Edward Francis Allen Preston Ball1916-87

Edward Francis Allen Preston Ball, murderer, was born on 9 May 1916 at 40 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin, the younger son of Charles Preston Ball (d. 1957), a Dublin medical doctor who seems to have been the son of William James Ball (1830?-1895), clergyman, Indian missionary and reader in Arabic at Cambridge University.

Edward Ball’s mother, Lavena or Vena, née Weatherill, was a woman of independent means (she had £12,000 in securities). She had an exceptionally foul temper and was perhaps mentally deranged.

After leaving Shrewsbury School in 1934, Ball had difficulty settling into a career, and took on unpaid walk-on parts at the Gate Theatre, Dublin.

He lived mainly with his mother at 23 St Helen’s Road, Booterstown, Co Dublin (his parents having separated in 1927), and it was there, on 17 February 1936, after being refused £60 to go on a foreign tour with the Gate company, that he killed her with a hatchet. He moved her body by motor car to Corbawn Lane, Shankill, and deposited it in the sea, from which it was never recovered.

On 23 May, at the end of a six-day trial, Edward Ball was found guilty of Lavena Ball’s murder, but insane, and was sentenced to be detained indefinitely.

He spent 14 years at the Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Dundrum, Co Dublin, where he received regular visits from Dorothy Macardle (qv), the friend and political associate of Eamon de Valera (qv), who obtained privileges for him.

After his release in 1950, he went to Paris and admitted his guilt frankly and in detail to his friend Richard Cobb (1917-96), the historian, with whom he had been at school in Shrewsbury and whose recollections of Ball formed the content of his book A Classical Education (1985). In Cobb’s opinion, Ball, on that fatal day in 1936, ‘had acted in a sudden uncontrollable rage and under pretty severe provocation’.

Later he travelled widely on the continent and may have been employed by the Automobile Association in London. He was still living in 1984 and is believed to have died abroad. His death occurred (according to the records of Shrewsbury School) in February 1987.

From the RIA Dictionary of Irish Biography. See