Friday, June 29, 2018

A Gentle Man

James William Ball
I remember a kind, gentle and happy man whose family meant the world to him. My father-in-law James William BALL was born 100 years ago today.

I could not let this day go past without remembering Jim and recording some details of his life. As posts from this blog are archived by Pandora, a service of the National Library of Australia, Jim’s story will be preserved on that site for years to come. This story is that of an ordinary Australian, who in the eyes of his family was an extraordinary father and grandfather. I thank my husband for allowing me to use an article he wrote about his family as a basis for this post.

James William BALL or Jim, as he was known, the only child of English Migrants James BALL (1890-1931) and Harriet PARKINSON (1879-1940), was born on 29 June 1918 at a property belonging to his paternal grandmother Emily Ball (nee Royds) in Terminus Street, Liverpool, NSW.

Jim had fond memories of his early years spent living at the Circular Quay Fire Station in George Street, Sydney where his father, a fireman, was stationed. In 1922 when Jim was five and his father was stationed at Kogarah the family moved to that area.

He attended a local Catholic school and then Kogarah Boys’ High School where his English teacher was the great Australian cricketer Bill O’Reilly. Jim left school after completing his Intermediate Certificate. Although his formal education was minimal Jim had a thirst for learning. He was a lifelong learner and reader who enjoyed entering into discussions on a broad range of topics.

At the age of 13 Jim’s childhood came to an abrupt end when he found his father deceased, whilst his mother was in hospital. Jim was very devoted to his mother, who was partially crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. He cared for her lovingly at their home in 22 Hampton Court Road, Kogarah. Jim's sensitive and caring nature was evident to all who came in contact with him. Jim very soon became fond of gardening to ensure that his mother was always surrounded by flowers. Right through his life Jim maintained his interest in gardening as he tended his colourful manicured garden and immaculate weed free lawn.

As times were tough Jim took a couple of jobs which involved night work so he could care for his mother in their home. As night work was too worrying for his mother he accepted a position as a garage assistant in St Peters and later a sales representative at White Signet Sweet Manufacturers. His duties brought him in contact with Daphne Williamena Edith Gillespie who was charmed by his telephone manner. He became a regular visitor to her home, often taking flowers from the garden in a suitcase to Daphne’s mother and very soon Daph and he were in love.

When Jim, at the age of 21, found his mother dead he was devastated. Daphne’s mother invited him into her home where he was treated as one of the family. Two years later, on 20 September 1941, Daphne and Jim were married at All Saints Church of England,Petersham. Jim and Daphne spent their first few years in a home at 22 Grantham Street, Burwood that belonged to Daphne’s Uncle. 

Jim and Daph's Wedding Day
The smoke was always in Jim’s veins after years of living in Fire Stations. Following his employment as a Confectionery Salesman he followed his father into the N.S.W. Fire Brigade on 12 September 1941. Jim resigned from the militia and since the Fire Brigade was an essential service he was exempted from service in the Second World War.

Jim Ball - Militia Member
Jim progressed through the ranks of Third, Second and First Class Fireman, Senior Fireman, Station Officer and District Officer. He was predominantly stationed at Stanmore, Headquarters (Castlereagh Street, Sydney) and Waterloo, NSW. For career progression it was necessary to undertake country service which he did at East Maitland. He was awarded the Queen’s Fire Brigade Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Although lacking lengthy formal education, Jim displayed considerable intellect and undertook his studies within the Fire Brigade with distinction, frequently passing at high levels. Before Daphne returned to full time work Jim supplemented his income from the Fire Brigade as a salesman selling brooms from door to door.

Daphne bore Jim two sons, James and Robert. When the boys were young the family lived in a home at 36 Middle Street, Marrickville that had been purchased from Daphne’s mother. 

Robert (Left) and James M. (Right) with Jim Ball

Daph and Jim with James M. and Robert 1989
In 1959 the family moved to a newly built house in Annette Avenue on the Moorefield Estate, a former racecourse, in Kogarah, a suburb with which Jim had an affinity. Jim lived in this home for the remainder of his life. 

10 Annette Avenue Kogarah
Daph and Jim, having experienced the deprivation of opportunities to progress academically encouraged their children, James and Robert to utilize their full capacity. Jim who was deprived of opportunity instilled high goals in his offspring. Tertiary education became a “must” and the challenge of success was paramount. Jim had a football saying which can be adopted both on the field in any code or in life in any arena: “Punt High and Follow on”. This saying echoed in James and Robert’s ears. The boys were given good leadership through guidance and example.

Jim retired from the Fire Brigade on his sixtieth birthday, 29 June 1978, after a car accident in 1977 left him with physical constraints and lower back pain. Fitness was always important for service in the Fire Brigade and in the rear yard of Stanmore Fire Station (No. 7) there was a mock-up of a wrestling ring. Jim would wrestle with others but one was a special challenge as he was a professional wrestler.

Jim on the job
Jim had always been a keen sportsman having played rugby league and rugby union with St George. Jim who was loyal to the St George Rubgy League team throughout his life relishing any opportunity he had to follow their games. He played lawn bowls as a member of the Brighton le Sands Bowling Club and was an official umpire with the Royal NSW Bowling Association. Jim’s training and a love of exercise continued in later life when he walked to and swam in Botany Bay almost every day in the warmer months of the year. As Jim usually walked down to the Bay for his swim, he was fondly known to many members of the local community with whom he chatted on his perambulations.

Jim, Daph and family 1982
In retirement Jim and Daph were active members of the local Probus Club enjoying the various outings arranged by the group. They took several holidays in Australia but didn’t venture overseas further than New Zealand. During this period Jim and Daph spent much time with their seven grandchildren. Jim was very patient with the children as they ‘helped’ him in the garden. When the children had sleepovers he loved taking them down to play and swim in Botany Bay particularly at the baths in Kyeemagh.

Jim and Daph 1985
Through eating healthy food and rarely touching an alcoholic drink Jim enjoyed good health during his life. It was therefore a shock to he and the family when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1988. He went into surgery for this cancer but the doctors did not continue with the proposed major procedure as the cancer was too far gone. Following on this diagnosis Jim tried a diet of fruit and vegetable juices but it didn’t have the desired effect.

James William BALL died on 27 September 1990 in Calvary Hospital, Kogarah from advanced gastric carcinoma (2 years). His Funeral Service was held on 3 October 1990 in St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Waverley. A Guard of Honour was presented by members of the NSW Fire Brigade. He was cremated on 3 October 1990 in Eastern Suburbs Crematorium, Botany, NSW and his ashes were later interred with his parents in Woronora Cemetery, Sutherland, NSW.

James William Ball 1918-1990


Nina said...

What a great family story Jill. He certainly sounds like a lovely man.

Kerryn Taylor said...

A very lovely tribute Jill.

Jennifer Jones said...

Lovely to read this story Jill. you have many beautiful memories of a much loved family member.

Celia Lewis said...

What lovely inspiring memories. A very loving write up, Jill. 💕

GeniAus said...

Thanks all for your comments.


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