First ever Campbelltown newspaper donated to library collection

Donated: Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic, Advertiser editor Craig Thomson, former Advertiser manager Colleen Pitchford and former Advertiser editor Jeff McGill with the first edition of the Campbelltown Herald newspaper. Picture: Jess Layt
Donated: Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic, Advertiser editor Craig Thomson, former Advertiser manager Colleen Pitchford and former Advertiser editor Jeff McGill with the first edition of the Campbelltown Herald newspaper. Picture: Jess Layt

More than 140 years after it was printed, a copy of Campbelltown's very first newspaper is now in the HJ Daley Library collection.

A copy of the first edition of the Campbelltown Herald from February 14, 1880 - which, after several name and ownership changes over the years, is now this very masthead - was donated to the Campbelltown library by past and present Advertiser staff.

Former manager Colleen Pitchford recalled finding the historically important document in the early 1960s.

She said the paper, which by this stage was called the Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, operated in a Queen Street office with a printing press out the back.

Ms Pitchford had asked the then owner where do find files for printing orders, which eventually led to the discovery of the Campbelltown Herald first edition.

"I said to Mr Richardson, where do we find the files, and he pointed to a big cardboard box, with everyone's files all mixed up in it," she said.

"I'm quite methodical, so I spent hours going through this box. Then I asked him what happened to the old papers, and he pointed me to this little pigeon hole that had all these papers in there.

"When I found it I asked, 'is this the first one?'. He just said, 'oh, probably'. It was 1962 that I found that."

Ms Pitchford said she kept the newspaper aside, pressed it between two pieces of 'yellow card' and kept it safe in Mr Richardson's desk.

"Mr Richardson smoked cigars, so this paper smelled like cigars for years," she said.

Ms Pitchford left the company after 30 years, and the historic paper found a new protector.

Former Advertiser editor Jeff McGill was a reporter back then, and history buff, and knew the first edition needed to be kept safe.

"There was a bit of a revolving door of editors at that time, there was something like six editors in six years, and heritage wasn't necessarily top of mind," Mr McGill said.

"I managed to grab this paper and hid it down the side of my desk for years.

"But it got to a stage after moving offices that I couldn't have it near my desk anymore, so we kept it in a cabinet with a big sign warning people not to touch it. I told everyone they were never to throw it out."

When the Advertiser's office in the Exchange building at Narellan closed last year, Mr McGill and current editor Craig Thomson came to the decision to donate the piece to Campelltown Library for posterity.

Library staff were proud to take the historic item on board, and set about getting it returned to the best possible condition.

This meant sending the Herald down to Bowral to be repaired by conservator Tony Ameneiro.

His work included included wet treatments, repairing tears and humidifying the document.

Mr Thomson said he was very impressed with the conservation work that had been done.

"I am amazed at the excellent work the team has done to restore our masthead's original front page from 141 years ago," he said.

"It looks almost pristine, one can read the copy clearly. I've seen similar restorations done and they weren't nearly as good as this one.

"It is fantastic that Campbelltown library will safely keep this journalistic and historic treasure for all to enjoy for many years to come."

HJ Daley Library's local studies librarian Andrew Allen said it was amazing to have the document as part of the library's collection.

"It really enhances the collection, it's such a valuable item in Campbelltown's history," he said.

"This is such an exciting thing for us to have - the very first issue of Campbelltown's very first newspaper.

"It's one of many things, objects, that we are getting into the library now that we're keen to display to the public so future generations can come and have a look at it."

Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic said preserving the city's history was hugely important.

"Local newspapers preserve snapshots of our history and the day-to-day stories of our residents and local institutions," he said.

"Campbelltown has a proud history of local newspapers serving the community so I'm delighted that we've been able to preserve an original copy of our first paper.

"In a time when the way we consume news every day is changing, it is fascinating to see how news was presented to our community in the past."

Copies of the double sided two-page paper are being made to ensure it is preserved and the original will be displayed at the HJ Daley Library from Monday, February 8 to Saturday, February 13.