William Henry Traill

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William Henry Traill (7 May 1842 – 21 May 1902) was an Australian journalist and politician. He was an early editor and in a period the principal proprietor of The Bulletin.[1]

Early life[edit]

Traill, only son of John Traill of Westove, Orkney Islands, and his wife Eliza Dunbar (née Heddle) was born in London, and was educated at Edinburgh and London. The Westove Estate had been held by Traill descendants for more than 300 years. 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 Boondoomba Station near Dalby. About two years later he was left a small patrimony and returned to the Orkney Islands. He stayed for only a few months, and going again to Queensland, became manager of the Maroon Estate in the Beaudesert district. At 23 he married Miss Jesse Lewis. 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. Here his wife died.[2]


He began doing journalistic work, contributing a regular column headed Passing Thoughts to the Express, and in 1869 gave up his position to go on the literary staff of the Brisbane Courier and Queenslander as special commissioner investigating the land dummying being carried on in connection with the opening up of the Darling Downs. In 1871 he married Agnes Lewis, half-sister of his first wife. He subsequently purchased the Darling Downs Gazette, but later returned to the Courier, and in 1878 became editor of the The Sydney Mail. He held this position for about a year, resigning to become Reuter's agent for New South Wales. He continued to contribute to the The Sydney Mail, Echo and The Sydney Morning Herald. 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 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.[3]

He fixed its political policy, "land nationalisation 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 Hopkins as a comic draughtsman, and about two years later travelled to England and engaged Phil May for similar work. These two men did remarkable work, and were largely responsible for the success of the Bulletin.[1]

Parliamentary career[edit]

In April 1886 Traill sold his interest in the Bulletin and in 1889, he was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly for South Sydney.[4] He was committed to protectionism, but otherwise was an independent and was not offered a ministry. He held a position as chairman of the commission to enquire into the working of the New South Wales Lands Office. He was defeated in 1895 and afterwards was engaged unsuccessfully in pastoral and mining pursuits in New South Wales and Queensland and declared bankrupt in 1896.[3]

Towards the end of his life he lived at Brisbane and wrote for the Queensland government, A Queenly Colony, published in 1901, and the historical and mining portion of the Queensland Year Book 1902. He died of heart disease at his residence at Yeerongpilly in Brisbane in 1902 at the age of 58. He was twice married and left a widow, four sons and three daughters.[2]


A QUEENLY COLONY: PEN SKETCHES AND CAMERA GLIMPSES, Brisbane 1901, 142 pages, ill. A PLAIN EXPLANATION OF THE NEW LAND ACT OF 1876, AND REGULATIONS: SPECIALLY DESIGNED FOR THE INFORMATION AND GUIDANCE OF SELECTORS IN EVERY PART OF THE COLONY, Toowoomba 1877, 33 pages. HISTORICAL SKETCH OF QUEENSLAND, Sydney 1980, 111 pages (Facsimile. Published originally as a section of ‘Picturesque atlas of Australasia’ edited by Andrew Garran, Sydney 1886)


  1. ^ a b Sydney Morning Herald 22 May 1902, page 7b; Brisbane Courier 22 May 1902, page 5g (or Queenslander 31 May 1902, page1223 S); Western Australian Advertiser 26 May 1902, page 9 f (‘W.A.L.’ letter to the editor).
  2. ^ a b Serle, Percival. "Traill, William Henry (c. 1842–1902)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Project Gutenberg Australia. Retrieved 29 March 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Andrews, B. G. "Traill, William Henry (1843–1902)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 29 March 2007. 
  4. ^ "Mr William Henry Traill (1843–1902)". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2007.