Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Australian Life - death of the stamp man

It's hard to believe now how popular stamp collecting was. I suppose that it provided a window into an exotic world now lost in the constant stream of information about foreign climes. I was reminded of this by John Armati's obituary of Bill Hornadge, Editor with a literary love for life.Bill Hornadge If I am right in just who John is, there is a certain symmetry in the fact that he should write the obituary. 

I don't want to detract from John's obituary, but a need to sketch a little of Bill's life.

Born in 1918, Bill wanted to be a journalist. He started in a temporary job with Smith's Weekly at sixteen, In 1942 he joined the Northern Star at Lismore as a junior journalist where he met his wife to Jean. Restless despite his success at the Star and wanting his own newspaper, he established the North Coast Review at Murwillumbah with his father, Thomas.

Still restless, he joined The Sydney Morning Herald as a subeditor and then took what was meant to be a temporary job at the Dubbo Liberal that turned into a permanent position as editor.

The Dubbo Liberal had been purchased in 1949 by Leo Armati and wife Patricia. Leo had been a leading Sydney journalism figure. When John and Patricia were hurt when their car crashed into a train, Bill kept the paper going. This 2006 obituary of Patricia Marks (Amarti) by Malcolm Brown will tell you a little of the Amarti story. After Leo's death, Patricia and son John continued building a journalism and publishing empire, Macquarie Publications, which owned 65 rural newspapers and was one of the country's largest printers of nationally circulated magazines at the time of its sale to Rural Press.

Leo was a fiery man. After one confrontation graphically described by John Amarti, Bill resigned. As an seventeen year old, Bill had established a stamp business selling stamps from the family home. Shortly after his 18th birthday, launched a bi-monthly The Australian Stamp Collector, with his mother, Lily, as its subeditor. Journalism took him away from this path, but now he and wife Jean returned to that original love,

Bill and Jean established Seven Seas Stamps, sorting and packaging stamps from the spare bedroom. The business grew rapidly. In April 1954, Stamp News was launched, again with great success. It was after this point that Bill came into my view.

Brother David and I were great stamp collectors. Seven Seas used to advertise in comics, something that we could hardly miss! Our parents took out a subscription to Stamp News. We even tried our own hand at selling stamps on approval via an ad in Stamp News!  

While we knew Seven Seas through comics and the magazine, I remembered the name Bill Hornadge through his books. They weren't especially profound books, but they were quite funny with a quirky perspective on the idiosyncrasies of Australian life. I have some still! 



Anonymous said...

It is a shame that stamp collecting is not that popular any more, it was a nice hobby and it had its practical uses as the life of Franklin Roosevelt would prove. Your reminder of the times takes some of us back into reminiscing.

Jim Belshaw said...

It was a nice hobby, and perusing the Stanley & Gibbons world stamp book gave me a remarkably good early introduction into modern history and political geography. You see, I knew where all those places were.

I didn't actually know about FDR and stamps. I had to look it up. For those who are interested, here is one link -

Always glad to encourage people back into reminiscing!