Bill Ford

Bill Ford was born in 1929 and spent his childhood in Millers Point, following on from earlier generations of his family. In this wide-ranging interview he talks about wharf labouring, coal lumping, the reshaping of the local topography for international shipping purposes, housing resumptions, sport, commerce, industrial relations and his own unusual trajectory into a career as an academic. In the excerpt below he talks about the narrow range of job opportunities generally available to local boys of his generation.

This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.

The job opportunities were you became a wharfie, you became a storeman, you became a tugman – one of my uncles was a tugman – or if you had local political connections you could get a job in the Council [local government], which was a much more secure system.

Thinking back on the kids I grew up with on The Rocks most of them got an apprenticeship and that was because the parents, having gone through the tremendous insecurity of the 1930s, wanted some sort of security and apprenticeships were seen as the most secure way to, not to escape the waterfront, but to have security in life. I think the Daily Mirror interviewed me when I won the Fulbright Scholarship and the title was ‘No hoper makes good’. They interviewed my mother and my mother said, ‘All I ever wanted for him to get was an apprenticeship’.

Siobhán McHugh