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Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

More lives than a cat – vale Ron Way, 1933-2019

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David Lowe

The Northern Rivers community is sad to say goodbye to Ron Way, the much-loved TV and film director, who retired to Kyogle in 2006.

Ron, who was a staunch anti-gasfields activist and a proud member of the Bentley Gatekeepers, passed away peacefully on the weekend after a period of illness. He was 85.

Ron Way made his name directing classic Australian television shows including Pick-a-Box, My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours?, The Mavis Bramston Show, This is Your Life and Seven Little Australians. He also directed the feature film Frenchman’s Farm.

The very self-effacing Ron would always tell people that his life off-screen was more interesting though, and he certainly had his share of adventures.

He was born in Hong Kong, where his father worked for RKO Radio Pictures and was wounded trying to defend the island against the Japanese Army.

Narrowly avoiding capture, the family fled to French Indo-China and then eventually Bombay. Next stop for Ron was school in the Himalayas, then Singapore, then Perth.

In 1952 Ron was drafted for National Service, but the film bug had already bitten and he started making 16mm films with his Bell & Howell camera.

A stint in Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak and British North Borneo as a projector technician led Ron into the weird and wonderful world of early 3D, widescreen Cinemascope and 70mm. This led to the opportunity to go to the University of Southern California as a film student (the same school that produced George Lucas, Ron Howard and Sam Peckinpah).

Ron had a chance to work in Hollywood but was more excited by the new medium of television back in Australia (he also turned down the opportunity to direct Wake in Fright).

Returning to Australia in 1960, he hit the ground running at Channel 7, directing episodes of all the major shows of the time as well as specials for artists such as Johnny O’Keefe, Shirley Bassey, Louis Armstrong and Sammy Davis Jr.

Ron’s agent was Harry M. Miller, who also represented Alan Jones, leading to an ongoing friendship between these two very different men. Years later, with the Bentley Blockade in full swing, Ron was able to connect fellow Bentley Gatekeepers with Jones, adding to the pressure on the Baird Government which ultimately led to an historic win of community over invasive gasfields.

Ron loved to swim. His wife Noelle remembers first meeting him at the Freshwater sea pool in Sydney, and they remained swimming alongside one another for the next 31 years, most recently at the Kyogle Pool, where they both had season tickets.

Ron was very proud of his involvement with his adopted community of Kyogle and the Northern Rivers, before, during and after the Bentley Blockade. He brought the Kyogle cinema back to life as part of the Growing Kyogle group and was a wonderful mentor and encouraging voice to myself and many other film makers in the region. He never stopped making films, although he traded the big crews and cameras for a little handycam in later years.

Friend and Bentley farmer Rosemary Joseph remembers Ron as a lover of fine single malt whiskey. His son Adrian says he was an avid football fan.

He had several near-death experiences, including surviving a horrific light plane crash thirty years ago when he was filming in the Northern Territory, major surgery and an induced coma, but he never lost his gentle spirit and curious mind, which remained active until the end.

Ron loved his family, his cats, his curries and his community. He leaves behind his wonderful wife Noelle and children Melissa, Adrian and Jeremy, as well as stepdaughter Naomi. There will be a celebration of Ron’s life for the many people whose lives he touched in mid-July.

Vale Ron Way, a remarkable man.


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9 COMMENTS

  1. I worked with Ron on many shows at Channel 7 during the 70s and 80s…an absolute professional and a lovely lovel man…So sorry to read the sad news. Vale Ron

  2. Worked with Ron on the Channel Seven Paul Hogan Series.. Very dramatic times there but he knew what he wanted, fwd 20 yrs and shot a solid slab of Commbank “training” for two yrs with Ron and very good to work closely with him, this is a sad day.. Vale Ron Way.

  3. I was on the floor crew when Ron directed the JOK shows.
    What a talent. Always a smile on his face, always having a laugh and always around to help.
    Very very sad news…go well Ron.
    Malcolm Hunt

  4. I worked with Ron in early 60’s on Sing Sing Sing , Shirley Bassey , Lesley Uggams, Sammy Davis Jr , Pick a Box , and others ….talented and lovely man , Vale Ron Way.

  5. I met Ron only once. Harry Miller was in our office at old Parliament House (he was a friend of my boss Doug Anthony) discussing plans to record an election policy speech for television. Harry rang someone and said he wanted the person to do something buckshee. He was talking to Ron. We spent a day and part of the night at a studio somewhere in Sydney doing the recording. By this time I realised I had nowhere booked to stay the night, and Ron very kindly took me to his home (I think in Manly somewhere) and gave me a bed for what was left of the night. Doug’s driver picked me up early next morning while the household were still asleep. A small but kind gesture by Ron. I learned in more recent years from my niece Margaret Hogan and her husband Jim that Ron was living in Kyogle and we made brief contact online. A very nice man and I am sorry to hear of his passing. Barrie Virtue

  6. I wondered why I never heard from Ron Way for a couple of years, as we had planned for him to come to dinner here at our farm in the Channon.

    I met Ron I think in the early days in NSW or WA as I also travelled the world at speed. However I most recently caught up while filming him for Chris O’Reilly who was making a film on another Kyogle resident, the late English actor Robin Stewart.

    We talked about the early days of the cinema and we planned to make a doco about his career. We had alot in common but sadly we never met again except over the phone.

    I was very pleased to read about his support for the Bentley Blockade for ANTI FRACKING. Down the road from us here at Kerrong there were fears the stream could be set fire. I was an early supporter of Lock the Gate.

    So I will never complete a story on Ron’s Life. It sounds like I misssed a chance of my lifetime. RIP Ron we will see you over the Rainbow.

    Cheers Jon

  7. Thanks for all the wonderful comments. My Dad would have been very chuffed by all the love he has received since his passing.

  8. I only published an internet article about the cult possibilities of Frenchman’s Farm on my website cult film alley a few weeks ago! Was hoping to chase up an interview when I heard! What a legend!

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