Bill Duffy was a skilled colonial boy. After study in England, where he played rugby with panache, he returned to South Australia and celebrated three premierships with Norwood from 1881 to 1883.
Bill was the son of William Duffy, who was SA Superintendent of Roads before moving to Tasmania in 1882 to become Engineer of Roads there. Bill was born at Kilmore, Victoria, on 11 October 1858. From 1872 to 1875, he was a student of St Aloysius College, Sevenhill, which was the second boarding college in Australia, preceded only by King's College in Sydney, and existed for 30 years after its foundation in 1856.
Under the heading 'A Promising Colonist', The Northern Argus of 14 September 1880 said: "We glean from our English files that Mr. W. J. Duffy, son of Mr. W. Duffy, Superintending Surveyor of the Midland and North Midland Road Boards of this colony, has finished a course of study at King's College, London, with the highest credit. At the annual distribution of prizes, which were delivered to the students by H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught in person, Mr. Duffy obtained a favorable and prominent place. Out of nine successful candidates for gowns his name ranks fifth. He has also been made an Associate of King's College, a very high distinction, the highest degree in the department of engineering and applied science."
At the start of the 1881 football season, The Evening Journal noted that Norwood had lost seven prominent players from its 1880 premiership team and mentioned Bill as one of the newcomers likely to make his mark. It said: "Duffy was originally at the Sevenhills College, at Clare, and he has lately been playing the Rugby game in England with good success."
Although not always available, Bill rendered splendid service as a goalkicker for Norwood in 1881. He proved his mettle on 9 July when Norwood met the Victorians team, with which it had drawn earlier in the season. He opened the scoring with a mark and goal, and followed up with a splendid mark but was brought to ground by an opponent. Play was stopped while he recovered and he then brought up Norwood's third goal with a fine place kick amid great cheering. Norwood won the match 4.8 to 0.2
After three years with Norwood, Bill joined his family in Tasmania. He was, however, one of 30 players awarded Norwood life membership at the club's 1885 annual general meeting.
In Tasmania he became a prominent contractor and engineer, with the Eddystone Lighthouse among his constructions. He unsuccessfully contested the West Hobart seat in the 1893 Tasmanian election.
He married Ellen Elizabeth Harriman in Melbourne on 15 April 1884. His sister Emma Mary, a nurse at Hobart General Hospital, was highly commended for her care of the Governor, Sir Robert Duff, before his death in 1895. She also served in the Boer War and World War I.
Bill later migrated to NSW and was Inverell Shire Council engineer in 1918. His younger daughter, Dorothy Ellena, was awarded the British War Medal for her service as one of the gallant Bluebird nurses who staffed French hospitals in World War I. She married Dr Alan Sinclair Darvall Barton DSO.
Bill Duffy died at Willoughby, NSW, on 26 September 1938, survived by his widow and children William, Gwendolin (Willis) and Dorothy. Another son, Eric, died in infancy.
* Our thanks to Father Paul Fyfe SJ, Sevenhill Parish Priest, for his spontaneous assistance
P Robins June 2018