In 1961, Jack Dennis, then sports editor of The DA, sent me to Gundagai to cover a Maher Cup match, as the regular Group Nine writer, Jack Weeks, was away. I shall be ever grateful to Jack for the assignment as that day I met Pat Sullivan of The Gundagai Independent and so began a life-time respect and admiration for a remarkable and renowned newspaper person.
“Scoop”, as he was universally known throughout the community and industry, was the third generation Patrick Sullivan to own and operate the newspaper. He died last Sunday after battling an illness that began with prostate cancer some years ago but not before his beloved Gundagai Tigers won the Group Nine premiership, its first in 32 years.
He once said: “If you want to be the most popular chap in the community, don’t be a newspaper man.” He said in a recent interview with the Catholic Voice newspaper he had some regrets about things he had published over the years, not because they were not true but because “some things can be hurtful”.
Of the many tributes this week, a former editor of The DA and now Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, encompassed “Scoop’s” great foresight – “he was the Facebook of Gundagai long before the phrase social media was invented; his newspaper’s masthead characterised his own very independent stance.”
“Scoop” had a deep sense of moral right and wrong; of social justice and as the Catholic Voice interview recorded, “he was not one to back down from something he believed, as Archbishop Francis Carroll discovered when “Scoop” was on the advisory board for the set-up of the Catholic Voice 25 years ago”.
“He (the Archbishop) defined a new dogma for me, called the ‘Gundagai infallibility’, “Scoop” recalled”. My friend and Gundagai resident, Glen Moore, put “Scoop’s” wonderful outlook into true perspective – “our community has lost its statesman and mentor; journalism has lost a great contributor”.
He hated slow moving bureaucracy, perhaps another reason why I enjoyed his life’s philosophy, often expressed in his weekly Bzzzz column. He was a great source of political knowledge and his opinion and counsel were sought after when elections loomed.
In the days when The DA chief-of-staff, the late Brian Junck, would dispatch his reporters all around the Riverina to shire council meetings I drew Gundagai Shire one day when “Scoop”, from the media table, joined in the councillors’ debate about the merits of a new bridge over a creek telling them it was not needed, “a three or four box culvert will do the job”. The councillors approved!
Three great newsmen influenced my career. Scoop was one, the others were DA sports editor, Ted Ryder, and the volatile Welshman and brilliant writer, Taffy Davies, editor of The DA in the early sixties – all three no doubt now discussing the standards of journalism and swapping anecdotes at the daily celestial editorial conference.
Last year, Labor MP Anthony Albanese, said: “Despite the enormous role that local government plays in our daily lives, the Australian Constitution makes not one mention of it”.
The recent ructions within Wagga City Council are but further urgent reasons why local government in this state and the nation needs vast renovation and recognition by the Australian Parliament. Perhaps Albanese should draw it to the new PM’s attention.
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