Feature: Remembering Bill Brewer (1946 – 2004)
Bill, a long serving member of CAMWEST and many other cycling groups, was lost to the cycling community in February 2004. A year on, we remember him with this obituary by Ian Macindoe.
We feel that it would be an appropriate gesture on the part of Parramatta City Council to acknowledge Bill’s contribution to the area’s planning and provision for cycling if some form of small memorial could be provided. One idea is that a suitable small tree be planted in one of the parks of the Parramatta Valley Cycleway, with a small brass plaque attached on a low concrete post at the base of the tree, with wording along the following lines:
In memory of Bill Brewer (1946 – 2004)
cyclist and volunteer valued by the community.
William Earnest (Bill) Brewer died, aged 57, on 2nd February 2004 of a pulmonary thromboembolism.
Bill Brewer was a unique character; a man who responded warmly, often with a youthful enthusiasm, to all his friends and acquaintances who treated him with respect. He was a perennial cyclist, walker and user of public transport, having never owned a motor vehicle.
Bill was also a complex individual: an eager and reliable volunteer; sensitive (to the point of paranoia on occasions); full of ideas for improving transport (but often struggling to articulate them clearly); a story-teller, especially about the important people he is supposed to have rubbed shoulders with; and proud of both his English origin and his Aussie identity. His disability made him vulnerable, but he never 'traded' on that. Instead he faced up courageously to life and got on with it.
One of a handful of cyclists who seemed to know every nook and cranny of Sydney's cycling byways, Bill was undoubtable familiar with every cycleway in Western Sydney. For this reason, if no other, he was a valuable participant on consultative committees (Parramatta Cycleways Committee; Blacktown City Council's Bicycle Committee; the Bicycle NSW Olympics 2000 Committee). He also served on the Management Committee of Bicycle NSW for several years.
His friends in Cyclists' Action Movement WEST (CAMWEST), of which he was a long-standing member, will miss Bill Brewer, both at meetings (he was never shy of putting forward his ideas) and on rides. He also rode frequently with Bike North and with groups associated with his friend and 'mother figure', Shirley Robinson. Shirley was of special significance to Bill whose own family, back in Britain, did not see a lot of Bill after he migrated to Australia at the tender age of 19, although he did return to England in 1968 and again between 1970 and 1975 to visit his parents. In Sydney, Shirley gave Bill both moral support, good advice, and sometimes food. In general, Shirley kept a kindly eye on Bill's welfare. It was Shirley who arranged Bill's funeral and who, with a small group of friends, scattered Bill's ashes, as he had wished, on the sea.
Bill Brewer was born in Coventry, a heavy industry city (cars and bicycles), which might help explain Bill's lifelong interest in public transport, especially buses/coaches and railways. After some initial time in South Australia, following his migration, he travelled as a backpacker around much of the country, settling in Sydney in 1975 and becoming an Australian citizen in 1976. His final visit to England was in 1985 accompanied by his wife, Maureen. Bill and Maureen divorced in 1998.
Bill Brewer's volunteer activities included: RTA Big Rides (with the catering team); the 2000 Olympics; special events at Olympic Park; and the Adidas Tennis Championships at the Homebush Tennis Centre. He also worked on fund-raising for the NSW Cancer Council, the MS Society, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (for its January Domain event) and for a variety of local community activities.
A memorial for Bill was held in Bicentennial Park on 21 February 2004, attended by many of his cycling and volunteer friends. A number of people shared their thoughts, feelings and memories of Bill. Shirley Robinson read her obituary to Bill , and I can think of no better way to round off these thoughts about Bill Brewer than to quote, with Shirley's permission, her concluding paragraph:
William 'Bill' Brewer was a many-faceted, unique man-there could only ever be one Bill-willing to do a good turn rather than a bad turn; and who, on occasion, could be frustrating. He was a traveller, an adventurer, and often just a scallywag. I hope he found a companion on that last journey from which there will be no return and welcoming arms there to greet him at its end. May he be remembered by his friends and associates with respect and honour. Farewell my friend William—happy riding.
 I am in Shirley's debt for much of the detail of Bill's life described here.