Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Winter, Samuel Vincent (1843–1904)

by Geoffrey Serle

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

This is a shared entry with Joseph Winter

Samuel Vincent Winter (1843-1904) and Joseph Winter (1844-1915), journalists, were born on 23 March 1843 in the Goulburn Valley, Port Phillip District, and on 26 October 1844 in Melbourne, elder children of Samuel Winter, corn-dealer, an English Protestant, and his wife Alice, née Sullivan, an Irish Catholic. He had arrived as a convict on the Marquis of Hastings in January 1826, she as an assisted migrant. The family settled in Richmond near Melbourne, where the boys attended St James's Catholic School. Their father died and about 1856 the boys were apprenticed to W. H. Williams, a West Melbourne printer.

Within a few years Samuel was foreman of the works. For seven years he was secretary of the St Patrick's Society, and later president; in 1869 he was secretary of a committee to enable the Fenian prisoners released in Western Australia to migrate elsewhere. In 1868, on the advice of Michael O'Grady, (Sir) Charles Gavan Duffy and Joseph Dalton, he founded the Advocate as a Catholic weekly, managed it for about three years and handed it over to Joseph. In 1871 Samuel purchased the ailing evening Herald in partnership with John Halfey and others; by 1874 he had taken over the editorship and was building up its circulation which rose to about 20,000 in 1880 and 40,000 in 1890. Inevitably the Herald was reputed to be Irish Catholic in outlook, but Winter judiciously tempered his sympathies. In 1871 he was an enthusiastic founding member of the Australian Natives' Association. He was a member of the Richmond Council in 1875-83 and a successful mayor in 1877 and 1882; he was prominent in negotiations to establish the suburban tramway system and became a justice of the peace. A staunch 'Berryite' protectionist, he failed to win the Legislative Assembly seat of Richmond in 1877 and 1883. He now had a reputation for splendid elocution and wit, but he renounced political ambition to retain independence as an editor.

In 1881 Samuel founded the Sportsman, which later became the Herald's property and in 1896 was sold to Alfred Henry Massina, its printer. Prospering, Winter moved from his home at Albert Park to South Yarra, with a retreat at Lilydale. After Halfey's death in 1889 he arranged for George Walstab, Donald Munro, Massina, Theodore Fink and William Baillieu to buy Halfey's half-share in the Herald. In 1891, however, the paper was in financial trouble and was sold to the City Newspaper Co., which also acquired the Weekly Times when the Daily Telegraph closed down in May 1892. Winter retired from the Herald in August 1891 but continued to edit the Sportsman. When the purchasers failed to meet payments, Massina and Fink forced the company into liquidation and the Herald's former proprietorship was restored, Winter resumed the managing editorship, and the Weekly Times was acquired by the way. In 1894 the rival Evening Standard was bought out and next year Winter installed linotype machines. By 1900 the Herald, with a stable circulation of about 50,000, was paying handsome dividends.

At least in comparison with the other Melbourne newspaper proprietors, Samuel was a generous employer. Nicknamed 'Stormy' Winter, impetuous in decision and rapid in speech, he drove his men hard in competition with rivals; a great swearer, he was described by J. F. Archibald as an 'incomparable artist in blasphemy' but a kind and lovable man always good for a handout. Randolph Bedford found him 'irritable', obituarists described him as generous with praise, and noted his brusqueness disguising essential tenderness and shyness. Cycling and motoring were hobbies late in life. He had been president of the Master Printers' Association in 1889, a committee-man of the Charity Organisation Society, a trustee of the Toorak and South Yarra Try Society and was a life governor of the Melbourne and Alfred hospitals. He went overseas in 1898 and 1903. He died on 16 October 1904 of peritonitis, leaving an estate valued for probate at £31,000. His wife Lucy Helen, née Stodart, whom he had married on 14 May 1863 and by whom he had five sons and two daughters, predeceased him on 16 May 1882, aged 35.

Joseph Winter was a more resolute ideologue. He had been an altar boy and Sunday school teacher, was a founding member in 1865 of the St Francis Benefit Society (forerunner of the Hibernian-Australasian Catholic Benefit Society) and was prominent in the Catholic Young Men's Society. When Samuel passed over ownership of the Advocate Joseph managed it for the rest of his life with William Gunson as editor from 1868 to 1902. The chief vehicle of Church propaganda until the Tribune was founded in 1900, it was read widely by the faithful but had little broad impact.

One of those Australians who were 'more Irish than the Irish themselves', Winter was for thirty years the heart and soul of the Home Rule movement in Victoria. In the late 1870s he raised money for famine relief in Ireland. He became treasurer of the Melbourne branch of the Irish National Land League in 1880 and then national treasurer, and was later almost constantly president, secretary or treasurer of the Irish National League and the United Irish League. He was the chief fund-raiser for the cause; in 1887 an anonymous correspondent in the Age accused him of failing to account for £1000 and he sued and the Age settled. He was the main organizer of the frequent tours of Irish fund-raisers with whom he had close relations; he was groomsman at John Edward Redmond's marriage in Sydney in 1883 and Michael Davitt stayed at his Hawthorn home. He bore the brunt of the fanatical hostility to the Home Rule cause led by the Age and Argus, and had the satisfaction over the years of seeing opinion change. From 1870 he published the annual Irish-Australian Almanac and Directory. He imported type to enable Dr Nicholas O'Donnell to conduct his Advocate column in Gaelic. Winter's support for the Redmonds' attitude to World War I was characteristic of his generation in Australia.

He did not seek the limelight or speak often from the platform. Serious, sensible and solid, never frivolous or flippant, of 'childlike simplicity', Winter was not easy in his social relations. He became something of a recluse in his later years. He died suddenly of a heart attack on 2 December 1915, 'honoured and respected by our race and creed' as O'Donnell cabled John Redmond. On 21 December 1885 he had married Delia Euphrasia Dargan who survived him with three daughters and a son. The Catholic Church bought the Advocate.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • W. H. K. Redmond, Through the New Commonwealth (Dublin, 1906)
  • Australasian Typographical Journal, Dec 1904
  • Austral Light, 17 (1916)
  • Table Talk, 6 Sept 1889, 20 Oct 1904
  • Life (Melbourne), 27 Nov 1890
  • Herald (Melbourne), 17, 18 Oct 1904, 3 Jan 1940
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 22 Oct 1904, 11 Dec 1915
  • Lone Hand, June 1907
  • G. M. Tobin, The Sea-Divided Gael … The Irish Home Rule Movement in Victoria and New South Wales, 1880-1916 (M.A. thesis, Australian National University, 1969)
  • T. Fink papers (Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne)
  • Joseph Winter papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Geoffrey Serle, 'Winter, Samuel Vincent (1843–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/winter-samuel-vincent-4875/text8153, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 November 2017.

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

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