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By Mike Brosnan 05-08-2006

A Delightful Neighbour


He lived alone. Well, that's not right, he lived on a thousand acre farm amongst hundreds of old machines, bits of them, and a few friendly, long tailed sheep.

Neighbours can be tricky.  The nice ones, the not so nice, in between and then there was Bill Sheath - a legend.  Years ago with my son Greg visiting Bill we actually managed to get into his house. Well just.  Every room was piled to the ceiling with machinery.  I remember well seeing the grease lined sink in what was a kitchen with just enough room for the tap to work.  At the back door, covered in growth, milk bottles were stacked to the roof.  Every machine imaginable littered the fields as do stones a graveyard and Bill knew each one. Greg's eyes were agog.  Visiting Bill years later the machines had won the battle, forcing him out of the house.  He lived in an old hut eased into a gap between two bulldozers. I guess you could say he was in 'Bill Heaven'.

Now don't think Bill was a rough fellow - he was quite a soft, gentlemanly man. So much so, he wouldn't tail his lambs without an anaesthetic, consequently they usually kept wagging them for life.

A project he will always be remembered for was building and maintaining the Awakino skifield above the village of Kurow, of course involving lots of machinery, bulldozers, graders, rope tows - you name it, Bill could find it or make it.

Soon after buying the Hakataramea farm in1965 our family got totally involved in this local ski field. We would all walk up with the baby Jacque on my shoulders.  Those days we were the only local farmers up there as the others thought Bill too weird. That did change over the years when the field became a playground for the locals.  We spent many a happy day on that delightfully primitive ski field. We gave sheep for sausages, lent tractors for the access track and there was always at least one Brosnan in the annual ski school.  Bill had done us proud.

He loved kids and pet lambs more than us adults. He had a gaggle of lambs following him everywhere including all the way up through the snow to the field. His favourite he called Marney after my oldest daughter.  (Not sure which Marney he liked most.) When Bill took his annual shopping trip to Oamaru he would take the back seat out of his old green 1936 chev, stuff  Marney and her siblings (sheep) in and off down the road with their heads out the window. On arrival in town Bill would ask the staff at the stock firm to heat up his milk bottles for the lambs, feeding them in the main street. This became quite a show. I think perhaps Bill enjoyed his eccentricities.

I have a lingering nostalgia of my days with that delightful man and the only time he let me down was dying while I was overseas without the chance for us to say goodbye.

I was very sad about that, but forgave him for all the wonderful memories.   Goodbye Bill, you will always be remember



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