Born on 7th April, 1917, he featured in a number of stories told by my grandfather, Bill’s older brother. For instance, as children, they were warned to keep away from the river that ran near their home. However, boys will be boys, and whilst larking about on the bank, one day, Bill slipped into the fast flowing current. My grandfather jumped in and saved him from going under for the third time.
Soaked to the skin, they walked home and sheepishly confessed to their mother. They both received double punishment for playing near the water and for ruining their clothes.
On another occasion, grandfather used his penknife to cut Bill’s boot laces, after a hot cinder managed to drop inside his pair of handed down boots that were two sizes too big for him.
In this photograph, Bill would have been in his mid-twenties. It was taken sometime during the Second World War, hence the army uniform.
He was a lively character and my mother recalls how she looked forward to his visits, when he was on leave. Apparently, he loved nothing more than to tease my grandmother. “Hey Hilda, have you heard the latest?” he’d chirp. Grandmother would stop whatever she was doing, anticipating a juicy piece of gossip. When he had her full attention, he’d follow up with, “Dreadful news, two men found dead in a matchbox!” It worked every time.
I can’t remember ever meeting Bill myself, which is a pity because I think I would have liked him.
On 4th December, 1963, he suffered a massive heart attack, aged 46.
The night before his death, a curious thing happened. My grandmother went upstairs to her bedroom for some reason or other. When she entered the room, she was confronted by a sight that stayed with her for the rest of her days. A floating, shimmering form, suspended from ceiling to floor. She described it as being like a giant, silvery spider’s web. When she switched on the light, it vanished. Just a few hours later, a policeman knocked the door with the news that Bill had died suddenly at home.
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© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges