THE man on the left of our picture is a former Adver reporter who in 1967 found himself at the centre of a tragedy which made headlines around the world.

Next month Australia will mark the 51st anniversary of Prime Minister Harold Holt, who vanished on December 17 after going swimming off Cheviot Beach in the state of Victoria.

The world’s press descended on the scene, and the burden of keeping them informed - while helping the Prime Minister’s loved ones - fell to the politician’s 35-year-old press secretary, Tony Eggleton. In the process, he became a reluctant media celebrity thanks to his immense professionalism.

He had already been press secretary to Holt’s predecessor, Sir Robert Menzies, and went on to work with many other senior Australian politicians, including Prime Ministers, and became one of the nation’s most distinguished public servants.

It was all rather a far cry from his first foray into the media world, which he recalled in an Australian interview run by the Adver less than three months after the Cheviot Beach tragedy.

“I still have a book my sister gave me, called You Want to be a Journalist,” he said.

“I did - from the time I was 11. Even at that age, I positively pestered my hometown newspaper, the Swindon Evening Advertiser in Wiltshire, England.

“When I was 15 the miracle happened. The Swindon Evening Advertiser rang to say it had a vacancy. It was then or never. I didn’t hesitate. I left school, much to my parents’ concern.”

Within a year, he had gone from office tea-maker to Cirencester correspondent, during which time he was briefly joined by an Australian reporter.

The Australian subsequently returned home, but wrote to alert Mr Eggleton to a vacancy in the Victorian city of Bendigo.

The Adver’s cuttings file on him charts his subsequent rise through key roles at organisations including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the nation’s navy before beginning to work with politicians.

The retiring Sir Robert Menzies personally recommended the former Adver reporter to Harold Holt.

Mr Eggleton recalled: “I hardly knew him at the start, but we quickly got a very good working relationship. He was a very easy man to get along with.”

As recently as last year Mr Eggleton wrote an article about the still unsolved Cheviot Beach mystery.

He is a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and an Officer of the Order of Australia.