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Lovekin, Arthur (1859–1931)

by Donald Grant

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

Arthur Lovekin (1859-1931), journalist, was born on 12 November 1859, probably at Slough, Buckinghamshire, England, son of Rev. Lewis James Lovekin, Anglican clergyman, and his wife Mariann, née Kenyon. He was educated privately and at St Edmund's School, Canterbury, in 1871-75. Lovekin migrated in 1879 and worked for a year as a surveyor in Victoria. In 1880 he joined the Melbourne Age as a journalist; and on 26 June 1882 at Ballarat he married Elizabeth Jane Letcher.

He went to the South Australian Register in 1883 and with T. Harry formed a partnership as public shorthand writers in 1885. Next year he moved to Western Australia as senior reporter on the Fremantle Herald, the colony's first radical newspaper. Almost immediately the Herald was absorbed by Stirling Bros & Co., owners of the conservative evening paper, the Daily News. From 1890 Lovekin was company secretary and director; by 1894 he was editor and managing director of the Daily News which, apart from a period of eighteen months, he controlled (after 1916 as sole owner as well as editor) until he sold it to News Ltd in 1926 for £86,000.

In 1893, in England, he had bought machinery which allowed the Daily News to install the first rotary printing press and linotype machines in Western Australia. Three years later Lovekin launched the Morning Herald in competition with (Sir) John Winthrop Hackett's West Australian. Successful at first, the newspaper, indeed the whole company, fell into trouble after Lovekin resigned in 1900, allegedly because of 'political wrangling at meetings'. He returned to restore the position next year. Hackett and Lovekin were strikingly similar. In politics both were conservative on constitutional questions, but progressive on education, justice, health and welfare. Both exerted influence and power through their newspapers and associates. In the 1890s Lovekin and Hackett, with Alexander and David Forrest, were regular participants in the Sunday morning discussions at the home of Premier Sir John Forrest. Much government policy resulted—with, not surprisingly, support from the Perth press. Lovekin was a patriotic Western Australian and crusader for development, based on an expanding rural economy and the fashioning of a beautiful city: like Hackett, he was a substantial benefactor to Perth.

Through the Daily News Lovekin had campaigned for responsible self-government for Western Australia; he remained opposed to Federation, despite Sir John Forrest's and Hackett's eventual support for it. His relations with Forrest remained cordial—Lovekin called him 'the best friend I ever had'. Over the years Lovekin was perhaps the most ardent advocate of secession for Western Australia, and in 1930 was to publish three pamphlets recommending it; one included the draft of a bill 'to constitute Western Australia a free State'. Clarity and directness characterized his writing.

In World War I he matched the 'King's Shilling' with his own to volunteers and was an organizer of the 1916 conscription campaign. By the end of the war he was very wealthy, having stockpiled newsprint which he sold to newspapers affected by wartime shortages; this was later assessed by a subsequent chief-of-staff at the Daily News, F. H. Goldsmith, as akin to black-marketeering. In 1920 he attended the second Imperial Press Conference in Ottawa. He was a member of the Legislative Council for Metropolitan Province in 1919-31.

The King's Park was Lovekin's other great preoccupation. He was a foundation member of the honorary committee established in 1893 which became the King's Park Board in 1896; in 1918 he became president, a position he held as a benevolent autocrat until his death. That Perth today has, adjacent to the central city, this magnificent large park is due largely to Sir John Forrest's and Lovekin's foresight and tenacity.

Lovekin was a chairman of the Children's Hospital board of management. He also helped to set up the Children's Court, serving on the bench for nearly two decades; he published a historical commentary (1929) on the court in which he argued that 'kindness, mercy and charity invariably lead to reformation'. Other interests included economics, amateur acting, cricket and cycling. Memorials which carry his name include a prize for journalism, set up in 1928 through the University of Western Australia, and Lovekin Drive which was built in King's Park, largely at his expense.

Lovekin appeared reserved and preoccupied. He had 'a redoubtable and complex character, mixing caution and audacities'. Forrest once said, 'he's a good milkman, but has a habit of kicking over the bucket', and a fellow journalist remarked that 'Arthur Lovekin was a man who never shirked a fight'. Predeceased by his wife (d.1929) he died on 10 December 1931 and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery with Anglican rites; he was survived by a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Truthful Thomas, Through the Spy-Glass (Perth, 1905)
  • L. W. Matters, Australasians Who Count in London and Who Counts in Western Australia (Lond, 1913)
  • V. Courtney, All I May Tell (Syd, 1956)
  • Western Mail (Perth), 23 Jan 1914
  • Western Australian Newspapers, Quarterly Bulletin, 3 May 1964, no 2
  • West Australian, 11, 12 Dec 1931
  • Daily News (Perth), 12 Dec 1931
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Dec 1931
  • Bulletin, 16 Dec 1931
  • V. Hughes, The Custody of King's Park, Perth 1829 to 1931 (B.A. Hons thesis, Murdoch University, Western Australia, 1978)
  • F. H. Goldsmith papers (State Library of Western Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Donald Grant, 'Lovekin, Arthur (1859–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lovekin-arthur-7246/text12551, published in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 1 November 2014.

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

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