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Alban George (Johnny) Moyes (1893–1963)

by Anne O'Brien

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with John Stoward Moyes

John Stoward Moyes (1884-1972), Anglican bishop, and Alban George (Johnny) Moyes (1893-1963), journalist and cricket commentator, were born on 25 July 1884 at Koolunga, South Australia, and 2 January 1893 at Gladstone, eldest surviving and youngest of six children of John Moyes, schoolteacher, and his wife Ellen Jane, née Stoward, both from New South Wales. Morton Henry Moyes was their brother. Educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide, the three Moyes brothers were all called 'John'; 'Johnny' stuck to Alban who detested his given name. John Stoward Moyes studied psychology and logic at the University of Adelaide (B.A., 1905; M.A., 1907) and became president of the university branch of the Australian Student Christian Movement; he later wrote that the S.C.M. had introduced him to a Christianity of 'grace and love', not merely 'law and commandments'. Entering St Barnabas' Theological College, he was made deacon on 22 December 1907 and ordained priest on 21 December 1908 by the bishop of Adelaide.

His first appointment (1907) was to a curacy in the parish of St Paul's, Port Pirie. At St Cyprian's Church, North Adelaide, on 22 April 1909 he married Helen Margaret (d.1970), daughter of (Sir) Richard Butler. In 1911-13 Moyes worked as assistant-curate in the London parish of Lewisham. The extreme poverty he witnessed there, and that which he had seen at Port Pirie during the 1908-09 lockout, consolidated his commitment to a social application of the gospel. He returned to South Australia in 1913 and took up the rectorship of St Cuthbert's, Prospect. Reappointed to Port Pirie in 1919, he helped in 1921 to mediate the end of a two-year strike at Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Ltd. While Moyes was rector (1921-29) of St Bartholomew's, Norwood, the parish grew; many were attracted to Sunday-evening services by his powerful preaching. From 1925 he was also archdeacon of Adelaide.

Consecrated on 30 November 1929 as bishop of Armidale, New South Wales, Moyes used his episcopacy as a platform for his political and social views. He aroused opposition when he criticized banking policy during the Depression, advocated closer settlement in 1935-36, supported waterside workers who refused to ship iron ore to Japan in 1938, and defended striking coalminers in 1942. He spoke out against (Sir) Robert Menzies' proposal to outlaw the Communist Party of Australia, backed the movement to reform the White Australia policy and opposed the Vietnam War. Moyes was chairman of the General Synod's social questions committee (1933-63) and of the Christian Social Order Movement (1943-51).

In 1941 Moyes had delivered the Moorhouse lectures in Melbourne—published as Australia: The Church and the Future (1942)—in which he criticized Australian institutions, including the Church, for being characterized by 'individualism and no sense of divine calling'. Once again he 'created a storm'. He spoke frequently on the importance of education, chaired the boards of the New England Girls' School and The Armidale School, and was a founding member (1953) of the council and deputy-chancellor of the University of New England (Hon. D.Litt., 1961).

Moyes travelled extensively throughout the diocese and abroad, attending the Lambeth conferences of 1930, 1948 and 1958, and visiting North America in 1943, 1948, 1954, 1958 and 1963 as chairman of the social questions committee and as a representative of the World Council of Churches. He published American Journey (Sydney, 1944), In Journeyings Often (Melbourne, 1949), America Revisited (Sydney, 1955) and Third Time of Asking (Sydney, 1959).

Bishop Moyes was disappointed in his wish to be promoted to a metropolitan see. Despite accusations that he was a communist sympathizer, his politics were essentially liberal. In 1965 he published a critique of communism, The Communist Way of Life and the Christian's Answer (Sydney). He attributed his 'radical outlook' in part to the snobbish manner in which his parents had been treated by a number of South Australian pastoral families. Sometimes seen as aloof or vain, he acted according to clear-cut perceptions of right and wrong, believing that he had 'a duty to oppose what is wicked'. In 1962 he was appointed C.M.G. Moyes retired to Vaucluse, Sydney, in 1964. He enjoyed cricket and music, and wrote his memoirs. On 30 August 1971 at St Peter's Church, Hornsby, he married Mary Scott Pentreath, née Holland, an 87-year-old widow. Survived by his wife, and by the four sons and two daughters of his first marriage, he died on 29 January 1972 at Hornsby and was cremated.

His brother 'Johnny' studied science at the University of Adelaide before joining the Australian Imperial Force on 13 July 1915. Commissioned two months later, he served with the 48th Battalion on the Western Front, was twice wounded and won the Military Cross (1918). In November 1918 Major Moyes sailed for Melbourne. After his A.I.F. appointment terminated, he took a job with the Repatriation Commission. At St Paul's Anglican Church, Fairfield, on 28 June 1919 he married 30-year-old Frederica Sophia Honor Christensen. Late in 1921 he moved to Sydney where he worked as a correspondent for Melbourne's Sporting Globe.

A promising young cricketer, Moyes had represented (1912-15) South Australia (making a century on début), been chosen (1914) for Australia in a tour (cancelled due to World War I) against South Africa, and played for Victoria in 1920. In Sydney, he achieved one of the highest individual scores in grade cricket when he made 218 runs in 83 minutes for the Gordon District Cricket Club in 1922. Presented with an engraved silver ball to honour 'his captaincy and the good fellowship he inspired', he served as a New South Wales selector (1926-27) and wanted (Sir) Donald Bradman to play for the State.

By 1927, when Moyes joined the State branch of the Australian Journalists' Association, he was a senior reporter for the Globe. He became news editor for the Daily Telegraph about 1928, but soon transferred to the Daily Guardian. Having joined Associated Newspapers Ltd in 1931, he was sporting editor of the Sun for fifteen years. In 1941-44 he commanded the 7th Australian Garrison as a lieutenant colonel, and remained involved in casual sporting journalism. From 1946 to 1951 he edited Associated Newspapers' magazine, Sporting Life. His thirteen books on cricket included accounts of Test tours, the biographies, Bradman (1948) and Benaud (1962), and Australian Cricket (1959).

In 1949 Moyes had begun broadcasting sporting sessions for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In 1950-51 he covered his first Test series, against England. In 1955 he received a full-time contract. As a cricket broadcaster, he became a household name in Australia and New Zealand in the 1950s and early 1960s. His pithy and authoritative commentaries, delivered in a 'dryly-humourous voice', won thousands of listeners to the A.B.C. He was renowned for his summaries of the day's game which, he wrote, should be 'factual and yet not dull'. Sir Charles Moses described him as 'a scrupulously honest communicator'. Moyes's 'infectiously hysterical' description of the last over of the tied Test between Australia and the West Indies in December 1960 was replayed many times by popular request.

Moyes was appointed M.B.E. in 1959. He and his wife were active members of the congregation of St Stephen's Anglican Church, Willoughby. Bradman, who had worked with him as a junior on the Sun, described him as 'most considerate and helpful . . . a fine-living man'. Survived by his wife and two sons, Johnny Moyes died of coronary vascular disease on 18 January 1963 at his Chatswood home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Grose and J. Newall (eds), So Great a Heritage (Syd, 1990)
  • C. Jones, Something in the Air (Syd, 1995)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Mar 1963
  • Journal of Religious History, 13, no 4, 1985
  • Australian Historical Studies, no 107, Oct 1996
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Nov, 2 Dec 1929, 12 Dec 1935, 6 Dec 1938, 12 May 1950, 13 June 1959, 1 Jan 1962, 19 Jan 1963, 31 Jan 1972
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 19 Jan 1963
  • North Shore Times, 23 Jan 1963
  • Gordon District Cricket Club, Annual Report, 1921-22 (New South Wales Cricket Assn Library)
  • D. H. Ingrouille, John S. Armidale: An Account of the Public Life of John Stoward Moyes with Particular Reference to his Ministry as Bishop of Armidale (B.Litt. thesis, University of New England, 1976)
  • J. S. Moyes papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Anne O'Brien, 'Moyes, Alban George (Johnny) (1893–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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