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Sunday, August 22, 2010

E C Buley

Back in April I wrote a brief piece about Bernard Buley, who was a boys' story writer and editor. The piece mentioned in passing his father, Ernest Charles Buley who is the subject of this column, prompted by some correspondence with Tony Buley, one of E.C.'s grandsons.

Ernest Charles Buley was born in Ballarat, West Victoria, Australia on 4 July 1869, the son of James Buley, a builder, and his wife Susannah Eliza (née Crook), who were married in North Aylesford, Kent, in 1850 and emigrated to Australia in 1854 along with his wife, two eldest children, a sister-in-law and two brothers-in-law (and a few children). Most of the family lived in Ballarat, which was then a booming gold-mining town not unlike its Wild West contemporaries in the USA. James worked as a builder and is credited with being responsible for some of Ballarat's most important buildings.

Buley was the youngest of nine children and was educated at Grenville College, Ballarat, where his brother Arthur went on to become headmaster. The Australian Dictionary of Biography quotes Ernest's school friend Bernard O'Dowd as recalling him as "a brilliant wayward youth who took life lightly".

Buley passed his Civil Service Exam in January 1884 and moved to Melbourne in 1885 to become a junior assistant at the Public Library, museums and the National Gallery of Victoria before transferring to the Imperial service in July 1889 as a junior clerk in the local branch of the Royal Mint. He was promoted to senior clerk in 1895 at the Melbourne Mint, which proved to be his downfall.

Buley was keen on horse racing and contributed to 'The Quick and the Dead' column in H. H. Chapman's The Champion in 1895-97. Unfortunately he was an unsuccessful punter and on 26 April 1897 was arrested by Detective-sergeant Ward and Detective Macmanamny for stealing silver coins. One of Buley's tasks was to receive worn coins and gold bullion from the public and also to issue the latter and, after being charged with the theft of the silver coins, inquiries revealed that further irregularities had taken place. When he was brought to the City Court on 14 May, he was also charged with stealing 100 sovereigns.

Two days earlier, Buley had written a confession in which he admitted that on 30 March he had taken £125 of worn solver coins and, on 25 April, 100 sovereigns out of the bullion office stronghold, which he took to the Australian Deposit and Mortgage Bank and changed them into notes.

Buley, then earning £285 a year from his position with the Mint, had stolen the money to satisfy "debts of honour" which he had contracted through gambling on horse-racing. Buley was sentenced on two charges of larceny on 31 May; a plea for leniency was taken into consideration by Mr Justice Holroyd, who said that he would have been glad to accede to the request but for the fact that the prisoner (Buley) had been placed in an office of great trust and the offence was all the more serious because of the confidence placed in him.

Holroyd sentenced Buley to two years hard labour at Pentridge Gaol. The case was mentioned briefly at the House of Commons when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the state of Victoria would not be asked to contribute anything towards the loss incurred due to the defalcations of Ernest Buley.

Released in September 1898, Buley did not have an easy time over the next eighteen months. He had married Emilie Olga Ernst, a teacher born in Eisenberg, Thuringia, East Germany, at West Melbourne Presbyterian Church on 11 September 1891 and had two children, James Marcus (b. 1894) and Olga Margerita (b. 1897), when he was jailed. A third child, Ernest Bernhardt (a.k.a. Bernard Buley), was born in 1899. According to Henry Champion,"he has starved since [his release]. But he really is a 'white man', in spite of this indiscretion and will make his way to London if he gets a chance".

The Buleys' first son, James, died in early 1900, the final straw of this dark period, and the family emigrated to London, arriving in April 1900. A daughter, Alma Mary, was born in 1901 and three more children were born over the next few years, two of whom survived infancy: Laurence Louis (b. 1903) and Theodora Vivien (b. 1908).

The family lived at 240 Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith, and, later, at 7 Burbage Road, Herne Hill. Buley quickly became a popular figure in Fleet Street, easily recognised by his pointed Mephistophelian beard and constantly worn bowler hat (which was indeed worn, by the elements and from being sat upon) to cover his bald head. He was sartorially inelegant, wearing what he pleased; for one important meeting it was obvious that he had been forced to purchase a new set of flannels and tweeds which he topped off with his usual battered bowler.

He became editor of the Weekly Dispatch where he was known as an editor who did not mind doing the difficult jobs himself; he once persuaded a circus band to let him join (playing the triangle) so he had the inside scoop on the visit of Hengler’s Circus to Buckingham Palace from which the press had been barred. The story was spiked by Lord Northcliffe who would not allow the wishes of Royalty to be flouted.

His first book was the well-received Australian Life in Town and Country, one of a number of volumes published by George Newnes about the social life and customs of "Our Asiatic neighbours". This was followed, in 1909, by two biographies aimed at boys and published by the Sunday School Union, The Hero of India: The Story of Lord Clive and Into the Polar Seas: The Story of Sir John Franklin. At the same time he was writing features and short stories for Reynolds's News, Sunday Dispatch, the British-Australasian and the Daily Mirror. He was also the chief sub-editor on Citizen, the Labour Party daily paper. This work was not enough to stop him going bankrupt in 1912.

In 1914, he wrote two books about Brazil followed by the anonymously-published (so as not to embarrass his German relatives) The Real Kaiser which was highly praised by The Times Literary Subject as "The best book on the Kaiser. While full of the most interesting detail, the tone is almost judicial". Buley wrote two anonymous follow-ups: The Dardanelles: Their Story and Their Significance in the Great War, which quickly went through three editions (the third expanded), and Ferdinand of Bulgaria: The Amazing Career of a Shoddy Czar.

Melrose also published Glorious Deeds of Australasians in the Great War, for which Buley interviewed scores of Australians in hospital in London. It was another highly successful book, racing through four editions in 1915 (October, November, twice in December) and published in an enlarged 5th edition in January 1916, sales driven by the war in the Dardanelles—the strait that links the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Mamara and the Black Sea—and the Gallipoli peninsular. This was the first major battle involving the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and ended in the evacuation of all Allied soldiers in the winter of 1915/16. The following year, Hodder & Stoughton published Buley's A Child's History of Anzac.

After the Great War, Buley earned himself a reputation as "the new Nat Gould" for his racing novels published under his own byline and the pen-name Bat Masters. Buley "set a killing pace, producing as many as 35,000 words a week for weeks on end," says John Lack. He was also promoted by newspapers as an expert on the track and on betting, although he was never as successful a pundit as his books made out and he often had to dash off another story to pay his bookmaker. He ghosted at least one additional novel for the famous jockey Steve Donoghue which was originally serialised in The People, and also wrote a booklet entitled ‘How to Beat the Bookie’ which sold very well, much to Buley's amazement. With the royalties rolling in he approached his publisher, mystified because he had never seen a copy on a bookstall. "Of course not," replied the publisher. "We can’t print them fast enough for the 'bookies'. They’re ordering them by the thousand and posting them free gratis with their starting prices to all their clients."

As well as hacking out racing novels for Aldine, Buley also had some works serialised in newspapers, including "Calcutta's Luck", "Sea Urchin" and "False Face", the latter a thriller about kidnap, identity theft and plastic surgery set in New York and Paris.

Ernest Charles Buley died of cardiac failure at his home at 85 Park Road, Dulwich, on 10 April 1933 after a short illness, aged 63. His wife, Olga, had died in 1923 but he was survived by five children, most of whom also had careers in journalism: Bernard we have already covered; Alma Mary Buley, who married Frederick Elands Laagte Digby Cheek in 1929, was, like her brother, a writer of children's stories for the Amalgamated Press, active from the 1920s until the 1960s; Laurence became a newspaper journalist; and Theodora worked in the BBC newsroom where her colleagues spoke of Miss Buley with great affection.

Publications

Novels
The Flying Jockey. A story of racing and war. London, Mills & Boon, 1919. 

Golden Barb’s Victory. London, Mills & Boon, 1919.
Paddy Doran. London, Mills & Boon, 1919.
The Fool of Fortune. London, Mills & Boon, 1920.
The Luck of Mapledown. London, Mills & Boon, 1920.
The Rogue of Rugeley. London, Aldine, 1925.
The White Moth. London, Aldine, 1925.
False Face. Dublin, Mellifont Press, 1933.
Calcutta Luck. A racing mystery romance. Melbourne, Womans World, 195?.

Novels as Bat Masters
Won on the Turf. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 1), Nov 1922.
The "Live Wire" from Newmarket. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 2), Nov 1922.
Money for Nothing. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 3), Jan 1923.
A Dead Man’s Derby. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 4), Jan 1923.
An Ascot Mystery. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 5), May 1923.
Long Odds. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 9), Aug 1923.
A Derby Obsession. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 10), Aug 1923.
The Man from Down-Under. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 17), Mar 1924.
The Man who Couldn’t Lose. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 29), May 1925.
Riding to Win. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 32), May 1925.
Neck or Nothing. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 36), Jun 1925.
A Derby-Day Double. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 38), Aug 1925.
The Jubilee Plunger. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 42), Dec 1925.
Lady Luck’s Trophy. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 46), Apr 1926.
The Prince Wins. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 53), Nov 1926.
The Black Diamond. London, Aldine (Boxing Novels 24), Dec 1926.
Double or Quits. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 55), Jan 1927.
"Any Price, Blackmail!". London, Aldine (Racing Novels 57), Mar 1927.
Wonderful Wingadee. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 59), May 1927.
The Stolen Jockey. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 60), Jun 1927.
Three from Nelson. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 62), Aug 1927.
The Wild Hill Horse. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 64), Oct 1927; London, Modern Publishing, 1935.
The Jockey Twins. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 66), Dec 1927.
A Clocked Gallop. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 68), Feb 1928.
The Calcutta Sweep Mystery. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 70), Apr 1928.
In the Last Furlong. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 72), Jun 1928.
A Mystery Winner. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 74), Aug 1928; London, Modern Publishing, 1935.
The Snowstorm Derby. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 78), Dec 1928.
The Sweep Swindlers. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 81), Mar 1929.
A Derby Reckoning. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 83), May 1929.
The Bet of £20,000. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 85), Jul 1929.
A Tote Outsider. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 106), Apr 1931.

Novels as Steve Donoghue (ghosted)
The Luck of Gentle Grafter. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1927.

Collections as Bat Masters
The Ringmaster, and other stories. London, Aldine (Racing Novels 34), May 1925.

Non-Fiction
Australian Life in Town and Country. London, Newnes, 1905; New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905.
The Hero of India: The Story of Lord Clive. London, Sunday School Union, 1909.
Into the Polar Seas: The Story of Sir John Franklin. London, Sunday School Union, 1909.
North Brazil. Physical features, natural resources, means of communication, manufactures and industrial development. London, Sir I. Pitman & Sons, 1914; New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1919.
South Brazil. London, Sir I. Pitman & Sons, 1914; New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1914.
The Real Kaiser [published anonymously]. London, Andrew Melrose, 1914.
The Dardanelles: Their Story and Their Significance in the Great War [by the author of ‘The Real Kaiser’]. London, Andrew Melrose, 1915; 3rd ed. enlarged, Melrose, 1915.
Glorious Deeds of Australasians in the War. London, Andrew Melrose, 1915.
A Child’s History of Anzac. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1916.
Ferdinand of Bulgaria: The Amazing Career of a Shoddy Czar [by the author of ‘The Real Kaiser’]. London, Andrew Melrose, 1916.

Non-fiction as Bat Masters
How to Win at Racing. London, T. Werner Laurie, 1924.
How to Win on the Tote. London, W. Foulsham, 1929.

(* My thanks to Tony Buley for pointing me towards the Australian Dictionary of Biography biography written by John Lack, for supplying additional background information and the photo used above.)

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