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The Nelson Photo News



Clifford ("My Name's Bill") Gibbons

In 1922 a 12-year-old boy left Nelson Central School and set off for New Plymouth where he hoped to learn the tailoring trade. Within a short space of time, however, he tossed the needle aside in favour of a trowel and mortar and a brick-laying apprenticeship. The boy was "Bill" Gibbons, one of Nelson's best-known citizens and the head of the big contracting firm he established, C.Gibbons Ltd. Bill was born in Nelson in 1910, the middle son of a family of five sons. His father, Frank, had come to Nelson from Tasmania to commence a poultry farm but he had been a construction foreman and it appears likely that his son Bill inherited his yen to build, from his father. His education ended at Central School at the age of 12 and he went to New Plymouth. Upon completing his bricklaying apprenticeship, Bill returned to Nelson to work as a bricklayer for different firms. Then came the depression of the 1930s and Bill decided to strike out on his own. His equipment? A set of trowels and associated tools and a bicycle. Bill weathered the depression very well - in fact he expanded his small business. "At what stage did your business make its most noticeable trend upwards," we asked him. "It didn't," said Bill. "It's just grown gradually into what it is today." And what it is today is the biggest contracting firm in the top half of the South Island. Bill hasn't kept all his eggs in one basket. He owns a lot of property in Nelson and the Bishopdale brickworks. But this, in terms of social prestige, means little to Bill. On the job, dirt and slush mean even less, and he dresses appropriately. Nor can he be said to be a fence-sitter or equivocator. "One way or another you know where you are with Bill," said one of his staff. "It's a case of yes or no--not maybe." Today Bill is serving on the Nelson Harbour Board and for fun he does a little fishing, drinks a little beer with the boys, and cares for his fine brick home he built in Avon Terrace. The pix at right show Bill with his first truck, and as a member of the Nelson junior Rugby reps in 1932.

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