Cyril James ‘Bill’ Allen was born at Old Bega Hospital on July 10, 1924; the fourth son and seventh of eight children of George Montgomery Allen and his wife Sarah Louise Jamieson.
It is of interest how someone christened Cyril James became known as ‘Bill’. CJ was fascinated with a BSA motorbike owned by Bill Sheehan who rode it at full throttle past the gate at our farm ‘Homeleigh’. Riding his stick horse around the house, young CJ proclaimed that he was Bill on his motorbike, and at about 2 1/2 years old would only answer to ‘Bill’ – and so the name stuck.
At ‘Homeleigh’, young Bill would bail up our jersey herd at milking time, feed the calves, collect the eggs and gather firewood. Our father died in 1928, leaving our mother widowed weeks short of her 38th birthday with eight children and a farm to run – just as the Great Depression struck Australia. Bill started school at South Wolumla Public.
In 1932 our mother remarried and the three younger boys went with her and her and her new husband, Charles Alcock, to ‘Greenlands’ on the Monaro where we learnt about sheep and blacksmithing. Bill and I commenced correspondence school.
In 1934 we moved to Bemboka. Bill completed his schooling at Bemboka and with older brother Vic learnt butchering while working for the Alcock brothers. In 1940, our mother died, shortly after her 50th birthday.
When WWII broke out, Vic enlisted in 1940 and Bill in 1942. On his discharge from the RAAF in late 1945, Bill returned to work for the Alcocks and when they retired, Bill and Vic took over the butcher shop, slaughter yards and piggery.
Bill married Gwen Stoddard in 1948. They lived in the residence attached to Hobbs’ Produce Store, later moving to the house next to the park where they lived for the rest of their lives. They had two sons, Garry in 1950 and Wayne, in 1954. Sadly, Garry died in his 50th year.
Bill bought out Vic’s share of the business and he and Gwen ran the shop and slaughter yard. After 36 years in the business, he retired to spend more time running their properties.
The loss of Gwen in 2015 was a severe blow. Bill was a devoted husband and family man; a hard worker all his life; and a keen sportsman, playing tennis, cricket and rugby league in his youth.
He was a familiar figure sitting on his front verandah where he greeted passers-by. He was a private man, sincere, respected and liked by all who knew him.
Bill was Bemboka’s last surviving WWII veteran and was to have taken part in the 2017 Anzac Day march. He passed away on the evening of April 24.