When Bill Griffiths was eight his stepmother kicked him out of home. The 90-year-old recalls it only took him an hour to find somewhere new to live. He and his “mongrel dog Trixie” walked a few blocks away from the house in Liverpool, England, he’d grown up in, to a brick yard.
“The man who ran it knew me from walking the dog so he offered me the old garden shed if I kept an eye out at night for robbers,” says Griffiths, who now lives in Hobart’s Herdsmans Cove. With his accommodation sorted, he found a job picking up cigarette butts at a Chinese Restaurant in exchange for a bowl of rice.
By 12, he was an air-raid runner passing messages from the underground bunkers to various officials. “If you could hear the whistle of the bombs you were usually safe,” Griffiths says. “One day when I was running a message the force of a nearby bomb was so close it blew me up against a brick wall and I scraped half my face away.”
From 1945 he served for eight years in the occupation forces in Germany, which Griffiths describes as “wonderful because it was a beautiful landscape and so different to the gloom of Liverpool”.
A friend wrote to him after he’d finished in the army and told him of another beautiful place called Tasmania. Griffiths’s friend was working with the Storey’s Creek Tin Mine at the top of Ben Lomond and there was a job if he wanted it.
Griffiths had never heard of Tasmania. “It only cost me 10 pounds to come over on the ship,” he says.
Griffiths cheekily refers to Tasmania as the mainland and the mainland as the northern island and says he wouldn’t live anywhere else. He volunteers at the community woodworking and metal working shed he established and at the Bridgewater Child and Family Centre. “I enjoy working with the kids,” he says.
He has eight children, 20 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.