27th February 1924 ~ 29th March 2013
“Telling people where to go since 1966!”
On March 29, 2013, Melbourne lost a true pioneer with the passing of Merv Godfrey, the cartographer who created the iconic Melway Street Directory. Merv was aged 89 when he passed away on March 29, leaving behind a great legacy of, in his own larrikin words, “telling people where to go.”
In the language of Melburnians, the only word for ‘street directory’ is ‘Melway’, and Merv’s work in developing and sustaining the world’s most comprehensive street directory has earned him many accolades, including the Order of Australia Medal for meritorious service in 2006.
Born in Melbourne in 1924, Merv Godfrey got his first taste of cartography when he joined the mapping division of the Victorian Lands Department. Although wanting to play a part in World War Two, the 17-year-old trained as a survey draughtsman, learning the skills that would lead him to create one of Australia’s most iconic publishing brands.
As soon as he was of age, Merv enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and joined the war effort as a radio operator. Post-war, he returned to his previous employment with the Victorian Lands Department, after which he transferred to the State Electricity Commission (SECV) to do drafting.
While working for the SECV, Merv met ex-RAAF member and then publisher, Ray Harrison. Ray and Merv formed a partnership outside of work hours producing maps for the likes of Mobil Oil, The Snowy River Scheme, the Australian Tourism Commission and the 1956 Olympic Games.
“My first memory of Melway is sitting in the back seat of the family car. We were about to leave and Dad was reading his street directory,” Merv’s son David, recalls. “He said to Mum ‘I can do a better directory than this.’”
A project to produce a superior quality street directory for Melbourne was launched, but sadly Mr Harrison suffered a heart attack before it was launched. Merv later partnered with Iven Mackay, and together released the original edition Melway in 1966. The directory was quickly embraced by Melburnians, one of the popular features being the ‘rat runs’, showing commuters how to avoid traffic bottlenecks.
For over 40 years now, Melway has plotted the ever-changing shape of Greater Melbourne, thanks to the world class foundations laid by Merv, one of the true greats of the cartography profession.
Aside from his work, Merv was a passionate family man, with five children, 12 grandchildren and one great grandchild. Merv’s love of fine craftsmanship was evident in his earliest hobbies, including building model aeroplanes featuring incredible attention to detail. This was the hallmark of Merv’s meticulous devotion to quality that has made Melway the benchmark of the modern street directory.
With the passing of Merv last month, his great legacy continues with Melway Publishing through three of Merv’s five children, and the 41st edition of the iconic Melway is due for release this coming July. With millions of Melways occupying a handy spot in vehicles across the state for nearly half a century, few Victorians can claim such a positive influence over so many years.
The Melway is a true treasure of this great city, and even though the pioneering spirit of Merv Godfrey will be deeply missed, his humble way of helping Melburnians to know their city lives on.