Alfred Wright Lockwood (1867–1956) began an apprenticeship with the Lancefield Mercury at 13, but poor wages induced him to become a ‘tramp printer’. He returned and bought half the Mercury, but sold in 1899 and bought the West Wimmera Mail (est. 1887) in Natimuk, Victoria. In 1900, he married Alice Ellen Francis, a schoolteacher and temperance campaigner who provided the drive to develop newspaper interests in other towns.
Lockwood was conservative and humane in the four-page weekly Mail. He denounced larrikins, ‘flappers’, ‘shirkers’ and ‘socialists’. After Alice died in 1913, the business stumbled, relieved by Lockwood’s marriage in 1916 to another good manager, Ida Dorothea Klowss, who was an Australian of German heritage. This attracted anti-German criticism.
The Mail survived the Depression and post-war competition from city newspapers. Lockwood’s daughter and three sons from his first marriage learned to set type and operate the press by the age of 10. His second family of three sons continued the tradition of unpaid labour, with the younger two taking over when Lockwood retired in 1950.
Lockwood’s second son, Rupert Ernest (1908–97), joined the Melbourne Herald in 1930, and reported the Spanish Civil War alongside Ernest Hemingway and Arthur Koestler. He was later a leading propagandist for the Communist Party of Australia. He wrote the notorious ‘Document J’ in the 1954 Petrov spy scandal, but let his party membership lapse after two years in Moscow and the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. From 1940, he earned his income from the labour press, particularly as associate editor and editor (1952–85) of the Maritime Worker.
The eldest son of Alfred’s second marriage, Douglas Wright (1918–80), left school at 12 to help on the Mail. From 16 he worked on other country papers until he joined the Herald in 1941. He was sent to Darwin, and was there for the bombing in February 1942. After war service, he returned and, apart from three years in the Herald and Weekly Times’ Melbourne and London offices, remained until 1968. He won a London Evening News prize in 1957, a Walkley Award in 1958, and wrote 13 books, including the prize-winning I, the Aboriginal (1962) and Australia’s Pearl Harbour: Darwin 1942 (1966). In 1968, he moved to Port Moresby, merging two papers to create Papua New Guinea’s first national daily, the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier. He became managing editor of the Bendigo Advertiser, remaining there until his death.
Douglas’s younger brothers, Frank Wright (1919–97) and Allan Wright (1922–2013), stayed in Natimuk with the Mail, turning it into a bi-weekly in the early 1950s, and in 1959 taking over the Horsham Times to create the Wimmera Mail-Times, with Frank as manager and Allan as editor. The paper became Australia’s biggest-selling tri-weekly, and won a Walkley Award in 2002. Allan was awarded an OAM.
Douglas’s son, Kim Douglas (1944– ), and Allan’s son, Keith Andrew (1951– ), became journalists and authors. Kim worked in Perth, Darwin and Melbourne, and Keith became chief sub-editor of the Mail-Times. David John (1966– ), grandson of the fourth child of the first family, Raymond Alfred (1910–85), became a boating writer.
REFs: A. Lockwood, Ink in His Veins (1985); D. Lockwood, Alfred Wright Lockwood (1976).