Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball dies

Murray Ball, the creator of one of New Zealand’s most treasured animations, Footrot Flats, ” has expired.

Murray Ball at home in Gisborne, New Zealand. Tuesday September 17, 2007.

Murray Ball at house in Gisborne, New Zealand. Tuesday September 17, 2007. Photo: Setford news photo agency

Born in Feilding in 1939, Mr Ball became one of New Zealand’s most prosperous cartoonists.

His widow, Pam Ball, said he died in the home at 11.30am today , surrounded by family.

“[He was a] wonderful, lovely man and we are all feeling quite depressed. It was really unhappy to see him go but he’s looking quite peaceful today,” Mrs Ball explained.

Their three kids and grandparents are all at the family residence, as well as Murray’s brother Barry and near friends, she explained.

“We were all here as he passed away.”

The couple have been married for 53 decades and she said they have been together pretty much daily at the time.

“It’s only a enormous loss for mepersonally, I simply can’t bear the notion of it really but there it is, he isn’t suffering anymore.”

Mrs Ball said he had alzheimers for its last eight decades, and the past few decades have been quite tough for him and the family.

She said her husband leaves a significant legacy.

Funeral arrangements are still to be made.

Murray Ball and The Dog, in a documentary about the making of 1986 Footrot Flats film The Dog's Tale.

Murray Ball and The Dog, in a documentary about the creation of 1986 Footrot Flats film Your Dog’s Tale. Photo: Picture / NZ On Screen


Listen to some feature interview with Murray Ball in 2008

Mr Ball was educated in New Zealand and Australia until his parents moved the family into South Africa. There he took up sports, getting a junior pole-vault record-holder and later enjoying rugby for Transvaal province.

After he returned to New Zealand, he became a Junior All Black and proved to be a triallist for the All Blacks. However, his political led him to another way – having grown up in South Africa, he’d developed a profound loathing for apartheid and whenever the controversial 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand took place he was a top protestor against it.

Mr Ball took up cartooning when he was working as a reporter on The Manawatu Times, later transferring to The Dominion in Wellington and then to Britain, in which he worked for Punch and also the Labour Weekly.

It was while he was in Britain that he made Stanley the Paleolithic Hero and Bruce that the Barbarian.

Footrot Flats was developed if he returned to New Zealandinto a farm near Gisborne. It first emerged in 1976 and turned into a colossal victory, place to a mythical New Zealand farm and also focusing on the adventures of an always optimistic farm dog, his owner Wallace, or Wal, Footrot and assorted family members, neighbours, and creatures.

The figures, especially The Dog, became known to millions as the strip was syndicated across the world and even spun off into a 1986 animated film and a stage musical.

However, in 1994 Murray Ball ceased drawing the cartoon strip, shocking its numerous fans. He explained the radical changes of the fourth Labour government had ruined the nation he loved and he felt he was portraying a lie regarding the farming lifestyle which was destroyed by the new economics.

Footrot Flats was repeated in papers for decades after Mr Ball had ceased drawing the daily comic strip and appeared in over a score of novels, and was used to publicise issues like the way to vote under the MMP program. Nevertheless, the great matter of Footrot Flats wasn’t answered – even 24 years later he ceased drawing him, Mr Ball would not say what The Dog’s title was.

Murray Ball was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2012.