Billy's Last Wish

Billy Walker, Fremantle wharfie, died last night, Thursday, Nov 11 - his wife Linda by his side. But he fought until his very last breath to make the wharves safe.

Before Billy Walker died he had one last message for his mates on the waterfront - 'work safe and work together'. The same message he'd given them for the past 39 years he'd been on the wharves.
This year there have been three deaths on the Australian waterfront.   In Fremantle people are saying "We're going to be next."
One job on everyone's lips is the hatch tender.
Hatchman, topman, signal man, deckhand.  He (and she) could well have another name - BODYGUARD.

"The gang working down the hatch depend on that extra pair of eyes for their lives," said Adrian Evans, WA deputy branch secretary.
Billy had done a lot of work as a both crane driver and hatch tender.
"I know myself even if you have a wide open hatch, there are blind spots. You only need the early morning sun or the afternoon glare to hit the crane window. Crane windows are not that flash. You get a bit of salt, a bit of a smear and you are temporarily blinded and then there's the blind spot created by the load itself."
I think the stress of him always blueing with the boss probably brought it on," said Chris Cain WA Branch Secretary  "Billy would always take a stand on safety."
If it wasn't the hatch tender, it was the gangway or scrap jobs.
Billy always insisted scrap loads should be kept at 20 tonne.
"Ships cranes are only good for 30 tonne," he said.  "25 tonne for your crane then you add on around 5 tonne for the chains and rigging, spreader bar and the bin.  25 tonne of scrap left no margin for error.
 Last October, five months before he planned to retire, Billy got a headache.  A bad one.  It wouldn't go away.
"The missus said I'll take you to the doctor.  I said don't worry about it and took a panadol."
"I knew something was wrong," said Linda.  "He'd never had a headache in his life."
Linda took Billy to the doctor and the doctor ordered scans.  Within a week Billy knew he was dying.  The headache was a brain tumour.  It started from a melanoma cut out years back - a melanoma from 39 years of working on the wharves under the fierce sun.  It had spread to his lungs, lymph nodes and his bones.
"Things change so quick," he said. "It all happened in a week.  My whole world turned up side down.  I was planning to retire in March.  I wanted to buy a 4 wheel drive and travel Australia with my missus- her, me and the dog."
Billy was to turn 60 on December 4.
Among his last words alongside those to his workmates was a final message  for management.
"I've been trying to push the blokes that anytime you have a near miss (and there's been plenty of them lately) report it.
"It needs to be done straight away," said Billy. "And something I've always said to the boss - a happy workforce is a productive workforce. I'm not talking about bringing a box of beer down.  I just mean speak civilly."