Arthur James Oliver

Arthur James Oliver was born in Sydney, New South Wales, on 9 February, 1908, and died in Sydney on 6 March, 1970. He was the eldest son of Arthur and Catherine Oliver.

Arthur James Oliver [b.1908]

The family moved to Tamworth sometime between 1908-12.

From all reports, although he was a quiet man, he liked to tear around on his motorcycle.

One story goes that he was speeding out of town one day only to be confronted by a cow on the road. With nowhere to go he took to the scrub only to run into a fence and go flying over the handlebars. The upshot of this was a long hike home!

With the advent of war in 1939, he, like many others, tried to join up, only to be rejected, ostensibly because of poor eyesight. He claimed his eyes were better than a lot he knew were accepted, and tried all services only to be rejected by all.

It turned out that this was the method applied to people they wanted to stay behind to keep industry going.

Arthur worked for the Northern Daily Leader printing and newspaper office in Tamworth where he was manager of the printing division.

It was here he met his future bride, Dorothy Irene Sneddon, who also worked in the printing office. They were married on 5 July 1930.

As well as the difficulty of trying to make ends meet during the "great depression" of the 1930s, they also went through the trauma of losing their first-born at the age of only 18 days.


Arthur was to work for 25 years for "The Northern Daily Leader". A place where his father spent most of his working life, as well as two of his brothers.
Arthur at work as a printer . . . a job he loved!

After the end of World War II he apparently decided it was time for a change, and in 1946 accepted a job in Goulburn, New South Wales, as manager of the printing section and overseer of the newspaper, which was badly run down over the war years.

This was the fate of many a good business, left without adequate qualified staff to keep machinery running efficiently.

Here he found a challenge dear to his heart. He loved to get his teeth into anything that exercised his talents to the full, and Goulburn surely gave him that. We were to see him only rarely for several years, as he would leave before we were up and return late at night.

However, the newspaper flourished under his hands until the time came that he needed a new challenge.

This took the shape of a move to Sydney.

He always said it was because of my mother, that she was unhappy in Goulburn. He could not understand that her unhappiness stemmed from rarely seeing him.

He was a man that became entirely engrossed in what he was about to the exclusion of all else...time meant nothing!

In Sydney he settled down to a more leisurely life for a while, before buying his own business.


Here again he buried himself in the work-side of things while his partner, supposedly the salesman of the two, proceeded to spend money like water, and then walked away leaving Arthur to find ways of meeting his creditors.

Dad's first car after the war . . . a Wolseley [about 1954]

He always seemed oblivious to the problems of family life. I remember one year, 1950, when the doctor told him that my mother needed a complete rest or she would have a nervous breakdown.

He looked at the doctor with shock on his face and said, "What’s she got to have a nervous breakdown about?"

The doctor looked him up and down and said, "Good heavens man, she has not only had to contend with nursing one son for many months with polio, but here you are with a broken wrist and another son with a broken arm, and no one to help. Why wouldn’t she have a nervous breakdown?"

It wasn’t that he did not care, for he was a very caring man. It was just that he got so engrossed in his own thing that he did not see all that went on around him.

My father was an excellent artist. His pastime was to paint landscapes.

In Coogee, Sydney, where we lived in a rented unit, we had a large mirror hung on the lounge room wall. One night this mirror fell, shattering everything before it.

The next week, while my mother was out (I was still bed-ridden with the polio), he got to work and painted a magnificent mural over almost the entire wall. It was a scene of a stream with weeping willows, an old mill, and white swans gliding on the water.

Arthur and Dorothy with grandson, Geoffrey Oliver

When my mother returned home she almost did have the nervous breakdown, wondering what the owners would say when they saw it.

She need not have worried. They were delighted. In fact they moved back in after we left.

It was a magnificent piece of work!

About 1955 he was diagnosed as having the cancer, Melanoma. It started with an innocent looking mole on his arm.

After massive surgery he was told that they could not be sure of the outcome. However, he survived another 15 years before it was to return and take his life. This, just as he and my mother were thinking all was well and had started to look forward to a quiet retired life on a small orchard they had purchased near my own property.

His death was a blow from which my mother never really recovered, or adjusted too.


Right: The Northern Daily Leader where Arthur, his father and two brothers worked for much of their lives. This was one of the first daily newspapers in Australia.


The Northern Daily Leader [photo 1992]