The Mitchell Family History

Mavis and Bill Mitchell - their ancestors and descendants

William Willaton 'Bill' MITCHELL

Male 1922 - 1996  (73 years)


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  • Name William Willaton 'Bill' MITCHELL  [1, 2
    Born 15 Oct 1922  Tien Tsin, China Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender Male 
    Notes for biography AWARDS
    * OBE: Bill was awarded the OBE by the Queen for his services to the community.
    * Public Relations: In 1984 he received from the Public Relations Institute of Australia the Colin Waldon Memorial Award for "an outstanding contribution to the field of Public Relations in Western Australia". He was subsequently, in 1989, admitted to the Chapter of Fellows of the Public Relations Institute of Australia – the highest award given.
      [3
    Notes for biography COMMUNITY SERVICE
    Bill was involved in various church and charitable organisations and on many committees over the years.
    In his youth in Ballarat, he became a Methodist local preacher.
    In Western Australia, he actively supported the YMCA, The W.A. Week Council, the Queen's Silver Jubilee Trust, The Empire (now Commonwealth) Games Committee, the One Australia Movement, Muscular Dystrophy Assn., Good Samaritan industries, Adviser to the City of Canning, and he is at present Trustee of Beehive Industries lnc.
    He was on the Board of Jason Lazy-boy Industries; a Director of Capital City Properties, and Parlorcars Tours, and was State President of the World Freedom League. He was one of the foundation members of the Kensington Methodist (now Uniting) church.
    He has chaired and addressed many public meetings and is still in demand by many organisations as a speaker at their meetings.
    The day after the house was burnt down, Bill won the Rostrum Club's “Speaker of the Year" award.
    In 1981 he was awarded by the Queen the OBE for services to the State and the community.
    He stood for Parliament in 1983 for the seat of Gosnells, and although he polled very well, the swing against the Liberals all over Australia was too great and Labor held the seat.
    He was an adviser to the Canning City Council.
    Over the years he has taken up the fight on many public issues, writing letters to newspapers, organising public rallies on issues such as Retrospective Tax, the Bill of Rights and being outspoken on the need to control AIDS. Noonkanbah. He has written many articles for magazines and was, for a short time, a columnist for the paper "Business Week“.
      [4
    Notes for biography DETERMINED REPORTER
    Never daunted by any difficulties which confronted him in acquiring a news story, his enthusiasm and ingenuity would always ensure coverage would be made.
    Here we must relate an incident that happened just prior to doing an interview for The West Australian - with Lord Bruce on board his ship which was berthing in Fremantle on a Sunday. The Press had been invited to join him in a lunch on board. On the evening before this was to take place, Bill had a mishap with his upper dentures, cracking the plate into two halves. As it was his only set and there was no dentist available over the weekend, innovative repairs had to be made. Bill heated some panel pins over the gas stove, then with a set of pliers, bent them to the shape of the palette of the dentures and, while red hot, pressed the pins into the plastic joining both pieces together. This was done right down the set - about twelve panel pins in all. So, with a mouthful of panel pins, he conducted his interview - but was very careful about what he ate at the lunch!
    On one occasion, in order to interview the Captain of a Rottnest Island ferry that was stuck on a sandbank in the Swan River near the Fremantle Railway bridge, he stripped down to his underpants, leaving his clothes on the bank, and waded out to board the ship and get his story!
    On another occasion he climbed the 64 metres high Gloucester tree at Pemberton - the tallest fire lookout tree in the world - to conduct an interview and take pictures, only to find on reaching the top he had left his camera on the ground. So, with no liking for heights, it was down again and up again before a final trembling descent.   [5
    Notes for biography EARLY YEARS
    Bill was born in China and, with his mother and younger brother Jack, moved to Australia when he was about 6 years old.
    The boys spent all their school years Ballarat Church of England Grammar School - as boarders because their mother was had a lengthy illness.
    Their holidays were spent out on ‘Clifford Farm‘ at Linton with their uncle Bob and his wife Minnie and their only child, Laura.
    Later their mother set up a home for them at 450 Wendouree Parade, Ballarat.
    Bill matriculated from school in May 1946 (p72). He started work with the Ballarat Courier the next year, when he was 17 years old.
    Later their mother set up a home for them at 450 Wendouree Parade, Ballarat.
      [2
    Notes for biography HEALTH
    Bill contracted TB while on military duty in the Islands and had to be sent down for treatment in the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne.
    After his discharge from the hospital and discharge from the army in 1946 he returned to the Ballarat Courier and a year later obtained work in Perth. But soon after his arrival in Perth he was admitted to Hollywood Repatriation Hospital with haemorrhages from the lungs, and, after tests, his fears were confirmed - it was TB again. He was confined to bed but after six months of complete rest he was still haemorrhaging and the Doctors decided to try a new drug on him - streptomycin. They flew the drug over from Sydney and he was the first in WA to receive the treatment which involved 6 injections and 12 inhalations a day for three months. However, it was this drug that provided the turning point, and although his stay in hospital was two years his health gradually improved.   [6
    Notes for biography MARRIAGE
    After an engagement of two years, Bill and Mavis were married on 21st October 1944 while he was on leave from the army in New Guinea.
    Their combined worldly goods were a bicycle and ten pounds in the Bank! With boundless faith they embarked on their life together, scraping and saving every penny they could until finally they were able to buy a block of land and build their first house on Wendouree Parade, Ballarat - next to the Jubilee Methodist Church.
    The early years of marriage were marked by Bill having to return to New Guinea and then repatriated to Melbourne with TB. He went back to work at the Ballarat Courier for a year or so before obtaining a position with the ABC in Perth. Bill went on ahead of Mavis but was down with TB again. Mavis was greeted at the aiport by ABC staff telling her that Bill was in hospital. He had to remain in hospital for many months. lt was a difficult time for everyone as he was isolated from his two children - Helen at 21 months and Cynthia at three months when he was first hospitalised. They could only wave to him through the window, and had it not been for some very good friendships made at that time through the church and neighbours at lnglewood where Bill had found a house to rent, life would have been very hard indeed. Mr & Mrs Parsons, Mr & Mrs Huff, Mr & Mrs Watkins, and the staff and families of the ABC were some of the many who rallied around to help, forming very deep lifelong friendships.
    As time went by his children grew in number to six. As well as Helen and Cynthia there were Beverly, John, Douglas and Russell. (Douglas died when just 7 months old of bronchial pneumonia). As the house which was rented from the State Housing Commission at 9 Bourke Street, Kensington, was now too small for such a large family, he purchased 5 1/2 acres of land in Riverton (now Vtfllletton) and, with the help of all the family, built by sub-contract over a period of two years a large home where the children could grow up with plenty of room around them. The area was, in those days, largely undeveloped bushland. Water was pumped up to the house from a bore located at the bottom of the hill, but three months after moving into the home, both water and electricity were extended along Sixth Avenue (later renamed Elgon Hill), and connected to the house. Never having even opened a bag of cement in his life before, he embarked on this venture with great enthusiasm. All the family helped and often concrete for the footings was mixed and poured by the light of the moon, as building the house had to be fitted into his shift work as a journalist. Friends also put in countless hours to assist where they could.
    Although, the original home was burned down in 1968 it was rebuilt on the same foundations and floor in its present form.
    It has been a very good partnership through sickness and health, lean and plenty years.
    Bill and Mavis had six children and were very proud of their family - Helen, Cynthia, Beverly, John and Russell, who have all attained University degrees and have taken their place in the community. All have married and have families of their own. Their other son, Douglas, died at 7 months of bronchial pneumonia.
    There are 12 grandchildren - all still living in Western Australia.

      [6, 7, 8
    Notes for biography MUSIC
    In his later youth in Ballarat he found time to enjoy his love of music in the company of a small group of friends who would meet at the home of an elderly blind man, Percy Campbell. There were also sessions around his next door neighbour's (Tilly Thompson) piano with some of his friends where competitions would be held to see who could play best a certain piece of music. His creative talents also extended to composing music, and writing poetry.   [6
    Notes for biography WORLD TRIPS
    Bill travelled twice around the world and once to Asian countries with the Premier.
    He left the Government service in 1969 and took Mavis and Russell on an overseas trip - visiting 20 countries, including South Africa where he spent three weeks with his father in Durban.   [9
    Military service MILITARY SERVICE
    In 1941 at the age of 19 he enlisted in the Army and served in Signals units in Australia, Port Moresby, Lae and Morotai.
    "He coped with the intracies of electical, telephone, radio, radar, teletype and similar equipment. While serving as a clerk he set about redesigning ordinance records" (Charlie Court, p34)
    Unfortunately, he contracted TB while on duty in the Islands and had to be sent down for treatment in the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne.   [6
    Occupation ABC NEWS
    About 1947 Bill joined a small team of journalists being sent to Perth by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to start up the ABC Independent News Service in Western Australia.
    Soon after his arrival in Perth he was was hospitalized with TB. After a further 6 months rehabilitation period, Bill returned to the ABC until 1954.
      [5
    Occupation BALLARAT COURIER
    In 1939, at about 17 years of age, Bill began a career in journalism as a cadet reporter on the Ballarat Courier.
    Feeling very unsure of himself, he was fortunate that one of the senior reporters - Ted Truscott - could see his potential and took him under his wing. He spent many gruelling hours going through the Oxford Dictionary with him to increase his word useage and understanding of meanings and a great friendship developed between them which was to last until Ted's death many years later.
    Bill was in military service from about 1941 to 1946 and then returned to the Courier. Then after a year, the left for Perth.   [6
    Occupation CURTIN UNIVERSITY
    Commencing in 1988, he lectured in Public Relations at Curtin University School of Management. In about 1995 he was appointed Course Controller.


      [3
    Occupation PREMIER'S DEPARTMENT
    When the Liberal Government was returned in 1959 to govern the State under the leadership of David Brand (later Sir David Brand) Bill was asked to set up the state's first public relations office.
    His salary was 2,500 pounds per year (p29, The West Australian, 18th June 1959).
    For the next ten years Bill was very closely involved in promoting the rapid development of Western Australia during the sixties and also working closely with Sir Charles Court.
    He travelled twice around the world and once to Asian countries with the Premier and wrote millions of words of speeches and press statements, including those for the Queen and other members of the Royal family on their visits to the State. He was responsible for a major programme for the publication of information journals, brochures, pamphlets and promotional material including films. All of this gave him immense experience in the operation of government and he became a top-level adviser writing all of its policies from 1962 until 1983.
    Charles Court stated that "I enjoyed a very close working relationship with Bill. I found he was no ordinary jouralist or public relations man. He had an amazing capacity to immediately understand the thrust of what I was seeking to achieve and then express it in appropriate words. What was more important, he knew how to dissmeninate the message to the widest and most appropiate audiance. Bill was a prodigious and quick worker.... He was able to handle the media and other people because of his capacity to bring facts together quickly, effectively and with integrity." (p36)  [10
    Occupation THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
    In 1954 Bill joined "The West Australian“, serving as shipping roundsman at Fremantle for three years and political roundsman for two years. He also served for a period as Assistant Chief-of-Staff.
    Some of the major assignments he covered while with The West Australian were the second Monte Bello atomic test (for the London Times), the development and opening of BP Kwinana, the Waterfront (then controlled by Communist-led unions), as well as interviewing notable people such as Lord Louis Mountbatten, Lord Bruce, Sir Robert Menzies and many others who were prominent figures at that time.
    His assignments as a journalist took him to every district in the State and he earned the respect of the public and politicians alike for his well researched and balanced reporting.   [5
    Occupation VANTAGE HOMES
    In 1969 Bill set up a family home-building company - Vantage Homes Pty. Ltd. He started building houses at Mandurah. However, this operation was short-lived as there was a collapse in the home-building market. Only five homes were built.   [11
    Occupation WW MITCHELL & ASSOCIATES
    In 1970 Bill started his own public relations and policy consultancy - which is still in operation today (1996), although in a much more limited form than in the days of a city office.
    From the day of opening its doors (firstly in Central Arcade, later in Victoria Avenue) it was inundated with work and the typists used to say that they had never worked in an office where the output was so great. However, they all said they enjoyed working there and several of his secretaries still regularly keep in touch and send photos of their families.
    He decided to scale down his business and move out of his Victoria Avenue office to home dispensing with staff and installing a computer.
    The firm provided advice and service to Government and major firms operating locally, nationally and internationally. lt covered all aspects of public relations but specialised in policy and concept development, major writing assignments, the development of campaign marketing programmes, briefing of Government Ministers going overseas, and advice to and close liaison to Sir Charles Court who became Premier after the death of Sir David Brand.
    A long-standing interest in photography was also used to good account in his business with the production of videos and movie films as well as the use of photographs taken by him being used in promotional publications, annual reports, newsletters etc.
      [11
    Died 16 Jul 1996  [1
    Person ID I2  Mitchell
    Last Modified 21 Apr 2021 

    Father Albert Ernest MITCHELL,   b. 1883,   d. 16 Nov 1973, Durban, South Africa Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 90 years) 
    Mother Elsie Margaret WILLATON,   b. 1889,   d. 18 Mar 1978  (Age 89 years) 
    Married 17 Sep 1921  [2
    Family ID F109  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Mavis Eileen Alison RENSHAW,   b. 26 Aug 1920 
    Married 21 Oct 1944  Geelong Find all individuals with events at this location  [6
    • South Geelong Methodist Church
    Children 
    +1. Helen Margaret MITCHELL,   b. 14 Aug 1945,   d. 3 Jul 2021, Kelmscott, Western Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 75 years)
    +2. C. MITCHELL
    +3. B.A. MITCHELL
    +4. J.W.L. MITCHELL
     5. Douglas MITCHELL,   b. 2 Jan 1953,   d. 21 Jul 1953  (Age 0 years)
    +6. R.G. MITCHELL
    Last Modified 13 Feb 2021 
    Family ID F1  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Mitchell families at Christmas gathering in the garden of 9 Elgon Hill in 1996 - the last photo taken of Bill - and the last taken by Bill
    Mitchell families at Christmas gathering in the garden of 9 Elgon Hill in 1996 - the last photo taken of Bill - and the last taken by Bill
    From 'We Shook The family Tree Again', page 58
    Bill & Mavis reading congratulations on their 50th wedding anniversary
    Bill & Mavis reading congratulations on their 50th wedding anniversary
    From 'We Shook The Family Tree Again', page 58
    Mitchell family about 1980
    Mitchell family about 1980
    L to R - Beverly, Helen & Cynthia
    Back - Bill, Russell, Mavis & John
    From 'We Shook The Family Tree Again', page 57
    Mitchell family gathering for Cynthia's birthday in 2002
    Mitchell family gathering for Cynthia's birthday in 2002
    From 'We Shook The Family Tree Again', page 54
    Bill & Mavis at the wedding of Russell & Sharon - about 1985
    Bill & Mavis at the wedding of Russell & Sharon - about 1985
    From 'We Shook The Family Tree Again', page 46
    Bill & Mavis
    Bill & Mavis
    Houses over the years
    Houses over the years
    ww - Cars over the years
    ww - Cars over the years
    Bill & Mavis - wedding
    Bill & Mavis - wedding
    Bill & Mavis in 1953
    Bill & Mavis in 1953
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    ww - Bill at 6 months
    ww - Bill at 6 months
    ww - Bill in 1942
    ww - Bill in 1942
    ww - Bill in Hollywood Hospital
    ww - Bill in Hollywood Hospital
    ww - Bill in New Guinea
    ww - Bill in New Guinea
    ww - Bill in New Guinea, standing
    ww - Bill in New Guinea, standing
    ww - Bill on Albert's shoulders
    ww - Bill on Albert's shoulders
    ww - Elsie, Bill, Jack & Albert - possibly in 1928 before mother and the boys left China for Australia
    ww - Elsie, Bill, Jack & Albert - possibly in 1928 before mother and the boys left China for Australia
    WW Mitchell
    WW Mitchell
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.

    Documents
    William Willaton Mitchell - born 15th Oct 1922 in Tien Tsin
    William Willaton Mitchell - born 15th Oct 1922 in Tien Tsin
    * Date: 15th October 1922
    * Place: Tien Tsin
    * Parents: Elsie Margaret Willaton and Albert Ernest Mitchell, Chinese Customs Officer born Linton Australia
    * Informant: EM Mitchell (mother) Tein Tsin
    * Registration: Consulate-General at Tien Tsin, number 11 on 8th Jan 1923
    William Mitchell & Mavis Renshaw - married 21st Oct 1944 in South Geelong
    William Mitchell & Mavis Renshaw - married 21st Oct 1944 in South Geelong
    * Date: 21st October 1944
    * Place: Methodist Church, South Geelong
    * Groom: William Willaton Mitchell, bachelor, aged 22 years, born Tien Tsin China, occupation Army, present residence 422 Windoree?? Parade Ballarat Vic, usual residence VX 114697 2nd Aust Sig-Equip-Sect??, son of Elsie Margaret Willaton and Albert Ernest Mitchell, retired.
    * Bride: Mavis Eileen Alison Renshaw, spinster, aged 24 years, born Geelong, occupation clerk, residence 288 Yarra St South Geelong, daughter of Eva Alice Thorne.
    * Registered: District of South Geelong, number 22 in 1944

    Stories
    06 - 'His Spirit Lives On'
    06 - 'His Spirit Lives On'
    A selection of memories and anecdotes by family members and others in memory of Bill Mitchell after his death in 1996
    04 - 'My Family & My Country' - Poetry of Bill Mitchell
    04 - 'My Family & My Country' - Poetry of Bill Mitchell
    Compiled by Mavis Mitchell after Bill's death in 1996.
    05 - 'Dear Sir'
    05 - 'Dear Sir'
    A compilation of letters to the newspaper written by Bill Mitchell. This was produced in a bound copy by Mavis Mitchell in 1998 - a few years after his death.
    03 - Bill Mitchell - 'This Is Your Life' - part 1 - The story of his life
    03 - Bill Mitchell - 'This Is Your Life' - part 1 - The story of his life
    This was compiled for Bill's 70th birthday. It includes notes by Sir Charles Court.
    03 - Bill Mitchell - 'This Is Your Life' - part 2 - family contributions, genealogy, education & letters
    03 - Bill Mitchell - 'This Is Your Life' - part 2 - family contributions, genealogy, education & letters
    * Contributions: Bill's wife, children & grandchildren acknowledge Bill with drawings, stories and poems. This is well worth looking at.
    * Genealogy:
    * Education:
    * Letters: There are 6 letters to newspapers here, and there are many more of Bill's letters in 'Dear Sir'.
    03 - Bill Mitchell - 'This Is Your Life' - part 3 - awards, military, references, cars, houses & cuttings
    03 - Bill Mitchell - 'This Is Your Life' - part 3 - awards, military, references, cars, houses & cuttings
    * Awards:
    * Military:
    * References:
    * Cars & houses:
    * Cuttings:
    03 - Bill Mitchell - 'This Is Your Life' - part 4 - poetry, interesting occasions & family photos
    03 - Bill Mitchell - 'This Is Your Life' - part 4 - poetry, interesting occasions & family photos
    * Poetry: There are 9 poems here, and many more in 'My Family & My Country'
    * Events:
    * Family photos:
    A shocking leap down the back yard
    A shocking leap down the back yard
    Bill's car crashed through the fence and down the garden terraces. This prompted a humorous poem.

  • Sources 
    1. [S1] Mavis Mitchell, "Renshaw - What's In A Name - 1?", Mavis Mitchell, nee Renshaw, Genealogical list as at December 2006.

    2. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 6.

    3. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 31.

    4. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 30 & 31.

    5. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 17.

    6. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 16.

    7. [S5] 'What's in a Name #2 - Thorne' by Mavis Mitchell (nee Renshaw), page 68.

    8. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 18.

    9. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 28 & 30.

    10. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 28, 29 & 36.

    11. [S6] 'Bill Mitchell - This Is Your Life', Page 30.