Jim Fenwick was one of Queensland’s finest news photographers, with a special feel for events on the rugby league field.
He won several awards for his photographs of matches at the home of Queensland Rugby League, Lang Park, and his photographs were used widely by his principal employers, ‘The Courier-Mail’, and also ‘Rugby League Week’.
Fenwick also won a Walkley Award for his photograph of the overturned dredger, Kaptajn Nielsen, in Moreton Bay in 1966, a sea tragedy which cost nine men their lives.
Jim had wanted to be a carpenter, but landed a job in pictorial at ‘The Courier-Mail’ in 1950, and his work saw him cover many momentous events, including the Somalian War, plane crashes, Olympic and Commonwealth Games and countless human interest and sporting events
In 2020, Fenwick donated part of his collection of sports photographs to the QRL History Committee, of which I am chairman. These photographs are used either for Flashback articles on this website, or on the QRL website.
When I look at film from big games at Lang Park in the 1970s and ’80s in particular, it is not unusual to see Jim on the sidelines taking action shots, or getting up close when the players leave the field for ‘the sheds’, often with another Queensland Newspapers’ employee, the late Geoff McLachlan by his side.
The first time Jim Fenwick’s name came up on my radar, was way back in the early 1970s, when I was a young journalist, working for the Tweed Daily News at Murwillumbah.
I was on my rounds, when a message came through to Muwillumbah Police that there had been a bad accident at Brunswick Heads. I grabbed our photographer (Doug Collison) and we drove south, at great speed, to cover the tragedy – a collision between a petrol tanker and a semi-trailer on the bridge over the Brunswick River, with a car towing a caravan caught in the middle. The drivers of both ‘trucks’ were killed in the fireball, and the occupants of the car towing the caravan, jumped for their lives, into the river.
When we got there, the fire had been put out, and all that was left was the smouldering wreckage. Still, I thought we were the first on the scene. The next day I picked up ‘The Courier-Mail’, and there, on the front page, were photographs of the fireball on the bridge. Jim Fenwick; his wife, June and their young family had been travelling to Brunswick Heads for a holiday at one of the camping grounds, and they were in the traffic, behind the unfolding tragedy.
The last I saw Jim was 2016 – at Morgan’s Seafood at Scarborough, in Redcliffe City, where he lived. He was about to head to Brunswick Heads for another holiday, and we talked about that day, back in the 1970s.
I knew of Jim’s recent health battles, through his good friend, Redcliffe sporting identity, Ray Ebert. Jim Fenwick died on November 16, 2021, aged 87. His funeral was held at Clontarf, in Redcliffe City, on November 25, 2021.
(All photographs by Jim Fenwick).