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Martin Victor Kennedy (1895–1952)

by John Arnold

This article was published:

Martin Victor Kennedy (1895-1952), journalist and author, was born on 11 August 1895 at Eaglehawk, near Bendigo, Victoria, third child of Victorian-born parents Martin William Kennedy, miner, and his wife Mary Jane, née Turner. Always known as Victor, he was educated to the age of 14 at the local state school, attended art classes at the Bendigo School of Mines, and learned shorthand. He also became secretary of the Bendigo West Labor League. As a freelance journalist, he wrote for the local newspapers. His first book of verse, The Unknown Anzac and Other Poems, was published at Bendigo in 1917.

After working as a reporter for the Shepparton Advertiser, Kennedy obtained a position on the Geraldton Guardian in Western Australia. Disliking the owner's politics, he quit the paper and became editor of the rival Geraldton Express. He then returned to freelance work, and while on leave back in Victoria on 20 November 1926 at the Methodist parsonage, Bendigo, married Dorothy Emily Fidge, also known by her pen-name 'Claire'.

From 1926 to 1931 Kennedy edited the Cairns Post, Queensland. While there, he wrote a life of the businessman A. J. Draper and several travel books promoting North Queensland, and published his second book of verse, Farthest North (1928). He also contributed verse and paragraphs to the Sydney Bulletin. Retrenched from the Cairns Post, he established and edited the short-lived but lively literary periodical Northern Affairs. His illness, resulting from recurring kidney stone problems, and the Depression killed the magazine, however, and, seeking better medical treatment, he moved to Brisbane, once more freelancing.

Befriended by James Devaney, James Picot and other local poets and writers, Kennedy became secretary of the Queensland Authors and Artists Association. For five years from December 1935 he was a junior reporter on the Gympie Post. He then moved to New South Wales and worked on the Tweed Daily, Casino, the Richmond River Express, Murwillumbah, and the Newcastle Sun, before being appointed editor of the Sunraysia Daily, Mildura, Victoria, in the early 1940s.

Kennedy was attracted to the Jindyworobak Movement. He edited its 1942 anthology; the previous year it had published his Flaunted Banners, an essay on literary values. During World War II he surveyed Australian poets for an unpublished book on 'Whither Australian Poetry'.

Late in 1944 Kennedy obtained a sub-editor's position on the Melbourne Argus. The move allowed him to work closely with Rex Ingamells in promoting the Jindyworobak ideals. He was also a keen member of the Bread and Cheese Club, succeeding J. K. Moir as its knight grand cheese in 1950. He continued to publish books of verse. In the late 1940s he began a biography of Bernard O'Dowd. He had O'Dowd's close co-operation and was awarded a Commonwealth Literary Fund grant of £500 to finish the book in January 1952. However, he died of cancer that month—on 14 January—in hospital at South Melbourne and was cremated. His wife and their two daughters and one son survived him. The O'Dowd biography, finished by Nettie Palmer, was published under their joint names in 1954.

Kennedy was congenial, well liked and admired for his dedicated commitment to promoting Australian literature. He was president of the Australian Literature Society at the time of his death. His verse conveyed a love of his country and of things Australian.

Select Bibliography

  • Fellows All: the Chronicles of the Bread and Cheese Club Melbourne (Melb, 1943)
  • Southerly, 13, no 2, 1952, p 115
  • Journalist, Jan 1952, p 3
  • Argus (Melbourne), 15 Jan 1952, p 11
  • Kennedy papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • Kennedy unpublished essays (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

John Arnold, 'Kennedy, Martin Victor (1895–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 5 December 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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