Ward 'Pally' Austin 1935-1998

Lonely death for "Pally" - the DJ with the rebel yell

Obituary by David Dale
Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 1998

It is given to few men in their lifetimes to contribute a new phrase to the language of their society. In a radio career lasting almost 40 years, Ward Austin contributed three: "Too much for the human unit", "Anytime you're ready, pally" and "A rickapoodie and a fandooglie". Those phrases may not survive into the new millennium, but when Ward "Pally" Austin was in his prime, they dominated the dialogue of Sydney's school playgrounds.

The 63-year-old disc jockey, also known as Baby, The White Knight, The Confederate Cowboy and the Peter Pan of the Airwaves, was found by friends on Tuesday night in the lounge room of the St Ives mansion which he had described as "like a scaled-down version of Tara in Gone With The Wind". Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

His contemporaries from the "golden age" of rock'n'roll rushed to pay tribute. John Laws described him as "a wonderful eccentric". Brian Henderson said he was the last of a generation of disc jockeys who "made a record come alive by talking about it". John Brennan, program director of 2UE, said Austin had brought "fun, excitement and rock'n'roll" to Sydney afternoon radio in the 1960s. "He did some silly things, but he was so lovable you would end up forgiving him," he said.

Only Bob Rogers, now the morning DJ on 2CH, was prepared to put his raised eyebrow into words. "I think Ward stayed too long at the fair. The image overtook him. If you try to stay "with it' for too long, it can screw you up in the head." Rogers remembers Austin's big city debut at 2UE in 1960. "He arrived with the name Ward Austin Gargan but management told him to drop the last name. They gave him the death shift, midnight to dawn, and that was where he found what he wanted to do, which was to be a rebel. It wasn't long before he was sacked."

That became the pattern of Austin's career - land at a new radio station, hit the big time, then get sacked for saying something on air that offended the management (such as "how would you like something hot and throbbing between your legs?" when advertising a motor bike). His off-air behaviour was just as outrageous: raided by the police for possessing unlicensed firearms, involved in nightclub brawls, getting an ice bucket emptied over his head allegedly for making racist remarks to Sammy Davis Jr, proclaiming his love for 14-year-old schoolgirl Irene Combe in 1965 when he was 31 (and marrying her three years later).

As the years went on the gaps between radio stints grew longer. In the early 1990s, Austin announced he was taking Prozac to relieve depression. His last public statement was in 1996, when he told The Daily Telegraph why he had undergone penile implant surgery. "I was born in January 1935, the same month and the same year as Elvis Presley and my old mate, Johnny O'Keefe. The difference is that Elvis and Johnny are dead. But after all the booze, all the late nights and all the cigarettes, the Pally is still alive ... I'm not living with anyone now but I would like to resume an active sex life, which I plan to do as soon as possible."