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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Barcs, Emery (1905–1990)

by John Tebbutt

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Emery Barcs (1905-1990), journalist, was born Imre Bruchsteiner on 21 June 1905 in Budapest, son of James Julius Bruchsteiner, goldsmith, and his wife Ilka, née Matzner. Imre attended Bolyai College and the Royal Hungarian Faculty of Economics, completing his course in 1929. He worked as a journalist on Esti Kurir in 1925-26 and then as secretary to the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for four years. After completing his degree, he returned to journalism, with the newspaper Az Est.

On 29 August 1931 in Budapest he married a `childhood playmate’, Eva Vica Somogyi. In 1933 he changed his name from Bruchsteiner to Barcs to conceal his Jewish origins. That year he was appointed to Az Est’s office in Rome. He reported on the Italo-Ethiopian conflict in 1935, and completed a doctorate in political science at the Royal University of Rome with a thesis comparing press laws in various countries. A committee member of the Foreign Press Association, he was expelled from Italy in 1938, possibly for his private criticisms of fascism.

On his return to Hungary Barcs continued to work on Az Est and became acting editor of Pesti Naplo. In a climate of rising fascism he was refused admission to the Hungarian Chamber of Journalists, which meant he could no longer follow his profession. He applied in December 1938 to migrate to Australia and arrived in Sydney next August. By this timehe used the name Éméric, abbreviated to Em(m)ery. On 19 October 1939 his application to join the Australian Journalists’ Association was accepted. At his request, the federal executive of the AJA had supported his application for entry into Australia. He was unusual in Australian journalism at that time for his university education, extensive background as a foreign correspondent and ability to speak five languages. He worked as a freelance journalist for Australian and overseas newspapers.

Barcs was asked to contribute to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s `Notes on the News’; his commentaries were read by an announcer as his European accent was considered unsuitable for Australian listeners. These talks were broadcast from early 1941, but were interrupted when he was detained as an `enemy alien’ in December. In October 1939 he had tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force but was rejected. He was interned at Liverpool, New South Wales, and Tatura, Victoria, until February 1942. Called up for full-time duty in the Citizen Military Forces on 27 July, he served with the 3rd Employment Company before being discharged on 7 October 1944 because of a sinus condition. During this period he was asked to join the inaugural committee of the Association of Refugees (Association of New Citizens). Barcs was naturalised in 1946. He maintained an active interest in refugee issues through the Australian Council for International Social Service.

Having continued his freelance journalism while on military service, Barcs joined the staff of (Australian) Consolidated Press Ltd in November 1944 and worked on the Daily Telegraph under the editor Brian Penton. Using pen-names (Esmond Barclay was one) he began with features on many themes, but quickly established himself as a specialist foreign-affairs writer at a time when commentary in this field was largely dominated by academics. He effectively became the Telegraph’s foreign editor in the mid-1950s, although he seems not to have held that title officially. During the 1950s Barcs travelled extensively on assignments including the Japanese Peace Conference in San Francisco (1951), the inaugural council meeting of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization in Bangkok (1955) and the Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia (1955). He also visited Africa and Europe. He had resumed work for the ABC and continued broadcasting into the 1980s. In 1945-46 he had lectured for the adult education branch of the University of Sydney.

Barcs also contributed a number of articles to the journal Quadrant and supported the organisation that published it, the Australian Committee (Association) for Cultural Freedom. He joined the Killara branch of the Liberal Party of Australia before the 1961 elections. Although he officially retired in 1975 he continued to write for the Bulletin, including sections of the 1976 series `The Australian Family’, and published his memoirs, Backyard of Mars (1980). He lived at Killara for forty years. Survived by his wife, Barcs died on 10 November 1990 at Castlecrag and was cremated. They had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • New York Times, 13 Feb 1938, p 6
  • Bulletin, 5 Sept 1989, p 23
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Nov 1990, p 10
  • series A435, item 1945/4/4079, series A12217, item L9170, series B884, item N224856 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Emery Barcs papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

John Tebbutt, 'Barcs, Emery (1905–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 11 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Bruchsteiner, Imre
  • Barcs, Emerich
  • Barclay, Esmond

21 June 1905
Budapest, Hungary


10 November 1990
Castlecrag, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence