The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 6 (October 24, 1926)
Old Bill and Young Jock
It is nearly two years since “Old Bill,” as he was familiarly called, having finished a good day's work, took up his pipe and went to his favourite seat on the verandah at the front of his house—one of those old-fashioned farm houses which looked out on a beautiful garden kept clean and tidy and full of sweet scented flowers. “Old Bill's” wife, Mrs. Claris, was passionately fond of flowers and devoted nearly all her spare time to tending the garden.
“Old Bill” (and his father before him) was born in this house; but how he came to be known as “Old Bill” is a mystery. No one appeared to know, not even Bill himself. His father was known as Mr. William Claris, but Bill was always referred to as “Old Bill” even when he used to ride on horseback to the school in the township some seven miles away from his home. On the cricket and football fields also he was known as “Old Bill.” The school children, too, called him “Old Bill.” “Bill” is over thirty-five years of age now, so probably the name will always stick to him.
The name “Bill” is generally bestowed on any person named William. “Old Bill's” name in full is Mr. Billcombe Claris, and very few people know how he came to get his name. However, this is how it happened. At the time “Bill” was born his grandmother was residing in this house with her son, Mr. William Claris, Bill's father. The old lady had a slight impediment in her speech, being unable to say more than a couple of words of a sentence.
One morning, grandma was busy getting breakfast ready, Mr. and Mrs. Claris being in an adjacent room trying to find a suitable name for their son. Mr. Claris was just asking Bill's mother if she had found a name for him, when, as if in answer to his question, came a little shrill voice:
“Bill, come—and—have—your break—fast.” The first two words gave “Bill's” father an idea for a name. “Granny has found a name for him” he said, “we will call him Billcome.” “Bill's” mother agreed to this name, but I have never been able to find out why the letter “B” was added.
Old Bill was, in a small way, a successful sheep-farmer, his father, and grandfather, having been sheep-farmers before him. As Bill sat on the verandah smoking his pipe he lapsed into serious thought.
The season's output of wool promised to be exceptionally good and high prices were ruling. The shearers would be finished in another couple of days and the wool baled all ready for the market sales. But Bill was uneasy as trouble appeared to be brewing with the shearers throughout the district—the eternal strife between capital and labour—so he was anxious to get the clip finished and hand over the cheques to the shearers in his employ.
His thoughts also dwelt on the ill-luck Abe Jones had had the previous season. Abe had suffered a heavy loss through a number of his lambs dying, and also by accident in getting his wool to the market. He arranged to send his wool by motor to Wellington. After the motor had been loaded up and dispatched, it had gone only a few miles, when, owing to heavy rains which caused a subsidence of the road, the motor with its heavy load got into a hole in the road and was fairly stuck. The driver was unable to extricate the motor single-handed and, being in a very sparsely populated district, was obliged to walk back for assistance. After some difficulty he obtained this, the motor was extricated, and the journey continued. A further delay, caused by engine trouble, occurred soon after the journey had been resumed, with the result that by the time the motor reached its destination, the price of wool had considerably decreased. The delay thus caused proved very expensive to Mr. Jones, who afterwards regretted that he did not send by rail.
While Bill sat smoking and thinking of Abe's misfortune, an old friend of his named Nat Jeffs (a sheep-farmer, who lived about four miles from Old Bill), was trying to persuade his wife to have a ride in his new car as far as Old Bill's residence and take Bill and Mrs. Claris for a short ride. Mrs. Jeffs was too busy with her household duties at the moment and so had to refuse, but urged Nat to go himself and take a message to Mrs. Claris asking the latter to go for a ride with them the following Sunday.
Nat got in the motor, touched the self-starter, and in a short time arrived at Bill's residence. So deeply engrossed in thought was Old Bill that he did not hear the motor arrive, nor did he awake from his reverie until “Nat,” in his usual cheery manner, called out “Good evening Bill.”
Nat noticed that Bill did not appear as jovial as usual, so, after a little while said, page 47 “Bill, don't you feel well? You appear to be worrying over something. What's the matter old man? Having trouble with the shearers, or what? Is the wool panning out poorly?”
“No!” said Bill, “I'm all right from a health point of view, but I am afraid of trouble in the shearing shed. I am thinking too, of the best way to get the wool to market, as I shall be ready in another couple of days.”
“Don't you worry about that Bill,” said Nat. “I shall finish about the same time,— that is, if the shearers will work without any trouble. As regards getting the wool to market, it will get there all right.”
“Yes, I know that, Nat,” said Bill, “but we want to get it there with as little delay as possible. I think I shall send mine by the railway this year, as I don't want the same thing to happen to me as happened to Abe Jones, and I don't suppose you do either Nat.”
“No,” said ‘Nat,’ “I don't. You know Bill, I felt sorry for Abe as he had a very bad season; ill-luck seemed to dog his steps and then, to get his wool to market just as the price came down with a big drop, was hard lines for him. No more sending by motor for Abe, he will send by rail in future. Somebody was joking with Abe the other day— they asked him if he would like to borrow a wheelbarrow to take his wool to Wellington— that he would find it cheaper transit than by motor, and Abe got his temper ruffled. He was very much annoyed at this remark. After all Bill, we always used to send our wool, etc., by rail, before the motors came on the road. I think we have been very foolish in not sticking to the railway, as it belongs to us. You know what I mean, Bill, it is the property of the public.”
“You are quite right, Nat, and I certainly agree with you on that point. I think there has been some alteration in the rail charges since I last sent anything by rail. I know there has been some considerable concessions in passenger fares. What about a run as far as the station to see if the Stationmaster can give some information on this matter.”
“Right O, Bill, just the thing!” said Nat, “I wonder how Harry Simes’ boy ‘Jock’ is getting on in the railway?”
Harry Simes worked on the farm for Old Bill, having worked for Old Bill's father before Bill was born. Young “Jock” Simes had also worked for Old Bill, but had left him a few months before to join the railway service.
“Young Jock is going on all right,” said Bill, “so his father informed me a week ago. We might see him at the station.”
“I don't think we shall see him here, Bill,” said Nat, “as I think he is still at Frankton. I saw him there only a few weeks ago, but I don't think he saw me, as he was too busy at the time assisting a passenger, a poor delicate looking woman with three small children and some luggage. Young Jock was carrying one of the kiddies, also a portmanteau, and got them aboard comfortably just as the guard gave the driver the signal to start. I can tell you, Bill, I did appreciate Jock's action, and I overheard others pass remarks about the young porter's kindness.”
“Yes, Nat,” said Bill, “that is just the thing Jock would do, kind and civil. I was sorry when he left me to join the railway. He always said he should do so, as he did not care for farm work. When he lost his mother he became a little unsettled and seemed anxious to get away from here for a while. He was a really good, conscientious toiler, and I should not wonder if he does not eventually hold a good position. However, Nat, he is not at Frankton now. His father told me Jock was transferred here some two or three weeks ago, so we might possibly see him.”
By this time they had arrived at the station and on reaching the platform, the first man they saw was young Jock, who was busily engaged sweeping the platform.
(To be continued.)