For the past two years, Peter and I have had a small, coffee stained sketch stuck on our fridge. “Best wishes Bill, from The Daily Gang,” it reads.
What makes it so special is that Peter’s dad drew it of my dad (long before Peter or I were even a twinkle on the horizon!)
Back in the 50s, Pete’s dad, Paul Rigby, was the cartoonist whose work featured every day on the back page of The Daily News.
And later, Dad had a column on the back page: Lang’s Look.
Our mothers, Marlene and Margot, also worked at the Daily, some of the pioneer female journalists in WA.
Back to that little sketch. Paul drew it for Dad after he was transferred to the Daily’s Melbourne bureau for a year. I’ve now had it framed, because it means the world to me.
A couple of weeks ago, we lost our precious Dad. He’d been recovering after surgery at Gairdner, but, it turned out, he was just too frail to continue, and his time had come.
Dad stopped working in 1990, after The Daily News folded. He was only in his 50s, but said he didn’t want to remain in journalism, preferring to focus other pleasures, like dabbling in the stock market, going to the races on Saturday, and spending time with his family.
Dad was born in Bendigo, Victoria, and was mostly educated at Seymour High. He lost his own dad when he was ten, whose lungs never recovered after he was gassed in the First World War.
Dad told his headmaster he’d like to be a journalist and next moment he was in Melbourne, being offered a cadetship by Sir Keith Murdoch, who dad remembered as “a shy man.” Sir Keith was a member of Legacy, the organisation supporting war widows and their families, and its members took their responsibilities seriously.
Dad always loved words, and it showed. As a boy, he’d read the dictionary from cover to cover.
He came to Perth for a year in the 50s and on a whim, applied for a job on The Daily. He met mum at work and they were married in Sydney in 1960.
They then returned to Perth and had David, me and Karen.
When we were kids, dad decided we’d all go and live in England for a couple of years. We have happy memories of a three month adventure around Europe, camping in our VW van; it was to give all three of his children our passion for travel.
We nearly stayed in England (I had an English accent) but Mum missed Perth, and we headed home.
Dad ended up back on the Daily, where work highlights included covering yachting races around the world, including, The America’s Cup, and later having his column, Lang’s Look.
Dad had a magnificent turn of phrase and often had us in stitches regaling us with his wry observations. He mistrusted authority, often wrote to politicians airing his grievances, and remained fiercely independent until the end of his life.
I’d give anything to just have one more coffee with him down at Claremont Quarter, his home away from home.
It came as quite a surprise to us after his death when many of his former colleagues got in touch to tell us how much they thought of dad.
After all, he hadn’t been at The Daily for more than 25 years.
Here’s a sample from some of the dozens of condolences we have received from his former Daily News colleagues.
Your dad was a wonderful man and I remember our times at the Daily News fondly. A true gentleman and amazing talent and clearly a helluva dad as well. – Michael Holmes
They don’t make men like Bill anymore. To a young journo, he seemed so distinguished and polished amongst the raffish rabble in Newspaper House. Warm, kind, witty, calm and such a terrific writer. Condolences to Margo and Jacqui. – Siân Martin
A sad day for everyone who has worked on the Daily since Bill blew in from Melbourne. I think it was 1957. He arrived like a breath of fresh air with his self-deprecating humour and obvious journalistic talent. Bill’s back page column in the latter days, Lang’s Look, reflected that humour and his interest in people. I’m proud to have been a good friend of a man who spoke ill of nobody. I received the sad news on my iPad in Honolulu this morning. Waikiki has lost some of its sparkle today. Vale old friend. – Ron Barratt
Really sad day. Workmate memories linger. Bill was one of the best of them. Once he said to me: “Ambition? Nah, only gets in the way of all the good things in life.” True gentleman, humorist, droll, talented writer, great company. I don’t reckon there are enough Bills around these days. Condolences, Margot and Jacqui. – Dale Walsh
I also particularly remember the America’s Cup cover, as well as Lang’s Look. He was, as everyone has observed, a gentle and genuinely nice man … mentor to many and friend to all, with a sharp wit and a lovely turn of phrase. Our dwindling band is greatly diminished by his loss. – David Hynes
We’re touched by these comments and we’d like to thank all our friends and colleagues who’ve been so supportive at this difficult time.
All dads are special, and to those who are still lucky enough to have their fathers in their lives, I say, give them a hug – today!