Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Haynes (1850–1917)

by Heather Radi

This article was published:

John Haynes (1850-1917), journalist and politician, was born on 26 April 1850 at Singleton, New South Wales, son of John Haynes, schoolteacher, and his wife Margaret, née Daly. Haynes began his career in journalism with the Morpeth Leader as an apprentice compositor. He worked for several country newspapers, moved to Sydney in 1873, joined Samuel Bennett's Empire and later his Town and Country Journal and Evening News which he sub-edited. In 1880 with Jules Francois Archibald he started the Bulletin, building circulation in 18 months to 15,000. They first lost financial control to J. Woods and then to William Traill who retained it when the partnership was formally reconstituted in 1883. Haynes held a minority interest in the Bulletin until 1885. His contribution to its early success was large but declined under Traill's proprietorship.

Haynes was resourceful in dealing with continuing financial problems and was fertile of ideas, taking as models the new journalism overseas and Bennett whom he greatly admired. He wanted to combine seriousness of purpose with bright, provocative journalism, saw the exposure article as a way of doing this and wrote a damaging reply to the proprietor of the Clontarf pleasure gardens. For failure to pay costs of the libel action that followed, he and Archibald were imprisoned for six weeks in 1882. Haynes hoped to make the Bulletin politically important, eschewing sectarianism and supporting free trade, but Traill was protectionist. Haynes published the free-trade Haynes Weekly in 1885-87 and Weekly News in 1890-91. In 1895 he started the weekly Elector which, enlarged and renamed Newsletter, ran until 1917. On his own he was not particularly successful and was involved several times in bankruptcy proceedings.

In 1887 Haynes was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Mudgee as a supporter of Sir Henry Parkes. He held the seat until 1894 and Wellington in 1894-1904. He remained a consistent supporter of free trade and decentralization, and professed concern for public integrity and the dignity of parliament but was a vituperative and unruly member. His sharp wit, argumentative nature and readiness to allege corruption and impropriety involved him in many disputes, including an unsuccessful action against James Fletcher for assault in 1888 and later a bodily attack on William Crick. He made bitter enemies amongst protectionists by publicly repudiating his Catholic faith in the 1887 election, and afterwards often attributed sectarian interest to political opponents. He opposed the federal constitution bill as undemocratic and inimical to development of local government and decentralization. On the federal issue he voted against (Sir) Gerorge Reid in September 1899. Haynes remained a free trader but distrust of party left him isolated as party allegiance firmed. He was narrowly defeated in 1904 and failed to secure re-election until 1915 when he won Willoughby as an independent democrat. He lost to a Nationalist in 1917. He was vehemently loyal, conspicuous for doubting the loyalty of resident Germans and demanding measures against them.

After his defeat in 1904 Haynes continued through his Newsletter the long feud with William Willis, Edward O'Sullivan, Crick and others. His repeated allegations of corruption were partly vindicated by the 1906 royal commission on lands administration. He had sworn out the warrant for the arrest of Willis who took out a writ against the Newsletter to silence it; Haynes repeated his charge in contempt of court, for which his son, the nominal proprietor, was gaoled.

Haynes died on 15 August 1917 in North Sydney and was buried with Anglican rites in the Presbyterian section of Rookwood cemetery. He was married three times: in 1871 to Sarah Bedford by whom he had one daughter and five sons; in 1892 to Mary Duff without issue; and in 1899 to Esther Campbell by whom he had a son and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Pearl, Wild Men of Sydney (Lond, 1958)
  • A. G. Thomson, ‘The Early History of the Bulletin’, Historical Studies, Australia and New Zealand, vol 6, no 22, May 1954, pp 121-34
  • ‘Early Bulletin Memoirs’, Newsletter, 1905
  • Town and Country Journal, 28 May 1887
  • Australasian, 28 Apr 1888
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 16 July 1894
  • Bulletin, 29 Jan 1930.

Citation details

Heather Radi, 'Haynes, John (1850–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 14 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]


26 April, 1850
Singleton, New South Wales, Australia


15 August, 1917 (aged 67)
North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, 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.