BILLY BONES – An Appreciation
On Monday 10th January 2022, we received the sad news that our member, and committee member, Billy Bones had passed away
Billy was born on 25th July 1933. As we know from the wonderful talk he gave to us a couple of years ago on his memories of the Derry Central, Billy started his working life on the railway. In Coleraine, he is perhaps best known for his association with pantomimes.
In January 2018, at the invitation of our late Chairman, Robert Anderson, Billy gave a talk to Coleraine Historical Society on Coleraine pantomimes. It soon became obvious that Billy had a wealth of knowledge concerning Coleraine and his appetite whetted, he joined our Society in early 2019. From that time, he not only gave us a further talk on Coleraine Pantomimes but immersed himself in Society affairs. During those sadly brief few years, Billy made an immense contribution to our Society and was central to many of the significant decisions made in that time. He soon proved to be a formidable debater and although forthright in his views, he never took offence and at all times, his words were laced by the humour for which he was so well known. Even when discussing the most serious of matters, you never quite knew when, or from where, the next joke was coming.
In February 2021, Billy was in the audience when John Logan gave a talk on the history of Coleraine Rugby Club. John`s talk was to prove significant for Billy quickly recognised that many of the faces from yesteryear shown in John`s slides were not only rugby men, but also members of Bann Rowing Club and in the months since, Billy and John were to collaborate on those links between the two sporting bodies.
Nearly a year ago, in March 2021, the Society had one of its most memorable AGM`S when Billy, accompanied by his old `accomplice` of many years Brian Simpson, produced and gave us the most wonderful Musical Entertainment.
The first talk of our autumn 2021 programme was to have been a talk by Billy and friends on their `Memories of Old Coleraine`. Technical issues along with Covid regulations meant that talk had to be postponed and sadly, we will never get to hear Billy give that talk.
Another of Billy`s unheralded talents was for calligraphy and when in the autumn of 2019, the Committee chose to make Jennifer Cunningham a lifelong member, Billy`s wonderful calligraphic talents were brought to the fore when many hours of concentrated work, he produced the beautiful certificate that was eventually presented to Jennifer.
Never overly IT proficient, and it must be said it took him a while to master Zoom, it was always a delight to visit Billy at his home and see him battering out the lines of his latest pantomime script on his old but trusted typewriter.
As with Zoom, Billy was never too old to learn a new skill and it was only a couple of years ago that he could be found mastering his musical skills on a trombone that an old friend had given him. Demonstrations of his progress were invariably accompanied by Betty`s retreat to the kitchen!
An achievement in which Billy took immense pride took place in 2020, when after conducting research on the accidental death of his grandfather at Downhill Castle over 100 years ago, the article he subsequently wrote (battered out as you might expect on the old typewriter) was published in volume 26 of the Bann Disc.
Billy took pleasure from his involvement with Coleraine Historical Society and particularly enjoyed our meetings at the Sandel Centre where he could converse with his many old friends. Invariably accompanied by Betty, he took great interest in the talks given by our speakers and always seemed to have a question or bit of information to add. In the days before the pandemic, Billy and Betty enjoyed our outings and in recent years, I recall them on sunny days as members of the groups that visited Mossley Mill, Sentry Hill, and St Pauls in Articlave.
Billy was a larger than life character, and though we in the Society will all miss him, the greater loss is to his wife Betty, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and our thoughts and sympathies go to them.
Chairman Coleraine Historical Society