Errors in The Australian Game Of Football?!

Posted: November 17, 2010 in Misc Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Yesterday I was in a bookshop flicking through a book that was recommended to me called The Australian Game of Football. I was only reading through it for about five minutes when I came across a couple of glaring mistakes.

The first mistake that I found regarded Sam Wells, the cartoonist who worked for the Herald for around thirty years and then spent another 17 at The Age. The book claims that Wells died in 1964 BUT, this cartoon from September 9 1966 proves that he wasn’t. I believe that he actually died in 1967. The problem is that there is currently a website that is reporting the books error as fact.

Unless it was Wells’ ghost drawing all those cartoons from between 1965 and 1967?!

The second mistake I found was regarding Mick Armstrong who was a cartoonist with the Argus for many years. I’m not sure why Armstrong was featured as he was more a political cartoonist as I have only found a mere handful of sports related cartoons by him. The book claimed that Armstrong left the Argus in 1950 to work for the Herald BUT if he did it must have been a very short tenure, as by 1951 he was back at the Argus and his cartoon regarding Footscray’s 1954 premiership was actually from that paper.

The section on cartoonists I found interesting, especially the little bio on Edema of the Sun, whose career was cut short due to his early death.

I am surprised though that the mysterious Angus Mac was not mentioned at all as he produced more football related cartoons in his one year at the Argus than Armstrong did in his entire career. I am now curious as to who is this Angus Mac.

  1. Paul Harvey says:

    Hi Matthew.
    I happened upon your website and thought I’d admit I made a blue.
    I wrote the article in ‘The Australian Game of Football’ and you are right, both facts mentioned are wrong. I’ve attached a biog of Sam Wells and Mick Armstrong which gives the correct data (I believe). Below are two websites which I used to cross-check my facts.

    Both also wrong. I have an anthology of both artists work and the facts in these are wrong as well. It just shows you – print the mistake and it can become fact.

    When writing the piece I picked the brains of a couple of mates of mine, Vane Lyndesay and Bill Green (WEG), and they both knew Sam well. I, too, have Wells cartoons from ’66 and ’67 in my collection and should have checked this again.

    As for Angus Mac. I love his stuff but we just didn’t know that much about him.
    His name was Angus McGregor and I have some cigarette cards from the UK so I believe he grew up OS. Probably went back after his stint at the Bulletin.

    The idea of the piece was to honour the memories of these great cartoonists and show some of their work. A brief overview of the history of footy art. It wasn’t to be a comprehensive study purely due to space – a project for another time perhaps.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and good luck with the Pies ’53 project.


    p.s. I sampled the bios from The Dictionary of Australian Artists online.

    Samuel Garnet Wells
    [peer reviewed]
    Popular political and sporting cartoonist who worked predominantly in Melbourne, Victoria.

    Samuel Garnet Smith Wells was born in North Sydney, New South Wales, on 2 February 1885. He was the son of Samuel Smith Wells, who was born in Middlebie, Dumfries, Scotland, and his mother was Emmeline Little who was born in Sydney.

    Wells’ mother passed away in December 1885 and his father then remarried Anne Collier. Wells and his two elder sisters were then raised at Kiama, New South Wales. He was educated at Kiama Grammar School and upon leaving school Wells started a career as a sailor.

    He married his first wife, Grace Maud Pike, in 1907 in the Sydney suburb of Manly. Her family were landowners in the Junee District of New South Wales. However, the financial crisis of 1907 in the USA created a protracted trade depression and Wells went to New Zealand looking for work.

    In 1909 Wells was at the Royal Artillery South Channel Fort at Portsea in Victoria working in the draftsman’s office and later was in charge of the guns at the fort after the draftsman’s office was disbanded. The fact that he was often away from home resulted in a rift with his wife and baby son, and the couple divorced in 1910.

    The earliest evidence of Wells’ capacity for artistic drawing was in 1911 when he was a Bombardier member of the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery at the Queenscliff Fort. While stationed there he would constantly amaze and astonish his friends with his ability with a pencil and eventually he gained enough confidence to send contributions to the weekly newspapers. As his popularity grew Wells found that there was more demand for his work.

    In 1911 Wells married Margaret Elizabeth Egan, daughter of farmers Kevin and Maria Egan of Warragul, Victoria. However after six children this union was to suffer the same fate as his first marriage.

    It is understood that Wells was still a member of the Permanent Garrison Army at Port Nepean in 1914 and was present when a shot was fired at the German Steamer Pfalz as it tried to escape from Port Phillip Bay; this was reputedly the first shot to be fired against the Germans by the British Empire of the First World War. The Commonwealth Government of Australia purchased Wells’ watercolour painting depicting this event. It is held in the National Library of Australia collection, Canberra, ACT.

    Wells decided in 1919 that the pencil was mightier than the sword and determined to stake everything on his bid for artistic success, disregarded his uniform and went to Melbourne. Within eighteen months he was holding his own in the art world; he joined the Melbourne Herald in January 1922. He also published a book of cartoons and caricatures the same year.

    During this time he was also instrumental in the Geelong Victorian Football League team receiving the nickname the “Cats” (Wells always eagerly awaited the opening of the Victorian football season). One week in June 1923 he suggested in one of his drawings that a black cat would give Geelong better fortune against the leading Carlton Blues. Geelong then went on to unexpectedly win against Carlton and won the premiership in 1925 and the “Geelong Cats” nickname very quickly took hold.

    Wells popularised his own character, John Citizen. It is believed that he jointly collaborated with renowned author C. J. Dennis and Alexander Gurney to pictorially create the first ‘Gunns Gully’ characters for Ben Bowyang.

    Wells’ favourite character was the Prime Minister of the time, William (Billy) Morris Hughes, and in 1926 Hughes opened an exhibition of some four hundred of Wells’ original drawings at the New Gallery in Melbourne. Original works were very rarely seen in public.

    He married Vera Murray, an artist and daughter of a Melbourne accountant, on 9 February 1932 at Caulfield. In 1935 Wells went to the United Kingdom and worked with Allied Newspapers Ltd, returning to the Melbourne Herald in 1941.

    Family folklore has it that he was a war correspondent during the Second World War and went to Italy where he covered the story of Mussolini. In addition, it is believed that he was later asked to work for Walt Disney in the United States; however Wells again returned to Melbourne.

    According to former deputy editor of The Bulletin and former President of the Australian Cartoonist’s Association, Lindsay Foyle, Wells was forced to retire from the Herald in 1950 due to its compulsory retirement at sixty-five policy (Inkspot, pg10).

    Wells was then the contributing cartoonist with The Age through to 1967 and produced a cartoon on a Monday and Friday each week. Often there was a dig at his mates, if not within the actual cartoon, on the bottom right hand corner. Sometimes it was a message for someone who had helped him.

    Affectionately known as ‘Sammy Wells’ by his peers at both The Age and The Herald, Wells was held in high regard in the Melbourne community. People from the man in the street, football and racing club presidents, through to Defence Force Generals and the Governor of the State of Victoria all liked and respected him.

    He was a member of the prestigious Kelvin Club of Melbourne and was also a member of the Victorian Division of the Australian Journalists Association.

    Sam Wells died on 12 March 1972 at his flat in Powlett Street, East Melbourne, having lived in Victoria for forty-eight years. His wife, Vera, placed a memorial notice in The Age every year after his death, and Richard Berry purchased the majority of Wells’ original works at a Melbourne estate auction in the mid 1980s.

    Mick Armstrong
    cartoonist and commercial artist, was born in Paddington, Sydney but the family soon moved to Tasmania. Mick had his first cartoon published in the Bulletin when aged 16, and he continued to contribute to it occasionally while working as a survey draughtsman, evidently after moving from Tasmania to Melbourne. He also contributed gag cartoons to Smith’s Weekly, Aussie and other papers, e.g. Smith’s Weekly 26 January 1924, 19: ‘MAN: “Feelin’ crook?” WOMAN: “No” MAN: “Got a pain?” WOMAN: “No” MAN: “Well, d’yer think yer goin’ ter be crook?” WOMAN: “No” MAN: “Aw, yer contrairy cow. Yer won’t give a block a chance ter drink yer bloomin’ ‘ealth.”‘
    Mick Armstrong drew political cartoons for Melbourne Punch in 1925, for the Sydney Sun in 1932 then worked for several conservative Melbourne papers: the Herald (1932-34), Star (1934-36), Argus (1936-57) and Sun News Pictorial (1957-59). Best known for his work on the Argus during WWII, his wartime subjects include: a wounded tattooed soldier, a cow giving black milk in the blackout, both 1941; The Case for a National Government (a Japanese soldier looking over a map of Australia) 1943 (ill. King, 142); and a plump bespectacled land army girl with an angry cow saying, “Yoo hoo, Mister Cowpaddock – I can’t get this separator thing [udder] to work!” 1943 (ill. Lindesay 1979, 250, 259, 265).
    Armstrong published 10 cartoon anthologies, most during WWII (nine listed in refs). His ‘Sam N Eggs’ strip circulated widely in the US and in one year during WWII he had 56 cartoons reproduced overseas. National Library of Australia (NLA) has at least three of Armstrong’s original ink cartoons published in the Argus: ‘Comp. cook-gen., small fam., live in’, n.d. [1940s?] re Billy Hughes; ‘To a miniature’ published 1 September 1949; and ‘Barrel of mon [money]’ published 27 June 1955 (re Tatts), while the Victorian State Library (VSL) has at least 11 originals, mostly WWII period. Armstrong worked as a commercial artist from 1959 to 1964 then joined ATV Channel 0.

    Joan Kerr.

    Angus McGregor
    cartoonist, drew for the Bulletin from about the 1930s. Cartoons include No, no, NO-that’s NOT the idea (man has painted the side of a ship with a tropical island scene) 1941 and Quite clever, but where does it get you? (audience member commenting on two acrobats) 1946. The ML Bulletin collection has 180 original cartoons by McGregor dated 1939-52, 139 dated 1945-59 and n.d., 306 dated 1952-60 and 2 political cartoons. The AGWA holds 8 original cartoons from the Bulletin, one re tax assessment for 1946, another dated 1950. The others presumably date from about this time.

  2. Millsie says:

    Thanks for the info and for your encouragement. I did find your article very interesting and I wasn’t really nitpicking. It is very fascinating stuff.

  3. Roger Dietrich says:

    Thank you for helping to try to set the record straight about Sam Wells. The information in the DAAO biography is all correct and I wrote it based on primary and secondary records as well as further info from the family collection.

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