Farewell Didge, your footprints in the sand linger on


By ALASTAIR McINTYRE

THE funeral was a very English occasion but with Australia high on the agenda.

On the day that Spitfires flew over southern England to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain the family and friends of Bill Reynolds bade goodbye to the great man to the sweet music of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod Variations.

English indeed. But the irony was that we were saying goodbye to a man who was born in Scotland and had dual British and Australian citizenship.

So farewell then Bill, known to his British pals as Didge and to the Aussies as Brickie, skilled sub-editor and passionate kayaker, cyclist and anything else that required a huge physical effort.

We gathered at the Forest Park Crematorium set amongst the green fields of Essex to pay homage to the man who had enriched so many lives with his kindness, bonhomie and good humour.

And a secret was revealed: Bill had finally tied the knot with his long-time love Margaret a few months before his death. They had been partners for a good 30 years.

The service was conducted by Bill’s friend Lilian, a lay reader, who described him as a big-hearted man who was just a big softy. Lilian was for 20 years a neighbour of Bill in Albert Terrace, Buckhurst Hill, where he was known as Head of Terrace because of his concern for the environment.

He was a frequent caller to Epping Forest District Council (Bollard Department) where he would demand action on problem car parking.

Bill didn’t actually rush to the altar, said Lilian, but “he finally wed Margaret who for 30 years had kept the home fires burning waiting for him to return from his trips abroad”.

Didge weds


He travelled extensively, bicycling with friends around the world, including Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Portugal, Crimea, Ukraine, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kyrgistan, France, Belgium, Poland, Burma, Syria, China, Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo.

Mike Edmondson, a close friend from Australia, explained why Bill was known as Brickie in Oz. “He came to work wearing very short shorts and his fellow subs thought he looked like a bricklayer’s labourer.”

Bill was a great kayaker on his annual trips to Perth but he eschewed boating on rivers and preferred the sea which was a greater challenge.

After a rousing chorus of Waltzing Matilda, another friend, Dave McCall, described his trips abroad with Bill who he said was always striving to go faster. “He got along with people, he was such a lovely man. He loved life.”

David Laws, a friend and colleague from the Daily Express, where Didge spent most of his professional life, paid tribute to an “outstanding journalist”.

It was David who introduced him to long walks and the pair of them happily tramped through the countryside, including Hadrian’s Wall and the Lake District.

“He never had a bad word for anyone – except perhaps for people who put their feet on seats in trains,” said David to laughter.

A full version of the Fleet Street tribute can be found HERE.

Bill and Margaret’s nephew Daniel Stubbs read tributes from the Australian wing of the family, Paul, Donna, Ben and Kirsten.

As the wicker coffin was committed, the haunting song Time to Say Goodbye was played, followed by a rousing rendition of A Life on the Ocean Wave played by the Band of the Royal Marines.

The final word went to Lilian, who said of Bill: “All he wanted was to leave behind his footprint in the sand.”

TRIBUTES TO DIDGE

PICTURE SPECIAL

SUBBING BY GASLIGHT

GUARDIAN TRIBUTE


© 2005-2019 Alastair McIntyre