Amazing Amateurs: Uncle Billy’s world adventure
Stories & Ideas

Wed 31 May 2017

Amazing Amateurs: Uncle Billy’s world adventure

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Your museum of screen culture

Experience travelling the world in the 1960s.

Billy Darbyshire, the exploring auteur

Our national love of trotting the globe isn’t a modern development. Back in the 1960s William (Billy) Darbyshire boarded the Arcadia cruise ship, armed with his handy 8mm home movie camera and colour film stock to record his adventures around the world.

Though the original film is grainy and scratchy (understandable considering all the miles those reels travelled!), the famous tourist spots and on-board antics of world cruise passengers are captured in hand-held glory. In the flickering frames, Billy captures the zebras of Zimbabwe, the beaches of Hawaii and Chinese temples largely unseen by Westerners, just to name a few.     

Travel wasn’t foreign to Billy though. In 1911 he and his family waved goodbye to England from the bow of a steamboat, bound for Sydney. After becoming a plasterer, his unshakeable curiosity saw him reside not only in Melbourne and England, but also Bulawayo in Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe. During WWII he spent six years serving in the Southern Rhodesia Forces in a medical corps, travelling to various wartime conflict zones. After his service was complete, Billy returned in the 60s to visit famous Rhodesian locations like Victoria Falls and the Matobos National Park, where he turned his keen eye on some of the most exotic animals in the world.  

Billy’s Rhodesian jaunt wasn’t his only post-war travel, with extensive journeys through Asia, Europe, Africa, the Pacific and North America, which were captured on his trusty 8mm movie camera and survive for us to enjoy to this day.

This article was part of our Amazing Amateurs series about home movies from the 1940s-60s, shot by the first generation of Australians with access to home film cameras.

We're digitising thousands of hours of home movies which have been donated by families of these pioneering filmmakers. The film reels contain all kinds of footage, from family holiday trips to the occasional only-known recording of important historical moments, and they provide an incredible snapshot of life in Australia in the middle of the 20th century.

Read more about process of digitisation, or check out other footage on YouTube.