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Pugh, Theophilus Parsons (1831–1896)

by Clem Lack

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Theophilus Parsons Pugh (1831-1896), journalist, politician and public servant, was born on 6 November 1831 on Turk's Island, Caicos Group, British West Indies, son of Rev. Theophilus Pugh, Wesleyan minister, and his wife Mary, née Parsons. Educated at Kingswood School, Bristol, and Wesley College, Taunton, he was apprenticed to a printer and worked on several English newspapers. In June 1855 he migrated to Brisbane and for some months was correspondent for Henry Parkes's Empire. In 1855 he succeeded Arthur Sydney Lyon as editor of the Moreton Bay Free Press, the mouthpiece of the squatting interests and much more vituperative than the Courier. Pugh quarrelled with the anti-separation policy of the Free Press, and in 1859-61 was editor, printer and publisher of the Moreton Bay Courier.

A capable and fearless journalist, Pugh brought out the paper three times a week from January 1860. In June 1861 he brought it out 'without a day's notice' as a daily and changed the name to the Courier. Pugh's Moreton Bay Almanac appeared in 1858 as a single sheet and from 1859 as a book. In 1866 it was enlarged and issued as Pugh's Queensland Almanac and continued annually under various publishers until 1927.

As secretary of the Separation Committee from 1857 to 1859 Pugh had a notable part in achieving autonomy from New South Wales. In 1860 the Courier charged the government in Sydney with misappropriating revenue belonging to Queensland and in an article on 24 June headed 'Stop Thief' Pugh demanded that the money be returned rather than credited to the colony and appealed to Queenslanders to pay their accounts direct to their own Treasury.

Pugh became Queensland's first unofficial government printer: he issued the first Government Gazette from the jobbing office of the Courier and continued to print the Gazette until W. C. Bellbridge was officially appointed in 1863. As printer and publisher of the Courier he was prosecuted for a leading article allegedly libelling the Legislative Council as 'corrupt and unjust' for reducing the salary of Judge Lutwyche. Ironically the trial judge was Lutwyche himself who had probably helped to write the offending editorials in the Courier. The case was heard on 21 August 1861; the jury was absent only a few minutes and returned with a verdict of not guilty. An enthusiastic crowd chaired Pugh to the Sovereign Hotel. The excitement continued all night with fireworks, bonfires, public meetings and a subscription list to defray the Courier's expenses.

In May 1863 Pugh resigned from the Courier and in the same month published his Weekly Herald. W. Coote described it as 'a capital selection of colonial and English news, fairly written tales … and much space devoted to stock and to cotton cultivation', but Brisbane was not ready for such literature and after a few issues it became part of the Guardian Weekly. When the Brisbane Herald started on 1 October 1872 Pugh was its first editor.

Pugh was elected for Brisbane to the Legislative Assembly on 30 May 1863. Chairman of committees in 1867-68, he resigned his seat on 3 February 1869. In 1874 he entered the Queensland Public Service and was police magistrate at Goondiwindi, Rockhampton in 1878-81, Warwick 1883-86 and Bundaberg 1888-92. He was at Beenleigh in 1893 and in 1896 was acting police magistrate at Nanango. In 1889 at the royal commission on the sugar industry he sympathized with the Kanakas but in 1892 announced a change of heart and sneered at the attitude of the Labor Party leaders. He had a serious operation in Toowoomba and a week later died on 14 March 1896. He was married twice: first in 1855 to Annie Thompson Trundle, who died in 1866; and second, to Jane Montgomery, by whom he had six children.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty Years (Brisb, 1919)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1860, 409, 1889, 4, 312
  • C. Lack, ‘A century of Brisbane journalism’, JRHSQ, 4 (1948-52)
  • Brisbane Courier, 16 Mar 1896, 22 Mar 1926, supp
  • Queenslander, 7 Aug 1909
  • Griffith papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Clem Lack, 'Pugh, Theophilus Parsons (1831–1896)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pugh-theophilus-parsons-4417/text7211, published in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 21 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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