William Higgs

Extracts of a recorded conversation with Diane Higgs who spoke with us about her late father Bill Higgs. 


These are just some of the photos I have from Bill Higg's collection. He enjoyed life and there's a lot of his life in all these photographs here. He had always got a camera, always, everywhere he went.

I'm Bill's daughter-in-law, I was married to his son who was also called Bill. I'd known him for years, used to see about on the bus, because Bill was the sort of person that if you saw him on the bus, he'd always chat to you. But then I knew his son because we mixed in the same circles. Over twenty years ago I got with his son and then I got to know him really well then. And then after his wife died, the three of us were like three musketeers. We would do everything together so I got a really good insight into his life.

Lovely, beautiful. One of my favourites. It's just nice, father and son. Because they were very close you see. It would have been about 55 years age. Bill loved a photograph and he was very photogenic as well.

He was born 25 December 1919 in Stepping Stones, Dudley, they were living in the back-to-backs. He started working when he was fifteen. He worked hard, he'd joined the TA and he was also in the fire service in Aldborough. He joined the TA at fifteen. As a boy soldier he went off to camps and things as well.  This was taken before the war started in 1939. 

So he worked in the territorials, he worked at Tube Products but because it was a reserved occupation so he could actually go to join the war. So he didn't go, everybody else went.

Bill always said that life growing up was very hard.  He said nobody knows how hard it was back in them days. And I think that was why he was like he was over the years. He was always collecting stuff and never wasting anything. He always gave, he was a really generous man. He never went out of his house that he didn't give you something, he never went out his door that he didn't give you something. He was very good like that.   

The holiday photos, yes, he loved holidays. They went on big family holidays there every year.

They look like they're peeling or something, my Bill's got a knife. They're peeling into pots. Probably making the dinner by the look of it.
Again, cups of tea, have you noticed they like cups of tea? Oh yes. And the jumpers. And the sandwiches.

Drinking tea and eating sandwiches. Oh yes, there was always plenty of food. When you went to Bill's, even when I first went out with his son Bill and you went to the house, there was always a drink and food on the table, and you never left without something. That's the way they are.  I mean I'm the same, you never go out of my house unless I give something. That's right isn't it? That's the way we are, that's the way I was brought up. It's about sharing. Family and sharing.

I think this is typical 60s of the children round here. City Road. Very typical 60s isn't it? That's Bill and I don't know who that is. He did hang around with lads which I met later on in years.

They're all wearing white plimsoles, I think we all had a pair of them and you used to have to put the stuff on. And there were jumpers too, there weren't so many of them with jumpers on here but everybody had them knitted jumpers. They were knitted jumpers, because I was actually at a funeral on Thursday and the lady that passed away had these photographs and it was all these knitted jumpers. And I thought that's right, back in the 60s we all had these knitted jumpers.   Cos of course there wasn't the shops and everything like there is now was there?  And there was more stuff knit.  Hand, family knit stuff.

I knew Bill when I came here when I was 17, I met Bill up at the Olympic club, and friends that I was with, he was friends with and he'd come in and had a drink and I said hello. I'd just come from Northern Ireland originally and he didn't understand a word I said.  That's what he said. But that's how I got to know him. Many, many years ago. He stood out, he was different. Very different.

And when they went on these holidays they played games as well, they were always on about these games that they played.  And I know somebody used to knit these jumpers and they all had a  jumper the same when they went on these holidays. Oh yes, he liked to spar. That was out his back, cos I lived next door, and there's a big privet here but that's Bill's back garden. But he liked to spar with them, with the kids, the grandkids.

He made him jump down the stairs once. He learnt him a lesson, I heard this story,  and he come in from his work cos he was on the fire, and he comes in and he said, he told Bill to jump down the stairs but he didn't catch him, so he falls, so he said let that be a lesson to you.  Trust nobody.  Not even your own father.  That's how tough he was. Only a couple of steps, not from the top of the stairs or anything, but that's what he learnt him.  But at the same time, you could trust him with your life. Oh definitely.  He did, he used to spar up to them.  That's just typical him.  Even at 90 odd he would have done that too. We used to tell him to behave.  

And this on the left is another one of him in the fire service with the firm he worked for. Bill's on the far left of the group. That's Bill with the hose around his shoulder. He was very much a leader I think. He worked hard, even after he retired, he still carried on you know, doing stuff.

He was a Pied Piper, he attracted everybody.  Everybody knows Bill. He was known as the man who stood on the gate with a pipe.  On City Road, he always stood at the front on the gate.   I have got photographs of him standing on the gate, all the kids going to school and he always bought them stuff, every Christmas. I used to have to go and buy loads of stuff for the kids. If he went to the pub, he'd always take stuff to the pub to give out. If anybody comes in the house he'd have stuff to give to them. When we went on holiday to Tunisia I come back with about 20 camels in a suitcase and keyrings. No matter where we went, he always brought something back and he'd give it. He was generous you see. 

He was good fun and always telling stories. He'd tell you about years ago or tell you about today stuff.  He had a good outlook on life. And he enjoyed life. And that's what I learnt from him.  To enjoy life.  He'd say you're only passing through.

Ah because that's Bill.  I didn't know him back then when these were taken but I know this is the Bill I knew when I met him 20 years ago. Because it's just him loving and enjoying life. And he loved having his photo took.  He was always fun and up for anything. The life and soul of the party, and everybody smiles when they see him.  And I'm so glad that he's kept all this to be honest because a lot of stuff gets lost doesn't it?

I don't know where they are but they are enjoying themselves at the seaside. I think that's what they did back then anyway. It's very sixties isn't it? That's my Bill on the right and my stepdad Bill on the left.  

We stopped at Ostend and then we went out to the graves. When I walked in and looked I just could not believe what I was looking at. I've heard of the war graves but when you actually experience the war graves and I think everybody should, I couldn't believe it.   Rows and rows and rows and they were young people who died. It was very moving, Bill cried, you know when they do the last post at Menin Gate, and we went and they were all there, and he cried. He did cry, because, we were walking in his father's footsteps and his father in law and that's how he felt about it.

On his grave, it's Pops.  He never liked being called the old man, he'd say who's the old man? He was Errol Flynn.  Tuppence. I was Corporal Jones and he was Captain Mainwaring. Because I was in the territorials as well. So we were both in the TA so he was Captain Mainwaring and I was Corporal Jones. He was Judith Chalmers as well. Because he liked a tan. He loved tanning.

Bill's philosophy was to enjoy life. To live life. Do what I want to do and not worry about other people or anything. He said you do what you want to do in this world not what everybody else thinks. He always said that. And he was off. Didn't matter. I'd sort of hold back and he'd say, no - let's go.  Let's go and do it. No matter what. It doesn't matter. I'd worry, he would say, no let's go.  Let's go and do it. And I'm glad, I'm glad I did.  And I'm glad he was in my life.

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