We don’t usually use personal experiences in our newsletters unless they have to do with the sea and safety. This time we want to make an exception and tell you about a truly exceptional day – last Sunday.
Annie and I and about 50 other people were at our yacht club, RANSA – Royal Australian Naval Sailing Association – at Rushcutter’s Bay in Sydney. We were all there to celebrate the 95th birthday of a legendary stalwart of the club, Bill Ford. Bill, born in England, was a chippy in the Royal Navy before and during WWII. After the war he came to Australia.
During his long membership of RANSA he held the position of Rear Commodore for so many years that eventually he was made Honorary Life Rear Commodore. It is impossible to describe how much he meant to the club and how much the club meant to him.
When we arrived Bill wasn’t there and we heard a bit later that he had been unwell the previous day and because of that, he wouldn’t be coming to the party. He’d really been looking forward to seeing all his old friends, who he knew would be gathered to see him. It was a shame that he couldn’t because it was an absolutely magical Sydney winter’s day, the sort that is a jewel in the memory. Cloudless sky, a little warmth in the sun glistening on the harbour and a sharp breeze for the yachts of the neighbouring club during their winter races.
A little later as we were sitting down having our celebratory lunch, we learned that Bill had died. It was an amazing feeling that all the people who loved him and that he loved were there gathered when it happened. Fortunately his son and daughter had been urged to leave the party and were with him when he died.
Needless to say, we all spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening reminiscing.
At sunset, by the water’s edge, a very moving ceremony was performed, led by a former Commodore, Max Kean. The flag, which had been at half-mast, was raised to the truck then lowered by Bill’s son-in-law. One of our members then recited “Lest We Forget”.
Sad as it is, Bill was fortunate to suffer no longer.
An interview with Bill Ford that was published in the RANSA Sep 2008 Newsletter will tell you more about this wonderful man.
In their own words: Bill Ford
In the RANSA newsletter interview Bill was asked:
“Any advice for the younger sailing generation?”
Start sailing as early in life as you can. It’s a sport for all ages and not over physical. Be competitive but don’t overdo it. The water is there for all to enjoy and sailors are generally good sports and make great friends.
(Photo courtesy RANSA website.)