Home' Greymouth Star : February 10th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 7
ill Stanley makes it quite clear
he is reluctant to be profiled so
“I ’m not interested in
blowing my own trumpet,” he
says rather aptly, given his long
association with the brass band.
However, it is clear he has a passion for
teaching; his former pupils have gone on to
become judges, lawyers and nurses.
“The trouble is they stop you on the street,”
Bill Stanley was born in Christchurch. His
dad worked on the railways while his mum
stayed at home.
“Dad drove a steam crane and he was often
on the West Coast. He built all the bridges
along the Midland Line down to Hokitika.
He was away three weeks of the month.”
By age 11, Bill was joining him on those
trips out of Canterbury.
“I used to travel away with him, I used
to think that was fun. He had a hut on the
back of the train and we used to live in
that; had two bunks and a bathroom, and a
copper you boiled up water. I used to shovel
Bill attended Christchurch West High
School, where his love of both sport and
music was able to flourish. His main love
was soccer but he turned his talents to
softball, basketball, brass band and even a
Plus, “I got sucked into playing rugby
when they were short of a prop”.
In his high school brass band he played
under Mer v Waters, who would later
become the national band conductor.
Bill was self-taught, starting out on his
brother’s cornet. However, the band had
plenty of cornet players so he ended up on
the e-flat brass bass.
He managed to play every brass
instrument — “e ven the trombone, not very
He has now been playing for 60 years and
is currently the president and drum major
for the Greymouth Brass Band.
After completing teacher training college
Bill was sent north to find his first job in
Tokoroa, in the Waikato.
“ What happened was, no job out of
training college. So they said there’s lots of
jobs going in the North Island, and a mate
and I chose Tokoroa because he had a car
and I had a bit of money, so we shared. ”
They made the trip from Christchurch in
“ We arrived there at 6pm, just as they were
closing the pubs. ”
At age 20 Bill was one of three teachers at
the small Amisfield Primary School, where
he would at one point be teaching 43 pupils
in a class.
While at Tokoroa basketball began to take
over in his sporting passions.
“I got into basketball there, they had a very
strong YMCA. ”
Asked to referee a match, “I took to that
like a duck to water”. In his first year of
refereeing he got a second level qualification.
Bill further divided his time with soccer
and softball, catching for Kevin Herlihy —
“the New Zealand pitcher at that stage”.
“He was pretty fast — he ruined three of
the club’s softball gloves in a season. ”
After a year up north, Bill was reassigned
to a job at Grey Main School — “the
education board picked names out of
the draft ” — and in 1968 he arrived in
“I wouldn’t go anywhere else now,” he says,
a few weeks after retiring.
Bill recalled his first time going to referee
basketball in Greymouth when the game
was still played on concrete floors in the
Army Hall. He arrived at the door feeling
all important — a qualified top of grade two
referee — but that did not mean much to
the lady on the door, who insisted he still
needed to pay the $2 entry.
“I met this dark-haired girl with glasses
were married in 1969.”
Within two years of moving to the West
Coast he was first grade and became one
of the top referees in the country, both at
an interprovincial level as well as visiting
international junior teams.
As well as refereeing, Bill continued to
play, and occasionally for the West Coast.
He also coached the senior-A WREDS
team in a fight for supremacy against the
Bill sat on the West Coast Basketball
Association executive and even helped raise
money for the Civic Centre, through raffles,
cake stalls and tournaments.
“ We wanted a decent basketball
gymnasium so we worked pretty hard. ”
However, when it was built, no vents were
put beneath the floor, which would later
prove to be a problem.
“O ver a matter of 10 years all the joists
rotted . . . the floor used to move, I went
through it one day. I hit a board (and) my
foot disappeared into a hole. I could even
still show you the place on the court where I
went through. ”
In 1994, after 30 years of refereeing Bill
blew the whistle on his court time.
In 1968 Grey Main School was still in
Tainui Street and had only eight classrooms.
Bill settled into the job and remained there
when the school moved to the present site in
Joyce Crescent in 1973.
“Being West Coasters, everyone would
help you. I got on pretty well with the
teaching staff, and the kids. I went right
through the school and ended up teaching
senior children with Sheila Seguin —
she was a very good teacher and deputy
Though a teacher himself, Bill has always
been happy to learn from others: “I learned
a lot of good skills from a lot of good
In 1974 he was made deputy principal at
Grey Main but before long he moved to a
“I had a proactive boss, Peter McConaghy,
and he said ‘about time you got out of my
face and into your own place. ’”
So, in 1975 Bill became principal at
Stillwater School, staying for eight years.
At the time, Stillwater was a busy little
township with the sawmill and railway yard
often occupied with steam engines.
“Stillwater had two big families — the
Masons and the Martins, and they had 23
children between them. I think and they
kept the school going.”
In 1982 the deputy principal’s position
arose at Cobden School.
“Because I was a principal at Stillwater I
was the same equivalent to shift over so I
transferred straight into the job.”
After only months there he was required to
take on the role of acting principal.
In 1983, in search of further promotion,
Bill and his family moved to Middlemarch,
Otago, to take the reins at Strath Taieri
Primary School in charge of seven teachers
and 150 pupils.
After three years the family decided to
move to Christchurch for treatment for their
son Paul, who has cerebal palsy.
Bill found a job at Tuahiwi School,
between Rangiora and Kaiapoi, and had to
learn to speak Maori. He taught at Tuahiwi
for three years before becoming deputy
principal at nearby Kaiapoi North School.
“I did 11 years there — that ’s where I
started to go grey,” he jokes.
He was certainly kept busy, with a staff of
about 20 teachers and a roll of 350 to 400.
“I ’d come in at quarter to six at night
from school and be out at seven again for
meetings. With a young family it wasn’t
In 1998 he decided to return to
Greymouth - “I always said I’d go back”.
Though he returned without a job, Bill
quickly found a teaching position at
Runanga School, spending two years there,
followed by a year at Blaketown School.
In 2001, he returned to Stillwater School
for a second stint, until the school was
closed as part of the 2004 Grey Valley
“Stillwater was going to close anyway
because we only had nine children, so that
wasn’t so traumatic, but we fought against it.
But the other schools were bigger and had
bigger rolls so it was pretty hard on them.
(Then Education Minister) Trevor Mallard
was not the flavour of the month.
“Good has come out of it, though —
Awahono and Paparoa Range (schools).”
With that, Bill took up relieving at
Kumara and Cobden. “Between the two I
got a full-time job.”
When it no longer became viable to go out
to Kumara, he stayed at Cobden and ended
up with a full-time job there.
He retired from teaching at the end
of 2014, having spent nearly nine years
at Cobden and after nearly 50 years in
classrooms around New Zealand.
“ I really enjoyed teaching at Cobden with
supportive proactive staff and children who
taught me a lot. I will miss the day-to-day
But he will not be saying ‘goodbye’
completely — he intends doing some
occasional relief work.
Despite all he has done, Bill is not one to
brag. He simply thinks of himself as a “good
“ I’ve never been out of the classroom, even
when I’ve been a principal. You have to
teach and then do all your administration
stuff that goes with it.”
Asked what subject he enjoyed the most
over the years he replies with social sciences.
“Someone will read that and say ‘he
enjoyed talking,’” Bill laughs.
“I used to talk a lot.”
Bill Stanley relaxes on the Cobden beach. Inset, top: Bill plays the brass bass; lower, Bill on his final day at Cobden School.
Teacher, school principal, basketball referee, drum major and plenty in between — NICHOLAS McBRIDE discovers
some of the many sides to Bill Stanley.
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