TRAILL, William Henry (c. 1842-1902)


TRAILL, William Henry (c. 1842-1902)
journalist
only son of John Traill of Westeve, Orkney Islands, was born in London about the year 1842, and was educated at Edinburgh and London. Originally intended for the army, he emigrated to Australia when 17 years of age, landed at Sydney, went to Brisbane, and then became a jackeroo on a station near Dalby. About two years later he was left a small patrimony and returned to England. He stayed for only a few months, and going again to Queensland, became manager of the Maroon Estate in the Beaudesert district. He did not stay long in this position but visited Melbourne and joined the mines department, then returned to Queensland and was given a position in the lands department. He began doing journalistic work and in 1869 gave up his position to go on the literary staff of the Brisbane Courier. He subsequently purchased the Darling Downs Gazette, but later returned to the Courier, and in 1878 became editor of the Sydney Mail. He held this position for about a year, resigning to become Reuter's agent for New South Wales. At the end of January 1880 the Bulletin was started and Traill began contributing leaders to it. As the result of libel actions against that journal it fell into the hands of its printer. He sold it to Traill who met Archibald (q.v.) and Haynes, the original proprietors, and agreed with them to transfer a fourth interest to each of them on similar terms to those of the sale to him. They agreed to work together to make the Bulletin a success, but soon afterwards Haynes and Archibald were imprisoned for failing to pay the costs of the Clontarf libel action, and Traill became editor. He fixed its political policy, "land nationalization and protection, championed the Irish home rule case . . . and took a very practical interest in its welfare—from the production of a brilliantly-written unanswerable leader, to the phlegmatic explosions of an obsolete gas engine". (J. F. Archibald, the Lone Hand, September 1907). Having handed over the editorship to Archibald, Traill in 1883 went to America and engaged Livingston(e) Hopkins (q.v.) as a comic draughtsman, and about two years later travelled to England and engaged Phil May (q.v.) for similar work. These two men did remarkable work, and were largely responsible for the success of the Bulletin. In April 1886 Traill sold his interest in the Bulletin and a few years later was elected a member of the legislative assembly for South Sydney. He was defeated in 1895 and afterwards was engaged in pastoral and mining pursuits in New South Wales and Queensland. Towards the end of his life he lived at Brisbane and wrote for the Queensland government, A Queenly Colony, published in 1901. He died at Brisbane on 21 May 1902. He was twice married and left a widow, four sons and three daughters.
Physically a big man, Traill had a remarkable personality, a direct and forceful style of writing, deep-rooted convictions, and complete honesty.
The Brisbane Courier, 22 May 1902; The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May 1902; The Genesis of the Bulletin, The Lone Hand, September to December 1907; A Century of Journalism, p. 688.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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