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Blue, William (Billy) (1767–1834)

from Sydney Gazette

Billy Blue, by Charles Rodius, 1834

Billy Blue, by Charles Rodius, 1834

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an6016496

Billy Blue
I knew him well, Horatio: a fellow of excellent wit—
Where now be thy flashes of merriment which were wont to set the [old hands] in a roar?
Quite, quite chop-fallen!

Hamlet

So the gallant "Old Commodore" William (Billy) Blue has for ever laid aside his truncheon of command. He died at his Villa, on the North Shore, on Tuesday. The reign of Billy is coeval with the foundation of the Colony, and the remembrance of the whimsicality of character which grew with him as he advanced to the end of his earthly pilgrimage, will be long treasured in the minds of the present generation, when the minions of ambition are forgotten in the dust. Billy's public avocations were not always such as to bring him under the particular observation of the illustrious Officers who have from time to time administered the Government; but what his talents in business would probably have for ever denied to him, was procured by his singular humour and excellent disposition. When the "high and mighty" aristocrat was spurned for profligacy and ambition from the threshhold of Government house by the lion-hearted and injured Macquarie, poor Billy found there a welcome. As a public functionary, Billy had not the fortune to evade, like his betters, the informers of the day, or enrich himself by the profits of his avocation; for at that time ever official was a trader, a retailer of rum, tobacco, and lolly-pops. Billy did his best to smuggle—but somehow or other he was detected, and forfeited his situation in the domain. His hilarity was but little abated, however, by a circumstance which would have weighed down the good humour of most people. He still walked about, noticed by and noticing every one, and woe-betide the man or woman, high or low, who did not honour the "Commodore" with a proper salute. The good old Governor (Macquarie), never long withdrew his countenance from the sable veteran; and when he did so, from a high sense of public duty, Billy still found a steady friend in his peerless lady, who by obtaining even a distant smile from the Governor, to the disgraced smuggler, brought back to his heart that joy which he must have previously abandoned. Seeing him at length likely to be without a shelter for his head, and anxious to give the children a home, Macquarie settled the Commodore on a point of ground on the northern shore of Port Jackson, which was given under, we believe, certain conditions depriving him or his family of the right to sell it. It was in fact a sort of entailed estate for his descendants. Here Billy was not exempt from the "iron hand of adversity," for he was incarcerated through a runaway prisoner of the crown being discovered in his house, and became only restored to liberty by the liberality of the late Mr. Pitman, who discharged the fine. Who ever saw the Commodore out of humour? He might have purveyed for an army. And who ever saw him return home with an empty bag? Fish, flesh, fowl, cheese, butter, wine, porter, and ale, might be there seen in glorious confusion, borne on the shoulders of the humorous old Billy, to whom even the very urchins lifted their caps in token of respect. "No rows!" "Go—go, my child—true blue for ever," now and then found utterance as the obsequious citizens struck their ensigns to the Commodore; and if they did not (and the eye of Billy was always at work), the whole street would ring with his screams and abuse. "You brute—you long-legged brute—forget the Commodore!" and his stick would ring upon the stones in cadence to the melodious sound of his sweet voice, invoking vengeance on the recreant. But Billy's nature changed the general levity of his manner on Sunday. Though the same respect was shown to him by men of all ranks and degrees, his voice would not on that day be heard beyond a whisper "We are all going down, remember the worship of God my child," was the homely serious caution of one who, with all his bantering, never forgot the duties of a good christian; and who on that holy day seldom, health and weather permitting, absented himself from Divine worship.—Requiescat! "We may never look upon his like again."

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Citation details

'Blue, William (Billy) (1767–1834)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/blue-william-billy-12804/text25024, accessed 19 September 2017.

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