Bill Peach

I worked with Bill Peach for perhaps a year and did not know him well. But I knew him. He was very much an Albury boy — a fine American film, The Last Picture Show, could have been shot, he once told me, with script unchanged, in his home town — and never ceased to be surprised by the national stature he so swiftly achieved by merely reading lines on television, and occasionally interviewing somebody.

He looked like a Kennedy; and his ordinary chirpy Australian voice, the first such accent brandished by an authoritave commentator — all the others were very BBC, like Michael Charlton, or, like John Laws, half-American — assured and embellished his boy-next-door popularity, and prefigured other iconic judgmental broadcasters with ordinary voices, like Chris Masters, George Negus, Mike Willesee, Fran Kelly. He wore his ordinariness lightly, and with, as it were, regal ease. He was good-looking but not vain about it, like the sleek and gorgeous Richard Carleton. He seemed both suburban and country town, never metropolitan. If ever there was a Middle Australia, he was it.

Yet he had eclectic tastes, in painting, music, poetry, and he was a keen Outback explorer, like Tony Windsor, whom he in part resembles. I lent him a Collected Ogden Nash, and it took twenty-five years for him to give it back. He travelled Australia over and over with his bus tours, much as Whitlam travelled the relics of Europe. He knew he who was, and where he came from. He was both comfortable in his skin, and shy of company, and played, as such men do, an adequate banjo.

The roll-call of dead famous friends I half-knew — Barrett, Hughes, Vidal, Enright, Hargreaves, Ian Richardson, Hayes Gordon; and others I knew better — Clayton, Hardy, Kaye, Ashbolt, Porteous, Hackforth-Jones, Margaret Whitlam — bank up in my mind and I am sorry, always sorry, for the conversations I did not seek or continue when I was in the rooms in which I will see them now no more. Of the Four Corners I worked in, Bob Moore, Frank Bennett, Bill Peach and Paul Gardiner are dead, three of them in their forties, Oxenburgh, Penlington and Patti Warne live, and should I suppose be drunk with at Bill’s obsequies.

And so it goes.

  1. And he belonged to a gentler, less rabid age. There was only one family in our street with a television when I was growing up, and Bill Peach was the man to bring several households together after dinner.

  2. Yes, my wife and I very much regret his death, hope he did not suffer.
    He was an ornament in his being.

  3. Bill Peach was up there with the best.

    Very sad to hear the news.

  4. Vale, Bill.
    I think it was he who named The Worm “Talbot”.

  5. Dear Mr Ellis,

    Some words please on an ‘August Harvest.’ Excuse my ignorance, it is just that I cannot find the relevant information. Is this a term that you have coined? Can you point me in the right direction please? Or anyone else?

    Thanks in advance.

  6. “If ever there was a Middle Australia, he was it.”

    And yet he valued a movie like The Last Picture Show, he was modest ,yet confident, someone I’d call a nice Australian.

    He would not fit in Abbott’s Australia…

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