People complained about this "new-fangled idea of a newspaper" in their town, but William Kelleway went on to establish a newspaper that would last in print for nearly a century and a half.
The recent axing of numerous regional printed newspapers in favour of digital, has been a shock to faithful readers. Tales looks into the founder of one of these papers, Lismore Northern Star's William Kelleway, to see what sacrifices and hard work took place to make sure the community kept informed.
The Northern Star in the 1880s. Photo: Richmond River Historical Society.
In 1876 William Kelleway was working as a journalist on the paper that had been established in Grafton in 1859, today known as The Daily Examiner. At that time Lismore was emerging out into its own. There were actions taken to have the small town become a municipality, a bank had been opened and the timber industry was thriving. What was missing was an effective form of communication for residents.
William was born in Norfolk, England in 1829 and emigrated to Victoria as a young man and worked for a time on a paper at Ballarat. He then moved to Melbourne where he got work in the Government Printing Office. There were a number of moves to New Zealand, then back to Australia, finally settling in Grafton with his young and growing family.
It was while he was in Grafton the offer came to him, to help start a newspaper in the burgeoning town of Lismore. And so it was that in 1876 William moved to the Northern Rivers town to start The Northern Star and Richmond and Tweed River Advocate.
After the first 100 copies printed, William ran the paper for the next nine years and faced a plethora of frustrations. Whether it was delays in obtaining newsprint from Sydney, late paying clients or changing the premises due to flood, of which Lismore was very susceptible, William faced them all.
Lismore did receive its municipality status and continued to grow. By the time The Northern Star celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in 1936, Lismore had grown to 13,000 residents. Plenty of customers to read the paper. This was in contrast to when William started in his venture, as people complained about "such a new-fangled idea as a newspaper" and refused to support him.
William Kelleway Photo: Richmond River Historical Society
Unfortunately, while The Northern Star along with Lismore grew, William foundered. He was badly in debt and had a family of 11 children to support. He eventually had to make the decision to sell the paper, which he did in 1889 and moved his family to Sydney.
William passed away in 1911 and is buried in Rookwood General Cemetery, but his paper lives on, not on a hand-powered printer as he started out, but now in the digital world, less tangible but as valid as ever for the city of Lismore and surrounds.
'Twinkle, twinkle little Star', by Geoff and Margaret Henderson, The Northern Star, Saturday June 27, 2020, Page 30. The final print edition of the paper.
'Diamond Jubilee', Northern Star, Wednesday, 20 May 1936, Page 21
'History of Lismore', Lismore City Council, https://www.lismore.nsw.gov.au/cp_themes/default/page.asp?p=DOC-XOP-77-61-33, accessed 4th July, 2020
The area in Rookwood General Cemetery where William Kelleway is buried. Photo: Rookwood Cemetery