Founding editor ED Millen
It was on October 1st, 1887 that the very first copy — on white satin —was issued at Tattersall’s Hotel, the site of one of the very first hotels and buildings in Bourke and now the location of Diggers on the Darling.
The printing office was originally in nearby Mitchell Street, with neighbouring businesses such as the Mercantile Bond, Towers Drug Co. and a bank.
The Western Herald offices moved to premises in Mertin Street in July 1888 that was originally the Good Templars' Temperance Hall, one of the oldest surviving buildings in Bourke.
The founding editor of this journal was Edward Davis Millen, who was later a Legislative Assembly Member for Bourke and went on to become a Senator for New South Wales. Minister for defence from 24 June 1913 to 17 September 1914, Millen was closely involved with the Australian Government’s response to the outbreak of war in Europe.
Phillip Chapman was taken into the partnership of the Herald in 1891, assuming control in 1901 when Millen became a senator.
Chapman held the editorship until 1918, when the paper was purchased by brothers Archibald and Samuel Carmichael, who were the proprietors of the competing Bourke Banner.
When Samuel left for Sydney in 1940, the Carmichael Bros. partnership became Carmichael and Son, Lester Carmichael having joined the staff on leaving school in 1926.
In 1958, Archibald retired after 50 years in the newspaper game, selling his interest to Lester and his wife Jean. Despite being retired, Archie continued to sit in the editors chair right up until his death in 1966.
Lester’s son Dal, joined the staff around 1952 and became a third partner in
the business in 1965. He took over the business in the early 1970s.
The Carmichael and Son partnership came to an end in January 1997, when local cotton grower Jack Buster purchased The Western Herald.
Michael Keenan, who joined the staff in 1971 as apprentice machine compositor, then became managing editor until leaving Bourke in December 2016.
In January 2018, WREB Co-operative Limited took over publishing The Western Herald and relocated its offices to the 2WEB studios in Oxley Street.
Editor Marek Weiss commenced in January 2018.
February 2022: Noel Fisher joined The Western Herald as Operations Manager & photographer.
145 years of print news in Bourke
The Western Herald masthead celebrated its 130th anniversary in October 2017, but we believe our newspaper can rightfully claim an even longer pedigree back to the now defunct Bourke Banner, Bourke Watchman and North-Western Advocate, all the way back to Bourke’s first newspaper, The Central Australian and Bourke Telegraph.
The Bourke Watchman
The first issue of the Herald itself was released on October 1, 1887, but the paper was a resurrection of sorts of an earlier paper — the Bourke Watchman.
The Bourke Watchman and North-Western Advocate was printed in a brick premises in Oxley Street across from what is now the National Parks and Wildlife office. Under editors William B. Dixon and H.K. Bloxham, the Watchman had a short and apparently tumultuous run between the years 1882 and 1886.
A copy of the first issue (pictured) is in the keeping of the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition Centre; It is a single sheet printed on calico and dated January 2nd, 1882. While it announces the launch of the new journal the editors also asks forgiveness for the delay in producing an issue in a proper form: “we are powerless in the hands of the fates and carriers — requesting you accept this as number one, we hope to place number two in your hands in proper form at the proper date.”
Dixon, the Watchman editor, appears to have been having a tough time prior to the journal folding in October 1886. From an issue in August 1886:
“By a series of well-planned and carefully executed drunks, our staff has dwindled down to the editor and an apprentice. As we do not possess the gift of ubiquity, nor are we hydra-headed and many-handed, we can only do our best to put our sheet before our readers in some form or other. For an issue or two we must ask our readers’ forbearance, until a new staff can be collected; for, by the great Jimjumpkins, we will have no more of the unreliable - except for getting drunk on the smallest excuse - men whose birthday comes twice in every forty-eight hours, and is duly, honored while a drink can be had for cash or credit.”
Then a few months later, the following short notice appeared in place of a leading article:
“Notice by the devil: The editor has got neuralgia bad, and is hoping around mad, and some folks are glad, whilst other are sad; so there is no leader this time. If there had been it would have been full of ——’s and !’s and ** and ——’s, as that’s all I’ve heard him say for twenty-four hours, — PRINTER’S DEVIL”
The final issue of the Watchman went out on 30 October, 1886, with Dixon marking the occasion with an obituary for the newspaper.
The obituary caught the attention of the editor at the Australian Town and Country Journal, who reprinted it in their issue of November 6, 1886:
“Decease of the “Watchman” - The Bourke Watchman has joined the majority. In his obituary column the editor in the last issue, published the following memoriam notice, with a deep black border: “In affectionate remembrance of the Bourke Watchman, which expired on October 30. A.D., 1886. Aged 4 years and 10 months. ‘Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company.’”
Dixon was also secretary of the Shearers’ Union in Bourke, but was dismissed in May 1887 due to alleged ‘squattocratic views expressed by him when editor of the Bourke Watchman.’
In September 1887, The Western Champion of the Blackall/Barcaldine region printed the following in their “Items of Interest’ column:
“The Western Herald, risen from the ashes of the defunct Watchman, will start at Bourke next month.”
The Central Australian and Bourke Telegraph - Bourke’s first newspaper
Bourke’s very first newspaper and the Herald’s past competitor was The Central Australian and Bourke Telegraph.
Now there is some confusion as to just when The Central Australia began. In the Bourke History volumes and elsewhere it has been stated that our first newspaper began in 1868. Only a few copies of The Central Australian remain in existence, but one - an 1890 flood issue printed on calico - states that the newspaper had been established 22 years.
But Newspaper historian and journalist Rod Kirkpatrick disputes this as he can find no evidence of there being a newspaper published in Bourke prior to 1872, despite scouring contemporary journals for any reference to a Bourke newspaper.
Here at the Herald, we have also had a dig around and if a newspaper did begin in Bourke in 1868 it seems strange that the fact was unknown to the Bourke Correspondent of the Maitland Mercury. In the issue of September 19, 1869 he writes critically of suggestions that a newspaper could be started in Bourke at all!
“We have a real live newspaper proprietor here in the person of Mr. Thomas Manning, who is quite enthusiastic about the prospects of Bourke, and some sanguine temperaments are actually talking of a newspaper for this place; but I am confident we are not ripe enough for such an institution. Should one start into life its name should be the “Whirlwind” it might create a little stir among the salt bushes, and its stay would be as transient. Starting a journal is about as easy as taking an army into the field; the difficulty is in the keeping of it there.”
But by 1871, the same Bourke correspondent had a slightly different opinion, writing:
“We are to have a paper all to ourselves soon, and it is to be hoped that its presence will purify and keep clean the district over which it is to watch. A really good journal is a blessing and contra wise.”
The eventual arrival of the town’s first newspaper, on January 3, 1872 was hailed in Town and Country Journal:
“Our new paper appeared today, and it is only fair to say that the printing and getting up of the journal are beyond what anyone could have deemed possible in a place like this, and there can be little doubt that, with skilful piloting, it will reach the haven of perfect success.”
The Western Herald and The Central Australian ran in direct competition for around 12 years, but in 1898 journalist Samuel Carmichael moved to Bourke from Nyngan and bought the Central changing its name to the Bourke Banner.
His two sons Samuel Jnr and Archibald Carmichael continued the business and in 1918, the brothers bought The Western Herald off Phil Chapman and merged the two papers.