Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Shakespeare, Thomas Mitchell (1873–1938)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

This is a shared entry with Arthur Thomas Shakespeare

Thomas Mitchell Shakespeare (1873-1938) and Arthur Thomas Shakespeare (1897-1975), newspaper proprietors, were father and son. Thomas was born on 25 July 1873 at Castlereagh, near Penrith, New South Wales, seventh child of English-born Thomas Shakespeare, engineer, and his wife Margaret, née Brown, born in the Scottish Shetland Islands. Apprenticed at 14 to Samuel Smith, the owner-printer of the Forbes and Parkes Gazette, Thomas launched the Lachlander at Condobolin in 1894 and won a reputation as an energetic, intelligent and honest journalist who backed rural interests and liberal causes, including the infant Labor Party. On 11 November 1896 at the Salvation Army Barracks, Forbes, he married Ann Forster of Wagga Wagga.

Shakespeare acquired the Grafton Argus in 1902. He was a founding member of the New South Wales Country Press Association (1900) and in 1903 was appointed secretary of the Country Press Co-operative Co., representing the business interests of country newspapers. He moved to Vaucluse, Sydney, and became well known in political circles. In August 1923 he was appointed by the Fuller ministry to the Legislative Council. A foundation member (1919) of the Federal Capital Territory Representation League, he attended the first sale of Canberra leases in December 1924 and bought land at Braddon. In 1925 he launched a family company, Federal Capital Press of Australia Ltd, to start a newspaper. The first number of the Canberra Times appeared on 3 September 1926 and it became a daily on 20 February 1928. Two sons, Christopher John and James William, acted as printer, publisher and secretary of the paper: the eldest son Arthur Thomas was editor.

Thomas Shakespeare settled in Canberra in late 1929 as managing director of the company, then facing financial difficulty because of government retrenchment of expenditure on the capital. A leading Freemason, he was prominent in local affairs as one of the most active members of a movement for self-government and was a foundation member (1930) of the Federal Capital Territory Advisory Council. Survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter, he died at home in Canberra on 16 September 1938 and was buried with Presbyterian forms in South Head cemetery, Sydney.

Arthur Shakespeare was born at Condobolin on 27 September 1897 and educated at Grafton and Fort Street Boys' High School, Sydney. At 18 he joined the Sydney Morning Herald and advanced to sub-editor. As editor of the Canberra Times 'A.T.' kept out of public affairs to avoid any conflict of interest but, as chairman of the company, held office in the Country Press Association (president), the Australian Provincial Press Association (secretary, president) and Australian United Press Ltd (director), the Provincial Press Accreditation Bureau and the Commonwealth Press Union. He was a member (1945-55) of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council (chairman, 1953) and of the council of the Australian National University. His membership of many local groups included Canberra Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, the Young Men's Christian Association, the eisteddfod association and the committee on cultural development. Beneath the 'solid, no-nonsense' man there lurked a lover of verse who, when moved, wrote with eloquence and poetic diction.

When Rupert Murdoch launched the Australian in Canberra in 1964 with the incidental intention of running the Canberra Times out of business, Shakespeare chose the family's exit by selling out in July to Sydney's John Fairfax Ltd. He then turned, as chairman, to the development of Canberra Television Ltd, founded by Federal Capital Press in 1957. Licensed in 1960, station CTC 7 had opened in June 1962.

On 15 October 1927 Shakespeare had married Marjorie Agnew Patten (d.1961) at Redfern. On 12 January 1963 he married Heather Gladys Cameron at St Ninian's Presbyterian Church. He died on 11 October 1975 and was buried in Canberra cemetery. His wife and two daughters of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Souter, Company of Heralds (Melb, 1981)
  • Newspaper News, 1 Aug 1928, 1 Mar 1929
  • Canberra Times, 17 Sept 1938, 3 Sept 1951, 13 Oct 1975, 3 Sept 1976
  • Shakespeare papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Shakespeare, Thomas Mitchell (1873–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/shakespeare-thomas-mitchell-8393/text14737, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 31 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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