Finding Murdoch

When an email arrived with “Finding Murdoch” in the subject line, I thought it was a question about an essay topic I’d set for some students.

I expected it to be about Rupert or one of the children. As you do when that name’s mentioned around media people.

That’s because I’d never heard of the great All-Black legend cum man of mystery, Keith Murdoch. Nor had I heard of local journalist and playwright Margot McRae.

As a passported-Aussie and an ex-journo with some considerable interest in the history and politics of journalism, I immediately associate “Keith” Murdoch with the legendary Australian media baron Sir Keith, father of contemporary global media tycoon Rupert.

I couldn’t at that point even hazard a guess to any possible relationship between these two arms of the clan Murdoch. There in lies a story not told here. Ethical Martini does not (at this point) do geneaology.

But getting to know the real Keith Murdoch a bit better sounds like a good idea, then I might go and see Finding Murdoch at the Maidment Theatre.

This is not a shameless plug. Seriously.

I’ve been in Aotearoa/New Zealand for 18 months, The mother of all catses (herein Moac) has been here a little over a year. We’ve found our way around Aukland and we actually love living here. It’s an interesting place with pretty good weather – it’s roughly as far north as Bateman’s Bay or the NSW South Coast.

Moac and I get around, we’ve been to some great markets, wonderful beaches and Wellington (a few times) and we visit bars and restaurants around town. We’ve tried Gold Class at SkyCity for Indiana Jones.

Moac’s even been to the opera once, but the only play we’ve seen in the last year is Where we once belonged by Sia Figel. That was great, so now I want to see Finding Murdoch.

I think it’s always interesting how journos move on to new and usually successful careers in other fields. There are many notorious examples – successful spies for example, or well-paid pimps for the dark side [My PR friends know I’m joking]

Many journalism students at AUT University and in most places where I’ve taught come to journalism because they can write, believe they can write, are told they can write, or fall in love with writing. Or, they’re just good at English.

Wanting to write for a living is a noble ambition and an embracing lover, but also a hard task-master. Ask any writer in any genre.

I always point my students at Orwell’s Why I write when they arrive. I’m constantly referring to it and recommending it to people. A few months ago I couldn’t lay my hands on a version at work, while I was writing a piece about famous photojournalist Robert Capa, whose brother Cornell died recently.

I went across to the bookshop and bought a newly-minted copy. It’s still in print and worth having in your pocket library. The whole text, and a whole lot more Orwell, is also online in various places.

In a round-about way this brings us to my interest in Margot McCrae the writer of Finding Murdoch. I am always seeking out the work of journos and ex-journos when they cross-over into other genres. It’s an old cliche, but a good one, that every journalist has a novel, or other mansuscript, sitting in their bottom draw, underneath all the empty whiskey bottles.

I’ve not yet met Margot, but I can’t help wonder if there’s some of her story in the story of the legendary All-Black Keith Murdoch.

In fact there is; the piece was performed at Wellington’s Downstage Theatre last June.

Based on facts and including actual people and recordings of the time, McRae has embellished the incident and her attempts to talk to Murdoch into an engrossing and very theatrical piece of theatre.

Ewan Coleman, Theatreview on Finding Murdoch]

It’s a story intriguing to journalists and to people interested in how the media works. McCrae was trying to get an interview with Murdoch who had been sent home in disgrace(?) from Wales during the 1972 All-Black tour to the UK. He was an elusive subject, but it seems that Margot Mcrae may have managed to talk to him on-the-record.

I’ll find out when I’ve seen it.

5 Responses to Finding Murdoch

  1. jafapete says:

    Hi Martin, I saw Threepenny Opera a couple of days ago and reviewed it on my blog. You should see that first. On until 21 June. See you at the Media7 taping next week perhaps?

    Three Penny OperaJafapete’s review

  2. Margot McRae says:

    Hi Martin, Forget seeing the Threepenny Opera! That says nothing about NZ and certainly nothing about journalistic ethics!
    This play was inspired by my own search for Keith Murdoch for a TV documentary in 1990. It’s based on well-researched facts about this infamous incident and its affects on the All Blacks. But my actual hunt for the man has been fictionalised a lot to make it fit into a stage play.
    Part of my reason for writing the play was my disillusionment with the direction of television throughout the 1990’s which has now reached rock-bottom.
    While the play is partly about Murdoch and his place in our folklore, it’s as much about journalistic integrity.

  3. jafapete says:

    Martin, See both!

    Sorry Margot, I didn’t mean to suggest that anybody should see one and not the other. I look forward to seeing your play too. It’s great to have so many worthy and worthwhile plays in Auckland.

  4. farkennel says:

    As the third person who shared the house in Tennant Creek with Murdoch I can tell you he DID NOT speak to McRae.And just so you know,he had NOTHING to do with the death of Limerick.Those who did were happy for Keith and me to take the fall.We could have told the cops who they were but unlike them,we arent dogs.

  5. farkennel says:

    By not speaking to her I meant about the incident in Wales.

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