State Library of South Australia logo Yorke Peninsula
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future

Plain dealer
Title : Plain dealer Plain dealer
Add To My SA Memory
Source : Plain dealer, 13 April 1901, p. 1
Date of creation : 1901
Format : Newspaper
Dimensions : 610 x 450 mm
Catalogue record
The State Library of South Australia is keen to find out more about SA Memory items. We encourage you to contact the Library if you have additional information about any of these items.
Copyright : Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia. This image may be printed or saved for research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.
Description :

The life of the Plain dealer newspaper was tied strongly to the final years of the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining Company. As well as the demise of the famous copper mine, its pages reflect the political upheavals that took place in the district during and after the First World War. It was a small and outspoken competitor to the long-running local newspaper, the Kadina and Wallaroo times. "[The Plain dealer] ... takes a living interest in politics ... and is very outspoken and fearless on all topics of the day, especially those affecting the well-being of workers." (Centralian advocate, ---, 1904, p. -)

Politics The Plain dealer had a strong political voice. Under its first editor, JA Southwood, political issues filled editorials, political columns and a series of open letters to local figures. A 'Fourth page' column was created where local people were invited to air their opinions about politics and religion. (The title was a reference to the power of the press as the 'fourth estate' of government.)

Southwood's signed articles, as well as his editorials, often caused debate. 'The single tax : its injustice, its ineffeciency,' (28 May 1904, p. 4) brought forth weeks of letters to the editor. There were a number of regular letter-writers, including the Rev. TR Bawden, EJ Craigie, Heber J. Beck and the Rev. RJ Rose. Southwell enlisted some of these to contribute articles on particular subjects. The Methodist mining population of the district was known as the 'powerhouse' of the South Australian United Labor Party, and Southwell himself was a staunch supporter of the Labor movement. In his series, 'Letters to localities' he openly advocated membership of the Party. "I do not see your name among the local branch of the Labor Party. May I ask why?' (15 October 1904, p. 4) Meetings of the local branches of the United Labor Party and the Womans' Christian Temperance Union were regularly reported. Both groups evidently held strong views. When the 1915 'early closing' referendum regarding the closure of hotel bars at 6 pm was passed, the WCTU women showed their "gratitude to Almighty God for the glorious victory won for the uplifting of humanity." (10 April 1915, p. 2)

Southwood optimistically believed that even the farmers would follow the Labor Party, "The few local farmers who are drifting into Conservatism have not yet commenced to think of the consequences ..." (11 November 1905, p. 2) Under Southwood the newspaper was anti-socialist, although from 1915 this stance briefly changed. From the end of the war, newspaper editorials against socialism and communism returned, with more frequency and vehemence.

The Plain dealer was of its time, and in line with colonialism and so-called 'White Australia' views, it referred to the Boers as "ignorant, and consequently incapable of progression," (20 January 1900, p. 2) the Japanese were "an Asiatic foe" (18 March 1905, p. 2), and a local miner of Welsh background was advised, "It would be as well to cultivate the impression that you are an Australian." (14 January 1905, p. 4)

Southwood stood for Parliament unsuccessfully in 1899, but in 1912 he was elected Labor member for Wallaroo. Initially copies of his major speeches were printed as supplements to the Plain dealer, including his speech on the 'Industrial Arbitration Bill,' (21 September 1912) and 'The Gerrymander.' (4 October 1913)

Cornish people The area including the towns of Kadina, Moonta and Wallaroo, came to be known as 'Little Cornwall'. Although the area was populated with miners from other parts of Britain, including Wales - and had a small German community - Cornish people made up the majority, hundreds having been brought to work in the mines. Cornish names are prominent in articles and advertisements in the Plain dealer: Penberthy, Jacka, Trenerry, Trewartha, Paull, Rosewarne and Tonkin. Southwood had grown up in Kadina where his father was stationmaster, and was well-versed in Cornish customs. In April 1901 humorous articles written in Cornish dialect began appearing under the title 'Cornish talk' or 'The Cornish corner.' These included occasional short stories such as 'Jan Chigwidden's Cornish yarn' (18 May 1901, p. 2) and in March 1902 a series of stories about a character called Aunt Keziah. The column became a commentary on local happenings such as the Kadina races (5 April 1902, p. 2), electric lights coming to Kadina (6 February 1902, p. 1) and even support for Federal politician, Charles Cameron Kingston (1 August 1903, p. 2). The 'Cornish corner' was revived in 1905 but appeared only periodically from this time.

Sport From the start the Plain dealer gave detailed coverage to local sport. Cricket was fully covered in early issues, reflecting its immense popularity locally, with four senior teams playing in the 1898 season. (15 October 1898, p. 2). From 1897 the bicycle craze saw the rise of local clubs and 117 entries for a Kadina Christmas Cycling Carnival. (11 December 1897, p. 2) Southwood was a member of the local club, and was possibly the author of 'Cycling notes by Valve.' Football, the annual Yorke Peninsula Regatta at Wallaroo, and horse racing at Maitland, Yorketown, Snowtown and Paskeville, were also reported. Although wrestling was a Cornish tradition, a protest meeting was held at Kadina in 1911 to express opposition to a prize fighting match. (7 October 1911, p. 2) As the First World War progressed, local sport declined, but revived from 1919 when most of the men who had been fighting returned. In 1917 'Sporting notes by Spectre' began, a commentary on South Australian horse racing. In 1922 the old Wallaroo cycling track was turned into a trotting track. (6 October 1922, p. 2)

Music Music was a significant component of the Cornish heritage of the district. The composer Joseph Glasson was a music teacher at Kadina and well-known for his renderings of traditional Cornish tunes as well as his own carols and marches. There were a large number of choirs and bands in the district including the Moonta Philharmonic Choir and the award-winning Kadina Mendelssohn Choir. In 1906 there were over 100 entries for the first Moonta Musical Competitions, including four bands and four choirs. The competitions took place over eight nights. (10 November 1906, p. 2) Brass bands were a feature of Cornish life, and in 1914 at Kadina alone there were three bands with a total of 60 members. (10 January 1914, p. 2)

Photographs Photographs only briefly appeared in the Plain dealer. They were first used in advertisements for acetylene gas lights in February 1901. These were photographs of Adelaide homes and businesses using lighting installed by Fearn and Goss. In January 1903 photographs were used in advertisements for local shops, Hall and Co., and Charles Moore and Co. These were not of particularly good quality. Better examples were printed between November/December 1904, in advertisments for GR Haddy, furnisher and undertaker; JH Rosewarne, blacksmith, and Rendell and Son, baker and grocer.

In April 1904 cartoon figures drawn by local shopkeeper EA Ham (father of the writer Phyllis Somerville) began appearing in advertisements for the Plain dealer itself.

Mining Copper mining was the reason for the existence of the three copper towns, and regular official reports of the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining Company appeared in the Plain dealer as well as notices from the managers. Mine accidents and deaths were reported with unfortunate regularity. Mine manager, Lipson Hancock, (successor and son of the famous Captain Hancock) was taken to task more than once by Southwood in the pages of his newspaper. In 1904 Hancock was the subject of Southwood's first 'Letters to localities' column, with the editor taking the mine manager up on the issue of workers' compensation. (24 September 1904, p. 2) In 1908 both the Plain dealer, and Southwood and Spring's other newspaper, Copper age, printed letters to Hancock about the low pay rates at the mine. (19 December 1908, p. 2)

The repercussions of the First World War were felt immediately in the Copper Triangle. Overseas shipping was interrupted, forcing the mines to shut down on the day that War was declared. Lipson Hancock sought government support, but the demand for copper in the war effort saw a quick return to production. The mine experienced its second and biggest boom period. (19 October 1923, p. 2) After the war, the world-wide fall in the price of copper saw the company forced finally to close in 1923. The vast stockpiles of ore apparently kept the smelters operating until 1926. John Verran blamed the unions for the closure, as did the Plain dealer. He and a local minister, the Rev EA Davis, gave nightly speeches on the 'Plain dealer corner' to large crowds, and lobbied parliament for support. The Sydney-based Australian Workers' Union was blamed for not allowing the miners to accept wage cuts, and was blasted in the pages of the newspaper, with unionism described as, "the worst form of slavery." (27 May 1921, p. 2) The closure of the mine saw over 3,000 people leave the district.

Religion Not only the strong Methodism of the Cornish community, but religion in all its forms, was discussed in the pages of the Plain dealer. The 1891 South Australian Census showed that 80% of the people of the Copper Triangle were members of one or other of the Methodist churches. A series of articles, 'Amongst the churches,' giving detailed descriptions of local churches, was printed between October and December 1899, but reports and articles devoted to the regular doings of local churches were surprisingly rare. The Kadina Salvation Army and the Welsh Congregational Church at Wallaroo received more regular coverage of this kind than most of the other churches.

From September to November 1903 the 'Romish' or High Church rituals practised by the Rev. AK Chignell at the Kadina Anglican Church came under scrutiny, culminating in a public debate in the Wallaroo Town Hall, with teams led by the offending minister and the Plain dealer editor. Transcripts of the debate were printed for sale. (8 October 1904, p. 3) In 1904 a signed article by Southwood suggesting that ordained ministers were 'the enemy of progress,' (25 June 1904, p. 4) caused letters to the editor for weeks afterwards. The topic of spiritualism was introduced in a two part article by 'Seeker after Truth.' (4 February 1905, p. 4, and 11 February 1905, p. 4) Southwood was clearly interested in this subject. In 1908 a serial he had written, 'His other self,' was published in the newspaper. Together with various political and social messages, the main character finds comfort in spiritualism after the death of his daughter. Through most of 1906 the voluminous lecture series of a prominent Christadelphian, Robert Roberts, was printed in instalments on the back page. From 1914 a syndicated column of the writings of 'Pastor Russell,' whose followers formed the Jehovah's Witness movement, appeared weekly - this appeared in several country newspapers in this period.

People From 1901 the newspaper regularly printed reports of weddings, and reasonably detailed obituaries of local people. The frequent deaths in mining accidents are reported in detail.

War JA Southwood was a member of the local volunteer military corps, and reports of the volunteer groups at Kadina and Wallaroo appeared regularly in early issues of the Plain dealer. The first major conflict referred to in the pages of the newspaper was the South African, or Boer War, which began in 1899. In 1900 there were anti-Boer demonstrations at Moonta with the burning of pro-Boer effigies, complete with the accompaniement of a local brass band. (20 January 1900, p. 2) Excerpts from the letters of one local soldier, William Crosby, were printed in the newspaper. (4 January 1902, p. 4)

The first major effect of the First World War locally, was to cause shipping problems which stopped copper exports and forced the mines to close. However the War quickly generated a new and increased demand for copper. With the escalation of mining, local men were fully employed and few early enlistments are mentioned in the Plain dealer. However, at the end of 1916 the newspaper printed the names of over 200 men who had enlisted from Kadina. (17 November 1916, p. 3) Of the final total of 260 Kadina men who enlisted, 47 were killed.

Clearly a major issue in the district was the debate over conscription. Federal referendums in 1916 and 1917 failed to have conscription passed. In the copper triangle, as in other parts of the country, the community was clearly split down the middle over the issue. Southwood was a labor-voting Methodist and the Plain dealer pages were filled with support for what it chose to refer to as 'national service.' The war brought many things to a head, including a split in traditional Labor support in the district. In Adelaide the Labor Party aligned itself with its eastern states counterparts, whose religious connections were mostly Irish Catholic - although Catholic voters were equally divided over the issue, leaders like Archbishop Mannix were outspoken against it. The community in the copper triangle was split down the middle - those who put politics above religion remained as followers of the Labor Party, while those traditionalists like John Verran who believed religion was innately political, chose to support conscription. The Plain dealer was strident in condemning "the single, selfish shirker," (7 January 1916, p.2) and saw the referendum loss as,

... a terrible one. It will be part of our political history. Our children's children will be taught it in the schools. (3 November 1916, p. 2)

Kadina beer strike A series of articles in the Plain dealer cover the novel strike for cheaper beer by local drinkers in March 1902. (1 March 1902, p. 2) In 1920 another 'beer boycott' took place at Kadina. Again the demand was for butchers and pints to be reduced to threepence and fourpence respectively. (7 May 1920, p. 2) It is interesting that in such a Methodist stronghold (statistically as well as by reputation) the beer price should have been such an important issue.

Post cards and supplements In May 1904 advertisements began for a series of post cards published by the Plain dealer depicting local scenes.

Related publications From 1906 to 1908 a subsidiary newspaper, the Copper age, was published by Southwood and Spring to cover news in the middle of the week. In March-April 1910, The campaigner, organ of the Kadina Temperance Society, was printed as a supplement to the Plain dealer. This was edited by Thomas Webb and J. Sexton to promote a local liquor restriction referendum. It ran to only three issues in the weeks before voting day.

Although there was not a great deal of obvious rivalry between the Plain dealer and its opposition, the older Kadina and Wallaroo times, an editorial by Southwell in 1897 referred to the other newspaper's "usual imbecility." (6 November 1897, p. 2)

Ownership The Plain dealer was begun by John Albert Southwood and George Spring. Southwood was the son of the Kadina stationmaster and was apprenticed to the Taylor brothers at the Wallaroo times before moving to Broken Hill to work on the Barrier miner. Later, in Sydney, he met George Spring and together they managed the Katoomba times before returning to Kadina in 1894 to establish the Plain dealer. Southwood entered parliament in 1912 as a representative for Wallaroo. In 1917 his partnership with Spring was dissolved, and Spring continued the newspaper on his own. It ceased without warning in January 1926, possibly due to the economic effects of the closing of the mines.

Related names :

Chignell, A.K.

Crosby, William

Davis, E.A.

Glasson, Joseph

Haddy, G.R.

Ham, Edgar Allen

Hancock, H. Lipson (Henry Lipson), 1867-1935

Kingston, Charles Cameron, 1850-1908

Rosewarne, J.H.

Sexton, J.

Somerville, Phyllis

Southwood, J.A. (John Albert), 1868-1945

Spring, George

Webb, Thomas

Campaigner: organ of the Kadina Temperance Society

Copper age (Kadina, S. Aust.)

Kadina and Wallaroo times (Kadina, S. Aust.)

Kadina Mendelssohn Choir

Katoomba times (Katoomba, N.S.W.)

Moonta Philharmonic Choir

Rendell and Son

South Australian United Labor Party

Wallaroo and Moonta Mining Company

Wallaroo times (Wallaroo, S. Aust.)

Woman's Christian Temperance Union of South Australia

Coverage year : 1901
Place : Kadina (S. Aust.)
Further reading :

Bailey, Keith. Copper city chronicle: a history of Kadina, Kadina, S. Aust., HK Bailey, 1990

'Death of Mr JA Southwood,' Advertiser, 19 October 1945, p. 13

Payton, Philip. Making Moonta: the invention of Australia's little Cornwall, Exeter, University of Exeter Press, 2007

'Powers of the SA press: John Albert Southwood' Critic, 26 March 1898, p. 24



About SA Memory

Explore SA Memory

SA Memory Themes


My SA Memory


What's on