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Andrew Dunn (1880–1956)

by Rod Kirkpatrick

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DUNN FAMILY: Andrew (1854-1934), Andrew (1880-1956) and William Herbert Alan (1883-1961) were father and sons, and founders of a newspaper empire in central Queensland. Andrew senior was born on 24 May 1854 at Greenock, Scotland, son of Andrew Dunn, merchant, and his wife Ann, née Anderson. Educated at Greenock, he went to sea and worked for a Calcutta tea merchant before returning to become a cadet architectural draughtsman. On 4 November 1879, at Greenock, he married Katharine McIntyre; of their five sons, one died in infancy. The couple migrated to Queensland in 1880 so that Kate could accept a teaching appointment with the Department of Public Instruction. She became head of the Girls's South State School at Toowoomba while Andrew took on building. In 1885 they moved to Maryborough when she took over its Central Girls' School; she died there on 5 July 1889.

Dunn, at first a plumber, had become business-manager of the daily Maryborough Chronicle before August 1888 when the directors gave him a bonus for efficiency. Within six months he had bought twenty-four shares and had become a director. By 1891 he was chairman at a time when the paper was in difficulties. On 18 November he married another teacher, Jane, daughter of James Cran of Yengarie. She bore him two sons and two daughters and was said to have been an astute business adviser.

As the Chronicle struggled out of its difficulties in the late 1890s, Dunn entered Maryborough local politics and served as mayor in 1903 and 1914; he was an alderman in 1904-13 and again in 1915. Appointed as a Liberal, he sat in the Legislative Council in 1914-22. Inspired by the examples of the Buzacott, Groom and (James) Morgan families, Dunn planned to have several sons trained in various departments of newspaper work and for others to be available if required. When the daily Chronicle and weekly Colonist showed a first substantial profit in 1911, the family bought a controlling interest in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, installing Andrew junior as editor and his brother W. H. A. (Herbert) as chief of staff. Other brothers joined the paper later. In 1914 they bought the Warwick Argus and Herbert became its managing editor.

Deciding that the small independent newspaper could not survive in towns within easy reach of the metropolitan press, the family undertook an amalgamation programme. In February 1919 they merged the Warwick Argus with the Irwin family's Warwick Examiner and Times to form the Warwick Daily News with Herbert as managing editor. About the same time they took over the Wide Bay and Burnett News and combined it with the Maryborough Chronicle. After buying the Groom interest in the Toowoomba Chronicle they merged it with the competing daily Darling Downs Gazette on 2 October 1922. As Rockhampton seemed beyond the range of the metropolitan press the Morning Bulletin continued unchanged in association with the Evening News, bought from the Purcell Trust in 1929.

Andrew senior was a founder of the Queensland Country Press Association in 1907, a committee-member till his death, president several times, and chairman of directors of the association's business subsidiary, Queensland Country Press Ltd, in 1931-34. He was involved with the local chamber of commerce, harbour board, school of arts and technical college, and was an elder of St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Maryborough, for many years.

The family enterprise began keeping minutes of its business meetings in 1929. Although there was a semi-autonomous board in each town, Andrew senior co-ordinated them all. Family meetings discussed such matters as capital expenditure and the appointment of senior staff. Wills were written to ensure that shares stayed in the family. A family bank account was opened in 1930 but it was only in 1957 that a family holding company was incorporated.

Jane Dunn died in August 1930 and Andrew senior married Marcella Heller Foote in Sydney on 23 February 1932; she bore him no children. He died in Brisbane on 29 April 1934 and was buried in Maryborough cemetery. His estate, valued for probate at £36,286, was left to a family trust.

Andrew junior was born at Toowoomba on 7 May 1880 and was educated in Maryborough at the Christian Brothers' College and the grammar school. Apprenticed as a printer to the Maryborough Chronicle, he was transferred to the literary staff as a cadet when he showed writing ability. Joining the new Brisbane Daily Mail about 1904, he won praise as a reporter and writer of news commentaries, then moved to the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin in 1905. When the family bought a controlling interest from the McIlwraith-Blair partnership in 1911, he was senior enough to become editor, which he remained for forty-three years. In 1934 he succeeded his father as chairman of the Rockhampton, Maryborough and Toowoomba newspaper companies and on the board of Queensland Country Press Ltd. A 'clear and forceful writer with a scrupulous sense of fairness and tolerance', he wrote a weekly column under the pen-name 'Lictor' and was a competent dramatic critic. He believed that 'Our function is to produce a good newspaper. If you produce a good newspaper, you deserve some reward … Don't slant; don't sensationalise; reserve comment for editorials; don't blow a story up'. He had married Ivy Adeline Mary Lucas at North Rockhampton on 16 June 1909; they had seven children. He died at Maryborough on 31 January 1956 and was cremated in Rockhampton.

Herbert was born at Toowoomba on 11 September 1883 and educated at the Maryborough Grammar School. He joined the literary staff of the Maryborough Chronicle in 1901 and later worked on the Brisbane Courier and the Bundaberg Mail. After his Rockhampton and Warwick positions, he was managing editor of the Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette till 1922 when he became chairman of the Toowoomba Newspaper Co. Pty. Ltd. After visiting England in the late 1920s, he installed dictaphones to take copy by telephone from the Country Press Association's news service in Brisbane, and later advocated the use of teleprinters. He was said to be a shorthand and typing expert, a witty paragraphist, a capable sub-editor and an editor who set high standards of writing, accuracy and fairness. He died at Sandgate on 4 April 1961, survived by his wife Agnes Jessie, née Hill, whom he had married at Bundaberg on 5 September 1908, and their three children. He left his estate, valued for probate at £98,133, to his family.

Select Bibliography

  • Newspaper News, 2 Sept 1929
  • Maryborough Chronicle, 6 July 1889, 15 Aug 1930
  • Morning Bulletin, 8 July 1961, centenary issue
  • Toowoomba Chronicle, 30 Apr 1934, 15 July 1961 centenary supplement
  • Maryborough Newspaper Co minute books (held by Provincial Newspapers (Queensland) Ltd, Brisbane)
  • Queensland Country Press, minute books (held by Regional Dailies of Australia Ltd (Queensland Division), Brisbane)
  • private information.

Citation details

Rod Kirkpatrick, 'Dunn, Andrew (1880–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 18 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


7 May, 1880
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia


31 January, 1956 (aged 75)
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia

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