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DEATH OF MR JOHN HARVEY FINLAYSON
Former Editor of The Register. A Distinguished and Honour able Career.
The death of Mr. John Harvey Finlayson at his residence, Strelda, Stanley street, North Adelaide, yesterday, after a protracted illness, closed the career of
one who has left an indelible mark on Australian journalism. For a period of nearly half , a century Mr. Fin layson was, actually connected, with the literary staff of The Register and its associated journals— he rose from the posi tion of junior reporter to the distinction of editor and a proprietor, and in every branch of his work he won for himself an honoured and distinguished name. Aus tralian newspapers were the poorer when he put down the editorial pen and went to represent his paper in the metropolis of the world. He had been a power in the land of his birth, where he had led the destinies of the paper through some critical and stormy periods, and had
THE LATE MR. J. H. FINLAYSON
THE LATE MR. J. H. FINLAYSON
helped, in large measure to shape the history of the young nation. The respect and esteem he commanded from all quar ters of Australasia grew with his years, and his record is that of one who laboured long and unceasingly for the good of his country and the cause of its people. — An Appreciation.— In June, 1899, Mr. Finlayson definitely retired from the editorial chair of The Register, the occupancy of which he had resumed for a few weeks after an absence of nearly two years in England; but his editorial labours practically ended 18 years ago— in March, 1897. During not much less than a quarter of a century he had per formed those honourable tasks with con spicuous ability, reflecting infinite credit upon himself and greatly promoting the. best interests of tie people of South Aus tralia. In length of service he was on his retirement the senior among the editors of the great Australian- dailies. When he left this tribute was paid to him by his successor:— 'Mr. Finlayson has made his mark in journalism, and has been a power in the land in moulding legis lation and in retarding, if not alto gether frustrating, doubtful legislative schemes. The unassailable reputation of The Register for integrity and independence, and the high respect which is universally paid to its views— whether they be those of an advocate or those of a critic— are the best testimony to the excellence and the roughness of the late editor's work, and to the character of the principles which he has inculcated with unflinching zeal and fearlessness- in the leading columns of ths paper. Mr. Finlayson has never permitted commercial or individual advantage 'or the promise of a fleeting popularity to affect his judgment, or to hinder him in expres sing opinions which he honestly believed to be right. His sturdy independence and outspokenness have become a proverb. His scrupulous fairness in controversy and his generosity to opponents are admitted by all who have metaphorically crossed swords with him. In these qualities, as well as in his liberality of thought, his tireless and unselfish devotion to what he conceived to be the true interests of his fellow-colonists, his felicity in plainly expressing his views in choice and nervous English, and his powerful grip of public affairs in all their bearings, Mr. Finlayson has worthily upheld the noblest traditions of British, and Australian journalism; and South Australia is as proud of this eminent son of hers as that son is proud of this his native land. —Biographical Sketch.— John Harvey Finlayson was of Scotch extraction, and his parents— the late vener able and highly esteemed Pastor William Finlayson and, his wife (formerly Helen Harvey)— arrived in South Australia in February, 1837. He was the third son and was born on February 3, 1843, at Helen holme, Mitcham, where his father had been carrying on farming operations since 1840. In his youth the son shared the vicissitudes so common to the early settlers, and his experience of the hard work of farming led him in after years to place the agricultural and pastoral interests in the forefront of things which conduce to make South Australia prosperous. The first school he attended was that kept by the late Mr. Mugg, an old identity, of the time, and among Mr. Finlayson's school mates were the Hon. Thomas Playford and others of note, whose success in after life showed the valuable teaching methods of Mr. Mugg. When about 15 years, of age Mr. Finlayson went to the Adelaide Educa tional Institution conducted by the late Mr. J. L. Young, where his elder bro- ther had preceded him, and from the very first he was one of the most successful scholars in the establishment. He took prizes for industry, geography, German, political economy, and moral philosophy. On one occasion during the absence, of Mr. Young the late Mr. John Howard-Clark— singularly enough, Mr. Finlayson's prede- cessor in the editorial chair of The Regis ter- gave a series of lectures the school on English composition, and Mr. Finlayson carried off all the prizes, which were awarded in connection with them. He was at the school for three years and leftwith a most satisfactory record. In recounting the experiences of his, life he attributed much of his success to the influence of Mr. Young— an influence which was distinctly seen in the case of some of the most prominent men of South Australia. Mr. Young seemed to have the happy knack of instilling in the pupils a real love for education and im- pressed upon them the TfttiSfe «taHhW
it was not a mechanical system, merely to acquire a certain thing by rote as a matter of necessity, but that education was a care ful study, which should have the result of calling up the best powers of the mind. Among Mr. Finlayson's schoolfellows were the late Right Hon. C O. Kingston; Mr. L. H. Sholl, C.M.G., I.S.O. (the present Under Secretary); Mr. J. W. Jones, I.S.O. (ex-Secretary to the Commissioner of Pub lic Works), Mr. G. S.Wright (Inspector General of the State Bank); and many other prominent men of the State. . —Early Days in The Register.— When Mr. Finlayson left- school and en tered The Register Office in 1861 it was not in the ordinary way-- as a young man seeking an engagement, or as one intro duced by a father asking employinent for a son. The proprietors had from time to time noticed his name as being pre-eminent above all others at the periodical examina tions of Mr. Young's school; and, feeling that he was the sort of youth they wanted, they applied to his father to allow him to enter their office. There he at once displayed ability which showed that the choice was a wise one. Following the custom in those days, Mr. Finlayson was articled to the reporting staff, then in charge of the late Mr. E. W. Andrews, one of the proprietors, with whom were associated the late Messrs. W. K. Thomas, Anthony Forster, and Joseph Fisher. The young reporter became noted for his extraordinarily hard work in the office, and it has been said he would often, after finishing re porting an important engagement, proceed to study other subiects to perfect himself in as many branches of learning as pos sible. He was specially noted for his great accuracy in obtaining and writing up information-- a rule which has always been instilled into reporters, of The Register. At
the end of his three years term he re ceived high commendation from the pro prietors for his capital work. —Rapid Promotions.— Mr. Finlayson proved successful as a law reporter, as a Parliamentary reporter— he had charge of the Parliamentary staff for several years— and as a general reporter, showing not- only ability, but energy and application, without which ability has not its full value. Five years after he had joined the staff he became its leader. He combined that position with occasional leader writing, and was commissioned to write many special articles, and so shared in every way the experiences of an all round newspaper man. He was for some years actively associated with The Farm and Garden, which was then a sepa rate publication from The Observer, with which it has since been so long asso ciated. When that department was com bined with the other branches of The Observer Mr. Finlayson conducted the agri cultural part. The progress he made in the office was unusually rapid, and before he had reached the thirty-third year of his age he had on different occasions, extending over some months, while the late Mr. John Howard Clark was laid aside by illness, discharged the duties - of editor in a manner which won the entire confidence of the , proprie tors. At last work begun to tell upon the rising journalist, and, in 1870 he found it necessary to obtain leave of absence to recuperate his strength, and at the same time to see life in the older countries of the world. This was the year of the cen tennial celebrations of America, and Mr. Finlayson represented The Register at the Philadelphia Exhibition, and forwarded across the Pacific for the enlightenment of rising young South Australia a vast amount of interesting and valuable commercial and industrial information from the New World. During his trip, which was ex tended to England and the Continent, he organized a staff of distinguished foreign correspondents on behalf of his paper. While Mr. Finlayson was away from Aus tralia, Mr. E. W. Andrews died, and in the early part of 1877 Mr. Finlayson, in conjunction, with Mr. R. K. Thomas (the late Sir Robert), son of the late Mr. W. K. Thomas, and the late Mr. Charles Day (who had served the office in various capacities), was in vited to join the proprietary. The death of Mr. J. H. Clark occurred in May, 1878, and Mr. Finlayson who had filled the position of acting editor, took the full editorial charge, and with the exception of two intervals, during which he paid visits to England, he continued up to 1897 to direct the literary destinies of the paper. He returned to Adelaide at the end of 1898, and, after a few weeks resumption of edi torial duty, handed it over to Mr. W. J. Sowden, who had performed it in the interval, and who with Mr. E. Kyffin Thomas, joined the proprietary at the same time. Mr. Finlayson returned to England as London correspondent of The Register, revisited South Australia in 1904. and went back to the old country by way of China. and Japan and resided near to London until July of 1908, when he finally came back and settled in his old home in North Adelaide. He retired from the proprietary on June 30. 1908. —As Editor.— Mr. Finlayson had high ideals as an editor. One of his principles of management was that while a paper should be made attractive and interesting, this should not be done at the sacrifice of the maintenance of a pure and healthy tone in every depart ment of the paper, and it has been my en deavour in all things to follow that example and to maintain a thoroughly high moral character in the conduct of the papers of which I have charge'. At a valedictory gathering to Mr. Finlayson in 1889, when he finally left the editorial chair, he made a splendidly suggestive speech to his co workers— a speech which was alluded to appreciatively in many directions as 'Apologic pro Vita Sua.' Inter alia, he said:— 'Nearly thirty-eight years of unremitting labour, most 'of it— not amid the burning of the midnight oil, but under the glare of gas and the glow of the electric light have not been without their effect upon my physical and mental powers. I am not less' ardent or zealous , than when I joined the office, but I feel I am less able to bear the strain. I mighthave been con tent in giving up the position of Editor to undertake some less exacting line of duty here; but, owing to family considera tions, and also considerations of an official character,
should return to the old country. But while returning thither, you may be sure that my devotion to South Australia remains unimpaired. It is the land of my birth, and the scene of whatever public service I have been able to perform, and of whatever successes I have been able to achieve; and as such it must always stand an easy first in my affections. I think you will agree with me that the work of the Editor— discharged for the more part anonymously, yet under the fierce light which beats upon it from out side—is as near an approach to disinter- ested, unselfish labour on behalf of the public, as it is given to mortal to discharge. Editors have not the sort of compensation which, apart from all questions of monetary recompense, is the portion of men who fill other public positions— attaches to the Minister of the Crown, the politician, and the representa tive of the people in other capacities, who all, even if they are criticised and abused, get credit for what they do for the public, but they have the gratification of knowing that although it is by stealth that they do good, they wield an influence which is none the less far-reaching because they are not directly recognised as the agents, in producing it. It amazes me to find on looking back over so many years how great and continuous has been the kindness which has been shown me from first to last. —Some Old Friends.— 'On entering the office in December, 1861, I found at the head of affairs Mr. Anthony Forster, Mr. E. W. Andrews, Mr. William Kyffin Thomas, and Mr. Jo seph Fisher, all men whom one might well be proud to know. They treated me not as a mere employe, but as a friend; and their courtesy, and indulgence, end kind appreciation knew no bounds. Then followed my dear friend John
Howard Clark, a man whose sweetness and gentleness of disposition, kindness of heart, and nobility of nature endeared him to his fellows, even as his highmindedness, his stanch liberalism, and his rare literary abilities rendered him a mighty power for good in the community. Unfortunately, his physical strength was not equal to the in cessant and merciless strain of tbe editorial position, but my close association with him and the lessons learned from him are among the choicest memories of my life. —His Ideals.— 'I do not presume to claim in ability to compare with that of some of the splendid men to whom I have alluded, but I yield to none of them, and to no one in South Australia, in love of the land of my birth, or in the desire to assist in build ing up here a stable, high-principled, pros perous community. And without boasting, I feel entitled to claim that I have borne at least some share in bringing about, in concert with my editorial associates, whose hearty and generous co-operation I warmly acknowledge, and whom I cannot over praise, some of the grandest reforms that have been accomplished here. In strenu ously advocating and consistently defending our noble system of public education; in championing persistently what is best and most enlightened - in our legislation affecting agriculturists and pastoralists; in fighting for the land and income taxes in the sound and equitable form in which they were first placed on the Statute book; for the modification of the Constitu tion so as to make the Council represent ing the propertied interests more amenable than it was to public opinion; for the extension of the franchise to women; and for many other measures of a like kind, surely I have established some small claim to have done the State a ser vice. —The Register's Aims.— 'The Register bases its claim to be on the side of genuine reform on the fact that it has battled for liberal measures when these were unpopular, and that it has spared no pains to educate the public up to an appre ciation of the value of these measures. The Register has not sought to build up a repu tation for liberalism by promoting spurious reforms and illusory schemes of harebrained enthusiasts who seek to make men and wo men moral by Act of Parliament, and by the destruction of individual independence. It has not nought to benefit itself by pan dering to class selfishness or by identifying itself with projects which tend to debauch and degrade the community in defiance of the eternal principles of right and equity. Its constant aim has been to secure justice for all, irrespective of party or creed. That it has honestly and successfully pursued this policy is its proudest boast, and what is more, its right to make this boast is uni versally recognised by the intelligent pub lic. But it is unnecessary to dwell upon this theme. The records are open to the light of day, so that he who runs may read, and all who are not blinded by pre judice or animosity or unreasoning parti ennship can return only one verdict, which I have already griven. In retiring from the position of active literary manager of the paper, which I have filled for nearly a quarter of a century, I could not, however, refrain from saving this much on behalf of the journal which has through evil and good report striven to give effect to the highest and best ideals of journalism,' —In London.— Mr. Finlayson paid his third visit to Lon don in 1898, and the following year took up the duties of the representative of The Register, in the great metropolis. His, let- ters from there showed, his manysided- ness and his complete, grasp of Euro pean affairs. In these new labours he brought bis extraordinary application and energy to bear, with conspicu ous success. In 1904 he left London on a world's tour, and the esteem and regard in which he was held by his brother South Australians and friends he had made in London were shown by the large and re presentative gathering which assembled at the Trocadero to bid him bon voyage. It was then announced that he intended to retire from the active work of the London representative, but he always continued while in England to exer- cise a supervision of that work. He returned to Adelaide in 1904, but after a stay for some months he went back to England. Failing health in recent years compelled him again to seek the warmer climate of his native land and he took up his residence in Adelaide permanently in September 1908.
—Outside Interests.— Outside his newspaper work Mr. Finlay son filled many public positions. He was for years a member of the North Adelaide School Board of Advice (from which he resigned on a point of principle) and a member of the Council of the South Australian Acclimatization So ciety. He was one of the Commis sioners of the Adelaide Jubilee Ex hibition of 1887, and assisted to represent the province in connection with the Mel bourne Centennial Exhibition of 1888. While in England in 1895 he represented South Australia at the fourth International Congress of Zoologists, held at Cambridge. He took a great interest in the Children's Christmas Cheer movement which was inaugurated in The Register, and was Chairman of the Distressed Farmers' Seed- wheat Fund, also founded by that journal. He was several times asked to stand for Parliament, but always declined. He was one of the founders of the old Austral Club. In his young days he was a prominent member of the old North Adelaide Young Men's Society, formed during the first ministration of Dr. Jefferis. He started the Parliamentary Club in connection with it, Mr. Finlayson formed the first Ministry, and was the first Premier in that society. Among the members of his Cabinet were Mr. J. C. Bray (afterwards Sir John Cox Bray), Mr. W. F. Steeck, Mr. J. F. Coni- grave, and Mr. T. McDonald, of whom all but Mr. Conigrave are now dead. The Leader of the Opposition was the late Mr. J. H. Sheridan, long a well-known barris ter in Adelaide. The late Mr. E. J. Hodg kinson was the first Speaker. Some of the Bills passed by that so- ciety although in advance of public thought at that time, were afterwards adop ted almost in their entirety by the Legis lature. The Education Act was one of 'the measures which Mr. Finlayson introduced to the young society before it became the law of the land. Mr. Finlayson was an attendant of the North Adelaide Congrega tional Church, and afterwards of Stow Church. —Social Life.— In March, 1878, Mr. Finlayson married Miss Alice Shoobridge, daughter of Mr. Thomas Shoobridge and his wife joined him in work in the cause of philanthropy Mrs. Finlayson was for many years a mem ber of the State Children's Council. They gathered around them a large circle 0f friends, both here and in England, and their home in London was ameeting place for hundreds of visitors from Australia. Any one from the Commonwealth found a ready welcome from Mr. and Mrs. Finlay son and family. At Strelda there was al ways open house for their friends. Mr. Finlayson has left a widow and one daughter (Miss Kate Finlayson). His only son Mr. Harvey P. Finlayson, recently met a tragic death in a motor accident in Vic toria. His surviving brothers and sisters are Pastor R.K. Finlayson and Mr.W. Finlayson and the Misses Finlayson (2); Mrs. H. Nickels (Forreston), and Mrs. W. H. Randell (Gumeracha). —The Funeral.—