In the final decade of the 19th and the first of the 20th century, 60 newspapers sprang up in the goldfields towns of Western Australia. The first was the Coolgardie Miner, launched by William Edward Clare (c. 1862–1940) as a weekly on 14 April 1894, 19 months after gold had been discovered in the district. A committee had been formed in the eastern goldfields town to start a paper, but Clare had become impatient with the endless discussions and decided to go it alone. He hiked from Coolgardie to York to acquire a crude printing plant, and the delay in its delivery to Coolgardie was so lengthy that he was going broke and had to sell the calico tent that had been intended as the future office of the newspaper. He produced the first issue from surroundings that were ill-equipped, inelegant, unsanitary and insecure.
On 12 September 1894, the Miner became a bi-weekly because it had competition from a new weekly; on 23 October, it become a tri-weekly after a daily sprang up; and on 25 March 1895 it became an afternoon daily before switching to morning issue four weeks later. On becoming a daily, the Miner introduced a sister weekly, the Coolgardie Pioneer. Competition was fierce: Kalgoorlie, Boulder, Kanowna and Menzies were other WA goldfields centres that published dailies in the 1890s.
The gold rush ‘brought in its tide men of literary mark and wide newspaper experience, as well as commercial men, printers and mechanics of highest grade’, and Clare freely availed himself of their talents. They made it ‘unquestionably the most vigorous and attractively written daily’ in the colony. Clare’s financial return from the newspaper was much healthier than the returns of most gold prospectors. He earned between £3000 and £4000 a year.
One journalist, Edwin Greenslade Murphy (1866–1939), known as ‘Dryblower’, wrote satirical verse that soon became an institution in the Miner. Murphy wrote ‘The Fossicker’s Yarn’ to ‘squash and squelch the objectionable “Jackeroo” system obtaining on Bayley’s Reward Mine’. Clare appointed Frederick Charles Burleigh Vosper (1869–1901) as the second editor of the Miner. In Queensland, Vosper had been acquitted on a charge of seditious libel after penning a challenging editorial, ‘Bread or Blood’, in a Charters Towers newspaper during the 1891 shearers’ strike. At Coolgardie, Vosper wrote like an English Chartist, wanting the diggers to lead a social revolution in Western Australia. Vosper was elected to the Western Australian parliament in 1897.
The Coolgardie Miner, which closed on 16 June 1911, resumed publication as a weekly on 1 March 1913, and continued until 29 December 1917. It emerged again on 12 April 1935 and appeared weekly until its final closure on 27 June 1957. Today, Coolgardie is almost a ghost town.
REFs: N. King, The Voice of the Goldfields (1995); R. Kirkpatrick, ‘When the Miner was Born in a Tattered Bag Shanty’, PANPA Bulletin (February/March 2004).