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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

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Roy Lancaster Curthoys (1892–1971)

by A. W. Martin

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Roy Lancaster Curthoys (1892-1971), journalist, was born on 4 October 1892 at Ballarat, Victoria, son of native-born parents Alfred George Curthoys, pharmaceutical chemist, and his wife Ada Marion, née Willetts. Educated at the High School, Perth, Roy learned typing and shorthand at John Wardrop's business school and in 1910 joined the literary staff of the Daily News. He transferred to the West Australian in 1916 and, moving to Melbourne in 1919, joined the Herald. From 1912 Curthoys was a leading member of the Australian Journalists' Association. He was largely responsible for setting up a course for journalists at the University of Western Australia in 1919 and was also involved in the establishment of a diploma in journalism at the University of Melbourne in 1922.

In 1920 Curthoys had transferred to the Melbourne Argus and two years later travelled to the United States of America and Europe. Commissioned by the A.J.A. federal executive as its special representative, he reported on the higher education of journalists in the countries he visited. In 1925 he was appointed assistant-editor to (Sir) Edward Cunningham, whom he succeeded as editor in 1929. The school of journalism of the University of Missouri in 1934 conferred its medal of honour on the Argus as a 'distinguished exponent of the best traditions of journalism'; on a world tour that year, Curthoys received the award personally.

Following disagreement with the Argus management over the paper's content and format, Curthoys resigned his editorship in 1935. He had been since 1927 chief Australian correspondent for The Times, though on assuming editorship of the Argus he delegated the reporting jobs and kept a supervisory role. The Times commitment now became his primary occupation: on a substantial salary (£600 per annum) he took over as chief correspondent, responsible for Melbourne and Canberra, and for co-ordinating the work of correspondents in Sydney and Brisbane. He was also employed as Australian correspondent (1935-57) for the New York Times. Sir Keith Murdoch gave Curthoys free accommodation in the offices of the Melbourne Herald and employed him as occasional leader writer. In 1938 and 1939 Murdoch offered Curthoys the London editor-managership of Australian Associated Press Ltd at a salary of £1750, but The Times connexion was more congenial and remained the focus of Curthoys' professional life until his retirement in 1958.

Appreciation of Curthoys' journalistic skills and integrity was universal. Cunningham wrote enviously of his clarity, judgement and learning, and his 'gift of exposition in lucid English'. Sir James Darling remembered him as 'charming and lovable, a great conversationalist, knowledgeable and informed, witty and occasionally caustic, a loyal friend, but not a notably forgiving antagonist who without asserting himself personally enlarged the culture of Australia at the time of its rebirth'.

A bachelor and a member of the Savage Club, Curthoys was active in the Institute of International Affairs and served on the council of the Brotherhood of St Laurence. He declined an offer of appointment as O.B.E. in 1951, feeling 'bound by the longstanding tradition that members of the editorial staff of The Times do not accept honours'. In 1958 he was appointed C.M.G. He died on 24 September 1971 at Prahran and was cremated, according to his request, without religious rites. His estate was sworn for probate at $103,254.

Select Bibliography

  • Newspaper News, 2 Jan 1929
  • Journalist, Apr 1972
  • Age (Melbourne), 28 Sept 1971
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Sept 1971
  • Times (London), 28 Sept 1971
  • Curthoys papers (National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

A. W. Martin, 'Curthoys, Roy Lancaster (1892–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012