BY BILL WELBOURNE
Bill and I were great mates and this is confusing to some of our 1962-63 ASOPA colleagues. We were different in many ways but this made our friendship all the more interesting.
I was the athlete and Bill loved his music. He had a strong Roman Catholic faith and I was Anglican. Bill met his wife Joan when they sang in the church choir, prior to ASOPA. My late wife Pam and his wife Joan became firm friends after we married while at college. My wedding was in December 1962 and his was September 1963.
At college we often dined together, played Canasta and sometimes saw a movie. We convinced our wives to enroll for the 6 month E Course for teachers to commence in Rabaul in February 1964. Our wives actually arrived in Rabaul a day ahead of Bill and me in November 1963.
They were met by Father Franke and the were temporarily accommodated in Wanlis flats. We were then posted... Nodup T School for me and I think Rabarua for Bill. The following February our wives started the E Course but they could not cope as they were both pregnant.
Bill and I had to confront Frank Boisen, the District Education Officer, to tell him the news. Frank mumbled as strode off hitching up his pants, “'That's the trouble with Wanlis...There's not enough room to bend over or swing a cat.!'”
In May my son Tony was born and around the same as Joan gave birth to Helen.
We often dined together in Rabaul. At home one evening in 1966 we were enjoying a fondue and listening to some grand music on Bill's huge state-of-the-art tape deck. The newly constructed terrace houses were built close together and were known as the European Compound. Some were rented privately.
A German group was carousing noisily and even played their national anthem. Bill was fed up with this and taped it and played it back at twice the volume. There was some muttering, then silence followed. Later on Bill was posted to Bougainville and I went over to the Lands Department in Port Moresby. But we always kept in touch.
We left PNG after after Independence in 1975. Bill and Joan decided to live at Bathurst even though parents lived in Sydney. They wanted to settle in an area with four seasons and one that had good cultural and education facilities.
Bill taught in the convent schools for a while and then became a businessman. He had a electrical shop selling lights and he ran a laundromat. He sold these after he built his rental units in Durham Street, Bathurst.
I would visit them and we would have eggs Florentine for breakfast at their son Chris's reaturant in central Bathurst. Bill and Joan were practicing musicians and, right up to his death, Bill was in charge of the Bathurst Orchestral Group.
He and Joan often travelled to music festivals in country NSW and New Zealand. Their younger daughter Penny is a brilliant violinist who once was a member of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. She now works as a journalist in Alice Springs. She spent time in Holland where Bill was born 71 years ago.
Bill was born in Rotterdam, Holland on 19 June 1940. During the war his father volunteered as a cook when he was captured by the Germans. He was a butcher by trade. The family lived together in an upstairs apartment while big pots of stew were cooked downstairs. So they survived the war.
His father joined the Dutch army and went to Indonesia after the war. Sukarno and the Moslems vied for control and independence for Indonesia. Bill attended school and one day there was heavy shooting. His dad collected him and got his family to close the shutters and to stay inside. Moslem terrorists shot all the red coated police and army personnel they could... about 100.
The family returned to Holland and he went to school there. They returned to Indonesia in 1947 after things settled down and Bill had to have lessons in Indonesian after they got Independence. His father was a sausage maker and got a job in Borneo but he tossed it in as there was lots of violence there.
He didn't want to go back to Holland so where? South Africa, Argentina, Canada or Australia? And that's how Bill ended up in Australia. He attended primary and secondary schooling here and learnt the piano after school. Through his Roman Catholic connections he got a job at a garage and then studied science/ industrial chemistry for first year university.
Bill then worked for a paint maker who offered more money once Bill was approved for ASOPA. Bill was to join the 1961-62 ASOPA intake but he had a cut on his face from a close shaver which needed to be checked out by a specialist for a possible skin problem. He was automatically included in the 1962-63 intake.
Bill's love of music which stayed with him to the end. He was in pain from asbestosis and was heavily drugged when admitted into Bathurst Hospital a week ago. On Christmas night at 3 am Helen sang Silent Night and her father struggled up and managed to sing a few lines with her.
Bill is survived by his wife Joan, his two daughters Helen and Penelope and his sons Christopher and Timothy.
His funeral is set down for 11.30am on Friday 6 January at St Michael and St Johns Cathedral, Bathurst.