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Title : Portonian Portonian
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Source : Portonian, 17 April 1875, p. 1
Date of creation : 1875
Additional Creator : Moodie, D. C. F. (Duncan Campbell Francis), 1838-1891
Format : Newspaper
Catalogue record
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Description :

The weekly Portonian was founded in 1871 by the eccentric and colourful South African, Duncan Moodie. The original intention (according to the first issue) was to provide a forum for news reporting at Port Adelaide. However, although initially such local concerns as the state of St Vincent Street and snippets of local news appeared, more space was given to criticising the South Australian Parliament and its members - and more broadly attacking other figures such as local mill owner, Captain John Hart, religious leaders and even the governor. Moodie had previously worked for the Customs Department at Port Adelaide and consequently also made a particular focus of the apparent problems of this body. South African news filled the Portonian columns as time went on, and in particular news of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Portonian ceased without notice in May 1879. Publication moved from Port Adelaide to Adelaide with the issue of 26 October 1872.


Well-known Adelaide journalist Spencer Skipper also wrote for the Portonian. Skipper was the grandson of Robert Thomas, one of the founders of the Register, South Australia's first newspaper. For many years Skipper was the Port Adelaide-based shipping reporter for the city dailies, and drama critic at the Register. He was briefly also its 'war correspondent' during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.


John Eden Savill ('Cerberus') was the artist behind the very popular Portonian cartoons from their first appearance with the 15th issue, dated 18 November 1871.


The Portonian was popular from its inception, and in after years often referred to - with its instigator -  warmly by reminiscent readers. Its articles were of a high quality and Savill's political cartoons were a major attraction. The early cartoons were re-published as a collection in 1875. (Portonian advertisements claimed their "drawings not excelled by London Punch" (14 September 1872, p. 2)). From 1878 the work of other cartoonists was occasionally featured alongside Savill's work, including W. Wyburd and W. Pyndar Willis. During its final year of publication Willis was the sole cartoonist. 


Duncan Moodie, Portonian's editor/owner had a number of escapades to his credit. He established the Portonian after losing his Customs Department job supposedly for deserting his post (and losing valuable documents) when jumping into the Port River to rescue a drowning man. In his South African youth Moodie had been an athlete and hunter in Africa, and he spoke the Zulu language fluently. Contemporaries described him as jovial, eccentric and "thoroughly good hearted" (Adelaide observer, 20 June 1891, p. 30). At one time Moodie swam the nine miles from Semaphore to Glenelg to outshine a visiting swimming champion. In 1880 he travelled to Melbourne with a visiting Zulu named Ugende (later 'James Thompson' of Broken Hill), to cane Melbourne Advertiser editor, A.T. Clark , because Clark had printed "libelous" comments about Queen Victoria. Moodie and the Zulu spent 17 days walking back to Adelaide because they did not have the money for a return steamer ticket. Moodie was also author of a history of the 'Zulu wars' and at least two collections of poems. In 1881 he apparently won a prize for his Exhibition Cantata, a poem by Moodie set to music by Mons. Jules Meilhan. Moodie died at sea in 1891 while on a return visit to South Africa.


Related names :


Clark, A.T.

Hart, John, 1809-1873

Kalyptus, Hugh

Moodie, D.C.F. (Duncan Campbell Francis), 1838-1891

Savill, John Eden

Skipper, Spencer John, 1848-1903

Thomas, Robert, 1781-1860

Thompson, James


Willis, W. Pydar

Wyburd, W.

Punch (London)

South Australian register (Adelaide, S. Aust.)

Place : Adelaide, S. Aust.
Further reading :

'A walk from Melbourne to Adelaide in seventeen days', Adelaide observer, 23 October 1880, p. 721

[Death of Spencer John Skipper], Adelaide observer, 12 September 1903, p. 34

'Late Mr DCF Moodie', Adelaide observer, 20 June 1891, p. 30

'Late Mr DCF Moodie', Pictorial Australian, July 1891, pp. 103-105

Marquis, Len. South Australian newspapers: a selection of material from the extensive research notes gathered for a proposed history of the press in South Australia by Leonard Stanley Marquis/ prepared by Ronald Parsons, Lobethal, S. Aust.: R. Parsons, 1998

'The Cantata ', South Australian Advertiser, 21 July 1881, p. 6



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