O’KANE, THADEUS (1820–90)
Timothy Joseph O’Kane, born in Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, changed his name to Thadeus when he arrived in Melbourne in June 1864. The 44-year-old left behind a failed attempt to enter the priesthood, a failed marriage that produced a son and four daughters, and a failed newspaper (the Kerry Star, 1861–63). In Australia, he became a forthright, independent editor who wrote a distinguished chapter in newspaper history.
After nine years as the sub-editor of a Brisbane newspaper and then two separate tri-weeklies in Rockhampton, O’Kane became the editor and joint proprietor of the fledgling weekly the Northern Miner in Charters Towers (August 1873) and sole proprietor five months later. In fashioning the Miner into a weapon to fight for the miners, ‘the oppressed and the injured’, O’Kane avoided the corruptions that were part of the town’s culture, but he sometimes strayed, in his own words, ‘beyond the bounds of rose-water speech’, and numerous libel actions followed. The miners stood by him, even paying his court costs in two libel cases in 1878 and 1879, and in the unusual case in 1882 when a stacked bench of magistrates on the Police Court gagged him for 12 months for writing articles critical of a lawyer.
Outside of court, the establishment shunned O’Kane: Charters Towers Council shut him out and later boycotted him by withholding advertising; the Charters Towers Divisional Board also boycotted him, as did Cobb and Co.; the town’s race club expelled him for exposing corruption in its ranks; and the Caxton Club refused to admit him to membership. Yet his paper prospered, becoming a bi-weekly (August 1875); tri-weekly (August 1878); afternoon daily (July 1883); and morning daily (November 1886). He was the editor from 1873 until 1889.
REF: R. Kirkpatrick, The Life and Times of Thadeus O’Kane (2003).