At the age of six Bill Downie was sent home from hospital expected to die. A ruptured appendix had left his young life hanging in the balance. In spite of the early set back and three subsequent battles with cancer Bill (now 93 years old) exhibits a passion for life you’d expect to find in a teenage boy.
Having heard of our interest in ‘the new friend of 2h’ Bill had prepared for our visit. Sao biscuits, a variety of sweet biscuits and the kettle ready to be boiled. It took a little getting used to Bill’s broad Scottish accent (afterall, his only been in Australia for 31 years).
Sitting comfortably in his suburban home Bill chatted as if we were an old friend. He shared his memories of growing up as one of seven kids in Scotland, the troubled ear that kept him from fighting the Germans in North Africa and the day he met his wife of 64 years; the girl from Aberdeen, Evie.
Bill’s working life had a hint of British TV about it; from his first job at 14 looking after cattle, a stint as a bus conductor, a wood contractor, a forrestor, a rabbit catcher (snaring 180 rabbits in one day – possibly a world record!) then a 35 year career with the Scottish Department of Agriculture fondly remembering – ‘it was just like a holiday!’
Born in 1918, Bill knows change. Like the Aussie farmer he met shortly after immigrating in the early 80s. “He’d bought one of those new computers. And he was building a bloody shed for it!” But when asked if the world were a better place in the past, Bill gave us a glimpse into the life of a man that’s focused on living today, ‘The past was good and we were happy, but I wouldn’t like to go back’.
Thanks Bill, you’re officially the oldest friend of 2h (and possibly the most remarkable!)