William "Bill" Aird was born on April 1, 1925, in Girvan, South Ayrshire, Scotland, the youngest and only son of three children born to Agnes (nee Matthews) and George Aird. The family migrated to Australia in 1927 and settled at Yeelanna on the Eyre Peninsula, where Bill's father had a job with the railways. The family moved to Port Lincoln after a few years and Bill had his schooling in that town. Bill left school at 14 and got his first job as a messenger boy and clerk with the Adelaide Steamship Company in Port Lincoln. He later joined the South Australian Railways and trained as a train driver. Towards the end of World War II, Bill, desperate to "do his bit," joined the Armed Forces only to be told to return to the railways, for his was a reserved occupation. After the war, Bill left the railways and began work at a local garage and car dealership, and he spent the rest of his working life in the auto industry. Bill married Elizabeth (Beth) Cowley in 1956 and they had two children, Wendy and Craig. In 1964 the Aird family moved to Clarence Gardens in Adelaide, where Bill headed the service departments of a number of auto dealers around the city.
Bill became interested in minerals through an initial interest in gemology and he took a Gemmological Association course in the mid-1960s. He became an active member of the Adelaide Gem and Mineral Club in 1966, when the Club had several hundred members. Bill was an enthusiastic field collector, and many weekends were spent visiting mineral localities in and around Adelaide, particularly the White Rock quarry and Ashton. On family holidays the Aird family ventured farther afield to the Flinders Ranges and Olary. The Spring Creek Copper mine near Wilmington was a favorite collecting locality.
Bill was very outgoing and friendly, and made friends easily; this brought opportunities to collect farther afield. Don McColl invited Bill to collect at Brown's prospect at Rum Jungle during the famous 1977 dig, where fine specimens of malachite, cerussite and pyromorphite were collected in quantity. Bill also went with Don to the Harts Range in 1978 and was able to collect kornerupine and sapphirine specimens at Mt. Riddock in the Harts Range in 1978. Through these trips Bill was able to build a fine collection and a good stock of quality material for exchange.
In April 1990, Bill retired as service manager at Fairway Ford, one of South Australia's largest Ford dealerships, and commenced regular volunteer work in the Mineralogy Section at the South Australian Museum. At about the same time, Deane Ware, another local collector, retired from his job as the head of maintenance at a local bakery and also joined the section as a volunteer. Bill and Deane became the backbone of the group of volunteers in the Mineral Section of the South Australian Museum for the next 20 years.
In his volunteer work at the South Australian Museum, Bill ran the mineral identification service. He used the powder X-ray diffractometer and later the analytical SEM. Bill also did much work in reorganizing the mineral collections. In the last ten years of his life, he would spend Wednesday mornings operating one of the scanning electron microscopes at the University of Adelaide's Electron Microscopy Centre, doing mineral identifications. Bill was always one to try new technologies if it was going to enrich his knowledge of mineralogy and mineral collecting. He made extensive use of computers, digital cameras and the Internet, both at the Museum and at home. He became a very knowledgeable amateur mineralogist and could be a mine of information. Unfortunately in later years his short-term memory deteriorated significantly, much to his own immense frustration (his 'seniors moments' as he used to call them), but he dealt with the problem by writing himself notes and he would always get back to you with the answer. In this respect he was quite remarkable.
Bill had a great sense of humor and fun, and would be the first to laugh at himself; he used to refer to himself as "the good looking bloke with curly hair." Bill and Allan Pring shared a lack of appreciation for the mineral gypsum, and while Allan was working for a year in Cambridge in 1999, Bill packed up a box of mineral specimens that were to be sent to Allan for research. When Allan unpacked them in Cambridge, every second specimen turned out to be a beautifully packed gypsum crystal!
Bill was a true gentleman with a very positive outlook on life, and he derived great pleasure from his family and friends, from minerals and mineral collecting, and just from living and meeting people. Bill's was a life well lived. On May 24, 2011, the South Australian mineral collecting community lost one of its most respected, likeable and well-known characters with the passing of Bill Aird.
PRING, A. (2011) Obituary of William "Bill" Aird.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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