Obituary: Bill Robinson 16/4/1924 - 16/4/2020

RED CARPET: Kirsten and Bill Robinson, Les Young (Pam Nankivell's stepfather) and Mayoress and Mayor Phil and Jack Scoble attending the Premiere of Sunstruck in the early seventies. Photo: Submitted
RED CARPET: Kirsten and Bill Robinson, Les Young (Pam Nankivell's stepfather) and Mayoress and Mayor Phil and Jack Scoble attending the Premiere of Sunstruck in the early seventies. Photo: Submitted

Henry Montagu (Bill) Robinson 16/4/1924 - 16/4/2020

Bill Robinson came to Parkes in 1952 and set up the first architectural practice west of the Blue Mountains. How lucky we were that this was where he came.

He enjoyed a happy childhood in Killara, and, completing his schooling in 1943, he then enlisted in the Navy. He was serving on a minesweeper - a very dangerous occupation - when the war ended. He walked out of the Navy on a Friday and into Sydney University the following Monday.

Bill had read books on architecture while at sea and knew that this was what he wanted to do.

Being the first and only architect in Central Western NSW, it took some time for Bill to gain recognition and to build up his practice. His first really substantial project in Parkes was the RSL Club.

Opened by the Governor Sir Eric Woodward in May 1960, it was a major breakthrough for his standing in the community, but probably the Parkes Drive-In Movie Theatre was the most popular of his designs.

Bill was a great architect, probably ahead of his time, and everyone who lived in one of his houses loved it.

One of his early homes was built for pharmacist Ken Payne and his wife Edie. These days it belongs to Rex and Heather Veal. Heather always says how lucky they are to live there and how grateful they are to Bill for its wonderful design.

A much later home belongs to Marianne and Steve Garrioch. It's a few kilometres out of town and is called The Tin Shed. Perfectly placed on its block, it fits into the countryside and is a magical home of iron and glass.

Open and light it catches the breezes, welcomes the sun in winter and shades it in summer.

Our home was more modest, as Mal and I came back from our honeymoon with an overdraft. With its wooden walls in the living room and checkerboard timber ceiling in the playroom, it was beautiful, and Bill designed such a magnificent fireplace. I think he must have known how many winter nights we would all spend together in front of it, enjoying a good whisky, talking about so many interesting things and dreaming up ideas and making plans. Sometimes to make our fortunes and at other times to improve life in Parkes and the rest of the country.

LOCAL TREASURE: Bill Robinson is one of Parkes' treasures and contributed enormously to the development of the town. Photo: Submitted

LOCAL TREASURE: Bill Robinson is one of Parkes' treasures and contributed enormously to the development of the town. Photo: Submitted

Bill worked out how the waters of the Shoalhaven River could be diverted to water the inland. Unfortunately that didn't eventuate as Sydney wanted that water.

He also suggested Parkes should have a hostel for aged people and we were working on that when the Salvation Army heard about it and decided they would do just that.

We were all three co-opted by them and that is how Bill came to redesign the old Rosedurnate Hospital building for that purpose.

We also thought it would be good if Parkes could have a steam engine in the park when the days of steam engines were disappearing.

One of the stunts we engineered was to get the Champion Post to run an essay competition for the children, taking the form of a letter to the Premier Rob Askin, saying why Parkes should have one.

We didn't get the steam engine at that time, but we posted all the entries to the Premier, and each child received a personal letter from him - which was a wonderful way to teach children that if you write to a politician, you'll get a response.

When a place was being sought to make the film Sunstruck in the early seventies, it was Bill who found exactly the right locations and got the co-operation of the property owners to make the film, ensuring it was made in Parkes.

Sunstruck was a joint British-Australian comedy where a Welsh school teacher headed to the Australian outback.

Bill was a member of the RSL, the Parkes Advancement Corporation, and later Rotary.

He designed a new entrance for the Municipal Swimming Pool which has really stood the test of time being still in good use today.

In 1973 Bill married Kirsten Guldberg and they were happy together for many years.

Bill was an interesting, intelligent, imaginative, free thinking, kind and thoroughly good man. He contributed enormously to the development of our town and this region, and I believe we should all say 'Thank You Bill'.

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