cartoonist and etcher, was born in South Melbourne, 15 December 1908, son of cartoonist Ambrose Dyson , who died insane in 1913 leaving Mrs Dyson, the former Mabel Frazer, and the five-year-old Amby penniless. Frank Hardy states that Mrs Dyson was forced to take in boarders in the tenement houses around Richmond and Collingwood, where they lived. Amby attended Yarra Park State School for a few years until 1922 then worked as an unskilled labourer for the next 14 years. In 1936, aged nearly twenty-eight, he had some art training. His uncles were cartoonist Will Dyson (who lived in England until 1925) and the Bulletin writer, journalist and balladist Edward George (Ted) Dyson, who supplied all the cartoon and joke-block gags for Melbourne Punch c.1880-90, according to his brother-in-law Norman Lindsay ( Bohemians of the Bulletin , p.155), but who died in August 1931 after suffering a nervous breakdown in 1923 ( Man July 1938).
Ambrose Dyson junior – Amby to his friends – drew many cartoons for Salt during WWII (Lindesay, WWW ). Frank Hardy, who wrote Amby’s biography to introduce a memorial volume of his cartoons, joined Salt in 1944 and met him then. In 1945 Amby won first prize in the graphics section and second prize in the Civil Construction Corps section of the 'Australia at War’ exhibition at Melbourne. He joined the Communist Party the same year and remained an active member until his death.
After the war he worked on Labor Call (Melbourne), e.g. Remember The Dole 1929-1935! published 2 May 1946 (ill. Senyard, 77), and was later on the staff of the Melbourne Guardian c.1950-51 (ill. Senyard, 81, 82). A free one-page pamphlet, Liberty: Vote No Special Referendum Issue , dated 28 August 1951, is signed 'amb Dyson’ (T.J. O’Sullivan, Australian Political Pamphlets, 1949-63, SLNSW ML). The subjects of his 8 vignettes between a short polemical article and the heading 'Australia’s Tradition: Say “No” To Tyranny’, were:
1850 No Convicts [convicts in chains] 1854 No Licences [Eureka] 1916-17 No Conscription [protest march] 1938 No Jap Rearmament [worker with 'no pig-iron for Japan’ sign] 1939-45 No Fascism [soldiers] 1951 No Political Bans ['red bill’ being thrown out of 'High Court’] 1951 No Thought Control [judge reading Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy, illustrated by Dyson] Sept. 22 1951 No Dictatorship Powers! [strong male working arms holding iron stamped 'NO’ about to brand Menzies].
Hardy claims that during the [bank] referendum campaign a million [ sic ] copies of Dyson’s withering comic The Calamitous Career of Dictator Bob [Menzies] were printed. He did the art and storylines for the aggressively Australian comic book series, The Capricornia’s Crew and their Adventures (Main Publishing Company, c.1949, 6d), which was set in places like the Great Barrier Reef and Central Australia: Episode 1: The Great Barrier Reef Mystery ; Episode 2, The Lost Tribe (cover ill. Shiell p.31); Episode 3, Secret of the Lost Land (cover ill. Shiell p.147); and Episode 4 (advertised as The Lost Tribe’s Revenge – unseen by Mick Stone but p.152 in Shiell 1998).
Dyson was also a painter and illustrator. In the 1980s Stephen Scheding owned his oil painting of a mother and child alighting from a bus (39.5 × 26.5 cm), inscribed verso: 'Amby Dyson 1949 (another unfinished sketch)’. In Frank Hardy’s view, his two finest paintings were done less than a year before his death: Mayday March and Peace Festival (reproduced Hardy). A few months later, in Melbourne on 26 November 1952, he died of thrombosis, survived by his wife, Phyl, and their daughter Janie (who 'bids fair to be another Dyson artist’, said Hardy in 1953). His second child died young, a few days before Amby.