Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Manning, Henry John (Jack) (1889–1978)

by Rod Kirkpatrick

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Henry John (Jack) Manning (1889-1978), newspaper manager and proprietor, was born on 6 August 1889 at Gladstone, Queensland, eldest of five children of Australian-born parents William Joseph Manning, journalist, and his wife Charlotte Emma, née Black. Educated at Gladstone State School and the Normal School, Brisbane, Jack served his apprenticeship as a printer before training as a cadet journalist on the Gladstone Observer, a newspaper owned and edited by his father. William sold the Observer in 1910, and became principal shareholder and editor of the Daily Mercury, Mackay. The paper had fallen on hard times, but he turned the business around. Jack worked in the composing room, did stints as a reporter and sub-editor, and was gradually groomed for a managerial role. On 21 March 1916 at the Baptist City Tabernacle, Brisbane, he married Alison Morcom (d.1956).

Preferring management to journalism and editing, Manning took over as the Daily Mercury's business manager in 1918. In the following year he succeeded his father as a board-member of the Queensland Country Press Co-operative Ltd (Queensland division of the Regional Dailies of Australia Ltd from 1968) and was its chairman in 1934-77. President (1928-30) of the Queensland Country Press Association, he led the Australian Provincial Daily Press Ltd (later R.D.A. Ltd) with distinction in 1936-39 and was to serve for forty-one years on that body's central board. He was a delegate (1938) of Queensland's non-metropolitan press at an advertising convention held at Glasgow, Scotland.

In 1943 Manning succeeded his father as chairman and managing director of the Daily Mercury. Accepting the challenge with enthusiasm, he employed a 'hands on' approach and stimulated efficiency within his team. 'He relished success', and in failure was 'analytical and reconstructive. He liked to lead and did not shirk the tough decisions'. By 'constantly looking forward' and by modernizing management, production methods and equipment, he kept abreast of the demands of the industry and the community.

When a merger of the Manning, Dunn and Irwin family interests in regional newspapers was proposed in the mid-1960s, Jack Manning supported the plan. The resulting conglomerate, Provincial Newspapers (Qld) Ltd, was formed in 1968. Manning argued that the amalgamation would prevent predatory metropolitan companies from buying up country newspapers one by one. His nephew Bruce Manning asked him whether he thought that, 'by putting ourselves all together like this we might become just a vehicle for a one-off takeover'. Jack Manning replied: 'No, too big; too big, son'. Nevertheless, an Irish-Australian combination, headed by Dr Tony O'Reilly, gained the controlling interest in Provincial Newspapers (Qld) Ltd in 1988.

Manning had been a founding director (1931) of radio-station 4MK, Mackay. Active in community organizations, he was an elder of St Paul's Presbyterian Church, master (1927) of Caledonia Masonic Lodge No.34, a member (1939-70) and chairman (1940-53) of the Mackay Ambulance Committee, foundation secretary (1926) and president (1932-33) of the local Rotary Club, and president (1946-49) of the Central Queensland District Bowls Association. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1953. At the Presbyterian Church, St Lucia, Brisbane, on 20 February 1958 he married Edith Agnes Lynch, née Clarkson, a 52-year-old widow. That year he retired to Buderim. Survived by his wife and by the two sons of his first marriage, he died on 10 October 1978 at Nambour and was cremated with the forms of the Uniting Church.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Boyan, Jack Manning (Brisb, 1978)
  • R. Kirkpatrick, Sworn to No Master (Toowoomba, Qld, 1984)
  • Daily Mercury (Mackay), 11 Oct 1978
  • Chronicle (Toowoomba), 12 Oct 1978
  • Nambour Chronicle, 12 Oct 1978
  • private information.

Citation details

Rod Kirkpatrick, 'Manning, Henry John (Jack) (1889–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/manning-henry-john-jack-11050/text19663, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 3 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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