A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF SIR ERROL KNOX*
Errol Knox early 1900’s
Errol Aubrey Galbraith Knox was born on June 25th 1889, the eighth child of Joseph and Elizabeth Jane Knox (nee Drew), in Glebe, Sydney . the family moved to the area that was known generally as Wentworthville and later Toongabbie (and still later Pendle Hill) when Errol was an infant.
Joseph, a grocer, was a man of some substance. The family was comfortably off but led a frugal and modest life that reflected Joseph’s Ulster Protestant origins. Knox Street and Joseph Knox Park in Pendle Hill commemorate his life and contributions to the area.
Errol grew up in the house known as “Montargis” at what is now 54 Binalong Road. It’s not a small house but neither is it a “McMansion ” and it must have been a tight fit for 10 people plus the servants that were seen as a necessity for any respectable family.
It is not known at present where Errol did his primary education (possibly he attended Toongabbie Public School just down the road). But whereever he sweated over the 3Rs , he must have attended to his lessons closely and he was marked out as a clever boy. Clever enough indeed to gain entrance to Fort Street Boys High School where he was one of the select few from his “social class” in those days to complete his secondary education and then proceed to Sydney University where he studied Law.
Whilst Errol was at Sydney University, in England Robert Baden-Powell was publishing his ideas on training for young people in a book he entitled “Scouting for Boys”. This was noticed in Australia and one of the Sydney newspapers serialised the book chapter by chapter over several weeks. Errol would have seen this for within a short time he was organising scouting activities for the boys in the Toongabbie area meeting in a shed at the rear of “Montargis”. Errol was very enthuisiastic about scouting and apart from being a scout leader he became the first secretary of the fledgling scout association.
Around this time he also decided that “the round eternal” of the law book and the court case journal was not for him and that being a newspaperman would provide him with opportunities for travel and adventure as well as satisfying his anbitions.
He joined the literary staff of the Sunday Times then a flourishing Sunday paper in Sydney. Within two years he was appointed sub-editor of that journal and of the Referee . In 1913 he set out to the United States and Canada for his paper. He was fortunate enough to link up with the Hearst circuit thus obtaining valuable experience of many phases of newspaper work. He had been there only for a year when war broke out and he returned to Australia where, after reorganising the Sunday Times and the Referee he joined the Australian Imperial Force in 1915, enlisting as Private.
He served in France 1916 to 1919 rising to rank of Major Air Staff, Royal Air Force to which he was loaned by the Australian Flying Corp. Squadron 3.
Errol Knox was mentioned in despatches twice, and was awarded the MBE in 1919. You can view his service records at the National Archives website . (You will need to search for Knox in the name search for WW1. Once you display the record there you will see among other things that he had been, before he enlisted, an active member of the “Sydney University Scouts” which was a militia rifle unit and the forerunner of the Sydney University Regiment. )
Following the war he was News Editor Daily Telegraph, Sydney, Managing Editor of the Evening News and associated publications, and a Director of Associated Newspapers Ltd., a founder, part proprietor and editor of To-day, the magazine which incorporated Stead’s Review and The Review of Reviews, Editor The Australian Year Book and Newspaper News; Treas. Empire Press Union Aus Sec.1923-29; Director Royal Prince Alfred Hospital 1925-30.
In 1940, he was appointed president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors’ Association and later was given the post of Director-General of Army Public Relations with the rank of Brigadier. He was also on the committee of St. Vincent’s Hospital and the National Museum. He was actively interested in the development of a national opera and other cultural interests in Victoria. he was chairman of the committee of management of Sir Colin MacKenzie Sanctuary, Badger’s Creek among others. He was President of the Hanging Rock Racing Club.
When WWII broke out, he partly relinquished newspaper duties to assume the appointment in an honorary capacity with the rank of Brigadier and Director-General of Public Relations of the Army. During the war he undertook several missions abroad for the then Prime Minister Curtin and for General MacArthur but retired later from active duty for health reasons.
His hobbies included tennis and boating. He was a member of the Australian (Sydney) and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. Errol Knox married on September 4 1919 Gertrude Mary – daughter of George Millbank Coore, sometime Director of Education, London.
He had two daughters, Patricia and Pamela Ann and one son Peter Edmund
In 1949 Errol Knox was knighted. On October 19th 1949 Errol Knox died.
1st Toongabbie Scout Group were honoured to have members of the Knox family attend our 100th Anniversary celebrations in 2008.
Jane Knox, Errol’s son’s daughter who lives in the USA was unable to attend but made a very genrous donation to the Group in commemoration of the occasion. Jane has created a wonderful family history website which includes a great deal of information about a great Australian who achieved much in his life. See Knoxetal – The Knox Family Story
Errol is notable enough to have an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography see here – not bad for “Knocker” from Toonie.