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Douglas James (Jim) Darwen (1906–1988)

by Rod Kirkpatrick

This article was published:

Douglas James (Jim) Darwen (1906-1988), newspaper owner and editor, was born on 12 April 1906 at Bowen, Queensland, fifth of thirteen surviving children of William Henry Darwen, journalist, and his wife Caroline, née Christofferson, both born in Bowen. Jim was educated at the local state school and, as a boy, worked on his father’s newspaper, the Bowen Independent and Proserpine Agriculturalist. On publication nights (Monday and Friday), the Darwen children were responsible for `flying’ the paper, taking the printed sheet from the cylinder of the printing machine as each of the four to five hundred copies was run off. At daylight they delivered the papers, sometimes running late for school. They also brought the `smoko billy’ of tea prepared for the staff by their mother.

Although Jim wanted to become an apprentice carpenter, at 14 he was `pressed into service’ at the newspaper office by his father. Overcoming his resentment, he became proficient at hand-setting type. After four years of this monotonous routine, he persuaded his father to buy a Linotype, a mechanical typesetter. He received a fortnight’s tuition from a skilled Linotype user and, in the first week, amazed his father by setting the copy for the Independent’s two issues and for all the commercial printing jobs, tasks that normally occupied three hand-setters.

On their father’s death in 1931, the five sons took over the firm, with Jim as editor and Linotype operator. Despite his lack of journalistic experience, he was to fulfil his new role with distinction, tirelessly promoting the needs of the district through his editorials. Under an impressive masthead the newspaper also covered State, national and world news, although it later became more parochial. After his younger brother Henry became editor in 1950 Jim continued to typeset copy until June 1976, remaining a senior partner. On 1 January 1986 the family sold the business to the North Queensland Newspaper Co. Ltd.

As editor, Darwen had followed his father’s dictum of `you’ve got to get out and get into things to run a country newspaper’. He was secretary of the progress association and the 1937 Back to Bowen celebrations; a long-time member and sometime president of the local town band; and a committee-member of the show society. A sailor for fifty years, he held every office in the Port Denison Sailing Club. He was twice elected a member of Bowen Town Council.

On 27 April 1932 at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Bowen, Darwen had married Mary Reynolds (d.1970). At Holy Trinity Church of England, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, on 15 December 1973 he married Glennie Brushe, née Blinco, a widow. Survived by his wife, and the son and one of two daughters of his first marriage, he died on 17 March 1988 at Bowen and was buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Kirkpatrick, Sworn to No Master (1984)
  • Bowen Independent, 13 Apr 1988, p 5, 16 July 1993, `special edn’ (whole issue)
  • private information.

Citation details

Rod Kirkpatrick, 'Darwen, Douglas James (Jim) (1906–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 22 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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