William James Henry Pye – known locally as Billy Pye

A  COLOURFUL  LOCAL  CHARACTER  OF  LONG  AGO

He arrived in the colony during the eighteen sixties and apparently, as was sometimes the case, in those days, was a “remittance” man.  Obviously, he was from a good family, and well educated, but maybe, had caused the family some problem so they sent him away out to Australia, and paid him a “remittance”, a certain amount of money each year, to keep away from the family.  I remember my Dad telling me about him,—he said that he lived quietly, for many years, in a small hut , down the hill behind Dave Brockhoff’s property (Roger’s father).  (As a lad, I remember that the hill  was always called ”Billy Pye” hill.)  He is remembered as a pleasant man and a gentleman, and sometimes entertained his neighbors, the Trevenens, by  playing their piano, and singing, when he visited them for the evening meal, dressed in his dinner suit.

In 1968, he purchased 32 acres of land, closer to Balhannah, known now as “Grasby Park”,  He lived alone, in a slab hut that he had built, on a site carved out of the side of the hill, and as it was believed that he had been trained as a surveyor or an engineer, he cut terraces, (perfectly level) leading to an area where he hoped to build a mansion one day, but unfortunately, he did not live long enough to do this.  The terraces are now used as pathways in the park.

He was certainly a colorful character, as the fireplace in his slab hut was built of Wolverhampton corrugated iron, and was so sited that he could lower a timber log down the chimney, for his fire, and so, obviate the need of chopping wood ( he was too busy to  have to merely chop wood).  He was reputed be seven feet tall and very strong, as when fencing, he handled strainer posts three feet in diameter, and seven feet long (with the help of his bull, as he had a few dairy cows on his property).  When he walked down to Balhannah to do his shopping, his two pet pigs went also.  When he worked on the road, cleaning out the water drains, he used his one-legged wheel barrow, he just  used another piece of wood  in place of the missing leg.  He had half a dozen dogs to keep him company so was never lonely

Due to the fact that he was educated and well-read, he soon  became involved in the district affairs, to the extent that he was a Councillor for the Balhannah Ward of the Onkarparinga  Council and walked to the monthly meetings, he walked wherever he had to go, as he had neither horse nor vehicle.  Billy was also a seat holder in the St. Thomas Church at Balhannah.

He certainly added a little color to the history of Lenswood.

“Another old identity of this district, Mr. William Pye, died last week. He was 76 years of age. He was at one time councillor for Oakbank ward in the Onkaparinga District Council, and was instrumental in getting much needed improvements effected to the back road to Forest Range. He lived a very lonely life, his dogs, of which he kept a number, being his only companions.”  “OBITUARY.” Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 – 1954) 16 Jan 1915: 15. Web. 4 Jan 2014 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/95773666

by Kelvyn Vickers

References:

  1. Friends of Grasby Memorial Park – http://www.communitywebs.org/FOGMP/billy.php
  2. OBITUARY.” Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 – 1954) 16 Jan 1915: 15. Web. 4 Jan 2014 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/95773666
  3. Stringybarks to orchards : a history of Forest Range and Lenswood / Geoffrey C. Bishop.


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