You would have really liked our Wellbeing Centre patient, Mr Bill Evans. He was open and welcoming when you first met him. He’d flash you a smile and enquire, “Hello, I’m Bill and, may I ask, who are you?” After I told him, “I’m a Bill too”, we had a nice series of conversations. He was very happy to tell me about his life, family and the great calm he found at Wirral Hospice St John’s.
(Bill is pictured here with Bernice, left, and Patricia from Wellbeing )
He lived in West Kirby for all his life and his great passion was sea fishing – venturing out on his motorcruiser, Seawitch, from West Kirby Sailing Club. Seawitch had all the mod cons, echo sounders, satnav, all the safety equipment for when the Irish Sea got a bit rough.
He often sailed out of the Dee Estuary with friends and his son Rob. They’d go sailing around the Great Orme at Llandudno, over to Anglesey, and, in fact, all along the North Wales coast. He was especially animated when telling me about the time he caught an 18lb Pollock. Spreading his arms, in the time-honoured fashion, “It was this big, Billy!”
Bill was proud of his heritage. Being close to the sea it’s no surprise that his great, great, Grandfather ‘Fiddler Evans’ was locally renowned for being able to single-handedly lift half a ton of anchor and chain. You see, Fiddler manned the lifeboat, stationed then at Hilbre Island. That was when the boat was powered by rowing or sailing – there were no motors in those days!
Bill’s dad, William Evans, was a keen golfer and indulged his passion all around Wirral. He was a member of the Royal Liverpool Artisans Village Golf Club, based at Meols Drive. This is a membership group which pay a reduced membership fee in return for their commitment to helping the upkeep of the course. He was good too. When William died they scattered his ashes on the 18th Fairway on the Open Championship course.
So what about Bill himself? He joined the army in the late 1950’s as a regular. He was an army cook for 19 Field Ambulance, part of the Royal Army Medical Corps and was stationed in Malaya as it transitioned into Malaysia. His unit’s job, in those days, was largely preparing the local population for independence in a time before Malaysia was recognised for its massive industrial and technological development.
Bill was also capable of ‘looking after himself’. He showed me the boxing certificate he won when he was posted in Berjaya in 1965 (pictured). It proudly heralds ‘W Evans has won first place in the Berjaya Boxing (Middle Weight) Competition held in Sibu Sarawak, 1st-7th November 1965.’ He’d got the Trophy too (also pictured). What a knock-out, Bill!
Bill married the love of his life, Eileen, in 1991 at Birkenhead Town Hall, followed by a blessing at the picturesque St Bridget’s Church in West Kirby. They’d been together for 25 years and Bill had taken stepchildren, Lynn and Robert for his own. They shared a very special bond.
He beamed when talking about his grandchildren. Granddaughter, Charlotte, is training to be a Vet at the Leahurst Campus on Wirral, part of Liverpool University. She’s also spent some time in India learning and advising on farming methods.
Grandson Max, 27, is doing well, working near Southampton fitting water meters. Bill was a bit concerned for him though as he tells a story about a colleague who was bitten by a False Widow spider which must have come over on a ship berthed at the docks there. (Thankfully he made a full recovery).
He radiated happiness when telling me that his other granddaughter, Shara, had blessed them all with great-granddaughter, Lola.
We talked about Bill’s illness and he was very open. He was diagnosed with Prostate and Bone Cancer in 2015. He was undergoing treatment at Clatterbridge Oncology until he was referred to Outpatients at Wirral Hospice St John’s. He is appreciative of the honest and helpful discussions he undertook with our specialist consultants in palliative medicine.
He described the hospice as “the best place I could possibly imagine, so calming and relaxing.” He attended the Wellbeing Centre on Friday’s and had previously spent a few days in the Inpatient ward to ease the pain and discomfort he was feeling after being brought back from a break in North Wales. He was admitted feeling pain, on a level Bill described as 8 out of 10, but after receiving treatment at the hospice, he marked his pain at “zero!”
He credited our activities co-ordinator, Penny and all the volunteers and the staff team with keeping him busy and welcome in our Wellbeing Centre. He enjoyed the hands-on craft and baking sessions and joined in (often started) the fun and banter with everybody in there. (Bill joined in creating the Christmas Choir Cakes pictured on the right).
One other thing he insisted on mentioning was that he loved the food at the hospice (imagine this accolade, coming from a former army cook), “The scouse is my favourite, tell the kitchen team they’re absolutely fantastic”.
Bill told me “I can’t praise this place enough. It’s so peaceful, home-from-home, I just feel like I belong to another new family.”
Rest in Peace, Bill, from your extended family!
Bill passed away at Wirral Hospice St John’s on 30th January, 2019.
Author: Billy Howard