Robert Whalley (1816-1891) was working as a news vendor in Creswick when his wife Joan gave birth to twin boys, Robert James and John Scott. The Whalley’s already had two girls, Mary and Isabella and were later to have a third son, Thomas.
Robert had been in the Creswick area for some time as his name appears in the Creswick and Clunes Advertiser from at least 1859, usually in relation to Council business. He was born in Lancashire in 1816 and married Joan Inglis in Preston, England in 1850. Robert senior died in Creswick in 1891.
The two twins followed their father into the newspaper business with John briefly working for the Creswick advertiser. In 1890 they purchased the Northcote Leader from A. H. Richardson and Sons. The Leader had started in January 1888, although in the beginning its Northcote content was minimal.
The two brothers immersed themselves in the Northcote community. After briefly squabbling with the Northcote Council over council advertising (with the Council preferring to use the Collingwood Fitzroy Mercury) the Northcote Leader became a thriving local newspaper with a readership spreading as far as Whittlesea.
By the early 1900s the Whalley brothers had become strong members of the community. Robert was secretary of the Northcote Library Committee and a strong advocate of its role in the community. He was to be on the committee for fifty years.
In 1911 Robert Whalley made a significant contribution to Northcote when as the Secretary of the Northcote Library Committee he approached American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and asked for a donation to build a new library. Carnegie agreed to contribution 50% of the cost of construction if the Northcote Council agreed to pay the remaining sum and offer the library service free of charge. The Council were reluctant to agree to these terms but even more reluctant to let Carnegie’s money slip out of their reach and the terms were accepted.
Amongst the charities Robert Whalley was a tireless supporter of the Red Cross, raising much money for the soldiers during the Great War as well as being a strong supporter of the Ladies Benevolent Society. Robert died on January 14, 1941.
John Scott Whalley also made considerable contributions to Northcote and Preston, including serving 30 years as the editor of the Northcote Leader, a position which ended when the brothers sold the newspaper to Decimus Mott in 1924. In November of that year the Preston Council presented an illuminated address to John for his service to the community.
As well as being an advocate of the Ladies Benevolent Society John Whalley took a keen interest in bowling and was a founding member of the Thornbury Bowling Club.
John Whalley was tragically struck down and killed by a train in 1943. He left a wife, daughters Joan and Hilda and a son Robert.
Ballieres Post Office directories, 1875
Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.
Northcote Leader, (1941 May, 12)
Northcote Leader, 1943