35. Sir Walter Murdoch (1874-1970), journalist and activist
Scottish born Walter Murdoch migrated with his family to Victoria in 1884. As a young man, Walter Murdoch worked as a school teacher, then as a lecturer in English at Melbourne University. At the same time he made a name for himself as a literary journalist. He used the pen name ‘Elzevir’ when he wrote for The Argus.
From 1913 to 1939 Murdoch was the foundation professor of English at the University of Western Australia, and was recognised as an enthusiast for the great works of English literature. During his years at the University, he became a West Australian institution, writing regularly for The West Australian newspaper and broadcasting on radio. He was also known for his involvement in community organisations such as the League of Nations, the Social Credit movement and in public controversies concerned with freedom of speech. All of these causes he referred to as “the pink man’s burdens”.
Walter Murdoch gained a devoted Australia-wide audience through his newspaper columns and the publication of his newspaper essays in book form. From the end of World War II in 1945 to 1964 he wrote a syndicated weekly column, called “Answers”, in which he offered opinions of “a very ordinary stay-at-home Australian who has read a little, thought a little, but whose ignorance is varied and extensive”.
The “Answers” column endeared him to the public even more, and he was considered an integral part of Western Australian life. Walter Murdoch was knighted for his services in 1964, and in 1970, shortly before his death, the second university planned for this state was named Murdoch University in his honour.