The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 15 October 1903
(New South Wales)
DEATH OF MR. CURNOW
We regret to announce this morning the death in his seventy-first year of Mr. William Curnow, for many years editor of the "Herald." On his retirement from this position early this year Mr. Curnow sought to establish his health by a trip to Tasmania, and it was hoped that the change and the rest from work would enable him to enjoy the holiday to which long years of strenuous labours entitled him. But these hopes were frustrated, and after his return it was seen that the end was not far off. He passed quietly away yesterday afternoon at his residence, Clifton, Enmore, the cause of death being hemorrhage in the brain, complicated by an affection of the heart. His medical attendants were Dr. P. Muskett and Dr. G. E. Rennie. Mr. Curnow leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters.
A MINISTER OF RELIGION
William, the eldest son of James Curnow, was born at St. Ives, Cornwall, in 1832, and was educated with a view to entering the ministry of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. When he was 21 years of age he became a minister, and a few months later the parent body in England received a requisition from the adherents in Australia for men to fill their pulpits. Amongst those chosen in response was the Rev. William Curnow, and the party arrived in New South Wales in May, 1854. Mr. Curnow was immediately sent to Newcastle, but here he only stayed a few months, being appointed then to Maitland. He came nearer to the scene of his future influence when he was stationed at Parramatta, and it was during the course of his ministry here that he married the lady who is now his widow. Mrs. Curnow is a daughter of Mr. von Weiss, who was a Sydney business man. That was in 1858, and after a year spent in Bowenfels he was transferred to the Brisbane and Ipswich circuit in Queensland, which had in 1859 been separated from the mother colony. Sydney, however, called him back in 1862, and for the next three years Mr. Curnow filled the pulpit of the York-street Church—the principal place of worship of the Sydney Wesleyans. From there to Bourke-street was not a far step, and his thoughtful addresses to his coreligionists on matters of religion, and to his fellow citizens generally on matters of social interest, were an educational factor to many. "In those days," writes an old friend of Mr. Curnow’s, "the public platform was a more prominent feature of the civic life of the colony than at present, and whenever his Ministerial duties were cast in metropolitan circuits, Mr. Curnow was always a welcome speaker on any of the important subjects of the day." In 1868 he went to Goulburn, the last circuit he administered in the country districts of New South Wales. Returning to York-street in 1871, he remained here until March, 1874, when he left for a trip to England. The congregation gave him a hearty farewell, accompanying it with a handsome cheque. On his return he spent two years in the Forest Lodge circuit. Before this time a larger sphere of activity had been opened to Mr. Curnow, and, as his throat had become injuriously affected by public speaking, he left off regular preaching in 1880 and finally resigned his position in the Wesleyan minister on January 22, 1886. On this occasion the Wesleyan Conference unanimously passed a resolution accepting his resignation with reluctance and regret, and recognising the great value of his past services.
Mr. Curnow was regarded by his brother ministers and by the members of the Wesleyan body as a "prince of preachers." One who was associated with him in ministerial work and saw much of him says: "He was a preacher, thoughtful, incisive, intensely earnest, and had a singular power in attracting and influencing his hearers, and especially the young men with whom he came into contact. He always seemed to appeal to all that was best and noblest in humanity. There are quite a number of prominent professional and commercial men whose intellectual, moral, and religious life was moulded and influenced by him. He had a graceful style particularly his own, and some of his utterances are treasured in the hearts of his hearers to this day. His ministerial work in the early days in such circuits as Brisbane, Ipswich, York-street (Sydney), Bourke-street, and Goulburn is still remembered by members of the Methodist Church. He exercised a most potent influence, and his was a far reaching Ministry in all these places. Men who were students and of an intellectual cast of thought were attracted to his churches, and found pleasure and enjoyment in listening to him. He was a man who always seemed to find his way into affections of his people, and won their confidence and esteem. He was ever a student, and kept himself abreast of current thought. He also had the faculty to an exceptional degree of giving his hearers the benefit of his reading and study, and only those who knew him most intimately can appreciate to the full what a privilege it was to hold converse with him. He also had much success as a pastor, and in visiting the sick and ministering to them he scarcely had an equal. Mr. Curnow, the late Dr. Kelynack, and the Rev. Joseph H. Fletcher were regarded as three of the representative men of the conference and either in the pulpit or on the platform they could always be relied upon to worthily represent and maintain the honor of the denomination. Mr. Curnow was a man who never sought official positions in the conference. He was, however, elected a representative to the general conference of the Wesleyan Church held in Sydney in 1878. If he had remained in the ministry the highest honour that the Wesleyan Conference can bestow would undoubtedly have been his."
In the course of his labours as a minister Mr. Curnow became joint editor with the late Dr. Kelynack of "The Christian Chronicle and the Wesleyan Record." Possibly this developed the journalistic tendency, and at any rate we find that during his career in the ministry Mr. Curnow contributed occasionally to the columns of the "Herald." The late Mr. John Fairfax highly appreciated his work, and on Mr. Curnow’s return from England Mr Fairfax invited him to become a member of the editorial staff. The editor in chief those days, in succession to Mr. John West, was Dr. Garran, and amongst Mr. Curnow’s colleagues were such men as Mr. Thomas Ward and the Rev. James Greenwood, M.A., all of whom are now passed away. In January, 1886, Dr. Garran retired from the editorship, and Mr. Curnow was appointed to succeed him. For the following 15 years Mr. Curnow remained steadily at his post, only abandoning it once for a few months’ holiday in Europe. He retired in January of this year, with the promise that he would never lose interest in the work but would come down as often as he could and see the place that he loved so well and the men with whom he had worked for so many years. But, unfortunately, he could only fulfil that promise at long intervals, one of them being in order to receive an address presented to him by the members of the staff on his retirement. The work which Mr. Curnow did as a journalist, especially as the editor of the "Herald," is not to be gauged in these columns. It is permissible, however, to give a few glimpses of him as a journalist. One is supplied by Mr. T. P. O’Connor, who described him when he met him in London as "a man of exquisite and severe taste, with no love of sensationalism, and has imperfect sympathy with some developments of up-to-date journalistic methods." And here we have another supplied by Mr. Curnow himself, when replying to the toast of "The Press" at the opening of the "Daily Telegraph" new premises. "There is not, I believe," he said, "a country in the world where the press is so widely circulated as here. Some people say they don’t read it; but, sly dogs, if they don’t read it openly and honestly they do it in some other way, and then they tell you they ‘have been informed’ that such and such a thing occurred. . . There may be some who think this ubiquitous press a very dreadful thing, but I am sure they are very few in number. . . We newspaper men are very retiring. When a man joins a newspaper he sinks his personality, and you don’t know what he does. But there are newspaper men who, though they have to work hard for a living, would not pervert the truth for all that money might give, who would not deal in personalities, and who, if themselves slandered, would not slander again." Earlier—in the year, indeed, in which he became editor—Mr. Curnow admitted, at a function connected with the Picturesque Atlas Company, that work of journalists took them to the intensely prosaic side of life. "A journalist could not say, as the man said who looked upon the masterpiece of another man, 'I too am a painter,' but he could say, 'I am a fellow-worker; our methods are different from yours, but we are working in a common cause and for a common end.' And, making all allowances for the instincts of self-interest, he believed that journalists and literary men generally were working, as the followers of art were working, for the good of their country and for the happiness of their generations."
A PERSONAL APPRECIATION
Mr. Curnow takes with him to the grave an unusual store of personal knowledge of men and events in Australia. For the space of a generation he had been one of the public men of this city. He knew everybody, whether resident or visitor, who was a force in the community; he had an ample acquaintance with public movements whatever their nature, and he would often talk in very illuminating way about the causes which he had seen take shape in his 30 and more years of journalism amongst us. It may be said in passing that while he was never disposed to underrate the ministerial office or his own career in the Methodist Church he was proud of his position as a journalist, and he held it in honour. Those whom he influenced he taught to prize the opportunities which the newspaper gave for public service untainted by a thought of private advantage, and the tradition of journalistic anonymity always seemed to him worthy maintaining if only because it kept the journalist separate from his work. In regard to his own influence and career as journalist Mr. Curnow was by nature disinclined to push to any extreme any argument or policy or party; he was broad enough to see his opponent’s ground as well as his own, and fair enough to admit the honesty, patriotism, and ability of those who differed from him in policy. Therefore he held fast to the Tennysonian counsel to shun the falsehood of extremes. He was a man of many interests. In literature well and widely read, and up to his latest days sympathetic to the newer men and their works; a lover of music, so that he seldom missed a performance of merit; a frequent theatre-goer and a discriminating and friendly critic of plays and actors; a graceful speaker, and for years one of the best after-dinner speakers in Sydney; a man of extensive travel, who always bore back with him and retained something of the freshness and breadth of the live he had seen; and a most agreeable talker, he had many sides on which to attract. But most of all, he was pleased with the country life. No one had quite seen Mr. Curnow at his best who had not spent a Sunday with him in his country residence at Eastwood. There in a charming garden, which he had laid out and planted, or sitting on the wide verandah that commanded a noble view, he would pleasantly talk about anything that came up, and subjects were few on which he could not throw a personal light and to which he could not add a keen and forcible comment.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 15 October 1903
(New South Wales)
CURNOW. - William Curnow, aged 70 years, October 14, Clifton, Enmore.
CURNOW. - The funeral of William Curnow will leave Clifton, Cambridge-street, Enmore, at 2 p.m. to-day, for Rookwood.
The Brisbane Courier (Queensland) Thursday 15 October 1903
Mr. William Curnow, for many years editor of the "Sydney Morning Herald," died at Enmore, Sydney, yesterday morning. Mr. Curnow was born in Cornwall, and emigrated to Australia in 1854. While in England he had studied for the Wesleyan ministry, and on arriving in Australia became an assistant minister in Queensland, residing for some period in the Warwick district. He subsequently went to New South Wales, eventually becoming minister of the chief Wesleyan church in Sydney. In 1877, his health failing, he made a voyage to England, and on returning, with the throat affection from which he suffered still uncured, he resigned his charge and became a member of the staff of the "Sydney Morning Herald." When Dr. Garran retired from the editorship in 1885 Mr. Curnow became editor, and held that position until early in the present year, when he retired owing to failing health.
The Australian Town and Country Journal,
Wednesday 21 October 1903
(New South Wales)
Death of Mr. Curnow
Mr. William Curnow, lately editor of the "Sydney Morning Herald," died on Wednesday at Enmore. For fifteen years, Mr. Curnow conducted a senior daily paper of Australia, aiming always at a high ideal of accuracy, reliability, and fairness.
Having graduated from the ranks of the clergy, it was only to be expected that Mr. Curnow would bring to his editorial duties a mind above pettiness or self-seeking, and he was always careful to keep his paper clear of any imputation of partisan bias.
As a journalist, Mr. Curnow made few, if any, mistakes. It is said of the man who never makes mistakes that he never makes anything else; but in this case it must be remembered that the paper which Mr. Curnow was conducting was looked to by the public more as a judge than as an advocate of political views. Other papers were expected to do the advocacy; it was for the "Herald" to do the summing up. Keeping this function of his paper fully in view, Mr. Curnow was never inclined to dash into a hurried approval or condemnation of any proposal, political or otherwise, until the evidence pro and con had been carefully weighed; and in arriving at his decisions he was aided by a broad knowledge of the world, and extensive acquaintance with literature, and by an honesty of purpose which was as a light to his path through life.
Politicians, officials, contributors to the Press, and that vast body of the public whose business brings it in touch with newspaper life, will all bear Mr. Curnow’s name in kindly remembrance. He leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters.
At the funeral there was a very large and representative attendance, including many leading men in the public, professional, and commercial life of the State. Rev. Dr. George Lane conducted the burial service, assisted by Rev. C. J. Prescott (president of the Newington College), and Rev. Dr. George Brown. The chief mourners were Messrs. H. G. Curnow and W. L. Curnow (sons), Masters Herbert, Arthur B., and Arthur S. Curnow (grandsons), and Hon. J. H. Brunker, M.L.A. (brother-in-law). Among others present were:—Sir James Fairfax, and Messrs. Charles B. Fairfax, Geoffrey E. Fairfax and James O. Fairfax, Mr. Samuel Cook, Mr. T. W. Heney, Mr. C. Brunsdon Fletcher, Mr. G. H. Reid, M.P., Mr. B. R. Wise (Attorney-General), Dr. Camac Wilkinson, Sir William Manning, Mr. Henry Gullett, the Rev. Dr. Roseby, F.R.A.S. (Chairman, Congregational Union of New South Wales), the Rev. W. Halse Rogers (secretary New South Wales Methodist Conference, the Rev. Dr. Sellers, Messrs. D. Morrison (Melbourne "Argus"), J. R. Carey and H. Gorman (directors ("Daily Telegraph"), F. W. Ward, R. Nail, Walter Jeffery and A. B. Paterson (“Town and Country Journal” and "Evening News"), H. B. Bignold, Charles Oliver (Chief Commissioner for Railways), Hugh McLachlan (Secretary for Railways), Dr. Philip Muskett, Dr. Kingsbury, Messrs. N. Hawken, M.L.C., Herbert Allen, Walter Allen, Boyce Allen, J. F. Burns, H. W. Baddock, H. Wolstenholme, Thomas Stevenson, H. Davis, W. Rigg, Edwin Moore, W. Cope. W. J. Green, Max Buhrow, F. Kent, R. Elvy, W. H. Wale, A.R.C.O., W. Crane, F. Alderson, R. Braddick, E. C. Wright, L. C. Russell Jones, J. W.R. Clarke, J. Keane, E. Brown, G. Elvy, Rev. A. S. Swift, and Rev. W. Clarke. The literary and reporting staffs of the "Sydney Morning Herald" and "Sydney Mail" were also largely represented. Rev. C. J. Prescott delivered an impressive address at the graveside.
Contributed by Bob Bolitho