100 year old Ex-RAF Squadron Leader Bill McRae DFC,AFC flew Wellington Bomber in the second WW2. Bill, orginally from Kyogle was working in England during the outbreak of WW2 and and enlisted in The English Royal Air Force. Bill pictured at the Ballina Airport.
100 year old Ex-RAF Squadron Leader Bill McRae DFC,AFC flew Wellington Bomber in the second WW2. Bill, orginally from Kyogle was working in England during the outbreak of WW2 and and enlisted in The English Royal Air Force. Bill pictured at the Ballina Airport. Patrick Gorbunovs

After 90 years away, Bill comes home to the Northern Rivers

BILL McRae reckons Coraki has probably changed a lot since he was last there about 90 years ago.

He was born in the small town in 1913 and later went to school in Kyogle, riding a horse to get to the classroom.

"I tell people that neither the boys nor the horses wore shoes in those days," he said.

He left the Northern Rivers when he was 10 years old to move to Sydney and hadn't been back since.

But yesterday the 100-year-old and his friend, former Lismore man Geoff Cottee, flew into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport and will spend the rest of this week exploring the area where they grew up.

"I remember the end of the First World War," Mr McRae said.

"I remember the soldiers coming home to Kyogle... one of them picked me up and threw me up into the air.

Historical photo Kyogle main street railway opening ceremony. c1910 Photo Contributed
Historical photo Kyogle main street railway opening ceremony. c1910 Photo Contributed Contributed

When asked what he expected to have changed at Coraki since he was a boy, he said: "I reckon it has probably been tarted up a bit."

Mr McRae led an interesting life after he left the Northern Rivers.

When the Depression hit in 1929 he was forced to leave school to find work.

"I was very lucky to get a job," he said.

He started working with the Bank of NSW and attended college at night to gain a Diploma of Commerce.

In 1937 the bank transferred him to London, and he was there when war broke out in 1939.

"I was young and patriotic, so I decided to join the British Army," Mr McRae said.

Kyogle Main Street c1913 Photo Contributed Richmond River Historical Society
Kyogle Main Street c1913 Photo Contributed Richmond River Historical Society Contributed

He had a "lucky war" with no injuries, except his knee playing football part drunk.

He and Mr Cottee will visit the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Museum.

They will meet up with members of the Air Force Association in Ballina.

He will also catch up with his nephew in Nimbin.

"I am having delusions of grandeur with all this attention," he said after being fussed over by staff at the airport yesterday.

"My advice: just don't tell anyone when you turn 100."


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