Another 100 years … says birthday boy

Bill Lumley MPS with his granddaughter and great-grandchildren
Bill Lumley MPS with his granddaughter and great-grandchildren

You couldn’t pay 99-year-old William ‘Bill’ Lumley MPS to be a pharmacist in the ‘new normal’ world today. 

Set to celebrate his 100th birthday on 16 June, Mr Lumley responded with a resounding ‘no way’ when asked if he wished he could, like others called out of retirement, work during the pandemic.

‘My pharmacy training was far different from what is practiced today,’ said the Life Member, who clocks up 70 years with PSA next month.

Mr Lumley joins Queenslander JSD ‘Stan’ Mellick (Member Insight AP April 2020) in the PSA centenarian stakes this year. As with Mr Mellick, much has changed since 29-year-old Bill graduated from the Victorian College of Pharmacy in 1949 and began working as a locum in Korumburra, 120 km south-east of Melbourne.

Two years later he became a pharmacy owner, running his own practice in Chelsea, a Melbourne suburb, for 13 years. Following this, he served as an inspection pharmacist at the then Commonwealth Department of Health, and remained in the Melbourne office until his retirement in 1983. 

Like many young men of his time, Mr Lumley had lived an entire life before he began his pharmacy career. At just 17, he joined the Militia, now known as the Army Reserves. At this time he also was studying applied science at Melbourne Technical College, now RMIT.

In September 1939, two days after Britain declared war on Germany following Hitler’s invasion of Poland, the Australian Government announced it would begin calling up members of the Militia to aid the war effort. 

Mr Lumley ultimately received his call in 1941, when he joined the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and became a second lieutenant in the 2/2nd Field Regiment.

The regiment was due to leave for Libya shortly afterwards, but plans changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbour in November. As a result, Mr Lumley’s regiment remained in Australia, where he spent time helping protect Western Australia. 

After his discharge from the AIF in 1944, Mr Lumley joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). In December of that year he was granted leave to marry Barbara Eltis, with whom he raised three children – Michael, Catherine and Ian. 

Community minded

As well as his military service, Mr Lumley devoted much of his life to the community and helping people. 

After leaving the RAAF he worked in his brother’s pharmacy and went on to study pharmacy at the Pharmacy College in Melbourne.

Mr Lumley was the first President of the Victorian Pharmacy Students’ Association and, when the Victorian association joined with its New South Wales counterpart to form the National Pharmacy Students’ Association, Mr Lumley became the first president of that organisation, too.

He was also active in local politics, serving as a councillor for the City of Chelsea and as the city’s Mayor in 1955–56. 

In the 1960s, he was the First Aid Officer and Treasurer of the Chelsea Life Saving Club and trained in first aid with the St John Ambulance Brigade.

As his son Mike remembers fondly, at this time Mr Lumley had a rare 16 mm film projector, which he would use to screen first aid training films and entertain members of the Life Saving Club, family and friends. 

He was also President of the Peninsula Ambulance Service for 5 years until it was absorbed into the Melbourne Metropolitan Ambulance Service in 1987. 

‘My father was then Vice President of the Metropolitan Ambulance Service for 2 years before he retired in 1989,’ Mike Lumley told Australian Pharmacist.

‘This was all voluntary service … He has spent much of his life serving and supporting the health of the Victorian community.’

Bill was recognised for this work in 1991, when appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). 

Mr Lumley, who said he has been waiting for the milestone birthday to happen for a long time, attributes his longevity to ‘pure living’.

‘I have had a fairly good life,’ he said.

‘I’ve lived reasonably well. I was married to Barbara for 62 years. I will be relieved when the birthday is over and I can look forward to the next 100 years.’

With no group birthday parties possible, colleagues are invited to send letters or cards to Mr Lumley at: Village Glen Aged Care Residences, 34a Balaka St, Capel Sound. VIC. 3940. Or call him on 0403 813 575.