j. Chapter 10: Billy Hicks.

Written 14th April, 2017.

[Yes it’s been a while.   Since last writing our family has sadly lost two of our members with Lorraine Couchman (nee Hicks – Roy’s daughter ) dying on 22nd September, 2014 and Charlie Pavone (my father) dying 6th November, 2015.  I’ve also completed part time study so lost focus and momentum with this project.  These events and others in my life have led me to reflect recently on what is important to me.  I’ve realised that I need to write to help satisfy that creative side to my personality and also to finish this story! ]

Billy was born  William John Hugh Hicks 18.09.1898 – 21-8-1962, and  was Margaret Hicks (nee Fegan) and Charles Hicks’ second child. Billy probably attended primary school at Echuca Village and may also have attended Echuca High School.  His chosen profession was as a “grazier” (as stated on his enlistment papers).

Billy Hicks

Photo: Billy is about 19 years old.

Like many in the family Billy had musical talent.  He was an excellent pianist and as an adult went on to play in the pits at the Tivoli Theatre in Melbourne.  Margaret may have taught him to play or perhaps he had lessons.  Barbara Pavone (nee Hicks) spoke of a family story about her Uncle Bill who had a reputation as a bit of a joker. As a teenager was asked to perform at a social gathering of his mother Margaret and her church lady friends at Truro one afternoon.  He performed a very risqué number which shocked the ladies (and his mother) and earned him a hiding from his father. As mentioned previously Margaret was a very social and gracious lady and her home was a showpiece – particularly the front room where the piano and bay window was.  I would imagine she was probably mortified by Billy’s behaviour on this day!

Photos – these are Billy’s enlistment records.  The fourth page includes the signatures of his parents, Charles Hicks and Margaret Hicks (nee Fegan).

He applied to enlist in the army on 15th May, 1918.  He enlisted on 8th October, 1918 and commenced training at Broadmeadows. World War 1 ended on 11th November and so he was discharged from the army on  24th December, 1918 due to “demobilization of the AIF” after 78 days of service.  I would have imagined there would have been mixed feelings from Margaret regarding this – pride that her son wanted to fight for his country but relief that he would not be a casualty of this war which claimed so many lives.

Billy was an outstanding athlete and AFL footballer, he played four games for Fitzroy – in 1921 and 1922. I found his name in the AFL records but there was no mention of what position he played.  Only playing the four games either meant he wasn’t selected again or chose to leave.  This was around the time of his marriage so perhaps that was a deciding factor.  Perhaps there was a period of time where he lived in Melbourne, given that he played piano at the Tivoli.

Margaret and kids 1

Photo – Left to right – Margaret Hicks (nee Fegan) with her 3 of her children, Billy, Roy and Rita.  Billy is about 18 in this photo.

Billy married Dorothy Gibson Glenn on 17th January, 1922. Dorothy was a secondary school teacher who taught English literature. They had 3 sons Rodney in 1924, Russell in 1926 and Geoffrey in 1930. They bought a sheep property “Evandale West’’ between Mathoura and Deniliquin and later “Tasman” Station near Ivanhoe (NSW) which was eventually passed on to their son Rod. Billy also assisted his father on the farm at Truro Grove.

As their boys grew up, Dorothy moved into Echuca in a beautiful home near the port of Echuca to further the boys education, while Billy commuted to the property.  I remember visiting Great Aunty “Dorry” (Dorothy Hicks) when I was a child in her home in Echuca.  She lived to a grand old age and was a tiny, softly spoken lady.

Hicks family at Truro (2)

Photo – Circa 1925.  Back row, Charles Hicks, Billy Hicks. Front row – Dorothy Hicks, possibly Margaret Hicks (nee Fegan), Possibly Dorothy’s mother holding Rodney Hicks and Florence Hicks.

According to Barbara when Billy’s father Charles semi-retired, Billy engaged in Stock  deals in Queensland for 8 years, buying large mobs of sheep and droving them down to Victoria and to “Truro Grove”, fattening them up and selling them for a good profit.

He did well from this venture until drought and financial difficulties brought a change in family fortunes. One drover was heard to ask him “how many sheep have you got Bill” Billy replied “Don’t know, but I’ve got a thousand dogs!”

The bank was about to foreclose on the mortgage for “Truro Grove”, with a mortgagee’s sale in 1946, but his brother Roy and his wife Edith were able to raise a loan to buy the property and keep it in the family. This would have been a dreadful time for Margaret, at the age of 76 to be threatened with the loss of her beloved home. The place she and her husband had built up and hoped to leave to her children instead had to be purchased by one of them.

Barbara remembers Billy as being quite lively, and genuinely fond of her, and her sister Lorraine and brother Duncan. She said he admired Edith (her Mother), his sister-in- law for her strength. He was very fond of his younger brother Roy and his mother, Margaret but he clashed with his sister Rita however. He was a great story-teller and had a dry sense of humor.

Billy died in 1962 aged 64 of kidney disease.

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