Melvin, J D

Joseph Dalgarno Melvin (1852 – 1909)  began his journalism career in Scotland as soon as he left school at the Moray Advertiser and the Perth Advertiser.  According to biographer Peter Corris, Melvin joined the Argus soon after arriving in Melbourne with his family, and reported on military and political news in the city.

In 1880, Melvin wrote a work of literary journalism on the last stand of the Kelly Gang at Glenrowan, Victoria, “The Destruction of the Kelly Gang”, joining the police hunt for the bushrangers during the siege and capture. He was accompanied by three other journalists George Allen (Melbourne Daily Telegraph); Thomas Carrington (Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil), and John McWhirter (Age).

In 1885, Melvin was the war correspondent in Sudan for the Daily Telegraph and The Bulletin, despite initially not having official credentials. He teamed up with fellow war reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald, W.J Lambie.

In 1892, Melvin wrote a series of articles titled, “The Kanaka Labour Traffic” for the Argus’ Saturday paper, the Australasian,  about the practice of recruiting South Sea islanders for Queensland’s sugar cane plantations. Additional articles were published in the Argus and the series was syndicated.

He worked undercover signing on to the Helena as crew for its round trip from Queensland to the Solomon Islands. Peter Corris published Melvin’s full series of articles as  The Cruise of the Helena (1977).

In later years, Melvin joined political staff as a Hansard writer in 1905, then worked for the politician William Kidston in Queensland as his speech writer.

Selected Articles:


The series of 13 articles Melvin wrote for the Argus on “The Kanaka Labour Traffic” appeared as the following:



Corris, P (ed) (1977) The Cruise of the Helena, Hawthorn Press, Melbourne