Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Ion Maxwell-Mahon (1881–1956)

by W. D. Maxwell-Mahon

This article was published:

William Ion Maxwell-Mahon (1881-1956), actor, soldier and writer, was born on 19 February 1881 at Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, England, eldest son of John William Sims Mahon, secretary to the Junior Naval and Military Club, Portsmouth, and his wife Catherine Adeline Maxwell, née Gill. He was educated at Bowden House, Harrow, and King's College School, London. On 1 January 1900 he enlisted as a private in the Imperial Yeomanry, fought briefly in the South African War, deserted, and returned to England. As William Maxwell he enlisted as a trooper in the Royal Household Cavalry, 2nd Life Guards, but bought himself out on 7 July 1902.

Using Ion Maxwell as a stage name he joined Frank Benson's Shakespearean company in 1903 and toured the English provinces until 1905. He married Maud Marian Jay, a Gaiety girl, in London on 1 August 1906.

Separated from his wife, he migrated to Australia in 1907 with his brother Arthur Mahon to farm near Beaudesert, Queensland. He then taught music at the Southport School before joining J. C. Williamson's Royal Comic Opera Company, Sydney. Maxwell-Mahon was in the first Australian performance at Her Majesty's, Sydney, in 1910 of Our Miss Gibbs and of The Quaker Girl in 1912. After touring New Zealand for the second time with six of Williamson's musical comedies he took part in the first all-Australian revue at Her Majesty's in 1913. He appeared with Muriel Starr and Maggie Moore in various productions during 1914. He married Gertrude Amy Phillips, a young Australian actress, on 5 September 1914 at Prahran, Melbourne.

On 15 August Maxwell-Mahon had enlisted in the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade, Australian Imperial Force, again using the name William Maxwell; he was wounded at Gallipoli on 21 June 1915. After promotion to sergeant in January 1916 and transfer to the 4th Division Artillery, he was wounded at Ypres and discharged medically unfit in Melbourne on 20 June 1918. Towards the end of 1918 he organized and toured Australian capital cities in the first 'Diggers' theatrical company.

Maxwell-Mahon was engaged by the Maurice E. Bandman Operatic Company to tour India in 1919 with musical comedies and he went on with Bandman to Egypt. During 1920-21 he played revues as Ion Maxwell in the English provinces and pantomime in South Africa. He married Edythe Augusta Cowley, a South African singer and actress, in Sydney on 20 July 1922.

In 1922-25 he was a master at Toowoomba Grammar School, produced for the Toowoomba Operatic Society, and was co-editor of the Countrywoman and Social, contributing regularly as 'Neil Street'. Returning to the stage in 1925 he took his own small companies through northern Queensland and inland to Broken Hill, New South Wales. Bankrupted by this barnstorming he accepted engagements to perform with (Dame) Judith Anderson, Nellie Stewart and other contemporary actresses. He and his wife toured Tasmania in comedies for the Brandon-Cremer Players during 1927. With Gaston Mervale he produced and performed in the first Australian stage dramatization of Grand Guignol plays in Sydney during January 1928.

After casual broadcasting for 2BL and 2FC in 1926, he began a new career with the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the 1930s. As Ion Maxwell he was solely responsible for drama production of A.B.C. programmes in Queensland from 1942 and until his retirement in 1946 wrote and acted in scores of radio plays, sketches and revues for 4QG. He and his wife June Carter, an Australian actress born Mavis Jeannette Brayne, whom he married in Brisbane on 15 June 1933, helped to pioneer radio transmission of Shakespearean plays for schools in Queensland. He died at Nambour Hospital on 8 June 1956 and with Anglican rites was buried in Nambour cemetery. He had one daughter by each of his first, second and fourth wives and a son by his third wife.

Select Bibliography

  • C. G. Pearce, Horace Henry Dixon and the Genesis of the Southport School (Brisb, 1976)
  • Footlights, 14 Dec 1910, 13 Mar 1914
  • Theatre (Sydney, Melbourne), 1 May 1911, 1 Jan 1913
  • Teleradio, 18 Dec 1927, 28 Aug 1937
  • Old Southportian Review, July 1976
  • W. Maxwell-Mahon, ‘Ion Maxwell: Forty years in Australian theatre and radio’, Australasian Drama Studies, vol 2, no 2, Apr 1984, p 91
  • Bulletin, 10 Feb 1910
  • Times of India, 22 Apr 1919
  • South African Pictorial, 10 Dec 1921
  • Mercury (Hobart), 11 July 1927
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Jan 1928
  • Maxwell-Mahon newsclippings and programmes (State Library of Victoria and Victorian Arts Centre Trust Archives)
  • ABC Archives, Sydney
  • family papers (privately held)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

W. D. Maxwell-Mahon, 'Maxwell-Mahon, William Ion (1881–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Maxwell, William
  • Maxwell, Ion
  • Mahon, William Ion
  • Street, Neil

19 February, 1881
Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, England


8 June, 1956 (aged 75)
Nambour, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.