Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lashwood, Harold Francis (Hal) (1915–1992)

by Joyce Morgan

This article was published online in 2016

Harold Francis (Hal) Lashwood (1915–1992), entertainer and actors’ advocate, was born on 13 August 1915 at Paddington, Sydney, fifth child of English-born John Richard Davies, actor, and his New South Wales-born wife Christina Margaret, née Colreavy. Hal spent his childhood travelling around Australia with his father, a vaudeville entertainer whose stage name was Joe Lashwood. He credited his desire to become a performer to his early years watching his father’s shows and being surrounded by show business people. He adopted Lashwood as a stage name and later changed it formally by deed poll.

As a teenager Lashwood studied tap dancing and after leaving school at sixteen he joined the theatrical company J. C. Williamson Ltd as a specialty dancer, touring Australia and New Zealand. Keen for an acting role, he left the company after three years and joined a travelling variety show. Although he once filled in as a clown when a company funny-man became ill, he made his name as a straight man or ‘feed.’ He moved from variety to acting in 1941, appearing in The Man Who Came to Dinner at the Minerva Theatre, Sydney, alongside Dick Bentley. He subsequently appeared in a number of stage shows, including The Patsy, The Wind and the Rain, and The Squall, performing with Queenie Ashton and John McCallum.

Lashwood combined stage work with radio, joining Jack Davey’s Colgate-Palmolive Radio Unit in the early 1940s and meeting Roy ‘Mo’ Rene. With his catchcry of ‘Aaaaaaah there, McCackie!’ Lashwood became best known as Mister Lasho, Mo’s nosey neighbour in the popular sketch ‘McCackie Mansion.’ Premiering in 1947 it ran for nearly three years as part of the Calling the Stars variety program, which was then the most-listened-to show on Australian radio. In 1948 Lashwood was voted the ‘most handsome man in radio’ (SMH 1992, 4).

On 10 March 1947 at the district registrar’s office, Newcastle, Lashwood married Mollie Jean Mackay, née Crothers. Although based in Sydney for most of his adult life, after his wedding Lashwood lived for a few years at elegant Anambah House, a mansion near Maitland built by the grazier family of Mollie’s first husband, Kenneth Mackay (d. 1928). In a more sedate era, Lashwood provoked the ire of the dean of Newcastle, the Very Reverend W. A. Hardie, who complained in 1951 that the entertainer had organised a dance in the city on a Sunday. Lashwood was fined and ordered to pay costs. The case prompted calls by the New South Wales Labour Council for the State government to change legislation to allow public entertainment on Sundays.

During the 1950s the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation monitored Lashwood’s activities, recording in 1957 that he had been ‘active for a number of years in Communist-sponsored Peace campaigns and cultural activities’ (NAA, A6119). With the advent of television, he ventured onto the small screen, compering the variety show Shower of Stars, and quiz programs The Quiz Kids and Beat the Brains. He also hosted Hal Lashwood’s Alabama Jubilee (1958–59) and Hal Lashwood's Minstrels (1960–61). An unlikely guest on the latter, in a program featuring blacked-up artists in December 1960, was the African-American performer and activist Paul Robeson.

Lashwood’s longest-running role was as president (1951–76) of the Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia. He had joined the association while with J. C. Williamson Ltd and was appointed to the federal council in 1941. His advocacy on behalf of Australian performers prompted an unsuccessful tilt at Federal politics in 1955, when he stood as an Independent candidate for the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Wentworth on the single issue of increasing the level of Australian content planned for the new medium of television. In 1963 he was inaugural chairman of the Australian National Television Council. He was also a long-serving member of two committees of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: the Mass Communications Committee and the Committee for the Arts.

In January 1973 the Whitlam Government appointed Lashwood to the board of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As the first appointee of the new Labor government, Lashwood was a lonely figure in a conservative boardroom, but he enthusiastically promoted the use of Australian programs. In an interview shortly after his appointment he observed: ‘I believe there is an upsurge of nationalism sweeping Australia today and I believe the broadcasting systems should reflect this nationalism’ (Lashwood 1973). The Fraser Government did not reappoint him when his term expired in 1976.

Lashwood subsequently switched his attention to local politics. In 1977 he was elected to Waverley council as a Labor alderman; he served for a decade including three years as deputy mayor. He had smoking banned from the council chamber, led moves to have council meetings opened to the public, and advocated for Bondi Pavilion to be used as a cultural centre. He was awarded the OAM in 1982 for services to the entertainment industry. Predeceased by his wife (1980) and survived by his only daughter, Lashwood died on 26 March 1992 at Darlinghurst, Sydney, after a lengthy battle with cancer. A memorial service was held at the Sydney Opera House on 28 April.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • ABC Weekly. ‘Hal Lashwood, Heir of the Footlights, Who Danced from the Tyrol to Drama.’ 10 November 1945, 11
  • Inglis, Ken. This is the ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1932-1983. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1983
  • Lashwood, Hal. Interview by Hazel de Berg, 12 February 1973. Sound recording. Hazel de Berg collection. National Library of Australia
  • Muswellbrook Chronicle. ‘ABC Stars of the Air: Hal Lashwood, Versatile Sydney Actor.’ 22 January 1943, 6
  • National Archives of Australia. A6119, 517
  • Parsons, Fred. A Man Called Mo. Melbourne: Heinemann, 1973
  • Swancott, Neal. ‘The ABC’s New Commissioner Finds it Lonely at the Top.’ Financial Review (Sydney). 19 June 1973, 1, 7
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Straight Man Who Became a Star in Radio’s Great Days.’ 28 March 1992, 4

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Joyce Morgan, 'Lashwood, Harold Francis (Hal) (1915–1992)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lashwood-harold-francis-hal-17116/text28946, published online 2016, accessed online 24 November 2017.

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