Well-known Gunnedah man Bill Syphers is celebrating his 90th birthday this month.
The retired boot maker was named Norman Kingsford Syphers when he was born on June 7, 1928 in Annandale, Sydney to Norman and Hilda.
Bill had two siblings, Betty and Marie. Marie died of diphtheria at 14 months, which deeply affected his mother who then went into a home.
At the age of four, Bill was put into a boys orphange in Baulkham Hills and three-year-old Betty was put into a girls orphanage in Parramatta. Bill then moved to West Meade Boys Home until he was a young teenager when he left to pursue work.
I just had a bug for different towns.Bill Syphers
He was taken on as an apprentice by a bootmaker in Kings Cross at the age of 14 and spent three years learning the trade. After that he “went to the bush” and started working on farms doing jobs like wheat carting and building hay stacks. He worked at Woolbrook in winter with only wheat bags to keep him warm.
“I went all over the place," Bill said.
“I just had a bug for different towns.”
He joined the Australian Army when he was 17 (he had no birth certificate) and after training at Greta for three months, he sailed to Japan in 1946 for a few years.
After returning to Australia, he returned to farm work and eventually found himself in Gunnedah where he met Patricia Pawley.
Bill worked as a linesman for the PostMaster General and started doing small bootmaking and upholstery jobs for locals.
READ MORE: Saddler Bill a true craftsman
Bill and Patricia were married on July 30, 1949 in Gunnedah and had six children – Jenny Brasen, Ray, Lorraine (McAndrew), Allan, Dianne (Ferguson) and David.
Around this time, Bill took up the craft he learned as a teenager full-time and opened his first shop in Barber Street in the 1950s.
He continued bootmaking and saddlery before moving to another premises in Chandos Street where he stayed for 25 years before relocating to his current shop in the main street.
Patricia died on December 4, 1994 and in 2016, Bill retired from the shop because of illness. The shop is being managed by his son David and Bill still visits a few times a week to catch up with locals.
Bill has 23 grandchildren and 48 great grandchildren.
It’s the month for 90th birthdays! Check out this piece on Noel Tattersall’s recent birthday bash.
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