Wednesday, 14th March 2012
Former Chronicle editor dies
Jon Morgan Searle, veteran journalist and former editor of the Gibraltar Chronicle, died peacefully in his sleep yesterday, aged 81.
Mr Searle edited the Chronicle for over two decades and oversaw its transition from military publication to independent local newspaper, a job that was never without controversy.
In reporting the local news during this period, Mr Searle skilfully navigated a difficult path with the Ministry of Defence on one side and the Gibraltar Government of the day on the other.
He also steered the paper through the challenging period of the closed frontier years and took the landmark step of recruiting Gibraltarian reporters to work on the Chronicle staff.
In the run-up to the border closure Mr Searle, like other local journalists of that period, was banned by the Franco regime from entering Spain.
As a reporter during a time of dramatic change, he covered many international stories as they unfolded on his doorstep.
There was the border closure and its aftermath, of course.
But there were others too, including the Moroccan officer sent back to his country after a failed coup. Or the 1966 talks – on a warship in the bay - between Britain’s then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and Ian Smith after the latter unilaterally declared the independence of Rhodesia.
Throughout all this time he was also the correspondent for the Reuters news agency and the Times of London, filing stories not just on Gibraltar but the region as a whole.
Mr Searle was committed to developing personal relationships that spanned political and geographical borders, and over the years he built many close friendships in Spain, Morocco and beyond.
Born in Buckfast, Devon, on June 22, 1930, he moved to Canada as a child following the death of his mother and was raised by family friends.
A creative person at heart, he studied fine arts at McGill University in Quebec before returning to the UK after his graduation, where he was conscripted into the Army Education Corp.
It was while serving in the military that he was first posted to Gibraltar, where he taught art classes and met Lina, who was to become his wife.
The couple returned to the UK together, she to study physiotherapy in Manchester, he to undertake a second degree in Liverpool, this time in sociology.
Having completed their studies they lived for a short time in Coventry before returning to Gibraltar, where Mr Searle worked first as a probation officer and then as a teacher in St Jago’s school in the late 1950s.
It was at this time that an opening for a staff reporter gave Mr Searle the opportunity to join the Gibraltar Chronicle and by 1966, he had become the editor of this daily newspaper.
For many years, he was also secretary of the Garrison Library.
After retiring from the editorship of the Chronicle, his by-line continued to appear regularly in the pages of this newspaper.
Throughout his life Mr Searle remained passionate about the arts.
In his later years he dedicated much of his time to sculpture and pottery, creating beautiful works which he exhibited in Gibraltar and Spain.
Mr Searle is survived by his wife Lina, his son and current editor of the Gibraltar Chronicle, Dominique, and his daughter Marisa.