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OSWALD FRANCIS MINGAY.
Oswald Francis Mingay was born into poor circumstances on the 1/7/1895, at Peak Hill, a small country town in central NSW and was raised and educated by his grandmother in Lithgow. When he was thirteen he joined the Lithgow Post Office as a telegram messenger boy and in 1911, at the age of sixteen, he transferred to the telephone technical branch of Sydney GPO. He joined the Militia Army Signals in 1912 and when World War 1 was declared he served in the 2nd Australian Signals in Egypt and Europe. He was mentioned in despatches for his work in restoring the war damaged telephone system in Charleroi, Belgium, and then spent 6 months in England with the British Post Office Engineering section. Upon his return to Sydney he rejoined the PMG Telephone Department and was commissioned as a Wireless Officer in the 1st Australian Division, CMF.
Whilst in England, "Ossie" or "Os", as he was known, had met Winifred Esdon. She moved to Australia with her family after the war and she and Ossie married in 1920 and moved into a modest war service home at Turramurra, where their only son Colin was born in 1921.
In 1922 Mingay resigned from the Post Office to pursue a career in wireless as the Radio Manager for the Burgin Electric Company. Influenced by his Army signals experiences Mingay had developed a keen interest in wireless and obtained his amateur operator's licence (A-2XX) in 1923 and participated in many of the pioneering experiments of the time. He also showed a talent for writing by producing a wireless column in the Daily Telegraph in the early 20's. At Burgin Electric he managed the radio sales department, operated the company wireless equipment with call sign A-2WV and at night was the Principal of the Burgin Radio College! When public broadcasting was permitted he convinced Rowley Burgin to establish the first B Class radio broadcast station in Australia, in November 1924, but complained that it was not easy to get Rowley to part with the £5 licence fee. The radio station, 2BE, was popular with listeners, but like the other B class stations it suffered from a lack of advertising revenue and eventually closed in 1929. In the period from 1922 to 1929 Ossie also ran the Mingay Wireless Manufacturing Company producing the Mingay "Unique" brand of wireless sets but the business failed in late 1929.
In 1925 his home-sick wife convinced the family to move back to England, so Ossie resigned from Burgin, sold their house and possessions and prepared to sail to the UK. However, a shipping strike delayed the departure long enough for Ossie to decide, and perhaps persuade his wife, that Australia was the place to be. Whilst re-establishing a home in Sydney, Ossie joined the radio department of Harringtons Electrical but then in 1929 he got the idea of publishing a radio trade paper, as distinct from the wireless magazines available to the general public. He realised that he knew nothing about publishing so sought assistance from R.J.D. MacCallum, the editor of the Daily Telegraph, who had published his wireless column. MacCallum agreed to employ Mingay as the editor of a new magazine, "The Radio Retailer of Australia", with the first issue published in March 1930. At this time the large wireless manufacturers controlled patents, set wholesale and retail prices and generally intimidated the retailers. Mingay had strong views about the manufacturers' treatment of retailers which he expressed in the magazine and his editorials soon offended the Electrical & Radio Development Association (ERDA) which applied pressure to MacCallum. Mingay refused to toe the line, resigned and started his own publication, "The Radio Dealer", taking most of the advertisers with him. The October 1930 issue of the Radio Retailer was published without Mingay but contained only two paid ads. MacCallum realised that he was beaten and offered the Radio Retailer to Mingay for £150, but settled for £25. Thus began the O.F. Mingay publishing empire!
From this humble beginning Ossie became a prolific publisher of trade magazines for the radio, electrical and later the TV industries. To cope with the expanding printing requirements he set up the Radio Print Press in 1932. The Radio Retailer became the "Radio and Electrical Merchant" in 1933 to expand into the electrical contracting area. It underwent several subsequent name and publication frequency changes to meet industry needs and is probably best known as "Mingay's Weekly". It served the radio, electrical and TV industry for just on 65 years - from that modest beginning back in 1930.
In 1931 Mingay launched "The Radio Review of Australia" to provide news and technical information to the general public. It later changed to "Television & Radio Review". Together with Ernest Fisk, the Managing Director of AWA, and other leading wireless engineers, Ossie formed the Australian Institute of Radio Engineers in 1932 and included news of the proceedings in the Radio Review. As the IRE grew its Proceedings were published separately by the Mingay Printing Company. Also in 1932 Ossie started the Australian Radio College which taught hundreds of wireless and TV technicians directly and by correspondence, with lessons printed by the Mingay Printing Company of course.
A number of other magazines, booklets and annuals were produced under the control of Australian Radio Publications, the Mingay umbrella company and it is probably correct to say that Mingay was the most prolific publisher of the era in Australia. In 1934 "Broadcasting Business" was launched to promote the commercial broadcasting industry and attract advertisers to radio. The magazine continued as "Advertising Business incorporating Broadcasting Business", till 1948. To build on the popularity Mingay published the "Broadcasting Business Year Book" from 1935 to 1939. In 1938 the "Commercial Broadcasting Rate Book" was introduced and after World War 2 it was expanded to become the "Australian Advertising Rate and Data Service" or AARDS, providing a complete reference to those involved in the advertising business.
regular publications included:
Radio Trade Annual and Service Manual
Radio Trade-In Handbook
Broadcasting Business Quarterly
Mingay's Price Service and Amendment Service (later called Mingay's Retail Guide)
Radio Diagram and IF Index
A.R.C. Radio Fault Finder
Ossie was quick to see any opportunity to extend the services and fill an industry or public need for information by publishing various lists, data booklets and special promotional issues - and as son Colin says "to make a quid in a tough economy".
In 1937 Ossie started the Radio Industry Fellowship (RIF) club which soon became the Broadcast Radio Electrical Industry Fellowship (BREIF) and continues today as a social organisation for the industry, dedicated to charitable causes. Then in 1938 he started the Radio Employment Agency to put prospective employees and employers in touch with employment opportunities, but the onset of World War 2 put an end to this venture.
Ossie was called up in World War 2 in Army Signals but was released to become Director of Wireless Manufacture in the Ministry of Munitions. In 1943 he was seconded to the USA to organise the wireless and radar side of the Lend-Lease arrangements. Upon the cessation of hostilities he and son Colin returned to their publishing business and set about expanding it to cater for the post war growth in electronics, whitegoods and eventually TV. The later demise of the electronic industry caused the range of publications to contract to concentrate on the advertising and electrical/electronic retail markets.
Ossie was short in stature, but had a very strong personality which prompted one of his contemporaries to remark that "even though you couldn't always see him, you could always hear him!", whilst at a farewell dinner another speaker exclaimed that he was "an unforgettable character" in the wireless and electrical industry. His career and personal achievements are truly daunting and included active participation in Legacy, Rotary, the Wireless Institute of Australia, a Fellow of the Institute of Radio Engineers and the Australian Institute of Management, Life member of the RSL, and so it goes on and on. He was very well known and respected in the electronics industry and his business advice, via his weekly column in the magazines, was eagerly sought.
Whilst Ossie Mingay is remembered for his success in his publishing business, and his amazing energy in Legacy, Rotary, and army and business associations, his son Colin played a very significant part in the development of the company. Colin joined Mingay Publishing in 1936 at the age of 15 and apart from war service, in Signals of course, spent his entire working life in the company. He started at the bottom and had to work hard, with no favours as the boss's son, to reach the position of Sales Director and Assistant Managing Director in the 1950's. In addition to the responsibility for selling advertising space and initiating the Mingay's Price Service, he took a very important role in production planning and scheduling. Colin says that he and his father worked well together, although they did have the inevitable disagreements. Ossie was the strong willed one who would come up with bright ideas and impossible deadlines and it was Colin who had the analytical business mind to turn the dreams and demands into practicality.
In 1961 the UK Thomson publishing organisation, looking to establish a foothold in Australia, determined that the fiercely independent and tightly run Mingay Publishing Company was an excellent vehicle for extending its influence. Ossie boasted later that his £25 investment in 1930 was sold for more than 10,000 times that amount in 1961. He and Colin stayed on with Thomson till December 1964 when they both retired. In 1966 Ossie was awarded an MBE for services to the electrical industry. He passed away in 1973. Colin Mingay is today a stockmarket analyst and investor and keen golfer, or perhaps a keen golfer first and a business man between golf.
The Radio Retailer evolved over the years with various titles such as "Mingay's", "Mingay's Electrical Weekly", "Electrical Weekly", "Radio Electrical Weekly", and eventually became the monthly full-colour "Mingay's Retailer and Merchandiser" in 1975. In October 1993 it was revamped to become "MRM", short for Mingays Retailer and Merchandiser. In 1995 Reed Press purchased most of the titles of Thompson's Australian business including MRM and there is talk that it may cease publication in early 1996.
There is an intriguing link between Ossie's career, with his start in wireless and the career of Roy Thomson, founder of the Thomson publishing empire. Thomson sold radio sets in a franchised territory in Canada in the period between the world wars but found sales limited by poor radio reception and a scarcity of broadcast stations. He therefore obtained a transmitting licence, bought a transmitter on terms and set up a broadcast station in his territory, with paid advertising. He was so successful that the local newspaper complained he was putting it out of business, so he purchased it and went into the newspaper business. After WW2 he moved to Scotland where he acquired a newspaper group as a foundation to building what is now an international publishing empire. He later became Lord Thompson of Fleet Street. Along the way the Thomson group has invested in TV and radio, maintaining the link with the founder's wireless beginnings.
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