WILLOUGHBY, HOWARD (1839–1908)
Born in Birmingham, Howard Willoughby migrated to Melbourne at the age of 19. He commenced his career as a journalist with the Age in 1861, moving to the Argus the following year. Late in 1863, he accompanied Victorian forces to New Zealand, where he reported on Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron’s campaign against the Maori in Waikato, making him Australia’s first war correspondent. Though an ardent supporter of the imperial cause in New Zealand, Willoughby expressed some sympathy for the Maori.
Willoughby next travelled to Western Australia, where he observed the final stages of the transportation system in that colony. He argued strongly against its retention in Transportation: The British Convict in Western Australia (1865), emphasising the dangers to the eastern colonies of ‘importing’ hardened criminals to Australia. From 1866, Willoughby was a Hansard reporter before becoming, in 1869, the founding editor of the Melbourne Daily Telegraph. His anonymous publication, The Critic in Church, or, Melbourne Preachers and Preaching (1872), is still a useful guide to religious practice in 19th-century Melbourne. By this time, he was crafting telling pen portraits of prominent Melbournians.
Willoughby returned to the Argus in 1877, staying until his retirement. He used his weekly column, ‘Above the Speaker’ by ‘Timotheus’, to push the newspaper’s conservative political interests and to advance the cause of free trade. Even opponents such as Alfred Deakin admired the column’s style and wit. A hard worker, Willoughby published Australian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil (1886), celebrating the formation of a national character. In Australian Federation, Its Aims and Its Possibilities (1891), Willoughby vigorously endorsed Federation, suggesting that the national capital could operate on a ‘rotatory principle’ between the existing colonial capitals.
In 1898, Willoughby became editor of the Argus. Five years later, a stroke effectively ended his career, though he contributed occasional articles until 1907. The following year, he suffered another stroke and died in Melbourne on 19 March. His death was widely reported in the Melbourne and Sydney press, with the Argus concluding that Willoughby ‘was the most remarkable journalist who has yet appeared in Australia’. His high standards of journalism and the wide range of his interests enhanced both the Argus and his profession in general.
REF: F. Anderson and R. Trembath, Witnesses to War (2011).