Elliot Hannay. Photo: Townsville Bulletin.
Elliot Hannay. Photo: Townsville Bulletin.

Former NewsMail journo to hold memoir signing in Bundy

IT WAS 1958 when Elliot Hannay started his career at the NewsMail.

He was just 16 when he took on a cadetship that would lead him to eventually becoming the editor of the Townsville Bulletin.

Mr Hannay will hold a book signing in Bundaberg this week as part of the launch of his memoir, The Colt With No Regrets.

"I feel really chuffed when people tell me how much they enjoyed reading about characters and events they can relate to personally", Mr Hannay said.

"I've also been told it's refreshing to engage in a real-life story from a writer who's not a retired politician or a celebrity trying to reinvent history or polish egos."

The memoir has been highly praised for its insight and humour.

"Most of my high-profile colleagues on retirement write about the Canberra Press Gallery or their encounters with our nation's powerbrokers, but I often wondered why books about regional journalism and growing up in a country town never seemed to get into print," he said.

"When my novelist wife Barbara was first published 25 years ago, I decided to have a crack at writing my memoir.

"Since then Barb has written 57 books, many of which have won awards or been bestsellers.

"My journey into print was much more of a struggle."


Elliot Hannay as a first year cadet aged 16, News Mail, 1958.
Elliot Hannay as a first year cadet aged 16, News Mail, 1958.


But Mr Hannay knew there would be an audience for his work.

"However, I sensed people would be interested in a yarn about life in a town where shift workers had developed their own social culture," he said.

"Young men and women employed in sugar mills, the rum distillery, the foundry, journos, printers, pressmen and comps, coppers, firemen, ambos, doctors and nurses who worked and socialised when most of Bundy was fast asleep.

"One of the biggest challenges was to check on my unreliable memories because I wanted the memoir to be as factual as possible and I was anxious to do justice to the memory of workmates and associates, even if many of them had passed on.

"So, over a period of several years, I contacted as many of the old NewsMail crew as I could track down."

Mr Hannay's earliest days in the industry instilled a sense of accuracy in him that followed him throughout his life.

"My first editor, the legendary Mort Nash, threatened to kick my backside all the way down the stairs if I ever misquoted anyone, and that warning resonated with me when extensive dialogue started to appear on the pages of my manuscript," he said.

"There are no diaries or tattered reporter's notebooks to support these sections, only the intrusive voices of my old colleagues which are still loud and clear to this day.

And just because Mr Hannay has written about the regions, doesn't mean the news is dull.

"National media outlets including The Australian have grabbed the more sensational chapters and run extracts in recent years prior to my book's publication," he said.

"Disturbing encounters with a homegrown chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in North Queensland during the Mabo Native Title campaigns, death threats and $3 million writs from Kings Cross gangsters and corrupt coppers in the pre-Fitzgerald era of Queensland, and filing exclusive news from the inner-sanctum of the Chinese Communist Party 40 years ago are genuine career highlights.

"But I am most proud of my earlier work as an eager but naive young cadet journalist walking the streets of Bundy desperately searching for news, from baby shows and boxing nights to court cases and council meetings.

"And, of course, the best part some years later … meeting Barbara and falling in love at midnight, in the moonlight, at Kelly's Beach."

The Colt With No Regrets is published by Wilkinson Publishing in Melbourne and is available at most bookstores and through Booktopia and Amazon. It is also in e-book format on Kindle and Amazon.

Mr Hannay's book signing will be held at Dymocks from 10am till noon on Saturday.

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