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White, Charles (1845–1922)

by Theo Barker

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

Charles White (1845-1922), editor and author, was born at Bathurst, New South Wales, eldest son of John Charles White, bank clerk and Methodist lay preacher, and his wife Myra, née Oakey, of Demerara, West Indies. In October 1859 his father bought the Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal which the family owned until 1904.

Interested in writing, Charles taught himself shorthand while an apprentice on his father's paper; he was also a keen billiards player and became a champion in later life. As police roundsman for the Free Press, he reported the activities of the bushrangers John Gilbert, Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner and John Vane, and began to collect 'oldest inhabitant (and convict) stories'. When he married Sarah Beattie at Young on 3 May 1871 he gave his occupation as printer; her younger sister Mary became the mother of Dame Mary Gilmore. On the death of their father in 1884, he became editor of the Free Press; his brother Gloster became business manager.

As editor White used the Free Press to support free trade and Federation. In 1896 during the People's Federal Convention at Bathurst he opened the paper to any pro-Federation advocate, including 'Price Warung'. In 1901 the Free Press became so critical of leading protectionists and the movement that it stirred much local antagonism to White; as a result in 1902 he sold his share of the paper to Gloster and moved to Randwick. In 1906 he became first editor of the Farmer and Settler, a rural paper published in Sydney and founded that year by his son Percy.

An historian at heart, White meticulously collected material for future use: he discussed the bushranging days at length with Nat Gould in Bathurst, and later was visited by Vane who gave him first-hand information of the hold-ups he had participated in. Under his pseudonym, 'The Chatterer', White compiled full-scale histories of the Aboriginals, convicts, bushrangers and early governors which were serialized in the Free Press in 1888-93. In Bathurst in 1889 he published Early Australian History. Convict Life in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, Parts I & II, and in 1891 Part IV, The Story of the Bushrangers. He later published various parts of his Early Australian History separately and under different titles, including a History of Australian Bushranging (1900-1903). He also edited John Vane, Bushranger: [an autobiography]. 'The Story of the Blacks' was published in 1889. In 1917-19 'The Rise & Progress of the West' (sometimes called 'The Story of Wheat') was serialized in the Farmer and Settler. His work shows painstaking scholarship and a fluent, uncluttered style free of romanticism. He supervised the Bathurst editions of his books which were printed on his own presses.

White suffered the tragic loss of all his records in a fire at his Randwick home and soon after moved to Springwood. Aged 77, he died of pernicious anaemia on 22 December 1922 at his home in Mosman; survived by his wife, a son and two daughters, he was buried in the Methodist cemetery, Gore Hill. His estate was valued for probate at £618.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Gilmore, Old Days, Old Ways (Syd, 1934)
  • Biblionews, Apr 1966
  • Bathurst Times, 5 Apr 1917
  • Bathurst Historical Society Archives.

Citation details

Theo Barker, 'White, Charles (1845–1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/white-charles-4834/text8067, published in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 19 September 2014.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

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

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