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John Harvey Finlayson (1843–1915)

by J. H. Love

This article was published:

John Harvey Finlayson (1843-1915), by unknown photographer

John Harvey Finlayson (1843-1915), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 53205

John Harvey Finlayson (1843-1915), newspaper editor, was born on 3 February 1843 at Mitcham, South Australia, the third child of William Finlayson and his wife Helen, née Harvey. He was educated at George Mugg's school, Mitcham, and the Adelaide Educational Institution, where his scholastic record attracted the attention of the proprietors of the South Australian Register. He joined its literary staff in December 1861, soon showed ability at parliamentary and law reporting, became chief of the reporting staff in 1866 and contributed leading articles. He also wrote on agricultural subjects for Farm and Garden and the Observer. In 1876 he travelled in America and Europe, reporting on the Philadelphia Exhibition and appointing foreign correspondents for the Register. On his return he was invited to become a proprietor, and in 1878 succeeded John Howard Clark as editor.

Finlayson was appointed a justice of the peace in 1880, and a commissioner for the Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition of 1887 and for South Australia in the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1888. He was chairman of the Distressed Farmers' Seed Wheat Fund, established by the Register in the 1890s, and as a councillor of the South Australian Acclimatization Society attended the fourth International Congress of Zoologists in London in 1898. Failing health induced him to resign the editorship in 1899; he made his fourth journey to England and settled in London as correspondent for the Register. He visited South Australia in 1904 and returned finally in 1908 to retire at North Adelaide where he died on 30 March 1915.

As a member of the Congregational Church, one of Finlayson's most consistent interests was free, secular, compulsory education, which he advocated not only as an editor but in the Parliamentary Club of the North Adelaide Young Men's Society and the Education League which he helped to found. He also served on the North Adelaide School Board of Advice. Leading articles in the Register show Finlayson's concern with legislation on agricultural and pastoral matters, land and income taxes, votes for women, defence of free trade and constitutional reforms to make the Legislative Council less obstructive. Although indifferent about the Federal Council, his editorials supported the Federation Conventions of the 1890s. On relations between labour and management, the Register was fairly liberal, criticizing some of the tactics of both parties in disputes, warily approving the trade union movement and placing high hope in arbitration.

On 20 March 1878 Finlayson had married Alice, daughter of Thomas Shoobridge, a London merchant. A daughter, Katharine, was born on 14 August 1879 and a son, Harvey Pym, on 11 January 1881.

Select Bibliography

  • W. J. Sowden, Our Pioneer Press … A History (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

J. H. Love, 'Finlayson, John Harvey (1843–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Harvey Finlayson (1843-1915), by unknown photographer

John Harvey Finlayson (1843-1915), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 53205

Life Summary [details]


3 February, 1843
Mitcham, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


30 March, 1915 (aged 72)
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.