Person - Russel Ward

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Of interest to ASIO, Braddock his mother’s maiden name, loud and lively, tall and red-headed, bourgeois in manners and appearance, Ward came from a conservative Methodist family to become a brilliant English scholar at Adelaide University, a teacher at Geelong and Sydney Grammar schools, and a leftist historian.

His siblings were John, who joined the navy and died in Japan in 1944; Claire who married Indian High Commissioner Walter Croker; and Jean who married a missionary Arch Yule. As children they travelled to north Queensland and Perth WA with their father’s career as a school principal.

Russel Ward was affected by the experience of WA people during the Depression. He spent holidays in the bush, read Henry Lawson, and served in an army psychological unit during the Second World War but was not sent overseas. He learned Russian and as a radical schoolteacher in Sydney began collecting Australian folksongs. In 1953 he wrote for ANU a PhD thesis which he developed into The Australian Legend (1958), a popular historical work arguing that Australia defined itself from the 1890s by the values of the bushman.

Russel Ward asked NT’s Jock Levy and Ken McCarron for entrée into the CPA and he and his first wife Margaret Alice née Lind (she a trainee nurse, they married in Adelaide in September 1939) joined the Party in Sydney some time between June and October 1941 after attending their first CPA meeting at Freda Lewis’ parents’ home at Newtown.

For the Wards NT was “a thoroughly exhilarating experience” and not simply a propagandist arm of the CPA. They mixed with people of integrity and generosity, pacifists, patriots, anti fascists. Ward became president of the NT management committee which ran the theatre, negotiated with the landlord and chose the plays. He was friendly with Rupert Lockwood and Peter Finch, and admired Jim McAuley, John Reed and George Farwell. Ward was in the chorus of I’d Rather be Left in 1941 and in Fountains Beyond in 1942 (although the actors' names are not listed in its program). He also acted in Boy Meets Girl (an amusing standout as Rodney Bevan), Off The Leash (over-acted as Major Blimp) and The Gentle People all in 1940, and in 1946 as a Gentleman was part of a "capable if uninterested" cast in Where’s That Bomb?

Although he left the CPA in 1949, Ward’s communist past caught up with him. He alleged Security intervention in his academic career as an historian when he was dismissed from a lectureship at Wagga Wagga Teachers College in 1951 and his teaching position at the University of Technology (now the University of NSW) was overturned because he was “adversely recorded” by ASIO.

In 1957 Ward became a lecturer at the University of New England and was its deputy vice-chancellor for eight years 1981-9. In 1984 Ward told the Hope Royal Commission into Australia's intelligence services that ASIO had harassed him for 40 years. He died at Texas Q on 13 August 1995 and was buried to the strains of The Wild Colonial Boy. An annual lecture at the University of New England commemorates his name.

Ward’s first wife had a mental illness. Their oldest child Alison Russel Ward drowned in a bath aged four months, possibly by her mother’s hands, at Woolwich in 1941. Elizabeth Russel Ward (“Biff”), born in 1942, in 2014 published a family memoir In My Mother's Hands.

Russel Ward later remarried and had a second family.

Russel Ward’s autobiography A Radical Life was published in 1988. His papers (MS7576) covering the years 1950-90 are held by the National Library of Australia. An oral interview, taped in 1986, is held by the National Library of Australia.

There is a lot of material online about Russel Ward including a Wikipedia entry.

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