William Sinclair Pettet Reid

1912 - 2002


Given by John Reid on 17 Decamber 2002

We are here today to celebrate the life of my father, Bill Reid.

Bill was born in Bath, Somerset in 1912. He moved to Willenhall in the Midlands when my grandfather, also Bill Reid, left Stothert and Pitt to work for Wellman Smith Owen in Darlaston. Old Bill was a Scott and a foreman electrician. Both firms made cranes.

My Dad, young Bill, started as an apprentice draughtsman with Wellman’s in September 1927. His first job was to check the washers on a crane. It was one of the cranes that would be used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge. During the war he was an engineering design draughtsman with Chance Bros of Smethwick. They made optical glass – bomb-sights and tank periscopes and so on.

One of my earliest memories of Dad is standing outside our air-raid shelter in the dark during an air-raid, listening to the distant crump of the bombs falling on Birmingham. He was telling me about the different sounds of the aircraft – German bombers had a different engine noise to our planes. I can remember him putting up the light-proof shutters on the windows. He had made them himself so I am quite sure they were absolutely lightproof. He was an air-raid warden and it was his job to check that no one in the street was showing any stray light.

During the war he rode a motorbike and sidecar to work. He had the carburettor tuned to a very light mixture so that he could save his petrol coupons and use them to get us to Aberdovy in Wales for our holidays. He had made a special little seat for me in the sidecar behind where Mum used to sit. When we started on our first Welsh hill the carby wasn’t up to it and I remember Mum and I having to get out and walk up the hill. I must have been about 5 at the time.

After the war, in 1946, Mum and Dad decided to emigrate to Australia. They thought it would be more of an adventure to get off the boat in Perth and travel by train to the Eastern States where Dad already had a job teed up with BHP in Newcastle. Unfortunately there was 6 week train strike and Dad had to get a job locally – we didn’t finally go east until1952.

In the West Dad bought a block of land for 50 pounds and constructed a weatherboard “Tool and Storage Shed”. He made it 30’ X 12’ because that was the maximum size you could build without a permit. There were lots of silly restrictions around left over from the war and the whole suburb around us was full of fibro-cement storage sheds and garages with families living in them. Being a Brit, Dad couldn’t handle the idea of a galvanized iron roof so he put tiles on our shed. We moved in with sugar bags over the holes where the windows were going to go. He paid for bits and pieces out of his pay packet as he went along. Later on he took out a small loan to put on a front and back veranda and a bath room and so on. A few years ago I went back and had a look at Ada Street, Waterman. It now has street lights and footpaths and all the fibro garages have long gone but Dad’s tool and storage shed is still there and still lived in.

As the years went by Australia became more affluent and so did we. We moved East where there was more industry and better jobs – first at the Pulp in Burnie and then later at EZ in Hobart. He went on to complete two more houses.

Unlike our mother who would catch various “isms” from time to time, Dad was never an ideologue or a true believer or a joiner. He was unreligious and apolitical. I never knew him to discuss either topic unless pressed. He had a single superstition – he would not wear or own anything green. Apart from that single aberration (and perhaps drinking too much whisky on Christmas Day) his life was based on commonsense and common decency. He loved a good book, a good song and good company. He was clever and capable but perhaps too inclined to hide his light under a bushel.

He was a thoroughly decent human being and a great Dad.