The first newspaper in the Manning Valley was published by Horace Dean. It emanated from Tinonee, but was expressly printed for all of the Manning Valley. It was called "The Manning River News".
First Published 1865
The first newspaper on the Manning the Manning River News, established at Tinonee in 1865. It was one of only four country newspapers established in NSW in 1865. The others were:
• the Armidale Telegraph which survived seven years;
• the Lachlan Reporter, Forbes, which survived five or six years;
• and the Lachlan Chronicle, also at Forbes, which survived about five or six months.
The only newspapers north of the Manning on the NSW coast in 1865 were published at Grafton and Kempsey: the Clarence & Richmond Examiner, established at Grafton in 1859 and forerunner of today’s Daily Examiner (Grafton had since had two other newspapers, both of which had perished); and the Macleay Herald, established at Kempsey in May 1864 by Charles Boyce, who less than five years later founded the Manning Times.
About 4000 people lived on the Manning in 1865. And many of those people happened to find business to do in Tinonee on Saturday, 15 April 1865, when the first issue of the Manning River News and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales was produced by Horace Dean’s printing establishment in Manchester Street. His editorial motto was, initially, ’Independent, not neutral’, and later became: ’The man who will not reason is a bigot: he who cannot, a fool: - but if he dare not, let him confess himself a slave.’ On the evening of that historic day, about thirty-five of the locals dined at John Murray’s Ferry Inn at Tinonee to commemorate the occasion.
Horace Dean began his introductory editorial by congratulating his readers on the appearance of the first newspaper ever printed on the Manning. And then he waxed lyrical and long:
Then Dean introduced a theme to which he would return when he wrote his valedictory editorial eight years later. Dean said the progress of the Manning had been impeded by a petty spirit of local jealousy. ’We wish therefore to distinctly announce at the commencement of our career that the News will neither give countenance to, nor in any way favour, such a spirit.’ He said: ’The paper is not intended to be the organ of Tinonee or of Wingham; of Taree or of Cundletown; but it will speak for the Manning in its entirety; for the district as a whole.’ Dean planned to ’elevate a standard of a nobler and higher character’. To push forward all the material interests of the district would be his constant care.
Running The Paper
Running the paper, as well as continuing his storekeeping business, was fairly demanding and in a notice dated 20 May 1867, Dean advertised on the front page of the News: "My health and strength having materially given way under the pressure of the manifold duties with which I am charged, it has again been considered advisable to offer for private sale The Business so long conducted by Dean & Co., at Tinonee." (Meanwhile it would be business as usual at the store.)
In 1867 the MR News had agents at Kempsey, Seven Oaks, Darkwater Creek, Summerland Island, Macleay, Rollands Plains, Wingham (Mr J. Cochrane), Hursley, Taree (Mr Ebenezer Doust, PM), Cundle, Jones Island, Dingo Creek, Red Bank, Cundle Plains, Coopemook, and London, England, as well as Sydney, Australia. In the News, Dean’s readiness to write in detail has left a wonderful record of various aspects of Manning life in the 1860s and 1870s, and indeed, of the problems that confronted newspaper proprietors and editors.
For example, on 4 May 1867, he wrote:
There was a delay of twelve hours, and then he struck the same problem again. He printed all the river edition and issued it in an imperfect state. His second attempt at producing new rollers was crowned with more success, and the mail papers ’looked nearly as well as usual’, but they were not printed until Saturday night. ’If this had happened in Sydney,’ Dean wrote, ’a second or a third set of rollers might have been obtained in as quarter of an hour...’
He said rigid economy was necessary in every department in order to keep the newspaper afloat. ’Every one in any way connected with the paper must work hard twelve hours out of every twenty four, in order to ensure its punctual appearance at the appointed time - and so, as in every other case that allows no margin for unusual occurrences, we are always in danger of losing an issue or of publishing as sheet of which we are ashamed’
Horace Dean’s Other Jobs
Dean himself became the creator of much news, rather than merely a reporter and editor. He stood for Parliament twice, in 1869 and 1870, and won the ballot twice. The first time he took up his seat as the member for Hastings for five months (from 23 December to 6 May 1870) until he was declared not duly elected because he held an office or profit under the Crown (namely, postmaster at Tinonee) at the time of his election. [The Australian Almanac lists him as postmaster at Tinonee in 1869, p.208, and 1870, p.216 - and also as a chemist that year, but in 1871 lists Frederick Burton, Dean’s foreman at the MR News, as postmaster, and in 1872, 1873 and 1874 Henry Dean is listed as postmaster.]
The second time he did not even take up his seat, for, although he received 1226 votes to Robert Burdett Smith’s 482, reflecting what Dean called ’the unanimous will of an outraged people’, Smith successfully petitioned against him on the grounds that he had not been a resident for five years after becoming a naturalised citizen. Needless to say, Dean dealt less than kindly with Smith in future in the columns of the Manning River News. Smith issued at least one writ for libel against Dean, seeking £2000 damages. (C&R Examiner, 2514/187 l.)
Horace Dean Moves On
By May 1872, Dean fresh from an overseas trip, was in two minds about his future. He denied he would close the News, but he was admitting openly that his own future might not lie with the News. On 23 May fifty gentlemen attended a public dinner in Mr Else’s large rooms in Tinonee to show their ’respect and esteem’ for Dean, and to welcome him home. Dean said although he had received several invitations to remove, and at least one of these invitations covered an engagement to guarantee an ample income during the remainder of his life, he was still undecided as to his future course.
Although he did not tell the Tinonee gathering this, one of the possibilities was to establish a daily newspaper in Sydney, but when Sir Henry Parkes refused to be his political editor, his enthusiasm waned. In 1873, the 58-year-old Dean was feeling the pressure, even though subscriptions and advertising had risen to unprecedented levels. He was finding the demands of maintaining the editorial quality of the newspaper increasingly onerous and his health was suffering. The News could not afford to have both an editor and a publisher (manager). And so he decided to ’avail himself of the first suitable offer to throw off the load’.
The Paper Changes Hands
On 12 September 1873 he sold the News to Frederick Burton who had been involved in the production of the News for some years. Dean said it would be wrong to say he retired from the paper with regret. ’He does not feel sorry to be relieved of duties which chained him like a galley slave to his post, and scarcely left a moment for rest or enjoyment; but he does regret the necessity for this step - the failure of his strength - and the obligation imposed by the requirements of a large and expensive family to devote his time to something that will pay better than literature on the Manning.’
Dean did not depart without restating his contention that disunity had cost the Manning dearly. He related his theme to the division over the proposed road from New England, the location of the telegraph station, the possible extension of steam navigation of the Manning beyond Taree, and even to the advent of the Manning Times. On taking over the News, Burton wasted no time in holding out an olive branch to the member for Hastings, Mr R.B. Smith. The leading item in the ’Notes and Events’ column read: ’With reference to the hon. member for the Hastings, it is but light to state now that we shall render every assistance in our power to enable him to accomplish such works as he may deem advantageous to the constituency he represents.’
After the obligatory farewell dinner, in April 1874, Dean headed for Uralla, where he stayed for about twelve months. He shifted to Grafton, buying Thomas Fisher’s Stores and renaming them Dean’s Stores. He was elected to the Grafton Council on 2 October 1877, and became mayor on 14 February 1878 only to be removed from office nine months later for & gross mismanagement’. Dean died on 8 May 1887. He and his English wife, Jane Ann Mitchell, had four sons and four daughters.
The News Closes
Burton did not possess the same business nous as Dean and the Manning River News closed probably at the end of 1874. Extant files cease on 27 December 1873, but the author has seen an extract from the News of 31 October 1874; it appeared in the Maitland Mercury of 5 November 1874. About eight months later, the Manning River Advertiser began publication in Taree (Australian Town and Country Journal of 17 July 1875, p. 90).
written by Dr. Rod Kirkpatrick 1998
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