John Moorhead depicted in The Daily Examiner when he was elected to Grafton City Council aged 25 in 1947.
John Moorhead depicted in The Daily Examiner when he was elected to Grafton City Council aged 25 in 1947. Bill North

JOHN MOORHEAD: The editor with a library of knowledge

JOHN Irvine Moorhead was the longest serving editor of The Daily Examiner, at the helm from 1960 to 1977.

He was also an avid book collector, as Andy Douglas found out quite by chance when he was running a second hand book store in the early part of this century.

"About 2003 I got a call from a man asking if I was interested in buying some books,” Mr Douglas, who is now a volunteer at Clarence River Historical Society, said.

"He said 'I've got 100 shelf metres of books'. I said 'what?'.

"He introduced himself as (son) Andrew Moorhead. His mother was about to go into a nursing home and they wanted to clear the place out.

"John Moorhead's library was about five metres wide and floor to ceiling in books.”

However, there was a peculiarity about these books. A vast majority had the author's photo missing, and many were first edition hardcovers addressed from the publisher to 'JEM'.

"When we purchased the books - and we're talking thousands - for a long time we couldn't work out why a lot of the dust jackets had a piece snipped out of the back,” Mr Douglas said.

"In the mid-50s he became the book reviewer under the nom de plume JEM, which was odd because his middle name was Irvine.

"Moorhead would write his review and physically cut out the picture of the author.”

Mr Moorhead also created the long-running Water Under the Bridge column, a historic daily review from columns of early editions.

He also inaugurated the Sports Star of the Year Awards in 1960 and maintained a particular interest in cricket.

"My wife and I had a belly button rule for the height of a pile of books,” Mr Douglas said.

"I'll never forget, when we were sorting them there would have been six piles on cricket alone.

"There was another 20 or 30 on Australiana. Books upon books upon books.”

Nita Childs from the Clarence River Historical Society admires the cabinet originally owned by John Moorhead and donated to Schaeffer House by his wife Pauline.
Nita Childs from the Clarence River Historical Society admires the cabinet originally owned by John Moorhead and donated to Schaeffer House by his wife Pauline. Bill North

Born in 1922, Mr Moorhead was already working as a junior journalist at The Daily Examiner when war intervened and, at the age of 20, volunteered for the AIF and served almost three years in New Guinea.

In 1945 he resumed his career at publication and married Clarence Valley girl Pauline Taylor. They had three sons.

In 1947 he was elected to Grafton City Council aged 25 and in 1953, while still working as a journalist, became Grafton's youngest ever mayor.

In 1977 Mr and Mrs Moorhead established the Angus and Robertson book store, which they sold and retired in 1980.

In 1984 post retirement John Moorhead wrote Cathedral on the Clarence - The First Hundred Years.
In 1984 post retirement John Moorhead wrote Cathedral on the Clarence - The First Hundred Years. Bill North

A devout Anglican, in 1984 Mr Moorhead published his first book Cathedral on the Clarence - The First Hundred Years. The same year who also wrote Grafton - the First 125 Civic Years to celebrate the anniversary of Grafton's incorporation as a municipality on July 19, 1859.

In 1984 post retirement John Moorhead wrote Cathedral on the Clarence - The First Hundred Years.
In 1984 post retirement John Moorhead wrote Cathedral on the Clarence - The First Hundred Years. Bill North

He was awarded the Order of Australia in 1985, and died aged 78 on New Year's Eve in 2000.



Man’s body left three hours before found

Man’s body left three hours before found

Man's body remained undiscovered for hours after truck crash

Thousands of NSW hospital workers to strike

premium_icon Thousands of NSW hospital workers to strike

Hospital workers, paramedics fearful over safety

Police press conference over missing kids

premium_icon Police press conference over...

Acting Inspector Darren Williams talks as four children who drove from Rockhampton...