TURNBULL, CLIVE (1906–75)
Clive Turnbull was a notable Melbourne journalist and author, who started his journalistic career in his home state of Tasmania but came to Melbourne in 1926 to join the Argus. He moved to the Herald in 1932, beginning a long association with Sir Keith Murdoch, an association interrupted only by the war years when Turnbull was press officer to Essington Lewis (1940) and Far Eastern Representative (1940–41) of Australian Associated Press.
At the Herald, Turnbull contributed a widely read ‘Free Speech’ column and spent time as its representative in London. In 1942, Murdoch made Turnbull the newspaper’s art critic, in addition to his duties as a staff writer. Like Murdoch, he supported the modernist art movement in Australia.
In 1949, by assisting in the acquisition of a block of shares, Turnbull played a key role in the London Daily Mirror’s takeover of the Argus and he joined the revamped paper with his own column of ‘candid comments on the Australian scene’. In August 1950, he was appointed assistant editor.
He left the Argus in 1952 and thereafter ran his own public relations company while continuing with occasional journalism and book reviews for the Age. He gained unwanted publicity when he was called before the Royal Commission on Espionage in January 1955, probably due to the communist connections of his wife Joyce.
Turnbull was a noted author as well as a prominent journalist. He published two volumes of verse, several books on Australian art, numerous short biographical sketches of interesting Australians collected as Australian Lives (1965), a bibliography of material relating to Ned Kelly, and a Concise History of Australia (1965). His best-known work was probably Black War: The Extermination of the Tasmanian Aborigines. He was also a noted book collector and his extensive collection of Australiana was sold at auction in 1981, fetching over $300,000.
Turnbull was at home—especially in his younger days—in the semi-bohemian drinking journalistic culture but, according to his friend, publisher Peter Ryan, he had ‘beneath the surface a sombre melancholy’. Clive Turnbull belonged to that very distinguished group of Melbourne journalists that included George Johnston, Alan Moorehead and John Hetherington. Keith Dunstan was arguably one of his successors in being a both a prominent Melbourne journalist and an author of books on Australian subjects.
REF: Age, 26 May 1975.