Fond memories of a sheep farmer and a fine sportsman

By Vanessa Wiltshire

William (Bill) Anthony Hill was the third child of Bert and Annie Hill, of Derrinal near Heathcote, and the fourth and last of the third generation of Hills, of Derrinal, to die.

He survived his sister Marie, 42 (died 1968), and brothers Frank, 84 (2009), and John, 79 (2013).

Born on July 29, 1927, Bill died at the age of 92 on November 2.

A requiem mass was held at St Columba’s Catholic Church, Elwood, on November 12, which was followed by a wake at his nearby home, and burial at Springvale Cemetery, where he was buried with his wife Annette, who passed away in December 2018.

Bill grew up and saw the droughts of 1935 to 1945 and the floods of 1956, which were a major influence on the Bolte Government to create Lake Eppalock.

This meant the Hill family lost 445 ha of prime farming land.

Bill attended the Langworner Primary School and rode his bike 8 km 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.

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.

He crossed to South Bendigo in 1950 and 1951, where 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 (nee Ring), of south Heathcote, and had four daughters.

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 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 licensed grocery with Ted Carey.

Then he bought a farm at Clarkefield called Granthurst and subdivided it after cleaning up the rocks.

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 in the ‘60s.

On my last visit, in June, just before his 92nd birthday, we joked about him equalling Sir Donald Bradman, who died at 92.

He regularly said "thinking was the hard part and the doing just followed".

— Frank Hill Jnr, Derrinal (nephew of Bill Hill)