Bill, was a gentle soul who will be much missed, he always had a twinkle in his eye, his wife on his arm and a story to tell. Below is what his son had to say about his life.
William Berry – Bill to his friends – was born in March 1934, on the outskirts of Wigan to William Henry Berry, an agricultural traction engine driver and Elizabeth Ashcroft, a cotton mill worker. He was the eldest of three children with a younger brother Anthony and sister Rosemary. His childhood was a happy one, despite the war, and he often used to reminisce about the chickens they kept on the back green, and hearing German bombers flying overhead towards Liverpool.
Bill learned to play the violin at an early age, forced to take lessons by his father who’d had thwarted ambitions of his own.
Having failed his 11 plus – a bone of contention with him until he died as it resulted in a rejected application to study at the Royal College of Music in Manchester – he left school at 15, and was briefly apprenticed to a furniture upholsterer. Two years National Service in the infantry followed, mainly in Dorset, where Bill had the opportunity, through contacts made in the local church, St Mary’s, to play with the Dorchester Music Society.
After finishing National Service, Bill worked as an accounts clerk for the De Havilland aircraft company in Bolton. It was then that he met his future wife, Enid, a trainee librarian. They married in June 1958 and had two sons – Paul born in 1961 and Steven in 1963.
Although Bill had a secure job, the tedium of office work was becoming too much and so in 1965, after a couple of year’s ad hoc work with the Hallé and Laurance Turner Orchestra, he resigned and went freelance. These were difficult times, away from his young family, staying in cheap digs and travelling 35,000 miles a year chasing jobs. But they cemented his reputation as a reliable performer and built up a valuable network of contacts. He took work were he could find it – The Cheltenham Festival, D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, Max Jaffa Orchestra, Scottish Baroque Ensemble and even a UK tour with Tony Bennett, but increasingly more of his work was happening in Scotland, mainly with the Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. And so, in 1972, Bill and his family upped sticks and moved to Biggar.
In 1976 Bill was offered a full time post with the Scottish National Orchestra, where he remained until he retired.
Although Bill and Enid were happy living in Biggar, by the time he’d reached his mid 50’s, Bill was finding the travelling back home at night after concert performances in the winter months too much, and after having dug himself out of the snow on the Carnwath Road one time too many, Bill and Enid decided to move to Bearsden. Here they had easy access to the Trossachs and Loch Lomondside where they could indulge their passion of long walks together, once even getting to the top of Ben Lomond, much to Enid’s surprise.
Shortly after retiring from the orchestra, Bill and Enid’s life was blighted by the sudden death of their son Steven in a road accident.
Despite being a regular churchgoer all his life, most recently at All Saints, Bill almost lost his faith then, but took solace in music and was fortunate to be offered several more years contract work with the BBC and Scottish Ballet. It was then too that he became involved with colleagues playing quartets, occasionally giving performances, but mainly as a way of seeking meaning from his music. This he did right up until the end, playing his violin every day until his admission to hospital at the end of September.
Please remember Enid and Paul in your prayers.