Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ferry, Michael Augustus (1872–1943)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Michael Augustus Ferry (1872-1943), pioneer racing commentator, was born on 24 November 1872 at Albury, New South Wales, second son of Irish parents Bryan Ferry, servant and later grazier, and his wife Bridget, née Ferry. By 1894 he was a grazier at Bullenbong, near Hanging Rock; defeated by the long drought, he was working as a labourer in Sydney in 1898-1900. About 1900 he went to Perth and in May next year his appointment as a racecourse detective, at a guinea ($2.10) a meeting, was confirmed by the West Australian Turf Club. In 1904 he was employed as a wool-classer. He later claimed to have been a steward and handicapper in the West and the Riverina. He was associated with A. E. Cochran, owner of the Belmont Park racecourse, who in 1905 sent him to France, Britain and the United States of America looking for bloodstock.

By 1908 Mick Ferry had set up as a horse-dealer at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, and bought and sold horses for the Indian market. In 1911 he gathered together a team of rough-riders and buck-jumpers which he took to England, probably for the Festival of Empire. About 1923 Ferry left Wagga and moved to Randwick, Sydney where he worked as a labourer. At his own suggestion, in 1925 he began early morning broadcasts of the training gallops for radio station 2FC (then a private company). They proved so popular that he was asked to do race commentaries—his first big race broadcast was the Australian Jockey Club Easter meeting in 1925.

At first commentators were not allowed on racecourses. At Canterbury Ferry broadcast from a fowlyard, often feeding the birds to keep them quiet, and at Moorefield his stand was outside the course at the top of the straight—in the final drive to the winning post he could see only the horses' rumps, which made it difficult to pick the places, especially in big fields. By October 1926 2FC had a private stand at Randwick. Ferry spoke in 'clear incisive tones' and allowed 'a little of the excitement … to creep into his voice'. He often called a horse during the race as '100 to 1 on' to win, and was never nonplussed if it failed. From 1932 he continued his broadcasts for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

In addition to actual race broadcasts, Ferry clocked the training gallops and reported back on form over 2FC long before the newspapers appeared. He attended and reported on the annual yearling sales, took part in ball-to-ball descriptions of Test matches and was racing correspondent for several Queensland newspapers. Until his last illness he supplied the A.B.C. with acceptances and results as well as assisting with race commentaries.

Ferry died from cancer at the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, on 5 April 1943 and was buried in the Catholic section of Botany cemetery. He was survived by his wife Julia née Condon, whom he had married in Sydney on 25 October 1927; she celebrated her hundredth birthday in 1972 and died on 6 November 1975.

Select Bibliography

  • Wireless Weekly, 22 Oct 1926
  • Listener In, 10 Sept 1932
  • ABC Weekly, 24 Apr–5 May 1943
  • Radio Active, Nov 1972
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Apr 1943, 26 Jan 1972.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Ferry, Michael Augustus (1872–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ferry-michael-augustus-6161/text10583, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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