Farewell to a Remarkable Man
It was with sadness that we learned of the passng of Bill Gracie on Sunday 29 October, aged 103. Anyone who knew Bill will have their own memories and tales to tell about him. The following is a synopsis of the eulogy I gave at his funeral.
Bill Smith Gracie was born in Banton on 11 July 1920 and always joked that he missed the 12th July by a day! The youngest of a family of three, he was wee brother to the late Jean and late Alex. After attending Banton Primary and Kilsyth Academy, Bill began his apprenticeshi in the Kilsyth branch of Royal Bank of Scotland in 1936. When war broke out, he volunteered to be a gunner with the Royal Air Force, as he thought he was a good shot! However, he never fired a shot in anger and instead was a radio operator, flying in Dakota Aircraft with 216 squadron, based in Millom, the Far and Middle East, mainly Cairo.
At the end of the war, Bill returned to working with the Royal Bank, eventually becoming Branch Manager at Byres Road from where he retired in 1980. Bill married his late wife, Esther Perry, a Kilsyth girl, in 1948 and together they had three children, Margaret, Janice and Alastair. Sadly, Janice died at 8 months, while Margaret passed away in 1995, aged 43. On the death of her mum, grand-daughter Arlene, aged 9, came to live with and be raised by her grand-parents. This she repaid a hundredfold by caring for her Papa in his later years. Bill was also blessed with a grandson, Jamie, and two other grand-daughters, Kirsty and Jenny, and two great-granddaughters, Grace and Alice.
Bill was a good tennis player, enthusiastic golf player, follower of Airdrie FC and fisherman. He was a member of both Rotary and Probus and, of course, a faithful member of Burns & Old, attending regularly before the pandemic.
Bill was also a fountain of knowledge about local history. He wrote and published histories of Banton, Kilsyth Parish Church and an update of this which included the Burns Church. He also wrote about his war time experiences which the family intend to have published.
Age began to catch up with Bill over the last couple of years and so he decided it was time to move in with Arlene and her husband, Stephen in February this year. Frustratingl for him, he suffered a stroke in May, which affected his ability to speak properly, though not his ability to understand.
Bill Gracie was a gentle gentleman. Mild mannered, except when having a heated discussion with sister Jean, he was held in high regard by all. He will be missed, but fondly remembered, not only by the family, but by everyone who knew him.
Sandra Farrington, 14 November 2023
This photo shows Bill presenting the first copy of his bicentenial book "The Old Lady of Backbrae" to the Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 2016.