Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Gale (1831–1929)

by E. J. Lea-Scarlett

This article was published:

John Gale (1831-1929), journalist, was born on 17 April 1831 at Bodmin, Cornwall, England, son of Francis Gale, excise officer, and his wife Mary, née Hamlyn. He was educated at Weymouth Grammar School and apprenticed to a newspaper in Newport, Monmouthshire. Converted to Wesleyan Methodism, he entered the ministry, was appointed to colonial duty and arrived at Sydney in the American Lass on 24 May 1854. In 1854-57 he travelled widely in New South Wales on a circuit which included Goulburn, Gunning, Queanbeyan and the Canberra district. On 3 January 1857 he married Loana, née Wheatley, and resigned to become a tutor.

Gale declined an invitation to run a sectarian newspaper at West Maitland but moved to Queanbeyan and on 15 September 1860 under primitive conditions started the Golden Age and General Advertiser; after 1864 it was named the Queanbeyan Age and Recorder. Through his paper he supported free selection and advocated reform in local administration. In 1866 he joined the committee of the new Free Selectors' Protection Association and of the local school board. His newspaper did not prosper and he moved in August 1867 to Braidwood where he founded the Braidwood Independent but in November, after a petition from Queanbeyan residents, resumed the Queanbeyan Age. He founded the Gunning Leader in 1876, became secretary of the Free Selectors' Association and patriarch of the sons and daughters of temperance. In 1880 he visited Sydney as a delegate from the Queanbeyan Free Selectors' Association and convener of the Land Bill Conference and in 1883 served the first of three terms as president of the New South Wales Land Law Reform Alliance. In 1885 he became a justice of the peace, vice-president of the Land and Industrial Alliance Conference of New South Wales and one of Queanbeyan's first aldermen.

In the 1881 general election Gale had been defeated for Queanbeyan but in 1885 he helped Edward O'Sullivan to win the seat for the protectionists. In February 1887 Gale was elected for the Murrumbidgee. He was not prominent in parliament and some free selectors complained that he neglected their interests; in 1889 he did not seek re-election. On entering parliament he had sold the Queanbeyan Age to four of his children and in April 1887 invested £3000 in the Manly Spectator which he founded with Harold Stephen as his partner. Stephen so mismanaged the funds that Gale became bankrupt in March 1890. He returned briefly to Queanbeyan before going to Junee where he established the Democrat and remained until 1894 when he became editor of the Queanbeyan Observer, owned by his son-in-law, Edward Henry Fallick.

Gale had published short stories and historical articles and after he retired in 1903 continued to write and held several minor official posts including that of coroner. In 1927 he published Canberra: History of and Legends Relating to the Federal Capital Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. He often wrote on fishing and had collaborated with Frederick Campbell of Yarralumla in the liberation of the first trout in the Molonglo River in 1889. His earlier writing was forceful and humorous but the dry and pedantic style of his book on Canberra reflected little of his literary ability. His passionate espousal of a flimsy claim for the discovery of Lake George in 1812 reduced his impact as an historian. He died at Queanbeyan on 15 July 1929 and was buried in the Queanbeyan Presbyterian cemetery after a Methodist ceremony. He was survived by four daughters and one son of the eleven children of his first marriage, and by his second wife Elizabeth Ann Forrest whom he had married on 17 January 1921 at Queanbeyan.

Select Bibliography

  • E. J. Lea-Scarlett, Queanbeyan: District and People (Queanbeyan, 1968)
  • Town and Country Journal, 7 May 1887
  • Queanbeyan Age, 16 Sept 1960, centenary supplement.

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

E. J. Lea-Scarlett, 'Gale, John (1831–1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 17 June 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

Life Summary [details]


17 April, 1831
Bodmin, Cornwall, England


15 July, 1929 (aged 98)
Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia

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