Have you all met William McMahon? (#17)

Screen Capture B

By Alan Hamill

Who is The Somerton Man? Why was he in Adelaide? What happened on Somerton Beach? Was Charters Towers the site of the masterplan?

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William McMahon, PM.

McMahon was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1949 federal election, winning the newly created Division of Lowe for the Liberal Party. His candidacy was endorsed by Billy Hughes, who had known his grandfather. McMahon soon developed a reputation as “a deadly earnest, dogged, enormously hardworking and dedicated member”

Billy PM 1

McMahon is often ranked among Australia’s worst prime ministers. In 2001, five out of six historians surveyed ranked him among their worst five prime ministers.

But why are we discussing Billy McMahon?

Good Question, he has nothing to do with this “Somerton Man saga”.

We instead should be looking into William Macmahon Ball (aka W Macmahon Ball) and most commonly called Macmahon Ball or Mac Ball.

Will McM 2

William Macmahon Ball was born in Casterton, Victoria, on 29 August 1901. Educated first at Caulfield Grammar School and then at the University of Melbourne, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in 1923. From 1924 to 1929 Ball was a research scholar in psychology at the University of Melbourne, lecturing in Psychology, Logic and Ethics.

On 20 December 1929 Ball married Katrine, daughter of J.T. Noble Anderson, who was a friend and business partner of Sir John Monash.

Will Macmahon 3

In the same year, Ball won a Rockefeller Fellowship to the London School of Economics. While on this fellowship, Ball made a special study of public opinion and propaganda methods in Germany. He spent 1929-1932 in London, Germany, France and Italy, studying European politics.

On his return to Australia, Ball secured a post at the University of Melbourne, lecturing in Modern Political Institutions. This period lasted from 1932 to 1938, when he again went abroad, this time on a Carnegie Fellowship. Between 1938 and 1939 Ball spent several months attached to the BBC studying its methods of programming talks and collecting and broadcasting world news. At the time of the Munich crisis, Ball went through Sudetenland with the German Army, visited Prague and spent a day in Sachenhausen concentration camp, the first foreigner allowed to visit such a camp for several years.

Who's Who in Aust 1938

Who’s who in Australia in 1938

From 1940 to 1944, Ball was Controller of Short Wave Broadcasts for the Commonwealth Government. In February 1940 he was granted special leave to take charge of the broadcasting work in the Department of Information. His unit recorded, translated and analysed enemy broadcasts.

His unit recorded, translated and analysed enemy broadcasts.

Invited by Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies, in February 1940 Ball was appointed controller of broadcasting in the Department of Information. In June he became responsible solely for short-wave broadcasting. As well as heading a team that monitored overseas transmissions, he took charge of the nation’s information and propaganda services directed to friendly, neutral and enemy countries in the region. Under Ball, the material disseminated abroad avoided blatant disinformation and crude hate, and thus gained credibility. His section was transferred to the ABC in July 1942.

216Domain 6

216 Domain Rd South Yarra
216Domain 13

216 Domain Rd from above

Mac Ball held a high posting at 216 Domain Road, South Yarra which was one of the more significant interception and decryption groups in Australia during WWII. It was close to all the other major military headquarters in Domain Rd, St Kilda Rd and Marlton Crescent.

Marlton 1

St Michaels Church of England Girls Grammar School was used for almost a year for military purposes.

He resigned in protest when Arthur Calwell moved it back to the department in April 1944. Ball remained with the ABC and added to his public laurels by chairing the popular radio debates, `Nation’s Forum of the Air’.

In 1945, shortly before the end of the Pacific War, Ball returned to Melbourne University as Senior Lecturer in charge of the Department of Political Science. Also in 1945, Ball was sent to San Francisco as Adviser to the Australian Delegation at the United Nations Conference, and from November to December was Australian Government Political Representative in the Netherlands East Indies.

Ball’s diplomatic work continued after the War, taking him to Japan from 1946 to 1947 as Member of the Allied Council for Japan, representing jointly UK, India, Australia and New Zealand. In 1948 he led the Australian Government Goodwill Mission to countries in East and South-East Asia.

Japan 1

Returning again to the University of Melbourne, Ball held the post of Professor of Political Science from 1949 to his retirement in 1968. During this time, in 1955, he travelled to the UK on a British Commonwealth Fellowship, stationed at Chatham House and St Anthony’s College, Oxford.

Throughout his career, Ball was a regular commentator on world affairs for the ABC. He also broadcast many times for the BBC. He contributed articles on international affairs to British and Australian newspapers.

Memorials 2

Memorials at Eltham Park

Ball died in Melbourne on 26 December 1986, aged 85. Katrine died in October 1991. They had one daughter, Jenny (Ellis).

But there is something I need to ask (Mr Speaker)!

Will McM

Robin 1A

Do the Ayes have it Mr Speaker? (eye lids)

And the ears and the hair?


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