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Saw, Charles Stuart (Ron) (1929–1992)

by Pauline Curby

This article was published online in 2016

Charles Ronald Stuart Saw (1929–1992), journalist, was born on 11 March 1929 in South Perth, son of Charles Ronald Baden Saw, stockbroker, and his wife Eugenie Marie, née Elliott, both born in Western Australia. Educated (1936–45) at Hale School, Perth, Ron began work as a cadet journalist at Kalgoorlie for Perth’s Daily News. By 1948 he was a regular columnist, displaying the humorous vein that became his trademark. In 1950 he travelled to England, where he met Patricia Jessie Andrew, a journalist. They married on 10 February 1951 at All Saints Church of England, Weston, Surrey. The couple then travelled to Montreal, Canada, where Ron worked variously as a freelance journalist and a short-order cook. They returned to Perth in December 1952.

In 1957 Saw shifted to Sydney. At the suggestion of David McNicoll, editor-in-chief at Australian Consolidated Press Ltd, he commenced as a reporter for the Daily Telegraph. McNicoll became a mentor, as did the editor of News Ltd’s Daily Mirror, Zel Rabin, who later employed Saw and encouraged his unique style. By the mid-1960s he had become a celebrated and controversial columnist, and ‘perhaps the best known humorous writer in Australia’ (McNicoll 1992, 34). Although his work was predominantly light hearted, he also produced thought-provoking and serious journalism. His compassionate story about a whale shark marooned on the shores of Botany Bay at La Perouse, published in the Daily Mirror, won a Walkley award for the best newspaper feature story (print) in 1965. Another memorable article was his emotive account in February 1967 of Ronald Ryan’s execution. In Vietnam in 1968, with the war at its height, he injected wry humour into his reports.

During his career Saw worked on a number of Sydney publications, including the Telegraph; the Mirror; an afternoon ‘screamer,’ the Sun; and later the more restrained Bulletin magazine. In 1974 he sent reports to the Australian Women’s Weekly of his adventures during a ‘world tour’ in his yacht. Usually flippant, these pieces were sometimes in a more serious vein, as in July 1974 when, in the port of Kyrenia, he witnessed the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Tall and heavily built, Saw could be aggressive and domineering, but also ‘a rollicking, devil-may-care, hard drinking and somewhat wild character’ (McNicoll 1992, 34). Stories about Saw—such as how Sir Frank Packer sacked him five times, three times in one day—became common in Sydney media circles. A combative and conservative journalist, he was immensely intelligent and witty, and ‘uniquely in tune with Sydney’s rhythms’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1992, 5).

Saw was a nominal Anglican. He and Patricia had two sons and a daughter in the 1950s and later divorced. On 5 October 1963 he married Linden Nicole Louise Martin, a stenographer, at the Presbyterian Church, Pymble. They had two sons. After divorcing a second time, on 15 July 1978 he married Elma Joan Ecuyer, née Bunt, a widowed secretary, at the Uniting Church of Australia’s Wayside Chapel of the Cross, Potts Point.

In 1978 Saw co-wrote a novel, The Back to Back Tango (with Ian Millbank), and published a collection of his articles, The Bishop and the Spinster and Other Cautionary Tales, with illustrations by Alan Moir. Notwithstanding strokes in 1979 and 1980 he continued to write occasionally for the Bulletin. An account of his rehabilitation earned him the Graham Perkin award for journalist of the year in 1980. He expanded this account into a book, The One-Fingered Typist (1981), and subsequently published Memoirs of a Fox-Trotting Man (1982, illustrated by Moir), Brief Encounters with Uncles, Great Aunts, Wombats, Womcats, Tomcats, Randy Bantam Roosters, Ducks, Pigeons, Seagulls, Elephants, Horses, Dogs, Flora and Fauna, as well as Rare Specimens of Humanity (1984, illustrated by Donald Friend), and Stroke and How I Survived It (1985, illustrated by Moir). While much of his humorous writing, with its sexist overtones, has dated, Saw produced, if not journalism, then short-form fiction that was literary, funny, insightful, and beautifully crafted. Survived by his wife and the five children of his earlier marriages, he died of cardiac arrest on 14 August 1992 at Cooroy, Queensland, and was cremated.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • McNicoll, David. ‘A Giant Struck Down.’ Bulletin (Sydney), 1 September 1992, 34
  • O’Neill, Ward. Personal communication
  • Saw, Andrew. Personal communication
  • Saw, Ron. ‘Transport Terrors.’ Daily News (Perth), 5 March 1948, 2
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘A Writer Uniquely in Tune with Sydney's Rhythms.’ 15 August 1992, 5.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Pauline Curby, 'Saw, Charles Stuart (Ron) (1929–1992)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/saw-charles-stuart-ron-17144/text28962, published online 2016, accessed online 19 November 2017.

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