When Woolloongabba was Wattle Scented

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When Wooloongabba was Wattle-scented

Nut Quads Identity Revealed...and a World Record.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Mr Charles (Chas) Melton. Melton's passing was announced in The Brisbane Courier, January 17, 1931. The article provides an excellent summary of his life and reads as follows,

A fine career closed yesterday after-noon, when Mr. Charles Melton, who entered the service of The Brisbane  Newspaper Company 72 years ago in September last, and remained in the same employ through-out his working life, passed away at his residence, Kyabra street, Stratton, Valley. Mr. Melton completed his 70thyear of service on May 7, 1928,when the occasion was celebrated at a function in which the directors and employees of The Brisbane Newspaper Company took part, and at which the guest of the day was felicitated on his long and faithful service. Up to that time he had been able to give unceasing attention to his work, but soon after-wards he decided to take a well learned respite. Nominally he retired on pension, but continued to attend the office more or less regularly, until he found the claims of increasing age too strong even for his iron determination, and he was compelled to con- 
fine his visits to an occasional call to chat with his old colleagues. Recently his once robust health failed him, and his condition became such as to cause anxiety to his friends. He gradually sank, and passed away in the home in which he had spent many years of his life. Mr. Melton would have been 87 years of age in September next.

The late Mr. Charles Melton became associated with the Press of Brisbane in 1858, when, a boy of 14, he sought and obtained a humble position in the"Courier" office. He was not native born, having arrived with his parents in Brisbane (at that time in the Moreton Bay settlement of New South Wales) in 1852, being then 8 years of age. When he entered the "Courier"office 72 years ago he could neither read nor write, the exigencies of pioneering in a new land having made it impossible for his parents to give him the education which to-day is not only available to every boy and girl in the country, but is inescapable. For that was long before the days of compulsory and free education. But young Melton soon showed such promise that the foreman of the composing room took it upon himself to make up for the lack of early opportunities of gaining instruction in "the three R's," and taught him to read and write. That was the stepping-stone which enabled the totally uneducated "generally useful" youth to become, in a few years, a full-fledged journeyman compositor,and, later, the head of one of his employers' biggest departments-the composing room. Not only did he do that,but he studied hard, until he became an office authority on English and a descriptive writer, whose fascinating reminiscences have delighted thousands of "Courier" readers ,many of whom have pleasant recollections of his articles on the days "When Woolloongabba was Wattle-scented." Under the pen-name of "Nut Quad"he also contributed many articles on subjects which his long residence and experience in Brisbane, combined with an excellent memory, enabled him to handle with peculiar facility. About 18 years ago Mr. Melton attached himself more closely to the literary branch of journalism by relinquishing the command of the mechanical department,over which he had presided for some years, and joining the sub-editorial staff of "The Queenslander," in which connection the remainder of his office career was spent.

The length of that career is probably a world's record in newspaper work. Eight years ago, at a gathering arranged by the directors of The Brisbane Newspaper Company to celebrate the completion of 64 years of Mr. Melton's service with the company, the late Mr. J. J. Knight, the chairman of directors, in proposing the toast of the guest's health, said: "We are here to tell Mr. Melton that we are proud of him; to tell him, too, that a careful investigation shows that he holds a world's record in Journalism-something to be proud of-in having remained in continuous employment in the one office for 64 years." Mr. Knight quoted from a trade journal of recent date,showing that one gentleman in Melbourne had been 50 years in the printing trade, and three in England had services of 50, 56, and 60 years respectively. "The Brisbane Newspaper Company's record in Mr. Melton," he said, "out distances them all." It was little thought at that time that the object of these congratulatory references would still be in harness 70 years after his entry into the establishment. Spare of figure, but, to use his own expression, "as hard as nails," he was, until the last year or two, brisk enough in his movements and alert enough Inattention to business to make him the envy of much younger men. Regularity and duty were his watchwords, and he disciplined himself as well as those under him to act up to his tenets. A long, useful, and honourable career has now closed to the regret of all who knew him. In accordance with a wish expressed by the late Mr. Melton prior to his death, the funeral, which will leave his late residence at 4 p.m. to-day for the Nundah Cemetery, will be private.

From illiterate migrant to a world record in journalistic service, seems Charles Melton made the most of the opportunities presented him and his writings provide a fascinating account of  life in early Moreton Bay. So keep reading as we unearth and rediscover Brisbane; When Woolloongabba was Wattle-scented.

1931 'MR. CHARLES MELTON.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864-1933), 17 January, p. 8, viewed 3 April, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21661089

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