Gloria Collins Cowan, Kaye Cronan, Peter Lewis, Aisla Reinke and Jan Corney.
Gloria Collins Cowan, Kaye Cronan, Peter Lewis, Aisla Reinke and Jan Corney.

Guardian ‘championed’ community through decades of news

THE printed edition of the Whitsunday Coast Guardian has been fondly remembered by residents as a small paper with a big heart, sticking up for businesses and industry, championing the region's wins and helping the community bounce back during tough times.

With a 116-year history, the paper has covered momentous occasions such as the opening of the airport through to victories on the cricket pitch and everything in between.

Former sugar mill director and board member of the Proserpine Canegrowers Association Tony Large said it was the paper's focus on local faces that made it such a staple for the community.

"When you go back to the roots of the Guardian, it was always very locally driven by local people," he said.

"Anything that went on in council or the sugar mill or on the cane growing side of things always made the front page.

"It championed a lot of people within the community whether it's sporting, agricultural or cooking pumpkin scones at the show."

Mr Large also remembered the role of the Guardian in calling on politicians to give the Prossie community a fair go, especially in the sugar industry.

The Guardian's roots can be traced back to 1904 when the first owner and editor of the paper, Raymund Field, came to town.

The first owner and editor of the Proserpine Guardian Raymund Field.
The first owner and editor of the Proserpine Guardian Raymund Field.

Before 1904, Proserpine residents had to depend on the Port Denison Times to know that who's who and what's what of the time.

However, that changed when Mr Field created The Proserpine Guardian with a circulation of around 100 copies.

Six years later, he sold the paper to Robert Walter Scott who bought with him a printing press, an 1880 handfed Wharfdale, by bullock wagon from Ravenswood.

Mr Field passed away in 1915 and his widow maintained the paper until 1928 before their son, Alan, took the reins.

It was then that mechanical typesetting was introduced, saving time spent setting type by hand.

Mr Field and his wife, Connie, set up shop in a new office on Main St in 1937 and published the paper until 1947.

 

Alan and Connie Scott who ran the Proserpine Guardian from 1915-1945.
Alan and Connie Scott who ran the Proserpine Guardian from 1915-1945.

It was then that Major Alan Spence and his wife Dorothy bought the paper and commanded it through the trials and tribulations of the region for 13 years before it was again sold, this time to Bernie and Mary Lewis and Stan and Maureen Busuttin.

The Busuttins sold their part of the paper in 1972 and the Guardian remained in control of the Lewis' as they moved to a new office in Chapman St.

Peter and Cynthia Lewis carried on the Guardian Legacy until September 2014 when the paper was sold to APN Australian Regional Media in 2014.

After more than a century of headlines, former Proserpine State High School teacher Larraine Biggs said the paper had recorded the first and last days of many students who passed through the town.

"When I first came here the Guardian always put extracts from our newsletter in the paper," she said.

"There was a strong connection between the school and the local paper … we were always in there for special events and leadership inductions.

"When the primary school had one of their jubilees, or when there was a special Queensland Day celebration we used to have, or when something significant was happening Australia-wide that we celebrated at the school, all of that was reflected in the papers."

Major Alan Spence who ran the Guardian from 1945 to 1960.
Major Alan Spence who ran the Guardian from 1945 to 1960.

Mrs Biggs taught at the school for more than 40 years and in that time saw many significant stories don the cover of the Guardian.

However, she said among her favourite stories were those that reflected the Proserpine spirit of banding together in the face of challenge.

"I arrived in the middle of the 1974 floods and it's just the stories of the people in the community who pull together and help each other. Those sorts of stories have been the ones that stand out for me and I think our paper always made a point of presenting those stories to the community," she said.

"There's been some wonderful stories of long-term locals who have worked in the community and have given to the community and the paper's often printed stories about them.

"As a teacher at the school, I loved the connection we had with the papers and that we could ring someone and say 'look, this is happening', and (the journalists) would jump at it.

"It was just a wonderful connection so hopefully digitally we can keep that happening."

While this week's edition is the last Whitsunday Coast Guardian to appear in print, there will still be journalists on the ground in the Proserpine community covering the stories that matter most in the new digital-only era.

Peter Lewis who carried on running the Guardian after his father Bernie's death in 2011.
Peter Lewis who carried on running the Guardian after his father Bernie's death in 2011.

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