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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Spedding, Quentin Shaddock (1892–1974)

by David Clune

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Quentin Shaddock Spedding (1892-1974), journalist, was born on 22 October 1892 at Balmain, Sydney, son of John Spedding, an accountant from Scotland, and his native-born wife Ella, née Plummer. Educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), he began work on the Sydney staff of the Newcastle Morning Herald in 1910. Next year he was a foundation member of the Australian Journalists' Association and joined the Daily Telegraph; from 1912 he was its Melbourne representative.

Enlisting in the 38th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, in May 1915, Spedding married Margaret Emma Jones on 17 June at St Peter's Anglican Church, Melbourne. He reached England in August 1916, served in France and was commissioned on 26 June 1917. That year he was wounded in action and thereafter walked with the aid of a stick. In 1919-20, as temporary captain and graves registration staff officer, he organized Australian war graves in France, laid out cemeteries at Villers-Bretonneux and on the Somme, and arranged for divisional war memorials: his services were brought to the notice of the secretary of state for war.

Returning to Sydney in mid-1920, Spedding worked for the Daily Telegraph in 1921-23. Unable (or unwilling) to pay court costs and £25 compensation awarded against him after a motor cycle accident, he was declared bankrupt in 1923 and discharged in 1929. He edited the Sunday News from 1923 until appointed editor of the Labor Daily in 1925: he became its managing editor in 1929. Engaged for his practical newspaper experience rather than for any particular Labor affiliation, he was embroiled in the turbulent politics of the J. T. Lang era. In August 1926 he was questioned by a hostile caucus over stories (later discredited) in the Labor Daily which alleged that Labor members had been bribed to cross the floor of the House. Subjected to other intermittent attacks from sections of the labour movement, he was summarily dismissed in 1931 in favour of a more politically committed editor. Under Spedding the Labor Daily had increased circulation from 19,000 to 69,000 and occasionally reached 120,000.

After managing Smith's Weekly in Melbourne (1931-33), Spedding returned to Sydney and worked on Truth in 1935-46. He was an organizer, State council-member and honorary publicity officer of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia in the 1920s and 1930s, and compiler and editor of its Official Year Book from 1933.

In 1946 Spedding became press secretary to the New South Wales premier (Sir) William McKell. With his grizzled hair, prominent features, distinct limp and at times formidable manner, 'Sped' became something of an institution in Macquarie Street. A man of strongly held opinions, he was a raconteur who held court in various city pubs. He later served as press secretary and speech writer for premiers McGirr, Cahill, Heffron and Renshaw. Appointed O.B.E. in 1958, Spedding retired in October 1964. Survived by his son, he died in the family home at Bass Hill on 3 June 1974 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. B. Walker, Yesterday's News (Syd, 1980)
  • Reveille (Sydney), 1 Jan, 1 Sept 1939
  • Labour History, May 1976, no 30, p 66
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 1958, 23, 24 Oct 1964
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 23 Oct 1964
  • Sun (Sydney), 22 Oct 1964, 4 June 1974
  • bankruptcy file, 14/23237 (State Records New South Wales)
  • Spedding papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

David Clune, 'Spedding, Quentin Shaddock (1892–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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