Gordon Nightingale

Marg found it behind a big tin shed where table tennis is played,
Hidden from view by a toilet block, the discovery was made.
An Annis and George Bills Horse Trough on blocks against the wall,
How it got there is a story and I’ll attempt to relate it all.

George Bills was born in Brighton, England, in eighteen fifty nine,
He migrated first to New Zealand and lived there for some time.
He moved on to Australia in eighteen seventy three,
And it was in Brisbane that he met his bride to be.

George Bills and Annis Swann were wed in eighteen eighty five.
Her name meant ‘Love of bird and beast’ and she worked that they might thrive.
They moved on south to Sydney, George in business with his brother,
Manufacturing inner spring mattresses, the brothers in support of each other.

In Nineteen hundred and eight from the business George retired,
And they moved to Hawthorn, Victoria, where a new idea was tried.
Though George and Annis were childless, they concerned for those less fortunate,
And animals, especially working horses, needed help at any rate.

A working horse needs water, over thirty litres every day,
The Bills donated water troughs to help the horses on their way.
In dry and dusty country towns from nineteen thirty to thirty nine,
Hundreds of Bills troughs installed from Carisbrook to the Serpentine.

George set up a trust fund in honour of his beloved wife who died,
To manufacture horse troughs to a standardised design.
Each had a curved pediment in the panel above its head.
“Donated by Annis and George Bills, Australia” each inscription read.

Rocla continued manufacture, the troughs even went overseas,
To Switzerland, Iceland , England, Japan and China if you please.
But the rise of motor transport saw a decline in horse trough demand,
And with start of World War Two, production came to an end.

But George’s legacy continues, for in nineteen sixty four,
The George Bills RSPCA Rescue Centre in Burwood East opened its door.
The trough installed at Daylesford became a graffiti target.
It disappeared from the town and no-one knew where it was carted.

Now found hidden in Victoria Park, it is time to make the call,
Restore it to a prominent location to be displayed for one and all.


Gordon Nightingale is a local author and poet and the convenor of the Daylesford U3A Writers’ Circle.