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Moorehead, Alan McCrae (1910–1983)

Alan Moorehead, by Louis Kahan, c.1965

Alan Moorehead, by Louis Kahan, c.1965

National Library of Australia, 4004832

The Australian-born writer, Alan Moorehead, whose death was announced in London yesterday, was among several Australian journalists, such as Chester Wilmot, Gavin Long and George Johnston, who made their reputations during World War II.

Moorehead, 73, who was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, and Melbourne University, worked on various newspapers in Australia and England. He made his journalistic reputation with The Daily Express, London, notably for his wartime dispatches from the North African campaigns.

When he turned to authorship, Moorhead drew on his experiences as a reporter for his early works, including a biography of Britain's Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

His historical works, 'Gallipoli' and 'Cooper's Creek', both won literary awards while two volumes on Africa, 'The White Nile' and 'The Blue Nile', proved to be particularly popular.

Other books included 'Darwin and the Beagle', 'No Room in the Ark' and 'The Fatal Impact'.

The Times, London, in a two-column obituary tribute, said yesterday, Moorehead was one of the very few contemporary writers who have successfully made the transition from popular journalism to history – story-teller's history, that is, in which the narrative line is all-important and the interpretation of events comes as a bonus.

"In both these crafts he was pre-eminent, thanks not so much to flair or dazzle, nor even profundity, but to a calm diligence, almost a dedication, which convinced his readers that he had taken immense trouble to discover the facts and was presenting them without bias, illuminated only by his own clear judgment and compassionate vision."

The newspaper said that in 1956, at the age of 46, he had discovered himself as a writer with his book, 'Gallipoli', which it called masterly historical reconstruction combining imagination and scholarship with a new strain of haunting lyrical beauty.

To later books he brought a tone of elegaic regret for which he would perhaps be longest read, the paper said, but he would also be respected as a writer, who at a time of academic excess, "brought to the telling of history the talents of a great reporter and the delight of a true amateur".

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'Moorehead, Alan McCrae (1910–1983)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/moorehead-alan-mccrae-15004/text35625, accessed 21 November 2019.

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