IS­LAND LIFE

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT - WORDS TRACY RENKIN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY RICHARD JUPE

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.

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