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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Stirling, Edmund (1815–1897)

by O. K. Battye

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Edmund Stirling (1815-1897), printer and newspaper proprietor, was born on 19 August 1815 near Worstead, Norfolk, England, son of a naval officer who served with Nelson. According to family history, Stirling asked for his inheritance and sailed for New South Wales with a guardian in the Edward Lombe but was persuaded to land at Fremantle on 24 August 1830. He and his guardian helped a fellow passenger Charles Macfaull to plant the colony's first vines near Fremantle. In 1833 he, Macfaull and W. K. Shenton produced the colony's first printed newspaper, the Fremantle Observer, Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, on a tiny Ruthven press, now in the Fremantle Museum. In 1836 he married Ethel Read (d.1887), who had reached the colony in the ill-fated Rockingham. They had five sons and six daughters.

In 1838 Stirling began a job printing business. In 1840, when the Inquirer was launched as the town's second weekly newspaper, he became principal compositor and printer, still carrying on his business. By May 1847 he had become sole owner of the Inquirer, his eldest son John joined him about 1863 and three other sons Horace, Frederick and Baldwin in 1878. While he was proprietor the Inquirer was a vigorous paper, keeping a close eye on local affairs and often clashing with authority. In January 1853 he noted in his diary, 'Another government prosecution commenced against the proprietor of the Inquirer which, after pending for several weeks, was, like a former one, abandoned'. The most important clash was that in 1870 in which he and John Stirling, with Arthur Shenton of the West Australian Times, were gaoled briefly after both papers had denounced a judgment by Chief Justice Burt; on publishing an abject apology they were released.

Stirling was interested in public works and was a member of the Perth Town Trust and later of the City Council. He was a director of the Geraldine Mining Co., launched in 1848, and his paper was the first to have a section devoted to mining. With Alexander Cumming, an auctioneer, he formed the West Australian Telegraph Co. in the late 1860s and in 1869 opened the first line between Perth and Fremantle, the government having supplied convict labour to erect the poles. He retired in April 1878. On 7 January 1889 he married a widow Emma Amelia Meares, née Wright, of York. He died of heart failure at York on 2 November 1897 and was buried in the Perth Anglican cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £2473.

Select Bibliography

  • Files of Inquirer, Daily News, West Australian, Western Mail (W.A. Newspapers Ltd, Battye Lib, Perth)
  • private information.

Citation details

O. K. Battye, 'Stirling, Edmund (1815–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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