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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mason, William Richard Stanley (1908–1975)

by John Knott

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

William Richard Stanley Mason (1908-1975), accountant and general manager, was born on 25 February 1908 at Bow, London, son of George Robert Mason, music-hall vocalist, and his wife Emily, née Waters. Young George was educated at Margate—at St Dunstan's College and Chatham House School for Boys. An uncle reputedly paid his school fees when the Masons fell on hard times; George changed his name to William. In 1923 the family emigrated to Sydney. Bill obtained employment in 1926 as a cashier with the fledgling National Roads and Motorists' Association. He studied accountancy at night, was admitted (1931) to the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants and rose steadily through the management ranks of the N.R.M.A. At St Stephen's Anglican Church, Woollahra, on 19 July 1930 he married Phyllis Janet Barclay.

Mason was appointed district superintendent at Lismore (1932) and Newcastle (1937). Enlisting in the Militia on 6 July 1940, he was commissioned lieutenant in December. On 14 August 1942 he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force. In 1943 he served in Papua at I Corps and New Guinea Force headquarters; in September he was promoted captain. Attached to the 165th General Transport Company in 1944-45, he became a familiar figure at Lae, New Guinea, and Jacquinot Bay, New Britain; he was usually accompanied by the unit mascot, a dog called Tiger.

Transferring to the Reserve of Officers on 5 December 1945, Mason was again successively placed in charge of the N.R.M.A. branches at Lismore and Newcastle. He studied the operation of other Australian motoring organizations in 1956 and was asked to reorganize the N.R.M.A.'s metropolitan road service branch. Popular with his subordinates, he was 5 ft 7½ ins (171 cm) tall, with fair hair and blue eyes; his dapper appearance and educated English accent belied an egalitarian streak. In 1959 he was appointed assistant-secretary of the N.R.M.A. Following an extensive overseas tour investigating motoring organizations, he was promoted general secretary in 1963.

As spokesman for the N.R.M.A., Mason supported its traditional opposition to new motoring taxes and charges, and urged that more money be spent on roads. With road safety becoming an important public issue, he increasingly found himself invited to comment on ways of reducing the escalating road toll. The N.R.M.A. supported the introduction of a blood-alcohol limit for drivers (1968) and the compulsory fitting of seat-belts in new cars (1969), but opposed the compulsory wearing of seat-belts (1971). Membership of the N.R.M.A. almost doubled during Mason's term as general secretary, reaching one million in 1972.

The demands of his successful career, and the enforced separation of war, strained the relationship with his wife. Although a daughter was born in 1947, the marriage remained an unhappy one and both partners increasingly found solace in drink. Mason belonged to the Imperial Service and Balgowlah Bowling clubs, and to the Legacy Club of Sydney; his other outlets were his dogs, gardening, bowls and fishing. He retired in 1973 and moved to Korora. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died of cancer on 2 June 1975 at Coffs Harbour District Hospital and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Broomham, On the Road (Syd, 1996)
  • Open Road, 53, no 4, Aug 1975, p 8
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Nov 1962, 11 Feb 1963, 22 Dec 1967, 4 Mar 1968, 18 July 1972
  • private information.

Citation details

John Knott, 'Mason, William Richard Stanley (1908–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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