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Bill Richards, passed away at
Greenwich Hospital on 15 May,
2015, with his family around him,
two months shy of his 74th birthday.
Bill understood the composition of a
good tale. He taught his children, Stephen,
Jonathan and Nicholas that good stories
need structure and in particular they need
a compelling start.
Like many good stories his began in
New York City. He was born in Queens New
York in 1941 to Arthur and Joy Richards.
Arthur was a journalist covering world
news for various international papers
and Joy was every bit his equal. They were
young twenty-something’s from Brisbane,
living the life in New York City in the ’40s,
and bold enough to start a family there.
When they returned to Brisbane,
Arthur took a senior editorial position
on the Brisbane Courier Mail where Bill
eventually gained a cadetship as a young
journalist when he was eighteen.
The Richards family settled down
on Bonney Avenue in Clayfield Brisbane
where he met his future wife Robin when
he was just six years old. He went to Eagle
Junction State School.
“ He annoyingly remembered the
theme song about being an eaglet of Eagle
Junction his whole life,” re c alled his son
19.07.1941 – 15.05.2015
JOURNALIST, TUSITALA, CHORISTER
AND RUGBY ENTHUSIAST
He studied at Brisbane Boys College
and in his words “did moderately well in
class but majored in rugby”. But his passion
was writing and reporting.
Bill loved his cadetship at The Courier
Mail and in 1963 covered politics in
Canberra from the press gallery. A few
years late, back in Brisbane he organised
a journalist’s dinner dance but forgot the
important part – to invite a date. Who did
he turn to at the last minute? His best
mate’s sister, Robin from down the street.
They hit it off.
They married in 1968, at St Marks
Church on that same Bonney Avenue.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Bill,
with Robin, took his career in journalism
to London and started a family. His mate
from The Courier, Bob Hart, introduced
him to the pre-Murdoch Sun newspaper
on Fleet Street and he was appointed as
a full time reporter.
In his late twenties he returned to
Sydney and starting working with the
National Trust. He remained there, in
the marketing, PR and publishing sector
for 15 years.
In 1988, he left to try his hand as
a freelancer in public relations and
publishing – a role he only sustained for
five years before joining the staff of one of
his clients The National Maritime Museum.
Here was a position that harked back to
his story telling days. He revelled in the
exciting world of telling vivid stories about
boats and the sea. He learnt to sail as a
young child and immersed himself in the
“Bill had made a fine reputation as a
reporter on The Sun in London. He was
always modest about his professional
achievements but he was not only an
outstanding journalist, when he joined the
National Trust he did tremendous work
preserving the nation’s heritage; then he
put the National Maritime Museum on the
map in telling the stories of our maritime
past. And he did it with tremendous
creativity and great good humour,” author
and journalist Robert Macklin said.
Bill had a devastatingly logical mind.
“Dad taught me the importance of
first principles – of understanding the
foundation of an issue to resolve the
problem,” Jonathan said. “He was a Latin
scholar and taught me spelling and
comprehension by identifying the Latin
origins of words. He took everything back
to the beginning.
“He liked to cut the crap and keep it
“On Saturdays before our Newington
rugby matches he gave us all the same
simple mantras: ‘Run straight. Look for
the loose ball and don’t lose your temper.’
He was an excellent player himself and
I suspect he succeeded because of his
simple rational approach.”
No one had a greater love for the
Wallabies than Bill and Robin who followed
their fortunes – undeterred by the results
– to France, the UK and even to the house
of pain, Eden Park.
Music, in particular was important in
his life. “My inanimate companion with
the ability to fill me with excitement, calm
me down and draw tears from my eyes. My
world would have been flat without it.” He
sang Handel’s Messiah at the Opera House
for 14 years straight.
Two weeks prior to his death, he
had been taken to hospital with another
blockage, this time in the abdominal
cavity. Although he had been diagnosed
with bowel cancer in 2010 he was expected
to return home. Sadly, he never did. After
three years of chemo he was philosophical
about his approaching death – happy to
have lived as long and merrily as he did
only sorry to leave the family he loved
so much behind.
A colleague at Afloat, when I think of
Bill I see a jovial roly poly man, his round
face smiling, always ready to tease the
bright side out of life. A warm, thoughtful,
funny and inspirational friend.
Walkley Award journalist Jane Cadzow
wrote recently of Richards, “ Such warmth,
intelligence, good humour and generosity
of spirit – and all this in an old Clayfield
lad. For me,” she said, “it is a joy and a
privilege to have come into your orbit.” h
“ Bill put the National Maritime Museum on
the map in telling the stories of our maritime
past. And he did it with tremendous
creativity and great good humour,”.
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