'Pop' William Henry Williams

'Pop' of Whistlers is a Rock Fan.

There was a special affinity between the old man and the small boys swarming after the ball like bees around a honey pot.

One dark-haired youngster, the wind knocked out of him in a fall, burst into tears.

"Pop" Williams blew his whistle and ruffled the boy's hair, then whispered something in his ear.

You have to make allowances for the little "uns," "Pop" says. "They don't really know what it's all about. They cry for Mummy, aren't sure which way they're running, and they want to stop when the lollies fall out of their pockets..."

"Pop" Williams, if you haven't already guessed, is a soccer referee. He is on the job five days a week.

'Pop' William Henry Williams
"Pop" keeps up with the play during the match between YMCA and Gladesville Ravens at West Epping recently.

'...this fellow in Uruguay'

Nothing remarkable about that, perhaps. But "Pop" will be 78 next month.

Three years ago, FIFA, Soccer's world controlling body, advised "Pop", or Bill as he was Christened, that their records showed he was the oldest active referee in the British Commonwealth.

"I'm not saying I'm right", "Pop" says, "but I reckon I might be about the oldest in the world now."

"They say there is this fellow in Uruguay or somewhere over there, who is a year or so older than I am. I've never been able to find out for sure, though."

Age is a matter of small importance to "Pop" and whether he is in fact, the oldest whistle-blower in the world is about as important.

"I like children, you see," he says. "I like to be able to coach them and advise them. And refereeing is one of the best ways of doing it."

Soccer takes up most of his time in winter. Midweek, he referees primary and high school matches throughout the metropolitan area. Saturday and Sunday he can be found controlling junior association games.

When I spoke to him last Saturday, it was between games. He had matches at 11 am, noon, 1 pm and 2 pm ("And they might need me somewhere else later on.").

When he is not refereeing he coaches boys from Roselea Soccer Club (Carlingford) which he founded with his daughter, Mrs Ruth Apps.

He coaches girls in the skills of vigoro and basketball, helps them prepare for umpiring examinations.

Come summer, he tutors boys in the art of driving a cricket ball. And he umpires second and third grade games.

"Pop" Williams has no magic youth elixir. "I exercise every day for about an hour," he says. "I kick a ball against the wall in the back lane behind my home, skip and do arm and leg exercises."

"Don't bother with alcohol or smokes. But I like that rock-and-roll music."

"You dance to it?" I asked.

"Oh no, but its good to move about to. Keeps the body supple."

Born in Liverpool, England, "Pop" came to Australia in 1914.

"I arrived November 11, and early the next year I was on the way back to Europe on the troop ship Ceramic"

"I was on Gallipoli, with the 18th Battalion 1st AIF."

"I was wounded twice and gassed several times. Then I came back to Australia and haven't been home since. I'm 100 percent Australian, 101percent British, you could say."

"Pop" was an engine driver with the NSW Railways for 30 years before he retired 18 years ago.

How long will he continue refereeing, this seemingly ageless old man with steel-grey hair and healthy tan?

"When you love doing something, you don't think about stopping."

"I'll go on just as long as I can."

This report is from an Australian newspaper of September 1972. Unfortunately I do not know the name of the newspaper but Alan Speers wrote the article. Should anyone know the newspaper concerned I would appreciate hearing from you so I may contact the company.

If you believe you know of the family of William Henry Williams in Australia, I would love to hear from you.

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