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Charles Edward Sayers (1901–1979)

by Peter Gifford

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Charles Edward Sayers (1901-1979), journalist and historian, was born on 9 November 1901 at Bendigo, Victoria, second child and eldest surviving son of Charles Sayers (d.1917), miner, and his wife Alice, née Brown, both Victorian born. When Ted was 5 the family moved to Broken Hill, New South Wales. From the local district school he won a scholarship to high school, but at the age of 13 had to find a job to support his mother and two brothers, his father having become a chronic invalid. He worked as a copy-holder at the Barrier Daily Truth and after about twelve months was made a cadet reporter. In 1919 he moved to Queensland where he was employed as a reporter by the Maryborough Chronicle; deficient in shorthand, he was dismissed in less than a year. He went to Brisbane and worked successively on the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

In 1922 Sayers left Brisbane to join the Age in Melbourne. On 23 June 1923 at St Saviour's Church, Collingwood, he married with Anglican rites Ivy May Scown, a stenographer. He reported on State and Federal politics for the Age. In 1927 he was seconded to the Commonwealth government as official press representative for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York. That year he became a founding member of the Canberra press gallery as representative of the Sydney Sun. While working as a journalist, Sayers wrote four novels: The Jumping Double (1923), Boss of Toolangi (1924), Green Streaked Ring (1930) and Desperate Chances (1930), all published in Sydney.

After a brief attachment to the Melbourne Herald, Sayers returned to the Age in 1933 and, in the following year, toured as its special reporter with the Duke of Gloucester. In 1935 he was appointed editor of the Age's rural newspaper, the Leader. Although Sayers suspected that he had been sacked from the Herald because of his active role (general president 1928) in the Australian Journalists' Association, Sir Keith Murdoch thought well enough of him to invite him in June 1940 to join the Commonwealth Department of Information; within six months Sayers was appointed editor. On 23 July 1941 he resigned to take a post with the British Foreign Office's Ministry of Economic Warfare. He served in Singapore and India, and briefly at Chungking, China, organizing anti-Japanese propaganda. In March 1944 he was made director-general of the Far Eastern Bureau of the British Ministry of Information, New Delhi. He was appointed editor of the Australian Associated Press service in London in 1947.

Three years later Sayers returned to Melbourne in ill health. He retired to a small farm at Olinda to devote himself to historical research and writing. His centenary supplement of the Age, published in 1954, was followed in 1965 by a biography of its co-founder David Syme. In all, Sayers wrote about twenty books, including histories of the Victorian districts of Donald (1963), Stawell (1966) and Warrnambool (1972 and 1987), and a centenary history of the Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne (1956). He also edited meticulously for Heinemann reprints of a number of rare books on Victorian history, among them Letters from Victorian Pioneers (1969), John Morgan's The Life and Adventures of William Buckley (London, 1969), Rolf Boldrewood's Old Melbourne Memories (1969) and James Bonwick's Western Victoria (1970). His major work, a biography of Sir Keith Murdoch, remained unpublished. Survived by his wife and their two sons, he died on 25 February 1979 at Camberwell and was cremated. Their son, Stuart, followed him into journalism on the Age.

Select Bibliography

  • Journalist, Apr 1979
  • Royal Historical Society of Victoria, Newsletter, May 1979
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Dec 1940, 23 July, 28 Aug 1941, 6 Mar 1944, 13 May 1947
  • Age (Melbourne), 26 Feb 1979
  • Sayers papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • Murdoch papers (National Library of Australia)
  • Dumas papers (National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Gifford, 'Sayers, Charles Edward (1901–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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