My Uncle Bill passed away earlier this week. His funeral is today and he is to be buried in the quaint little town of Wanganui, in the north island of New Zealand. My parents have flown across the ditch to say goodbye. I wish I could have too.
My father’s brother was a lovely gentleman. Softly spoken but with a wicked sense of humour. He emigrated to New Zealand many years ago where he married my Aunty June, a tall beautiful Englishwoman, and settled down to raise his family. As a consequence we saw very little of our ‘kiwi’ cousins, but our infrequent get-togethers were indeed memorable.
During one trip to Australia Uncle Bill was discussing funny town names and the indigenous meanings behind them. Whilst Wetwang, Crapstone and Penistone in the UK got honourable mentions, and Middlefart in Denmark had us chortling, it was his earnest assertion that the Maori village of Whykickamoocow (pronounced why kick a moo cow) did exist, that had everyone in stitches. I looked for it last night on Google Maps. Its not real.
Uncle Bill and Aunty June always exuded a feeling of warmth and hospitality. I remember a Contiki tour I did in NZ when I was twenty years young. I had a free night in Wellington and I figured I would invite myself over for a home-cooked meal. I spent a little over an hour flicking through the local phone book for a Mr. B or Mr. W Green. After a couple of phone calls to prospective relatives were met with stony silences and a dial tone, I gave up and went out for a pizza. It was only when I got back to Australia that I found out his real name was Gavin. Dad still hasn’t explained where the name ‘Bill’ came from. My uncle and I shared a huge laugh about when I told him the story a couple of years later at the family reunion in Mumbil – a tiny town out near Dubbo in New South Wales where my Uncle Doug had a hobby farm. Then he cooked one of the best curries I have ever eaten.
I may not have had a lot of contact with Uncle Bill in my life, purely because of the tyranny of distance, but he was a gentle soul and will be sorely missed.