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Author Topic: Obituaries  (Read 14034 times)
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Having fun in the hills!

« Reply #425 on: March 14, 2017, 03:17:15 pm »

from The Dominion Post....

With a stroke of the pen, Murray Ball opened up possibilities

Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball gave cartoonist Tom Scott
the courage first to draw cartoons, and so much more.

By TOM SCOTT | 5:00AM - Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Murray Ball with his dog, Finn, in 1993. — Photograph: Bill Kearns.
Murray Ball with his dog, Finn, in 1993. — Photograph: Bill Kearns.

I WAS a primary school boy sitting on a plank of wood on the muddy sideline and didn't realise it at the time, but I first gazed upon Murray Ball one winter's afternoon in 1959 at the Palmerston North show grounds when the Junior All Black and son of an All Black marked the great, snorting, prancing Irish and British Lions winger, Tony O'Reilly, who was half man, half racehorse.

“Mostly O'Reilly beat me with sheer pace on the outside,” sighed Murray years later when I reminded him of the thumping Manawatu received, “Other times he sidestepped inside me. And then when he got bored with that he just ran over the top of me.”

Most rugby players get better and better in fond recall, but not Murray. Typically his nostalgia trode a fine line between lacerating honesty and mocking self-deprecation.

I remember still the exhilaration I felt when I stumbled across Murray's early editorial cartoons in the long-extinct Manawatu Times. They were nothing like the stolid, insipid, reactionary offering in other newspapers.

They burst off the page with a rude energy and undeniable humanity. Imagine a Giles cartoon if Giles had dropped acid.

And best of all they were drawn by somebody from Feilding, my home town.

Cartoonist Tom Scott says Murray Ball was a huge influence on him. — Photograph: Monique Ford/Fairfax NZ.
Cartoonist Tom Scott says Murray Ball was a huge influence on him.
 — Photograph: Monique Ford/Fairfax NZ.

If you wanted to be a rock star back then it was a hopeless cause unless you came from Liverpool.

Actually, if you wanted to be anything coming from Feilding made everything a hopeless cause, until quite literally at the stroke of a pen, Murray opened up possibilities.

Those possibilities expanded exponentially when seemingly overnight comic strips by Murray began surfacing in British publications.

Stanley the Paleolithic philosopher who graced the pages of Punch magazine for many years was clearly the work of someone of astonishing wit and fierce intelligence.

The black shearer's singlet wearing Bruce the Barbarian who appeared in a Left-wing journal was clearly the work of someone fiercely egalitarian.

If it is possible to be too egalitarian, Murray most certainly was.

Injustice and unfairness burn him and as a consequence the fruits of his success always made him uncomfortable.

Tom Scott's tribute cartoon to his friend and mentor, Murray Ball.
Tom Scott's tribute cartoon to his friend and mentor, Murray Ball.

When the imperfections of the real world bore down on him he departed England and retreated to a remote and beautiful part of New Zealand where he created a perfect world of his own, Footrot Flats.

Even here though, much like the terrifying croco-pigs in his movie Footrot Flats — The Dog's Tale, the familiar brutal honesty lurked beneath the surface.

Being invited by Murray to co-write that film with him was a turning point in my life.

To be asked was an honour in itself and to have the film succeed on both sides of the Tasman gave me the courage to write screenplays and stage plays of my own.

Through all weathers, in all seasons and over time in Footrot Flats Murray created a world every bit as delicate and true as a Katherine Mansfield short story, every bit as visceral and unsentimental as a Ronald Hugh Morrieson or Barry Crump novel, every bit as whimsical and nonsensical as a John Clarke or Billy T James comedy routine (both of whom appeared in his film) and visually every bit as arresting and instantly recognisable as a Rita Angus or Toss Woollaston painting.

To borrow from Dave Dobbyn, Murray gave us a slice of heaven.


Related story:

 • Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball has died

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