Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Parker, Frank Critchley (1862–1944)

by J. P. Holroyd

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Frank Critchley Parker (1862-1944), journalist and publisher, was born on 9 October 1862 at Richmond, Melbourne, son of William Thomas Parker, fitter, and his wife Ellen Sophia, née Bartlett, both English born. He was registered as Ernest Frank. Educated at St Stephen's Grammar School and state schools, he learned printing with Fergusson & Mitchell and later toured the Pacific. In December 1888 in Melbourne he founded and edited the Sun, planned to rival the Bulletin, and brought out a Sydney edition in March 1889. Selling in 1897, he bought the Sydney-based Australian Mining Standard and took it to Melbourne where he developed it into a notable journal with Tom H. Prichard, a talented journalist and father of Katharine Susannah Prichard, on its staff. He published a novel, A King of Shreds and Patches, in 1891 under the pseudonym 'Frank Critchley'. On 13 May 1899 he married Emily Minnie Plummer with Methodist forms at Fitzroy. From about 1900 he adopted the name Critchley in preference to Frank.

With official subsidies Parker wrote and published books on mineral resources in five States, and also published technical and scientific works by others. In 1908 he bought the London Money Market Review, appointing the erudite E. H. C. Oliphant as editor. Selling it in 1912 he recalled Oliphant to edit the Standard and in 1914 published, with his own preface, Oliphant's Germany and Good Faith.

Parker played a controversial part in the conscription debate and election campaign of 1917. A fervent pro-conscriptionist, he displayed inflammatory posters in his windows and used his magazine, now the Australian Statesman and Mining Standard, to attack anti-conscriptionists and Irish Catholicism. Senators T. J. K. Bakhap and J. H. Keating were each awarded £450 for libel after their loyalty was challenged in a leading article. Anti-Irish cartoons, reproduced from Punch of the 1840s and 1850s and circulated widely as leaflets, caused an outcry. Federal Labor members called for a royal commission to investigate their 'publication, issue, distribution and financing'. Although he rejected their demand, Prime Minister W. M. Hughes dissociated himself from Parker's 'sectarian literature', an action approved by the Argus which condemned the pamphlets as 'offensive and irrelevant publications'. Throughout the war Parker published Patriotic Pamphlets written by himself and others as anti-German and pro-British propaganda.

The decline of gold-mining affected Parker's magazine, whose title was amended in 1917 to the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard to widen its appeal. From weekly it changed to fortnightly and then monthly publication. When Oliphant resigned in 1918, Ambrose Pratt succeeded him. On Pratt's retirement in 1927, Parker again became editor. He was also an active publisher for the Victorian Department of Education and others, offering authors financial aid for works on early Australian history.

A keen fly-fisherman at Mt Kosciusko and in Tasmania, Parker compiled Record of Fish Killed at the Great Lake (1899) and contributed articles on fishing to English journals. In 1937 he published Tasmania, the Jewel of the Commonwealth and persuaded the premier, A. G. Ogilvie, to order 20,000 copies. Of medium height, genial and softly spoken, he was well read and an excellent conversationalist. At work he was paternalistic and demanding.

Divorced by his wife in December 1909, Parker married Kathleen Kerr at the Independent Church, Collins Street, Melbourne, on 12 April 1910. Survived by her and a daughter from his first marriage, Parker died at his South Yarra home on 19 October 1944 and was cremated. His son Critchley, who had worked with him, had died in 1942 while hiking in Tasmania.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Bryan, Archbishop Mannix (Melb, 1918)
  • Australasian Typographical Journal, 1 Dec 1907
  • Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, 1 Nov 1944
  • Melbourne Walker, 18, 1947
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 28 Apr 1917
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 May, 27 July, 16 Nov 1917, 6 June 1932, 23 Oct 1944
  • private information.

Citation details

J. P. Holroyd, 'Parker, Frank Critchley (1862–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/parker-frank-critchley-7954/text13847, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 27 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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