Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frederick William Ward (1847–1934)

by Kathy Moignard

This article was published:

Frederick William Ward (1847-1934), journalist, was born on 5 April 1847 at Taranaki, New Zealand, fourth son of Rev. Robert Ward, Primitive Methodist missionary, and his wife Emily, née Brundle. Frederick attended Wesley College and Seminary, Auckland, and saw active service as a scout when the Maori Wars engulfed Taranaki in 1863-64.

Accepted for the Primitive Methodist ministry in 1866, Ward was first sent to Brisbane and then to Newcastle in New South Wales. As an early advocate of Methodist union, he resigned in 1869 to join the Wesleyan Church, serving at Mudgee (1869), St Leonards, Sydney (1870-71), Bathurst (1872-74) and Ashfield (1875). Having been ordained in 1873, on 22 March he married 19-year-old Amy Ada Cooke at St Leonards.

Leaving the ministry in 1876 to devote himself to journalism, Ward next year became editor of the Wesleyan Weekly Advocate. The position provided an entrée into the Fairfax family's organization: in 1879-84 Ward edited their weekly, the Sydney Mail, and also the evening paper, the Echo (1883-84). Seriously committed to country interests and distribution, the Mail competed with Jules Francois Archibald's Bulletin in the 1880s. As editor, Ward encouraged new literature, serializing 'Rolf Boldrewood's' Robbery Under Arms in 1882-83 in spite of opposition on moral grounds from (Sir) James Reading Fairfax.

Persuaded by Watkin Wynne, Ward left the Fairfax newspapers in 1884, taking with him Lachlan Brient, and headed a powerful editorial team which was recruited that year to revitalize the ailing Daily Telegraph. Under his leadership, by 1888 that newspaper had doubled the circulation of the Fairfax-owned Sydney Morning Herald. In May 1890 Ward resigned after a dramatic confrontation with the board over his editorial independence. He went to London and immersed himself in the newspaper world, working as cable correspondent for the Age, but the continuous night-work and a severe winter affected his health and he came home after twelve months.

On behalf of the New South Wales secretary for public works, (Sir) William Lyne, Ward undertook a water-management survey of the Darling River. He later accompanied the eccentric shipping entrepreneur James Huddart to Canada to negotiate that country's participation in the 'All-Red' cable route linking the Empire; accompanied by several Canadians, he returned to Brisbane in March 1893 to campaign for a Pacific cable.

Described by his lifelong friend Charles Fletcher as a big man with striking red hair and a voluminous beard, as outspoken, progressive and of unflagging energy, Ward attracted attention and was quickly appointed editor of the Brisbane Courier. He resigned in 1898 to become principal leader-writer for the Melbourne Argus. In 1903 he was reinstated as editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph at the invitation ('it was almost an apology') of the directors. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow in 1909 when he attended the first Imperial Press Conference in London.

Although Ward retired from the Daily Telegraph in 1914, after spending two years in England he edited the Brisbane Telegraph until December 1920. His last years were spent at his home at Kirribilli, Sydney. Predeceased by his wife, and survived by two sons and two daughters, he died there on 1 July 1934 and was buried with Presbyterian forms in South Head cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 2 (Wellington, 1940)
  • C. B. Fletcher, The Great Wheel (Syd, 1940)
  • R. B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales, 1803-1920 (Syd, 1976)
  • Church Heritage, 4, no 2, Sept 1985, p 122
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 15 Feb 1887
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Dec 1916, 3 July 1934
  • Alfred Deakin papers (National Library of Australia)
  • information from Rev E. G. Clancy, Uniting Church in Australian Church Records and Historical Society, North Parramatta, Sydney.

Citation details

Kathy Moignard, 'Ward, Frederick William (1847–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


5 April, 1847
Taranaki, New Zealand


1 July, 1934 (aged 87)
Kirribilli, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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