‘Rat Pack’ editor was a good sport
TOM Linneth was a man of many talents and almost as many names. Most in the family called him Thomas; colleagues and friends called him Tom, Tommy or TJ.
The youngest of three children of George and Margaret Linneth, his sister Nancy and brother Basil both predeceased him.
Linneth grew up around the Coorparoo and Balmoral areas and was confirmed at St James’s Church on Old Cleveland Rd, Coorparoo, where his funeral service was held.
As a youngster, Linneth often went swimming in Norman Creek, although tragedy struck one day when he was followed into the creek by another neighbourhood lad who sadly drowned.
Linneth started an extensive and remarkable professional career when he landed a cadetship with The Courier-Mail in 1948. As a young journalist, he worked for the company in Sydney and Melbourne.
In the early days, away from the office, Linneth was a member of Brisbane’s equivalent of the “Rat Pack”, as Brisbane’s young sportswriters partied hard and often.
In 1956, he covered the Olympic Games in Melbourne, racking up 11 bylined front-page leads in The Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail in a row.
After the Melbourne Games, he was sounded out about a job on a Canadian newspaper and decided to head to North America to check it out.
The first person he contacted was his mate and fellow journalist Jack Craig (later to be a long-serving sports editor of The Courier-Mail), who had emigrated to the United States and was working on a San Francisco newspaper.
“Tom wanted to catch up with me before I went into the US Army,” Craig recalled recently.
“Tom didn’t get to Canada because of visa complications but managed to get a job on a paper in Dixon, just outside Sacramento.
“All went well until the US immi- gration people found him working without proper residential qualifications and gave him 15 days to get out of the country.
“So the Sunday Mail’s gain was the Yanks’ loss.”
When he returned to Brisbane in 1960 Linneth was appointed sports editor of The Sunday Mail. He was only 29.
Throughout the 1960s and ’ 70s, Linneth was well known in Queensland sporting circles for his hard-hitting and news-breaking columns.
He was also known around the office as cool, calm and collected, except from 9am on Saturdays until the final edition of The Sunday Mail left the presses that night.
Pictorial editors of the day still laugh about Tom demanding pictures from the main race of the day at Doomben or Eagle Farm only to be told the race would not be run for another hour.
Linneth’s determination to meet publishing deadlines was his firm belief that the same effort should go into delivering the news to a reader in Cairns as would go into delivering it to a reader at Coorparoo.
In the late 1970s Linneth moved to Cairns in Far North Queensland where he produced his own paper, The Northerner, and worked for a time as the public relations officer for the Cairns City Council, Mulgrave Shire Council and Cairns Harbour Board before heading back to Brisbane to again become sports editor of the Sunday Mail, where he stayed until he retired in 1996.
During his stint in Cairns, he met his second wife, Christina.
“I first met Tom while working as a receptionist at the Imperial Hotel in Cairns in 1978,” Christina recalled.
“He would ask me to look after his things while he had a drink in the Sportsman’s Bar. I realised later it was all a ploy to be able to have a chat to me.”
Eventually, Linneth asked Christina out for dinner. “He took me to Barnacle Bill’s on the Esplanade. It was a wonderful little place that had the best seafood in town,” she said.
Linneth’s youngest daughter, Megan, recalled what it was like growing up with a father who had already retired.
“I always knew my father was different,” she wrote in her eulogy.
“How many fathers had pretty much met every sporting legend in Australia from the past 50 years?
“No one in my class knew what retirement was. I knew it meant I got to spend a lot more time with him.
“My retired father taught me to use my recovery time from having my tonsils out to hone my horseracing betting skills.”
Tom and his first wife, Margaret, had four children, Craig, Amelia, Anna and Richard. With Christina, Tom had three children Adrian, Justin and Megan, all of whom survive him along with five grandchildren, Eloise, Oscar, Giselle, Lottie and Josephine. BARRY DICK