Arbitration In Contempt
The Report of the Public Reception from the Hobart 'Mercury', 29 June 1911
Public Reception to Editor of 'The Mercury'
Large and Enthusiastic Gathering
Numerous messages of congratulations
A public reception, tendered by a committee of citizens to Mr H R Nicholls, the editor of 'The Mercury,' was held at the Town-hall yesterday afternoon. It was decided to take advantage of the completion of Mr Nicholls's 28th year of service with 'The Mercury' to give, by this means, some recognition of the services which he had rendered to the public. Besides having been connected with 'The Mercury' for so prolonged a period, Mr Nicholls was before that connected with the press on the mainland, as editor of the Ballarat 'Star,' and otherwise, for a period of almost equal length. The reception was held in the large hall, which was filled with one of the most representative gatherings which have been seen in Hobart, all classes, creeds, and professions in the community being prominently represented. Scarcely any branch of activity in the religious, social, commercial, political, public, and private life of the community was unrepresented among the four or five hundred people who assembled at the Town-hall. The gathering was not composed of city people alone, as residents of a number of country districts, some of them at a considerable distance from Hobart, also attended. A prominent feature of the reception was the number of ladies present, not very much less in fact than the number of the sterner sex.
The representation of the different sections, classes, and interests was very complete. On the religious side there were representatives of the different churches, both Catholic and Protestant. Political life was represented by a member of the Ministry and members of both branches of the Legislature. Municipal life, too, was represented in the persons of the Mayor and aldermen of the city and the Wardens and councillors of the four surrounding municipalities, and other municipal officers. The public service, in all its various branches, legal, educational, statistical, and other, was well represented, both by heads of departments and officers. The legal profession supplied an element drawn from both Bench and bar. As was natural, in view of the occasion, the 'fourth estate' did not lack representation, pressmen connected with 'The Mercury' and other papers being in evidence. The Hobart Marine Board and a number of other public bodies were represented. Then there were representatives of the medical profession, of the teaching profession, and of all the various branches of commercial life, of the transportation services, as well as of those engaged upon the land.
Amongst the large number present it is only possible to mention a few representative names. Amongst these were:- Mr Justice McIntyre, Mr Justice Nicholls, the Archbishop of Hobart (Dr. Delany), Monsignor Gilleran, and Ven. Archpriest Hennebry, Archdeacons Whitington and Richard, Dean Kite, Canon Shoobridge, Revs. Boreham, Handel Jones, and Sharp, the Chief Secretary (Dr. Butler), Hons. B. S. Bird, C. E. Davies, Ellis Dean, W. Moore, J. Murdoch and Major Morrisby, Mr F. B. Rattle, M.H.R., the Mayor (Alderman Amott) and aldermen, the Master Warden of the Marine Board (Hon. W. H. Burgess) and wardens, the Solicitor-General (Mr E. D. Dobbie, I.S.O.), the Statistician (Mr R M. Johnston, I.S.O.), the Under-Secretary (Mr H. E. Packer), the Director of Education (Mr W. T. McCoy), and many other heads of departments and leading citizens, to say nothing of the ladies.
Apologies and expressions of appreciation were received from the General Manager of Railways (Mr J. McCormick), the Warden of Huon (Councillor D. E. Ryan), Hon. E. Mulcahy, M.H A., Messrs. J. D. Wood, F. M. Young, G. C. Nicholas, C. Welch, L. Rodway, Rev. J. B. Woollnough, and a number of other gentlemen.
The arrangements for the reception, which were well carried out, were in the hands of the following committee:- Messrs. H. T. Gould (chairman), E. D. Dobbie, A. W. Hume, J. Davern, Hon. Arthur Morrisby, and W. Crooke (hon. secretary). The large hall and the approaches were very tastefully decorated for the occasion, the work being carried out by the caretaker (Mr F. Hopkins).
The guests, on entering the hall, were received by Mr Nicholls, who was, of course, the central figure of the occasion, an organ solo being played during the reception by the City Organist (Mr Scott-Power). After the visitors had settled into their places, the Mayor said that they had met to do honour to one to whom honour was due.
They had to congratulate Mr Nicholls on his honourable and useful career, and more particularly on the 28 years of it which he had spent as a resident of Hobart. He had been liked by his staff and all connected with the newspaper of which he was the editor, and the citizens generally recognised him as a man of great ability and of sterling character. Personally, he could bear testimony to the able way in which Mr Nicholls had at all times striven to uphold the best interests of Tasmania. He felt it an honour, on behalf of the citizens of Hobart, to congratulate Mr Nicholls on what he had done, and was glad that Providence had spared Mr Nicholls to carry out this work. He was glad that so many citizens had assembled to show their appreciation of Mr Nicholls's services. He hoped that their guest would long remember this day as a testimony of the public regard. (Applause.)
The Mayor then called upon Mr Crooke to read the congratulations and apologies which had been received. A large number of letters and telegrams of congratulation both from members of the press and from members of the public were read. Those from members of the press included messages from the editors of daily papers in every State capital in the Commonwealth, the following being the various letters and telegrams:
The editor of the 'Argus' (Dr. Cunningham) wrote: 'I have to thank you for the invitation to the reception to my revered colleague, Mr H. R Nicholls, and need hardly say that, were it practicable, I should have great pleasure in attending. Apart from my early connection with the Hobart 'Mercury,' I should have liked to have been one of the company to do honour to Mr Nicholls, because of the great respect and admiration I have had for him ever since I first remember him as editor of the Ballarat 'Star.' I know what great work he did on that journal in directing public opinion on the right lines, and as I have become better able to appreciate high services in a good cause my regard for your guest has been considerably enhanced. As one of the younger editors of Australia, I wish him---the doyen of our profession---many years of happiness and usefulness, and would desire nothing better for those who follow the avocation of journalism than that Mr Nicholls's fine example should be ever present to their minds.'
The editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' wrote as follows:---'I cordially associate myself with the friends of Mr H. R Nicholls in the testimony they are desirous of giving to his personal character and to his services as an Australian journalist. We Sydney folk who often spend our holidays in and about Hobart know 'The Mercury' well, and those of us who are journalists enjoy the affectionate and unswerving loyalty which the Hobartian pays to his journal. No great paper is its editor's work only; a multitude of men make it, and a vast body of traditions and memories has to be remembered. But if the editor is the right type of journalist, there is no better, no more continuous, no more enduring opportunity of public service than his. As Arnold, of the 'Manchester Guardian' says:---'If a man only wants to get a thing done without caring for kudos or reward, journalism is the way to do it.' I think the public owes, now and again, a word of recognition, even of thanks, to those men who, in the endless and often exhausting toil of daily journalism, endeavour to keep a single eye to the public service, to cherish ideals, to uphold public and private honour, to build up the State as a noble and enduring fabric.'
The editor of the Adelaide 'Register' wrote:- 'Mr Nicholls's work reflects the man. On the purely personal side, I may be permitted to say that I have been privileged to meet Mr Nicholls on several occasions, and have been specially impressed by his marked individuality, as I had been when I knew him only through his writings by the felicity as well as the force and clearness of his diction; his exceedingly wide range of reading and of study, particularly of federal questions, and the courteous but firm fearlessness with which he expounded his views. In Mr Nicholls the press of Australia recognises a great personality in the honourable if arduous, profession of letters, and as one of the members of the profession I highly appreciate this opportunity of offering this trifling tribute to the doyen of the Australasian literary world, who, in full vigour at the age of 82, indicates - as one hopes he may continue to do for many years to come---the true and beautiful meaning of the old aphorism, 'Those whom the gods love die young'---young in heart and soul.'
The editor of the Sydney 'Daily Telegraph' telegraphed as follows:- 'I heartily join in congratulations to the oldest and one of the most vigorous, fearless, enlightened, and honourable journalists in this part of the Empire.'
The editor of the Brisbane 'Courier' telegraphed: 'Heartiest congratulations to the grand old man, the doyen of the Australasian press. May he long be spared.'
The editor of the 'West Australian' telegraphed: 'With sincere admiration for his life and work, I join heartily in the congratulations to Mr Nicholls.'
The editor of the 'Ballarat Star' telegraphed: 'Heartiest congratulations to Mr Nicholls, and best wishes from the Ballarat press.'
The editor of the Launceston 'Daily Telegraph' (Mr 1. Gunning) wrote regretting that he would be absent from the State, and stating that he was in sympathy with the project, not only because the tribute to Mr Nicholls's merit as a journalist appeared to him to be richly deserved, but, personally, for the reason that nearly 20 years ago he was his chief, and he remembered appreciatively the kindness invariably extended to himself and other members of the staff.
The editor of the 'Scientific Australian' also wrote offering his heartiest congratulations.
Mr W. Gunn, of Duncarron, wrote:- 'As perhaps the oldest pressman in the Commonwealth, having been on the staff of the first daily paper in Scotland 61 years past, it would have been gratifying to me to have been present, but old age---79 yesterday---prevents my attendance.'
Amongst the other letters received were the following:-
The Chief Justice (Sir John Dodds) wrote:- 'Will you publicly express my regret that I cannot be present to show my appreciation of the very valuable work which a fine intellect has done for Tasmania during many years. Mr Nicholls appears to me to have made the interests of the State his first care, and has done much good by his powerful advocacy of all matters affecting the well-being of the community.'
The Acting-Premier (Hon. A. Hean) telegraphed:---'I regret that a bad cold prevents my presence. I congratulate the editor on maintaining the journalist's proudest heritage, freedom of the press. May the articles marked by culture, learning, and refinement in 'The Mercury' long continue.'
Bishop Mercer telegraphed:- 'Many congratulations to your honoured guest.'
The Mayor of Ballarat (Mr T. T. Holloway) sent the following telegram:- 'On behalf of the citizens of Ballarat, I desire to congratulate you on attaining the jubilee year of your journalistic career. I wish you health, happiness, and prosperity.'
Sir P. O. Fysh wrote as follows:- 'Kindly say how much I am in sympathy. I am sure the public day by day recognise the force of Mr Nicholls's contributions upon the course of events as they have occurred. The versatility of his articles has been most conspicuous, and has made 'The Mercury' take high rank in the most important of our institutions---the press. It is to be regretted that his years are falling fast, but they are full of a natural fire, so far as his articles are concerned, that years have not abated.'
Letters of appreciation and congratulations were received from Messrs. A. J. Ogilvy, C. Cameron, Russell Young, B. F. Mellor, and A. H. Johnson (on behalf of the members of the Melbourne Esperanto Club).
Mr Crooke said that the Bishop of Tasmania had asked him to say that he was in hearty sympathy with the demonstration this afternoon. He said that, provided a man's opinions were honestly held for the benefit of society and of the State, they mattered not at all in the honouring of a great public teacher. In the case of Mr Nicholls they had a gentleman who slummed over nothing but carefully thought out every subject, giving to it the advantage of careful study and a wide knowledge of men and affairs.
The Chief Secretary (Dr. Butler) said that he regretted that the Acting Premier was unable to be present owing to indisposition. He was glad that he himself was able to be there to testify to the high esteem in which Mr Nicholls was held by the people of the State. He believed that it was an almost unique event for a journalist to be received in this way, but all of them knew Mr Nicholls, either personally or, what was just as good, through his writings during a long period of years. It had been an education to the people of Tasmania, and he was sure that they were all proud that Tasmania had been favoured with such articles. He had often sent copies of the paper Home to friends, who knew nothing of Mr Nicholls personally, but valued his articles. He felt that nothing that could be said could add to their appreciation of Mr Nicholls. (Applause.)
Archbishop Delany said that he cordially endorsed all the words of encomium which had been uttered. He was glad to have the opportunity of paying this tribute of appreciation to Mr Nicholls. He had not the pleasure of knowing Mr Nicholls well personally, but he supposed that during the 17 years that he had been here no one had read with more appreciation than himself his articles in the press. Mr Nicholls was a man of strenuous character, and one who had thought out many of the subjects of the greatest importance to his generation. He had also read and studied carefully the authors who had dealt with these subjects. He did not, perhaps, always agree with Mr Nicholls's opinions on such matters, but he could always appreciate the man and the writer. In his own name, and in the name of many others, he was glad to have this opportunity of paying this tribute to Mr Nicholls. Mr Nicholls was on the press in Ballarat for many years, and he himself had been in Ballarat for some years before coming to Hobart. Mr Nicholls made his mark there, and had certainly done so here. It was a notable thing that of all the cities in Australasia this little city possessed the doyen of te Australasian press. He referred to the fact that a few years ago this city possessed, in his venerated predecessor (Archbishop Murphy), one who was the oldest prelate in the Catholic world. It was evident that age had not diminished Mr Nicholls's powers, and he trusted that he would be spared for many years. This public reception was but a well-deserved reward for honest, strenuous, and distinguished service, and no man could better appreciate it than Mr Nicholls.
Mr Pritchard, editor of the Launceston 'Examiner,' said that he spoke in a dual capacity, first, as the representative both of the pressmen in the North, who had asked him to come down and represent them, and of the Southern pressmen, who had asked him to speak on their behalf, and, secondly, in his individual capacity as one desirous to do honour to his old chief He was for some years a member of 'The Mercury' staff, and cordial and kindly relations had been established then which had continued to the present day. He would not touch on public aspects, but speak simply of Mr Nicholls's influence on Tasmanian journalism. Looking back on the 25 years of his connection with the press, and thinking of those who had served under Mr Nicholls, he could see many who were still doing good work. Mr Ings, Mr G. B. Edwards, and others had passed away, but Mr Moore was holding a high position in England, Mr Peters was one of the leading writers on the Australian press at the present time, and Mr Pascoe had just retired after a long connection with the Sydney press. He could think, too, of Mr Kalbfell, and many others. There was his old friend now present, Mr Hume, who had been on 'The Mercury' staff. Mr Gunning of the 'Daily Telegraph' was also an old 'Mercury' man, and was still wielding his pen. Mr Nicholls had always worked with a high sincerity and honesty of purpose, which had been an example to all those connected with him. This gathering was to him a unique one, for during all his 25 years of journalism he could not remember any gathering of this kind to do honour to a journalist. He was glad that a gentleman whom he respected so much was the central figure at the reception that day. He would conclude by expressing, on behalf of the journalists of Tasmania, their appreciation of the splendid example set them and the assistance given by Mr Nicholls, who had set up a high standard of journalism in Tasmania, which would, he hoped, be long maintained. (Loud applause.)
Upon Mr Nicholls rising to reply, all in the large gathering rose to their feet and applauded and cheered vigorously. He said:
I find myself in a very difficult position, on this occasion. So many pleasant and so many flattering things have been said about me, that I find it almost impossible to express, adequately, the feelings I have at the present moment. In fact, I am very much in the position of the student who went up for an examination, and explained his failure by saying that he was so tightly stuffed full of knowledge that he couldn't get anything out. (Laughter.) I feel so full of thanks and gratification, and of pride, at the very large assembly I see around me, that I cannot put into words exactly what I would like to express. I am also in the position of Tennyson when mourning his friend he said, I brim with sorrow drowning song. But, we must remember that still water runs deep, and if I do not say all that I desire, it is because of the depth of my feelings on such an occasion. (Applause.) If I do not express exactly what I wish, you will understand that it is not from want of feeling, but from the depth of feeling. (Applause.)
As to all the complimentary things that have been said about me to-day, and the very gratifying notices and letters from the pens of other representatives of the press, I do not presume that they are quite all intended for myself. I have no doubt that the recent action of the Commonwealth Attorney-General, who thought fit to launch a thunderbolt at me, has something to do with this occasion. (Loud applause.) That thunderbolt has proved to be in the nature of a kicking gun, which knocks the owner down, and not the game, and which on this occasion has proved very disastrous to the owner. But the decision of the High Court has established a principle for that future that will operate all through the Commonwealth, and I am told by a very good legal authority that I am to be handed down to a sort of dusty immortality in the law-books, as the defendant in what will be regarded as a leading case, in which the King was evoked to crush an editor.
We know, however, that in future, following the great example of the Mother-Country, where the administration of the law is its pride and glory, and the envy of other nations, that the doings of a judge on the Bench are not above fair criticism, and that his judgments are open to discussion. This example will be followed here in future. On every question of practical politics there are sure to be differences, but I wish to say that it is highly desirable that the judgments of Courts and the actions of the judges on the Bench should be open to no less criticism than the actions of all other persons. (Loud applause.)
One very high authority, carrying out the dictum as to the power of the press and the high and dignified positions of the judges, has laid down the principle that public discussion is the safety of the Bench, and attributes the position of the Bench in Great Britain at the present day solely to the influence which the press has exercised. I hope we in this country shall keep up those traditions, even though I have been threatened to be put into a dungeon, and right at the lowest part of the castle moat. (Applause.) Leaving that matter for the present, I desire simply to say that in my connection with the press, which is so commonly called 'the fourth estate', I have always endeavoured to keep up the honour of what may be called a gentleman, and to preserve alike good English and honour undefiled. That is, I have never pandered to the folly of the day or toadied to any party. (Applause.) Even in the troublous times in Victoria, when antagonism was high, I endeavoured to preserve an impartial and judicial attitude, and wrote no abuse and vilified no party.
The last 50 years of my life have been a time of political warfare. I have had to fight against misrepresentation and ignorance, and a distortion of the facts, which is so often at the basis of public agitation. For, I have learned that ignorance of the fact is most often the cause of useless agitation, and the reason why there is so much noise and so little real progress. Looking back over that long period of 50 years, I do not remember having written a line that I am ashamed of. (Loud applause.) In the very hottest political times in Victoria, in the days of abuse and misrepresentation, I found the people always open to argument, and I have made it my special business, if possible, to keep the facts before the people---(Hear, hear)---because the general mistake which is made is that the facts are not clearly kept in mind
I would point out that there are two ways of editing a paper. It may be edited in such a way as to help to raise the status of a people and advance industrial, political, and social life. It is often said of a newspaper that it is merely a business concern, and that in some respects it resembles the stage. Of this Dr. Johnson has said:
'The drama's laws the drama's patrons give,
For those who live to please must please to live. '
This, though to a certain extent true of a newspaper and the stage, is not all the truth. The great actors have lived by the intelligent exercise of their art, and, as Shakespeare has advised them, have not to catch the admiration of the groundling, or set on a few shallow spectators to laugh. This is why we respect the names of the Siddons, the Kembles, the Keans, and others. A newspaper, to a certain extent, must please to live; but that is a different thing from the other method of editing a newspaper by playing down to the follies and mistakes of the people, and thus the better way is understood and appreciated. I trust that the newspapers of our country will endeavour to keep up the standard, not only of good English, but also of good morals, good life, and uprightness in public affairs. (Applause.)
That such things are understood your presence here this afternoon is a proof, not only winning the applause of speakers, but also gaining the respect and esteem of those for whom we work and labour. After all, differences of opinion do not count for much, but differences of conduct are everything. We may agree to differ, but if we once lose the gentlemanly conduct in doing it, and not doing things because it is not right to do them, we are on a downward path, and the result leads to a great deal of misconception and mischief. (Applause.) Now, I have simply to say that I sincerely thank you for the very flattering reception which you have given me. It is a great satisfaction to me to find that, after some 28 years of difficult work amongst you, I am so thoroughly appreciated. (Loud and prolonged applause.)
The following musical items were well rendered:
Organ solo by Mr Scott-Power; duet 'Venetian song', Mrs. Herbert Butler and Mr C. Benson; song, 'Mattinata', Mrs. Seymour Wilson; song 'It is not because your heart is mine', Mr C. Benson; accompanist Mrs. Benson.
At the close of the formal proceedings the people,
ladies and gentlemen, pressed around Mr Nicholls, heartily
shaking his hand and during the serving of light refreshments
by Mr E. W. Looker the gathering assumed the form of