A straight-shooting man of the people

November 25, 2016

Bill McCarthy with wife Nora and sons Terry, Francis and Bernie at Francis's wedding in 2014.

Bill McCarthy was a passionate newspaper man who, for nearly 65 years, shook as many hands as he travelled miles to recount the stories, triumphs and tragedies of country people.

Today, we tell Bill’s story through the memories of his close colleagues, friends and family.

Bill was born Terence Vincent McCarthy, the third son of Patrick (‘Paddy’) and Christina McCarthy, at Donald, Victoria, in the aftermath of the Great Depression, on August 22, 1934.

When Bill was four, the McCarthys moved to Horsham, where Paddy was a well-known stock agent and auctioneer for Young Brothers.

Bill was educated at Brigidine Convent and Horsham High School before joining the bi-weekly Horsham Times on January 2, 1952, as a young reporter.

His first job was to write up the Wimmera Shield cricket final, in which he had played for Horsham against Ararat the previous day.

A blend of precise writing and the sporting challenge remained with him for the rest of his life.

Bill went on to work at the West Wimmera Mail, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Horsham and Kalgoorlie.

He edited the Casterton News, the Hamilton Spectator, Wangaratta Chronicle, and the Ararat Advertiser.

In 1981 he re-joined The News after a short stint as reporter in 1976.

He was chief sub-editor at The News and he remained with the McPherson Newspaper Group in various roles for the next 36 years — before retiring in 2006 with severe glaucoma.

Throughout his life, Bill was a keen amateur sportsman — playing table tennis, football, tennis and cricket.

He served as publicity officer for the Central Goulburn and Wimmera football leagues and as a journalist he regularly covered five major leagues and several district leagues.

While covering basketball for The News, Bill won four awards presented by the league for best media coverage of the sport.

In 2007 he was awarded a Jack Terrill Medal for services to the Victorian Country Basketball Council.

He is a life member of Greater Shepparton Basketball Association.

A staunch supporter of Goulburn Valley tennis, he also ran a Saturday morning tennis program on Shepparton community radio station ONE FM in retirement.

Bill was a keen traveller — spending a year in Europe and the United Kingdom in 1975.

In the 1980s Bill travelled to the Philippines where he met and married Nora in Cebu City in May 1983. Two months later Nora and Bill returned to Australia and settled in Shepparton where they raised three sons — Terry, Francis and Bernie.

Bill and Nora became life members of Shepparton’s Filipino Australia Friends Association and worked towards the restoration of Shepparton’s former International Village’s Philippine House, which is due to be completed in March next year.


Former News sports editor Rob Harris — now national politics reporter for The Herald Sun:

Billy was an old-school reporter who cared far more about his readers and a community than being a celebrity like so many would rather be today. He stirred up councils about potholes and bad planning decisions because he could always see ways of improving his community.

Some journalists get cynical as they get older, but Bill could always see how to improve things.

He loved sport and gave up so many weeknights and weekends to promote the best young talent.

I’ll never forget a phone call from Bill the day he had a bit of a turn and lost his vision.

He called in so much distress at the fact he couldn’t cover a footy grand final the next day.

His first thought was to his readers and to the sporting community he served.

Former Kyabram Free Press editor Gus Underwood:

Bill was a stalwart of journalism and a gentleman of this world.

He spent the last years of his long and distinguished journalistic career at the Free Press and continually amazed me with his passion and enthusiasm for his profession even when he reached his mid-70s.

As a journalist, Bill was the complete all-rounder with the knowledge and ability to cover council meetings and sporting events with equal professionalism.

He held strong views on a lot of things and was not afraid to express them — particularly through the ‘Letters to the Editor’ at the Shepparton News, which he regularly contributed to until a week or so before his passing.

McPherson Media Group executive chairman Ross McPherson:

Bill possessed a rare quality: he was first and foremost a ‘‘reliable’’ writer — reliable in the sense that readers could utterly rely on his version of events.

That was always, and remains, a most valuable thing.

He eschewed hyperbole or exaggeration of any kind; he was passionate about good local government as much as he was about his sport and, in either milieu, he was the ultimate straight-shooter.

Indeed, fairness defined his humanity: he subscribed to the view that, where truth and charity collide, you let charity prevail.

Bill’s son Bernie, 26:

I never knew my dad ask for anything from anyone my entire life, but he always gave whatever he could.

I am blessed knowing that in the end, we gave everything we could to him and I guess that’s just one life lesson he secretly instilled upon us growing up and to his final day.

Bill’s son Francis, 31:

Dad was someone that we all wish we could be more like.

He was a true pillar of the community. A truly good person in every sense. His words carried weight, and he will always have the highest respect from those who had the honour of knowing him.

He will be greatly missed, and his legacy will live on.

Bill’s son Terence, 32:

Dad was the kindest and most decent of men.

He was an amazing father, loving husband, devout Catholic and well-regarded country journalist.

I don’t know what we did to deserve him, and I thank his parents, my grandparents, Paddy and Christine, for raising such a fine person.

I hope readers of The News enjoyed his work as much as our family did.

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