150 years since the first edition rolled off the press in August 1865, first published as the South Bourke and Mornington Journal, it is hard to image what Harvey Roulston would make of the Dandenong Journal 150 years after the first copy slid off his printing press in 1865. The full-colour publication, with its digital photographs, modern Futura masthead and Facebook feedback would certainly have been unimaginable to a newspaper man in the 19th century.
By 1865 barely 30 years had passed since the area’s first white settler Joseph Hawdon had arrived in 1834. Industry and enterprise were just taking root and 1865 saw a tannery built on Kidd’s Road and a whip making business open its doors. That year the municipal leaders borrowed £3000 to build a stone bridge across Dandenong Creek.
In 1861 there were 40 houses in the township and the population was 193. The year 1865 was also significant nationally because it was when Melbourne overtook Sydney as the country’s most populous city, brought on by the rush for Victorian gold, and America was embroiled in the civil war. Amid all this, Irish immigrant Harvey Roulston decided to found a new newspaper, which he called The South Bourke and Mornington Journal. Roulston had learned the newspaper game as an apprentice compositor on the Londonderry Sentinel.
After arriving in Melbourne in 1853 he found work at the Melbourne Argus. Twelve years later Roulston was his own boss when in August 1865 the first edition of the Journal rolled off his press in Richmond. The newspaper’s link with the Roulston family would last more than 70 years. By 1875, Roulston was feeling threatened enough by the Sword brothers who had launched a rival newspaper, the Dandenong Advertiser, the year before, that he moved the Journal to a building in Walker Street, Dandenong.
At that time the Journal covered an enormous geographical area presenting readers with news from Hawthorn, Boroondara, Templestowe, Nunawading, Berwick, Brandy Creek, Oakleigh, Moorabbin, Cheltenham and Frankston. Tragically, early copies of the Journal were destroyed by a devastating fire in the paper’s printing works in 1876 and the oldest existing edition is from 10 January 1877.
As was the custom in those days, the front page of that edition was devoted entirely to advertisements for, among other things, Dunbar’s Hotel in Dandenong, the Dandenong branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia and A. Griffith Shoe and General Blacksmith. Inside the newspaper carried advertisements for ‘Clarke’s world famed blood mixture’ which promised to cure a litany of ailments such as ‘ulcerated sores on the neck, blackheads or pimples on the face, scurvy sores and cancerous ulcers’ and Baker’s perplexing sounding ‘Anthelmintic nuts, or children’s worm cakes’.
Harvey Roulston had six children, all of whom were involved with the Journal at various times. In 1892 he transferred ownership to his two spinster daughters, Lilias and Florence, with his youngest child, William Fenton Roulston, as printer and publisher. On 14 February 1896 Harvey Roulston died suddenly at his home in Pultney Street of “exhaustion following upon anasarca”. He was 68.
His obituary in the Journal noted that “His last illness was a somewhat brief one, heart trouble tending to accelerate his end, which was of peaceful character”. “For a period of 30 years the deceased was closely identified with the affairs of this and the surrounding districts, but during the last few years of his life, did not take an active part in business matters.” Harvey Roulston’s remains were interred in Dandenong cemetery.
By 1900 the Journal had moved to “more commodious premises in Scott Street” and by then the Journal was printed on Dawon Wharfedale press. In 1910 the paper had expanded to six pages and proudly called itself the “best and largest penny paper in the district”. The newspaper continued to evolve and between March 1926 and August 1927 changed its masthead and became known as the Dandenong Journal.
When Harvey’s son Bill Roulston died in 1938 the Roulston family’s connection with the paper ended and ownership passed to William Bennett. Today Harvey Roulston’s grave lies neglected and largely forgotten in the Dandenong cemetery. We can be thankful that the newspaper he founded lives on, still as much a voice of the community as it was in 1865.
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