Looking back at the region's newspapers

OLD PRESS: This early printing press is an Arab brand, made by H J Wade of Hallifax and was used in the production of the Wairoa Bell.
OLD PRESS: This early printing press is an Arab brand, made by H J Wade of Hallifax and was used in the production of the Wairoa Bell.

Dargaville and Districts News feature writer Shirley Wan has been flicking through the archives of the Dargaville Museum for most of this piece on the town’s media history.

Dargaville and its immediate surrounding Northern Wairoa area has always been served well with good newspapers that have recorded much of the district’s history.

The Northern Waiora Gazette, published in 1883 by W A Ellis, was the first paper to appear in this district.

It was quickly followed by an 80-copy cyclostyled sheet produced by schoolteacher J Stallworthy, a man who influenced the local newspaper industry for 30 years.

About that time another man, A C Nicholls, set up the Kopuru Bell in Te Kopuru.

Then another paper, the Northern Advertiser, was registered by EH Fail in 1888 with town founder Joseph Dargaville holding an interest.

Two years later Mr Stallworthy took over the Kopuru Bell, and changed its name to the Wairoa Bell. Its operation was moved to Aratapu. He then bought the Northern Advertiser and combined the papers to become the Wairoa Bell and Northern Advertiser.

In 1908, after shifting to Dargaville, the building burned down. It was later rebuilt on the same site in Victoria St.

Back in 1904 Mr Beckett began the North Auckland Times, a daily newspaper, after World War One.

It stayed in business for ninety seven years.

The paper’s first premises was in Victoria St, then in 1937 shifted to Normanby St, later moving across the road from its original location.

There has been interesting and even famous names connected with North Auckland Times.

Percy Hillary, father of the late Sir Edmund, was a copy boy and photographer after leaving school. He bought the Times in partnership with Arch Hillier in 1914 but sold it again when they both went off to the war.

Hillier was killed in action in 1917 and Hillary wounded in 1915 at Gallipoli. After returning from the war, Percy went to South Auckland and started the Tuakau District News.

Other owners down through the years include two Dargaville mayors F A Jones and R E Hornblow.

Business partners Charles Bagnall and Chas. R Rush bought it in 1923.

Bagnall took over in 1930 with sons Fred and Selwyn carrying on the business after their service in World War Two.

It became the first New Zealand newspaper to change to front page headlines and to have news on the day World War Two started, September 3, 1939.

In October 1949 the name was changed to the Northland Times.

Other owners since then have included Ross and Edith Murdoch who now own a lunch bar in the town and Robert and Rosalie Maxted who have just moved to Napier.

Well known author Jane Mander was one of the many talented editors. She worked at the Times for three years, from 1907.

Her book A Strange Attraction, set in Dargaville is about the newspapers.

Arch McGregor Membery took over as editor after his World War Two service during which he was co-editor of the necessarily short lived Crete News.

Former local identity, the late Lewis John Smith, who hailed from the United Kingdom and used to the mother country’s more controversial media styes, was editor in the 1980s.

New Zealand Herald former businesss partner Michael Horton – of Wilson and Horton fame – together with son Matthew, purchased the newspaper from the Maxteds in 1997 which sadly sounded the death knell for the old paper in 2001. It was three year’s off celebrating a century in business.

They closed down the much-loved three or four page broadsheet, which was fondly known as ‘the two minutes silence’.

During latter years the Northland Times contended for its place in the local market of advertisers and readers, with a community newspaper, the Dargaville and Districts News, which started up as a family business in the early 1990s.

The regional daily, The Northern Advocate, now run by APN Holdings, has had strong representation in the town, with veteran, now retired reporter Nan Beardsall having covered the Kaipara area, filing stories from her office at home for more than 20 years. Mrs Beardsall was a leading reporter on the Northland Times before that.

The Northern Advocate opened an editorial office in Dargaville’s town centre around eight years ago. Solo reporters have manned this office since it opened, gathering news and photographs for inclusion.

Former Dargaville and Districts News editor Annette Lambly is currently Kaipara correspondent for the Northern Advocate.


Dargaville News