William Arthur Moore
Profile of the adventurer, traveller and journalist
William Arthur Moore was an adventurer, traveller, and one of the early twentieth century’s most outstanding international journalists. He travelled in the Balkans, made his mark on Persian politics, and is still remembered with affection by some in India. He developed an instinct for an important story and was responsible for a number of scoops. Although Moore alienated British governments, the government of India, Viceroys of India and ministers of state, even his opponents acknowledged his talents as a journalist.
Moore’s father was minister at St Patrick’s Church in Newry, but he was educated at Campbell College in east Belfast. Despite his obscure background, he was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1904. In that year he also became secretary to the Balkan Committee, established to protect Christian groups under Ottoman rule in the Balkans. He travelled extensively in the region, and in 1908 covered the Young Turk Revolution for a number of British newspapers. Moore became—in his own words—‘the first west European to penetrate central Albania’.
In 1909, Moore visited Persia to cover the challenge of the nationalists to the Shah and, being trapped in the siege of Tabriz, eventually joined the nationalist cause. Moore then led the final sortie on the Shah’s forces, which may even have saved their cause. Later that year, he was appointed Middle Eastern correspondent of The Times, a post he held from 1909 to 1912 and again from 1919 to 1922. In 1912, he undertook an investigative horseback ride from Teheran to the Persian Gulf.
In 1913, Moore was briefly correspondent for The Times in St Petersburg, and in 1914 visited Albania on his own initiative, becoming involved in another siege at Durazzo (now Durres). As the first world war erupted, he travelled to France, and in late August 1914 sent the first authentic account of the retreat of British troops, which became known as the Amiens Despatch (The Times, August 30, 1914).
In 1924, Arthur Moore was appointed assistant editor on the most prestigious British newspaper in India, The Statesman of Calcutta. Between 1927 and 1933 he was also a member of the European section of the Indian Legislative Assembly and began to show himself sympathetic to the aspirations of the native Indians. Although not always approving of Gandhi’s political methods, he became a close friend of the Mahatma.
In 1933, Moore was elevated to the editorship of The Statesman. His editorials proved particularly critical of the Chamberlain government after 1938, and after a personality clash placed him on a collision course with the new Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow. By 1940 Moore felt that the government should allow the Indians to make a bigger contribution to the war effort, in return for speedier moves towards independence. Proving unresponsive to persuasion to adopt a more moderate tone, he was eventually dismissed from the editorship in 1942.
Working briefly with Mountbatten during the second world war, he stayed in India for another decade, interviewing the leading figures of the subcontinent and covering the Korean War. Arthur Moore returned to England in the late 1950s and spent much time developing a new musical scale, but died in effective poverty in London in 1962.
The Looted Paradise: the life and times of Arthur Moore (2004) by Keith Haines; Dictionary of Ulster Biography (1993) by Kate Newmann; Neither Rogues nor Fools: A history of Campbell College and Campbellians (1993) by Keith Haines; A History of The Times (1952) 4.1 by S Morison.
By Keith Haines © 2003.