Cartoonist captured NZ psyche, brought joy to millions

EDITORIAL

Cartoonist Murray Ball, who died yesterday at his Valley Road home, was a genius who created a character that resonated and empathised fully with the New Zealand psyche.

Wal Footrot, based on Ball’s cousin Arthur Waugh, was what many increasingly urbanised New Zealanders would like to be: a rural everyman facing life’s slings and arrows with stoicism.

His companion Dog was the perfect sidekick to Wal — a canine philosopher whose thoughts delighted millions.

Born in Feilding, Murray Ball spent part of his childhood in South Africa where he developed an intense dislike of apartheid.

He got his first break as a cartoonist with the former Manawatu Times and The Dominion before going to Britain and huge success. His first well-known cartoon was Stanley The Palaeolithic Hero, becoming the longest running series in the history of Punch — a great former humorous and satirical magazine.

Disillusioned with Margaret Thatcher’s England, he moved back to New Zealand and to Gisborne 42 years ago.

Footrot Flats first appeared in The Dominion in the 1970s and went on to become a global hit. Numerous books were published and Footrot Flats was the subject of a highly successful film.

But there was a lot more to Murray Ball than his mild, self- deprecating manner showed.

A self-described Socialist, he felt deeply for those at the bottom of society.

The son of an All Black, Nelson Ball, Murray himself was a talented rugby player and Junior All Black. He maintained his love of rugby but was a strong opponent of the 1981 Springbok tour on conscience grounds.

No tribute to Murray Ball would be complete without recognition of his wife Pam who supported him throughout his career and nursed him faithfully through a debilitating struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Weta Workshops-designed sculpture now temporarily based on the river bank is a physical memorial to Murray Ball, but the lasting one is the joy he brought to the hearts of New Zealanders.

Cartoonist Murray Ball, who died yesterday at his Valley Road home, was a genius who created a character that resonated and empathised fully with the New Zealand psyche.

Wal Footrot, based on Ball’s cousin Arthur Waugh, was what many increasingly urbanised New Zealanders would like to be: a rural everyman facing life’s slings and arrows with stoicism.

His companion Dog was the perfect sidekick to Wal — a canine philosopher whose thoughts delighted millions.

Born in Feilding, Murray Ball spent part of his childhood in South Africa where he developed an intense dislike of apartheid.

He got his first break as a cartoonist with the former Manawatu Times and The Dominion before going to Britain and huge success. His first well-known cartoon was Stanley The Palaeolithic Hero, becoming the longest running series in the history of Punch — a great former humorous and satirical magazine.

Disillusioned with Margaret Thatcher’s England, he moved back to New Zealand and to Gisborne 42 years ago.

Footrot Flats first appeared in The Dominion in the 1970s and went on to become a global hit. Numerous books were published and Footrot Flats was the subject of a highly successful film.

But there was a lot more to Murray Ball than his mild, self- deprecating manner showed.

A self-described Socialist, he felt deeply for those at the bottom of society.

The son of an All Black, Nelson Ball, Murray himself was a talented rugby player and Junior All Black. He maintained his love of rugby but was a strong opponent of the 1981 Springbok tour on conscience grounds.

No tribute to Murray Ball would be complete without recognition of his wife Pam who supported him throughout his career and nursed him faithfully through a debilitating struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Weta Workshops-designed sculpture now temporarily based on the river bank is a physical memorial to Murray Ball, but the lasting one is the joy he brought to the hearts of New Zealanders.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you support the new identity and wellbeing focus of Trust Tairawhiti (formerly Eastland Community Trust)?