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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Horsfall, John Campbell (Jack) (1912–1976)

by Gerard Noonan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

John Campbell (Jack) Horsfall (1912-1976), economist and newspaper editor, was born on 26 February 1912 at Daylesford, Victoria, third child of Victorian-born parents Francis Arthur Horsfall, shire engineer, and his wife Campbell Isabel, née Donaldson. Jack (as his name was registered at birth) was educated at Wesley College, Melbourne, then Ormond College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1933). Majoring in economics, he won several scholarships and studied under (Sir) Douglas Copland and L. F. Giblin. In 1933 he won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1935; M.A., 1941), where his teachers included D. H. Robertson and Colin Clark. A champion sprinter, Horsfall held the Australian 220 yard record (21.3 seconds in 1933) and competed in the 1934 Empire games.

After short-term jobs in Whitehall, London, at the Imperial Economic Committee, he worked in a stockbroker's office, undertaking statistical research on the account of J. M. (Lord) Keynes, and as a journalist for the Investor's Chronicle. When he joined the London Scottish Regiment, the Gordon Highlanders, on 17 October 1938, he was 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall, weighed 149 lbs (67.6 kg) and had blue eyes and brown hair. On the outbreak of World War II he was 'embodied' in September 1939 and commissioned in the Royal Fusiliers in March 1940.

Fluent in French, German and Italian, Horsfall transferred to the Intelligence Corps in August 1942. According to his later account, he headed counter intelligence in the Greek revolution of 1944-45. In January 1945 he was mentioned in dispatches for his work in Italy, interrogating Italian prisoners. He served in Palestine, was promoted acting lieutenant colonel in September 1945 and completed his service on 27 June 1946 with the honorary rank of major. His marriage on 14 October 1939 in the parish church, Stanwell, Middlesex, to Mary Elwyn Gibson was dissolved, and on 12 July 1944 at the register office, Westminster, London, he married Joan Cellier.

After the war Horsfall joined the Economist news magazine in London as a journalist. In July 1950 R. A. G. Henderson recruited Horsfall as a senior finance writer for the Sydney Morning Herald. Henderson thought he had 'a bright likeable personality and I imagine a capacity to cultivate and establish contacts'. Within a year of his return to Australia, Horsfall was assigned to establish a weekly finance paper, to be published each Thursday by John Fairfax & Sons and to head off a challenge by its rival, Associated Newspapers Ltd.

The first edition of the Australian Financial Review appeared on 16 August 1951. Its early success was enhanced by its coverage in September of the 1951 Menzies government's 'horror budget'. Horsfall produced robust and informative newspapers, but worked extremely long hours and struggled with his own finances. Six months after the inaugural edition, he resigned in a dispute with the company over pay and returned to England. Footloose, Horsfall came back to Australia in mid-1952 to work as the Melbourne correspondent of the Financial Review until April 1953. His marriage to Joan ended in divorce next year. On 29 July 1955 at the Register Office, Kensington, London, Horsfall married Denise Patricia Redvers-Mutton. The couple came to Australia with their two sons in 1959.

In the 1960s Horsfall worked as finance editor and writer on (Sir) Frank Packer's Bulletin and with Maxwell Newton on the Sunday Observer. Though blind for the last seven years of his life as a result of diabetes, Horsfall continued his writing, which included his informed and coolly analytical The Liberal Era (Melbourne, 1973). He died of a cerebrovascular accident on 29 August 1976 at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, Melbourne, and was cremated with Anglican rites. His wife and their two sons, and the daughter and son of his second marriage, survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Souter, Company of Heralds (Melb, 1981)
  • Australian Financial Review, 31 Aug 1976, p 9
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Sept 1976, p 11
  • G. Noonan, The Establishment of the Australian Financial Review, 1951-1970, and its Impact on Public Policy (M.A. thesis, University of Syd, 2002)
  • service file (Army Personnel Centre, Glasgow, Scotland)
  • J. Fairfax group archives, Sydney
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Gerard Noonan, 'Horsfall, John Campbell (Jack) (1912–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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