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Tributes flow for cartoonist Murray Ball

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/03/2017

Prime Minister Bill English says he's saddened to hear of the death of Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball.

The cartoonist was a thoughtful New Zealander "who took our unique sense of humour to the world", he says.

His widow, Pam Ball, told Radio New Zealand he died at home at 11.30am on Sunday, surrounded by family.

Their three children and grandchildren are there, as well as Mr Ball's brother Barry and close friends, she says.

He was aged 78 and had been suffering from Alzheimers for eight years.

Tributes are flowing on social media, with many saying Footrot Flats characters Wal, Cooch and Dog are etched in their childhood memories forever.

"Gave dad a new Footrot Flats book every Xmas as a kid," one person tweeted.

"Decaying back porches full of oilskins and gumboots. Country rugby clubs. Erosion. Old motorbikes modified with nail boxes," another person tweeted.

The cartoons ran from 1976 until 1994 in newspapers and were released in book form.

Journalist Mike Field wrote on Facebook that at the now long gone Evening Post editor Mike Robson came into the newsroom with a wad of paper.

"In what passed as market research in those days, he said a friend of his, back from England, had created a cartoon strip. What did we think, he wanted to know. I don't remember a single negative word; we all loved it."

The cartoons depicted farming life and addressed big issues of the times.

The central character was Wal Footrot's sheepdog called Dog whose thoughts were voiced in thought bubbles.

In 1986 the feature film Footrot Flats: The Dog's (Tail) Tale and its theme song "Slice of Heaven" were huge hits in New Zealand and Australia.

Mr Ball was educated in New Zealand and Australia before his parents moved the family to South Africa.

He stopped drawing Footrot Flats in 1994, citing disillusionment with economic policies pursued in New Zealand at the time.

The great question of what Dog's name actually was was never answered.

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