Isabel Dunn and her nephew Robert Pratt look over what they believe might be a first edition of the Mackay Mercury and South Kennedy Advertiser.
Isabel Dunn and her nephew Robert Pratt look over what they believe might be a first edition of the Mackay Mercury and South Kennedy Advertiser.

Was the first Mercury found in a plastic bag?

IS IT or isn’t it? Like an episode of Antiques Roadshow, Robert Pratt thought he had a copy of the first edition of the Daily Mercury.

In the final weeks of the print version, it seemed providential a first edition should appear.

Neither the Daily Mercury nor the Queensland State Library holds a copy of the first paper published on April 4, 1886.

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The potential discovery started when Mr Pratt brought a white plastic bag to his aunt Isabel Dunn’s home.

Mrs Dunn (nee Pratt) has been researching the family’s history in Mackay with a focus on the Calen area.

Mr Pratt knew somewhere in his safe was a photo of his father Dave Pratt, the first director of the Mackay Electricity Board.

“Kevin Chopping worked for the Daily Mercury, and after he died, we were given some papers,” Mr Pratt said.

The papers were placed in the safe for more than 30 years until Mr Pratt decided they might help his aunt.

A copy of the paper Robert Pratt believes to be the first Daily Mercury published in 1886.
A copy of the paper Robert Pratt believes to be the first Daily Mercury published in 1886.

“Aunt Isobel called me and asked me did I know what I had?” Mr Pratt said.

Inside the bag was a newspaper marked as No 1.

The four-page paper had aged over time to be fragile and brown, but if it was indeed more than 150 years old, it was in excellent condition.

The Daily Mercury could not determine if the paper was the first.

Reproductions were produced in 1966 and in 1986 to celebrate milestones in the paper’s history.

Mr Pratt’s newspaper has no markings to indicate it is a copy; however, the masthead differs slightly from editions of the Mackay Mercury and South Kennedy Advertiser published in 1887.

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The Queensland State Library has two copies of the paper from 1886 on microfilm, but the images are unclear.

Mrs Dunn said she would be disappointed if the copy proved to be a reproduction.

Mr Pratt feels the opposite and is proud of the discovery.

Mr Pratt’s copy does tell the stories published in 1866; even if it proves to be a copy it is still a snapshot of what happened in Mackay four years after it became a settlement.

He has made copies and is happy to share.

“My favourite story would be the capture of Ned Kelly’s brother,” he said.