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Vale William Anthony (Bill) Hill 29 July 1927 - 2 November 2019

By Vanessa Wiltshire

Bill Hill was the third child of Bern and Annie Hill of Derrinal and the fourth and the last of the third generation of Hills of Derrinal to pass away. He survived his sister Marie, 42 (died 1968), Frank 84 (2009), and John 79 (2013).

A requiem mass was held at St Columba’s Catholic Church, Elwood, on November 12, a wake at his nearby home, and burial at Springvale Cemetery with his wife Annette (nee Ring) who passed away in December 2018, formally of South Heathcote.

Bill grew up and saw the droughts of 1935-45 and the floods of 1956, which were a major influence on the Bolte Government to create Lake Eppalock. This in turn meant the Hill family was to lose 1100 acres of prime farming land. Each year five to six cuts of Lucerne without irrigation were harvested. A trial paddock below Bill’s house was conducted, with more than six sheep per acre being run and cutting 15 pounds of wool or over 90 pounds of wool each — more than double the next best in the district.

Bill attended the Langworner Primary School and rode his bike 8km to and from the school. He said “it was uphill both ways”. One frosty morning without gloves he turned back with frostbitten fingers only to be told sternly by his father to get on his bike and get to school. He later attended Kostka Hall in Brighton (Xavier College) and later, the Kew campus of the college.

Returning from school, he teamed up with his brother Frank and began to develop the farm. The farm would soon have to support three sons. Then with improvements to fencing and superphosphate the brothers bought Merino sheep and benefited from the Korean War wool boom of the early 1950s.

Rabbits were in plague proportions and a pack of dogs were put to work, including greyhounds, whippets, fox terriers and a red kelpie dog (from Uncle Bill Hill of Summerhill Craigieburn). In July 1948, the brothers bought a 16 HP TEA Ferguson tractor. It became the workhorse of the farm replacing their father’s Clydesdales. They reverted to breeding Corriedale Sheep in the mid-1950s and sheared 554 bales of wool. So, the Lincoln sheep and Clydesdale horses of their father were replaced.

Bill was extremely fit and was a gifted sportsman; in particular he was a very good tennis player.

He excelled at football with his speed and anticipation of the ball. He was a member of the Knowsley Football Club’s only premiership-winning team of 1948, captained by Greg Frances. Bill played centre half back and was put up against the famed Bill O’Sullivan of Mia Mia who was the centre half forward for North Heathcote and had recently returned home after a try-out with Carlton in the VFL. Bill’s performance in this match showed he possessed the talent to play at a higher level, so he crossed to South Bendigo in 1950 and 1951. He was an instant success and was awarded Best on Ground by the Sporting Globe in the premiership-winning grand final of 1951.

Shortly after, he married Annette Ring of South Heathcote and had four daughters at Derrinal. The family were able to get a settlement from the Bolte Government for their land and Bill decided to take his share and move to 21 Normandy Rd, Elwood in 1962. He subsequently had a son, Bill, and a fifth daughter, Rebecca.

He suddenly had to make an income to support his family. He invested in a butcher shop and licenced grocery with Ted Carey. Then he bought a farm at Clarkefield called Granthurst and subdivided it after cleaning up the rocks. Thinking of his son Bill, he bought Possum Donaldson’s farm, Merrindal at Tooborac, off Ross Shelmerdine. It was superbly fenced and capable of running four sheep to the acre. He decided to sell it just before the 1982 drought and sponsor his son Bill as a pilot. ‘Young Bill’ flew the Melbourne to Tokyo trip for Qantas for many years.

With his six children leaving home, he downsized from No 21 to No 7 Normandy Road. Living so close to the church he made many friends and was involved in the management of the parish. He and Kevin Parer leased the Avalon Air Base where 5000 merino wethers were run. Unfortunately 300 sheep were burnt in the Lara bushfire of 1969.

I spent many happy times with Bill, talking farming and football — he was a keen Collingwood supporter. We went duck shooting and I even went with him to Japan in 1972. Bill regularly collected me on a Sunday when I was boarding at Xavier. On my last visit in June just before his 92nd birthday, we joked about him equalling Sir Donald Bradman, who died at 92.

Well done Bill, you equalled the Don. He regularly said ‘thinking’ was the hard part and the doing just followed!

— Frank A Hill. Derrinal