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Bill Walters. 0301JM02

Bill Walters. 0301JM02

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He may have been born in Leicester, raised on the streets of Barrhead near Glasgow but Bill Waters regards Derry as his home.

He may have been born in Leicester, raised on the streets of Barrhead near Glasgow but Bill Waters regards Derry as his home.

Bill is a well known professional actor and recently he starred in the story of Half hung McNaghten ‘The Wood of the Crows’ at Prehen House and The Playhouse theatre.

Bill moved to Derry over two years ago after meeting his partner Sharon whilst volunteering as a tour guide in Lourdes.

“I have lived all over the place for the last few years and it wasn’t until I moved to Derry that I felt like I was home - Derry is where I belong,” says Bill contently.

Bill was born in Leicester in March 1959 but after three months his parents moved back to Glasgow and lived in a little house on Bathgate Street. Living next door to Bill and his family was Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie a.k.a. world famous singer and actress Lulu.

“When I was younger I would have been best pals with Lulu’s brother Billy - we played football together.

“My sister Lynn was and still is good pals with Lulu - she’s a lovely girl,” says Bill in a thick Glaswegian accent.

Bills father was a typewriter mechanic and sadly died when Bill was only two years-old. A few years later, Bill’s mother, Pat, remarried.

The man she married was called Hugh; he was a scriptwriter for Scottish television and Bill came to regard him as his ‘dad’.

“I’ve only ever had one dad,” says Bill. “And that was Hugh. I have a few early members of my natural father but my dad was Hugh - he died five years ago - it was a tough time.”

Bill attended St. John’s Primary School in Barrhead before moving on to St. Mirin’s Grammar School.

It was during his time at St. John’s that Bill started to develop into a talented footballer.

When he was nine years-old he signed for Glasgow Celtic. Before signing for Celtic Bill caught the eye of a Glasgow Rangers scout but jokes that they lost interest when they realised he went to a Catholic school.

“I was playing in a game for my local club team,” recalls Bill. “There was a Rangers scout at the game and I think he said that he was interested in signing me but I think when he found out I was at St. John’s he decided to withdraw quietly,” he laughs.

“I was a Catholic and was a diehard Celtic supporter but I would have had no problem with signing for Rangers.

“Despite all that a man called Bennie Rooney came to watch me the following week. He was a scout for Celtic and within the space of a few days I was a Celtic youth player.”

Bill recalls his time at Celtic with fondness. He says that playing for the team he supported was a dream come true. His career started to progress quickly but his step-father refused to sign the appropriate papers which would allow him to sign a professional contract. Bill’s stepfather wanted him to pursue an education first and as a result of the clash of values then Celtic manager Jock Stein visited the house to try and convince Bill’s stepfather to sign the documents.

“I loved my time at Celtic. I played in the same youth team as Tommy Burns and Paul McStay. I also played alongside Vic Davidson - I thought that Vic was one of the greatest players that ever lived - he was a joy to watch.”

When Bill was 14 he was selected to play for the Under 18 team. He was a forward and scored a hat-trick for the team on his U18 debut against Irish team Home Farm Everton.

“The U14s went on a tour of New Jersey in America whilst the U18s went and played a few games in Drogheda - I think we drew the short straws there,” he laughs.

“Celtic wanted me to sign a professional contract when I was 17 but in order for me to do it I needed my dad’s consent. He refused to sign the papers because he said that he wanted me to get an education first. He said that as soon as I had a few letters after my name I could play for whoever I wanted.

“Jock Stein visited the house twice to plead with my dad but he wouldn’t budge. I was gutted. I was on my knees begging him to sign the papers but he wouldn’t. I left home and went to London. Looking back now I can see why he did what he did but I was still distraught that I never got the chance to find out if I was good enough to play at the top level.”

Bill married when he was 21 years-old and had two children; a son called Kevin and a daughter called Amanda.

“You’ll never believe this but my oldest son Kevin is a diehard Rangers supporter. I remember when he was young I had a few friends around to watch the Old Firm derby. Rangers scored one goal and then another. Kevin felt that he couldn’t celebrate in front of us but I told him that it was his house too and that he could celebrate as much as he liked. Rangers scored a third and Kevin went mad - I shouted at him to calm down. Rangers won 3-0,” he laughs.

He continued: “My son Barry played for the Celtic youth team too and my daughter Bobbie used to play for the ladies’ team - I guess you could say like father like son and like daughter too.”

Bill’s marriage broke down and a few years later he remarried and he and his wife had two children; a son called Barry and a daughter called Bobbie.

When he was in his late twenties Bill became a senior sales manager for Max Factor in Ireland and after a few years he joined Scotch Whisky manufacturers Whyte and Mackay. Bill worked in the whisky industry for over 20 years and said that he enjoyed every moment of it.

“I loved working in the whisky industry. I was quite successful and loved the people I worked with.

“I remember working for one Irish whiskey distiller in Louth. My secretary was a Rangers supporter and one morning I came into work and the night before Rangers had played well in Europe. I said to her that I thought they had played that well that I was going to write a letter to then Rangers manager Walter Smith. A few weeks after I sent the letter I got a reply inviting me to Ibrox. Walter Smith said in his letter that to get a letter of praise from a Celtic fan was a big deal and when I went to Ibrox he met me in the foyer to give me my ticket. It was a great day out and my friends still have a go at me for accepting the invitation - but it was all in good humour.”

He continued: “My relationship with Lourdes happened by complete accident over 20 years ago. My dad was born with polio so as a result he was in a wheelchair for latter stages of his life and always needed someone to push him. My brother was due to go to Lourdes with my mum and dad but for some reason he couldn’t go. My mum and dad asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes.

“I remember arriving in Lourdes and soon after we got checked into the hotel I visited the grotto. I wasn’t particularly religious but I remember going there and just crying for ages. It was very emotional and I just fell in love with the place.”

Throughout his years as a senior manager for Whyte and Mackay Billy also volunteered as a tour guide at Lourdes in France. Two and half years ago he met his current partner Sharon at Lourdes and the couple now live a happy life together in Creggan.

“I asked God for an angel from heaven and instead I got a bird from Creggan,” he laughs. “No seriously, Sharon is an amazing person and we are very happy together. She has been nothing but supportive.”

Bill fell into acting by mistake six years ago when he was living in Cheshire. Despite his best efforts to get to all of Celtic’s midweek games the travelling soon took its toll. Bill decided that he wanted to do something during the week to occupy his mind so when a friend suggested helping out with the local amateur drama society he decided to give it a go.

“After I’d attended a few sessions I was asked to read for a part in a play. I didn’t know how to react or what to do but after a while I was hooked. I went on to be involved in some great productions, one of which won the North of England Amateur Drama Association award. I was also awarded with the title of best newcomer,” he recalls proudly.

Since moving to Derry a few years ago Bill has starred in several dramatic productions but said that the recent production of Jonathan Burgess play ‘The Wood of Crows’ was the highlight of his career on the stage so far.

“It was an amazing experience. Throughout the entire production I could be found working away and sharpening my skills in The Playhouse theatre. I owe so much to so many people for showing faith in me and I hope that someday I will be able to repay them

“We are going to stage ‘The Wood of the Crows’ at the Millennium Forum this year - I can’t wait to get back to playing Andrew Knox again.

“I also hope that 2012 will be a big year of acting for me and I can’t wait to become more involved in what’s happening around City of Culture 2013. Derry’s an exciting place to be and I love living here.”