Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Worrall, David Thomas (1894–1968)

by John Spierings

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

David Thomas Worrall (1894-1968), journalist and radio-station manager, was born on 18 June 1894 at Castle Hill, New South Wales, son of Thomas Hirst Worrall, an English-born orchardist and artist, and his wife Emily Jane, née Barker, from New South Wales. Dave attended public schools in the Hunter River region and spent most of his childhood at West Maitland. He moved to Sydney as a youth, and took a junior position at the Sun newspaper, later joining the reporting staff.

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 October 1915, Worrall sailed for Egypt in December. He was wounded in the head while serving as a gunner with the 21st Field Artillery Brigade at Pozières, France, in August 1916. After recovering in England, he saw further action with the 2nd F.A.B. Returning to Sydney, he was discharged from the A.I.F. on 29 July 1919. He spent time on the staff of the Newcastle Morning Herald then in 1922 joined (Sir) Hugh Denison's Sun News-Pictorial in Melbourne. Three years later he was in New York, reporting for the World and 'stringing' for (Sir) Keith Murdoch's Melbourne Herald and Denison's Sydney Sun. Worrall came to regard the United States of America as the benchmark for innovation, design and good practice.

In 1928 Worrall returned to Melbourne and began a lifelong association with Murdoch media interests. He organized the Herald's Learn-to-Swim campaign and the 'Ideal Town' competition. On 18 April 1929 at the Independent Church, Collins Street, he married with Congregational forms Kathleen Zoe Norris who later became well known as the radio personality 'Martha Gardener'. In July 1929 Murdoch appointed Worrall manager of his fledgling radio-station 3DB with a brief to sell sponsorship by the hour and transmit 'news flashes from the resources of the Herald and Weekly Times'. Worrall was partly responsible for the first commercial 'synthetic' broadcast of Test cricket, when 3DB carried studio-produced commentaries on the 1930 Australian tour of England. From 1942 he played a key role in organizing the annual Sporting Globe-3DB Good Friday Appeal for the (Royal) Children's Hospital.

Worrall gradually moved 3DB's programming away from vaudeville, pantomime, stunts and amateurism, replacing them with big-budget music, quiz and sports productions sponsored by national advertisers and relayed to other cities. He introduced to Australia breakfast sessions, hit parades and sponsored programmes. By 1949 he had lured the Colgate and Lever shows away from his rivals and 3DB was enjoying an immense following with more than a third of Melbourne's licence-holders regularly 'tuning-in'. The station produced outstanding broadcasts of horse-racing, called by Eric Welch. An astute judge of popular culture and an able manager, Worrall kept abreast of developments in new media, including television, through correspondence and frequent overseas trips. He supported the construction of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, and ensured its popularity by staging Music for the People concerts.

Radio 3DB had been a founder of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations in 1929 and Worrall was an active member all his professional life, serving as president in 1938 after he had successfully opposed ownership limits on radio proposed by the Federal government the year before. He was a member of the Advertising Club of Victoria and a regular personality at the club's annual revues where his sense of humour shone. In 1958 he stepped down as head of 3DB. For the next three years he chaired the station's board of management. He died on 12 April 1968 at East St Kilda and was cremated. His wife and their son survived him; a daughter had predeceased him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. R. Walker, Dial 1179: The 3KZ Story (Melb, 1984)
  • C. Jones, Something in the Air (Syd, 1995)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 14 June 1951
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 1 July 1961
  • Age (Melbourne), 13 Apr 1968
  • Newspaper News and Advertising News, 26 Apr 1968
  • Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters archives (Sydney).

Citation details

John Spierings, 'Worrall, David Thomas (1894–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/worrall-david-thomas-12074/text21661, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 15 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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