born wife Ellen, née Kelly. His paternal grandfather, a Chartist, had brought his family to Victoria from Yorkshire, England, in the early 1850s.

Alfred left school at 13 for an apprenticeship at the Lancefield Mercury, but poor wages soon induced him to become a 'tramp printer'. Walking from town to town, he worked for newspapers in north-eastern Victoria until he had saved enough to return to Lancefield and buy a half-share in the Mercury. He sold this interest in 1899 and purchased the Natimuk West Wimmera Mail preparatory to his marriage on 25 August 1900 at St Alban's Anglican Church, Elaine, to Alice Ellen Francis. His wife, a former scholarship student and contemporary of E. F. (Henry Handel) Richardson at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne, was by 1900 schoolteacher, musician and temperance campaigner. It was she who provided the talent and drive to extend the Lockwood newspaper interests, temporarily, to Edenhope, Kaniva and Bordertown; her sisters, brother and niece worked with her in the printery which, until the late 1930s, was operated entirely with manual machinery.

The four-page, weekly Mail, popular and respected, carried leading reports of district social and sporting events. Lockwood was conservative and humane, concerned with the well-being of the west-Wimmera settlers rather than with money-making. He was largely responsible for the monument near Arapiles raised to the memory of Jane Duff, the child who in 1864 saved the lives of two brothers when they were lost for nine days in the bush; he influenced the change of name of the nearby rail station from Nurcoung to Duffholme. The paper also featured Lockwood's pointed denunciations of wrongdoers—town larrikins, 'flappers', 'shirkers' and 'socialists'. After Alice's death in 1913, however, the business was plunged into a financial chaos relieved only by Lockwood's marriage on 15 March 1916 to another 'good manager', Ida Dorothea Klowss. The marriage attracted some wartime anti-German sentiment despite the jingoism of the Mail and Ida's local birth.

Post-war competition from city newspapers and the 1930s Depression decimated rural publications. The Mail survived mostly because of family devotion. Lockwood's daughter and three sons from his first marriage all learned to set type and operate the job-printing plant by the age of 10. His second family of three sons continued the tradition of unpaid labour, the two younger taking over the paper on Lockwood's retirement in 1950; in 1959 a merger with the Horsham Times formed the Wimmera Mail-Times.

Lockwood served on many Natimuk committees; he enjoyed gardening, bowls and the excitement of trips to Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin. He died in Sydney on 13 September 1956, survived by his seven children, and was buried in Natimuk cemetery. Four of his sons, including Rupert who reported the Spanish Civil War and was for long a leading propagandist for the Australian Communist Party, became journalists; the eldest son Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel was medical director-general of the Royal Australian Navy in 1955-64; Douglas (1918-1980) was a historian of the Northern Territory and author on Aboriginal affairs.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Lockwood, Alfred Wright Lockwood (Horsham, 1976)
  • West Wimmera Mail, 18 Sept 1956
  • private information.

Citation details

Allan W. Lockwood and Rupert Lockwood, 'Lockwood, Alfred Wright (1867–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lockwood-alfred-wright-7217/text12491, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 18 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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