‘Father of Shoalhaven press’ a fearless man

BOLD: Charles Isaac Watson held the record in Australia at the time for having the most libel suits taken against him. Photo: Shoalhaven Historical Society.

BOLD: Charles Isaac Watson held the record in Australia at the time for having the most libel suits taken against him. Photo: Shoalhaven Historical Society.

Founder of the Shoalhaven and Braidwood Press, Charles Isaac Watson, was born at Parramatta on July 4, 1829 and died at Terara on February 4, 1886.

At the time of his death he was the oldest provincial journalist in NSW.

Watson’s mother was a convict living in Parramatta, however the fact that he was the illegitimate son of a convict did not stop him from achieving much throughout his life. 

Even before he was 20 years of age, he was working as a journalist and printer, and was already demonstrating the skills required to produce a paper on his own.

He established a number of publications in NSW, including The Australian (Windsor), the Braidwood Dispatch, and later the Braidwood News, which was the first daily newspaper published outside of Sydney.

Other ventures included the News, Shoalhaven, of which his eldest son was later the editor, the Kiama Reporter, Alpine Pioneer, (Kiandra), The Araluen Star, Ulladulla Free Press, Nowra Colonist and Broughton Creek Mail. 

Regarded as "the father of the Shoalhaven press", Watson was 36 years of age when he published the first edition of the News, Shoalhaven on February 2, 1867 at Terara. 

He witnessed life on many well known goldmines around Victoria and NSW as a digger, but later returned to his profession.

He became known beyond the boundaries of the colonies as one of the most fearless and vigorous writers of his time.

He was, as the Sydney Bulletin put it, “top scorer in Australian libel actions”.

As a journalist he had many enemies, but in private life, many friends.

In 1865, he assisted the raising of a volunteer corps.

Arriving in the Shoalhaven in 1867, he established and opened the first local lodge of Oddfellows and the first Savings Bank for the people. He was also the first enrolled member of the Agricultural Society.

He strongly advocated and was largely instrumental in obtaining the incorporation of several municipal districts, and liberally contributed to public libraries, sporting institutions and philanthropic objects.

His death was due to an injury he sustained at the Nowra Showground, when in endeavouring to save a young woman from being run over by a horse which had bolted with the rail of a fence swinging from its halter.

Watson was knocked out and struck by the rail. He was survived by a widow and eight children.

Obituaries claimed that he held the record for establishing more newspapers than any other person in Australia at that time. 

  • The information in this article was kindly provided by the Shoalhaven Historical Society.
This story ‘Father of Shoalhaven press’ a fearless man first appeared on South Coast Register.

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