• Diana Nichol

Press Day at the Bulletin - W.E. Fitz Henry July 30 1941

" It was press-day at the THE BULLETIN and I was doing some small task for editor S.H. Prior in his office when Randolph Bedford, back in town after three month's roving, burst into the room.

"Morning, Sam." he bellowed huskily, and, hauling a thick wad of "copy" from a hip pocket, threw it on Prior's desk. "You can have the damn lot for fifty quid," he continued, standing over Prior.

Prior, who was used to Randolph's volcanic visits and abrupt demands, merely said, without looking up from the proof he was correcting, "not a farthing Randolph, until it is typed up and I can tell whether I want it or not."

Randolph's rejoinder shook the foundations of the old building and the air was full of vermilion oaths, but Prior had weathered many such storms. The upshot was that I was given the unenviable job of typing several 'squires' of Randolph's appalling handwriting, and Randolph, rumbling with indignation, left for downstairs, where Tom McMahon, the accountant, would listen with a grin to his outburst and appease him with a tenner.

The next batch of copy from Randolph was typed. It propted this note from the editor:-

Dear Randolph, Your typing is worse than your handwriting. If you cannot afford a typist, scrap the typewriter and go back to your pen Yours, S.H. Prior

Yet, although Prior and Bedford rarely met without sound and fury on Randolph's part, the two men had been staunch friends from the first time they met in Broken Hill. Each had a high opinion of the other's ability and esteemed the other as a man. Bedford began his explorations in civilization in Enmore, Sydney [in 1868]. Before he was five, he knew all the waterholes in the district and had got lost in the eucalyptus forest on Johnston's Hill, where are now the streets of Annandale. A year later, he roamed as far as Five Dock and saw great herds of cattle on their way to the slaughteryards at Glebe Island, and decided that he would be a cattle-drover. His first job was minding sheep, and at 14 he was a messenger in a solicitor's office. The solicitor sacked him because young Randolph preferred reading books in the Public Library to running errands.

He was a draper's assistant, a beef clerk in an abattoir, a rabbit trapper between the Murrumbidgee and the Darling, a groom and, like Ted Dyson, a few years earlier, a barnstormer. [a roving actor] After a year or two knocking around the river towns of western N.S. Wales, he landed in Broken Hill, where he began his life-long interest in mining.

"Writing is easy," he said one day to S. H. Prior, who had not long come down from the Barrier to join THE BULLETIN, "but floating a mine taxes all your mental and physical powers." Frequently he would shower a heap of jagged specimens on Prior's desk and urge him to throw up editing and become a partner in some new show.

Like Lawson, Dyson, "Dryblower" Murphy, A.G.Hales and Ted Sorenson, who knew the life of the fossicker from first-hand experience, Bedford capitalised his knowledge in innumerable first-class short stories. He tried mining in Australia, New Guinea, Asia and even in Italy, and said once that he had met every mining shark in the game.

He was 18 when he broke into print and 21 when his first story "Jepson's Fortune" appeared in THE BULLETIN.


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