Photo: George Mott, courtesy of Rob Lacey & Dr Richard Hamilton

George Henry Mott

1831-1906    |    NSW    |    Publisher

Mott was the patriarch of a newspaper dynasty that owned newspapers for all but a few of the 150 years from 1856.  George started Albury’s first paper, the Border Post, in 1856. Two of his sons started the Border Morning Mail in 1903, and in 1921, 11 Motts were working at the paper. The family owned or part-owned papers in Chiltern, Beechworth, Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie and Bairnsdale. George Mott was a mayor of Albury and was the driving force behind the completion of the Melbourne-Wodonga rail line and the eventual link with Albury.

Mott proved to be an entrepreneur. To build capital, he sold The Border Post in 1859 and bought it back 11 months later, adding the Chiltern and Beechworth papers to his stable, running the same stories in most of them to save on costs. 

Tony Wright


George Henry Mott 


An obnoxious letter written by a repressive father set the Mott dynasty galloping.

It is the central, Dickensian and almost impossibly romantic story of this family of Australian newspaper renown.

"SIR: It is with regret that I feel it to be my painful duty to write to you to request that you will be pleased to discontinue your visits to my home," read the letter sent to young George Mott in London on December 4, 1852. It came from Richard Charnock, the barrister father of Allegra, the subject of George Mott's passion.

The letter, kept by Allegra and eventually published in the Mott family's history, "The Runaway Family" by Clifford Mott (1980), went on to accuse young George of lacking "candour or manliness" by failing to ask permission to call upon his daughter.

George Mott, who turned out to be handy with a pen and ink, replied immediately, making it plain he was not impressed with the tone of the letter ordering him never again to darken the doorstep of the home of the woman he loved.

"You are mistaken in supposing my want of candour and manliness prevented my addressing myself to you," he wrote to Charnock.

"I was silent simply because I do not approve of the intervention of third parties in certain matters. Your letter shows me my views were correct."

He ended by saying, "you may be sure I shall never 'invade' your domestic circle again".

Two weeks later, George smuggled a note to his beloved Allegra, asking her to catch a hansom cab he'd have waiting "at the end of Clarendon Road".

They dashed away and were married by special licence within an hour at St Andrew's Church of England in Holborn, London, minutes before Allegra's family, all in an uproar, caught up with them.

George and Allegra Mott weren't about to stay around.

Two weeks later, in the first days of 1853, the runaway newlyweds, accompanied by George's younger brother Arthur, boarded the brig Elizabeth Wilthen, bound from London to Melbourne. The turbulent voyage took almost six months. The newlyweds were aged 22 when they stepped ashore in Melbourne.

George had been employed by either a stockbroking or legal firm in London - it remains unclear to the family - but his first job in Australia was in journalism. He was taken on first at The Argus and then the Melbourne Morning Herald, which made him its Castlemaine correspondent in the gold rush year of 1854.

Mott was in a bigger hurry for rewards than a mere correspondent could attain.

He took his pen and Allegra and followed the gold north, through Beechworth and Chiltern (where he'd later own the Ovens Tribune, the Chiltern Standard and the Beechworth Constitution).

Most importantly, George established, in 1856, Albury's first newspaper, The Border Post.

It was this newspaper that would lay the foundation for the Mott family newspaper dynasty – one that would sprawl across three states: New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Mott proved to be an entrepreneur. To build capital, he sold The Border Post in 1859 and bought it back 11 months later, adding the Chiltern and Beechworth papers to his stable, running the same stories in most of them to save on costs.

In 1864 he cashed in, selling all his newspapers, to become something of a mover and shaker as a citizen of Albury. He agitated for the separation of the Riverina from NSW, established an anti-customs league and, in 1868, became Albury's mayor. He also helped form the North-Eastern Railway League, which worked for the completion of the Melbourne–Wodonga line.

By then, 11 of George and Allegra's 14 children had been born, though several of them died in early childhood.

Restless, George bought a partnership in The Hamilton Spectator in 1869, and moved his family to the western Victorian town.

He continued editing the Spectator until 1885, when he returned to Melbourne and became managing director of Gordon & Gotch Ltd, newspaper distributors. In 1888 he set up the Kew Mercury then published his Reminiscences of a Victorian Journalist, and in 1890 he retired.

George died at his home in Kew on January 7, 1906. Allegra died there nine months later, on October 16, 1906.

Meanwhile, three of their sons – Sydney Arthur Charnock (1859–1929), Hamilton Charnock (1871–1963) and Decimus Horace (1873–1947), had joined the gold rush to the Western Australian goldfields in the 1890s, where they started newspapers at Kalgoorlie (The Western Argus) and Coolgardie (Tothersider).

However, they sold out for 250 pounds, on August 6, 1895, to Sid and Percy Hocking and James MacCallum Smith - just weeks before the Great Boulder mine hit the motherlode of gold that would make it one of the most productive in the world. The new owners went on to set up the enormously successful Kalgoorlie Miner.

Hamilton and Decimus Mott retreated to the town that had established their father's early success: Albury.

There, they set up a new newspaper. The Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times was established in 1903.

By 1924, with 11 members of the various branches of the Mott family working in the same business, Decimus Mott sold his share of the Border Morning Mail to his brother Hamilton and went to Melbourne, where he bought and built up the Leader media group which, by the 1980s, controlled more than 40 per cent of Melbourne’s suburban newspapers.

The Herald and Weekly Times, now owned by News Corp, bought Leader for $57 million in 1986. One branch of the family continued its newspaper interests when Walter Hilaire Mott acquired an interest in the East Gippsland Newspaper Group (James Yeates & Sons Pty Ltd), publishers of the Bairnsdale Advertiser, Lakes Post and East Gippsland News.

Back in Albury, on 4 May 2006 –  almost 153 years since George and his bride arrived in Australia –the Mott family announced it would accept $162 million from John Fairfax Holdings to purchase the Border Mail and its stake in the associated printing company.

George Henry Mott, whose great journey began with an angry exchange of letters, would surely have been content with the path continued by his large and lettered family.

Tony Wright is an associate editor and special writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.



The Federal Standard office at Chiltern, which still houses working printing equipment from the 1870s. Photo courtesy of National Trust of Australia.



Wharfedale hand-fed broadsheet flattened printing press, from the early days of the Federal Standard. Photo courtesy of National Trust of Australia.



A printing form for a broadsheet page at the Federal Standard Printing Works museum, Chiltern. Photo courtesy of National Trust of Australia.



A collection of advertising blocks from different erasat the Federal Standard Printing Works museum, ChilternPhoto courtesy of National Trust of Australia.




Further reading


‘Mott, George Henry (1831–1906)’ - Bruce Pennay, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, MUP, 2005.


CA Mott, 'The Runaway Family', Wodonga, 1980


Mott papers, Border Mail archives, Wodonga.