Skip to main content

It is with great sadness that Surf Life Saving NSW advises of the passing of life member William (Bill) Singleton OAM.

Bill’s life-long commitment to Surf Life Saving began when he joined Sawtell SLSC in 1949.

After completing his Bronze Medallion in 1950, Bill became a highly skilled and dedicated member who was devoted to the progression and development of the Sawtell club. Bill was a proud member of just one club for 71 years until he passed away last week.

Within six years he obtained his instructors and examiners certificates and was the first club competitor to be selected in a North Coast Branch team.

A mentor to many across seven decades, close friend David Jones (first country member to win Surf Lifesaver of the Year 1978) said everyone looked up to Bill. “He has always been involved with the surf club, lifesaving was in his blood. As an instructor, he was one of the best I’ve ever seen, incredibly fair, so open-minded and he always listened to both sides.”

Known among members for his friendly approach, David said even into his final years as his health deteriorated, Bill would make his way down to patrols to say hi and check up to see how everyone was going.

A pivotal and dedicated member of his club, Bill held almost every committee position including President, Vice President, Captain, Vice Captain, Chief Instructor, Social Committee Secretary and was Delegate to the North Coast Branch.

“He was the backbone of the club, especially in the early years,” said Sawtell SLSC Secretary Bruce Macphail. “He was the driving force for the original clubhouse build and he was very much a part of every aspect of club life.”

His work didn’t stop with the club though. Bill worked hard within both the branch and state. He led the North Coast Branch as President for seven years among a number of positions where he provided his expert­ise as part of the executive for 31 years.

Passionate about surf sports, particularly R&R in his early years, he was the driving force behind the inaugural NSW Country Championships held at Sawtell in 1971.

A delegate to State Centre for 12 years, Bill was the first official to be elected to the position of Superintendent outside the city area. He looked after the country branches as President for 11 years and additionally he was the NSW Country team coach for a tour of New Zealand. He worked hard to have his branch and members represented and recognised throughout the state.

Bill was the recipient of a number of prestigious awards for his services to Surf Life Saving including a Citation of Merit for Distinguished Service in promoting and supporting the humanitarian goals of World Life Saving in 1982. He then received an Order of Australia Medal in 1994 followed by a Centenary Medal in 2002.

Bill was a life member of the Sawtell SLSC, North Coast Branch, Surf Life Saving NSW and Surf Life Saving Australia.

Not only did he give his time as a lifesaver, he was also involved with a number of committees of Coffs Harbour Council and as Director of Kempsey Radio and the Director and Chairman of the Banana Coast Credit Union for over 20 years.

Bill’s loss will be felt immensely throughout the Sawtell club and greater Coffs Harbour community.

Surf Life Saving NSW sends our thoughts and condolences to the Singleton family and the Sawtell club and is sincerely appreciative of Bill’s contribution to the movement.

Bill passed away peacefully on 4 January, he was 88 years old. He survived by his two sons Graeme and Bill jnr., still active at Sawtell SLSC, and their grandchildren.


A celebration of Bill’s life will be held this Friday 10 January at 1pm at Hogbin Drive Crematorium. 

Bill Singleton OAM
Coffs Harbour City Council Mayor, Cr Denise Knight, presents Bill Singleton with his Sawtellian of the Year award. Photo: Gemima Harvey/Coffs Coast Advocate


Thursday 9 January 2020