Like many day-boys of the time, Bill entered Churchie in year nine – then known as fifth form. During his four years at the School, he excelled in several areas, achieving the main goal of matriculating to the University of Queensland, then the only university in the State. Along the way he made many friends amongst his fellow students, and was also well-regarded by staff. Bill was a natural leader, qualities which brought recognition and responsibility. He was a School Prefect and an Under-Officer in the Churchie Army Cadet Corps. He played rugby, reaching a peak as a “take-no-prisoners” front-row forward in the First XV in 1958, his final year. These achievements were not easy to attain; they say a lot about his personal attributes that many knew so well. Above all, Bill was a ‘people person’. His cheerful voice, his friendly attitude, his ready grin, his frequent and infectious deep-seated chuckle – these were all part of Bill’s outgoing personality.
These are the words of one of Bill Christie’s closest Churchie mates, heard at his memorial service in the School chapel last October. Bill was a radiologist turned grazier who lived in Central Queensland until his retirement in recent years to Mount Tamborine. He was visiting the NSW Upper Hunter region with his son Paul (1991), when the 4WD they were in lost control on an incline and rolled into an extremely steep gully. Bill, Paul and the real estate agent who was showing them properties for sale, all tragically died in the accident.
Paul and Bill at Uluru in September 2007
It is Bill’s remarkable heroism that has seen him posthumously awarded a Pride of Australia medal, which honours ordinary Australians for extraordinary acts of bravery, service and charity. When realising the vehicle couldn’t be controlled and was heading towards a steep gully, Bill held his five-year-old grandson Hugh (the sole survivor of the accident) to his chest to absorb the impact and protect him from crash. As they were travelling at walking speed on a remote property, no one had seatbelts on. Clinging to life in the ensuing hours before his passing, Bill sent Hugh back to the car to avoid exposure to the cold and rain, rather than allow him to wander off looking for help and risk further injury. Bill also managed to drag himself to the side of his son, Paul, to provide first-aid and comfort in his final moments. The first responders report that Bill survived until they arrived, possibly knowing that Hugh had been saved. Bill’s wife Wendy gratefully received the award last month in a moving ceremony at the Sydney Opera House.
Many of Bill’s Churchie friends will share his family’s pride in his heroic deed and will be grateful that it has received such fitting recognition. R.I.P. Bill!