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What a Dagg – John Clarke Dies

Fred Dagg was one of his most iconic characters, but who was the man behind the character, John Clarke?

John Clarke was Thursday’s child as the Mother Goose nursery rhymes says: “Thursday’s child has far to go”.

He was born on Thursday, July 29, 1948. He died on Sunday, April 9, 2017.

Fred Dagg to you and I, if you were over 40, was the most real person you could ever meet.

Yes, a ‘character on the telly’, but you wouldn’t be surprised if he showed up down the dairy, at the supermarket, or down the pub sharing his dry wit insight of the sheer stupidity of the political grandstanding that goes on with politicians.

All of this, while sporting his usual garb of classic floppy Khaki hat, black singlet, shorts and gumboots, sporting a good mullet and dead-span earnest expression.

He, Fred Dagg, was indeed a fictional character who was modelled on a down-to-earth Taihape farmer who poked fun at the stereotypical kiwi bloke, he just knew how to not take himself too seriously.

People would chime in without any formal cue, We don’t know how lucky we are. Or you would hear the ragged tones about being ‘If it weren’t for my gumboots, ….I’d be in the infirmary’, whatever an infirmary is?

New Zealand lost Fred Dagg to Australia in the late ’70’s, everyone lost the satire comic genius of John Clarke Monday 10, April 2017.

His peers came out of the woodwork in their droves to express their shock and sense of loss at his parting;

Sam Neill observed: “Probably the happiest experience I’ve ever had on a film,” Neill told the ABC’s tribute program John Clarke: Thanks For Your Time. This was where the two New Zealand-born actors developed a lifelong friendship, Neill played a chef while Clarke had the part of a Melbourne gravedigger.

Rachel Stewart said: “I was too young to fully comprehend Clarke’s genius but old enough to know he was something distinct. Different from anyone else before. He took my childhood of the 70s and threw it down the party line. Three long, one short. Pick up. It’s for us.”

Taihape Federated Farmers vice president Fraser Gordon said: “It’s very sad and so soon after Murray Ball’s death.”

Footrot Flats creator Ball died on March 12 and Clarke was the voice of farmer Wal in the animated film version of the cartoon series.

“Those two created wonderful Kiwi characters and they appealed to farmers,” Gordon said.

John Clarke outgrew New Zealand in the late 70’s, moving to Australia where using his natural dry wit to carve his own way, he was picked up by the ABC, where he worked in radio TV and print, also as a creator of many short punchy satirical shows, often assisted by his counter-point “interviewer” Bryan Dawe.

His friend and work colleague of 30 years, Dawe said: “I’ll let you in on a secret, people have always asked me: ‘How did you sit across from him and not laugh?’

“I’ve never told anyone till now. It was simple really. I never looked into his eyes. I always looked at his forehead. If I looked into his eyes, I was gone.”

Dave Varley
Hi. As a Kiwi guy, I am passionate about life with my wife and daughter in West Auckland. I am a proud Westie who's learning all things radio and journalism! Lovin' it, too!
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