There can’t be many families in Perth who didn’t know Bill Pennycook.
For the former Scone Thistle player and painter and decorator went on to become a funeral director, personally presiding over at least 6,000 services himself.
Scone born and bred
William Andrew Pennycook was born on January 25, 1942 at Perth Royal Infirmary.
Known as Willie in earlier life and Bill latterly, he was the only child of market gardener Willie and wife Jessie.
The family lived in Abbey Road, Scone and he attended Robert Douglas Memorial School where his proudest achievement was playing football for the school team in primary four.
As well as football, guddling fish in the burn with his cousins, stealing apples and skating on Scone pond in the winter kept him busy.
Bill left school at 15 to work for Alexander Brown, a Perth seed merchant.
It was a job he didn’t enjoy so when his dad got him an apprenticeship with McKays Painters and Decorators he never looked back.
Proud to be a ‘brother of the brush’ he achieved his City and Guilds after four years at night school.
Bill then worked at several companies and completed many ‘homers’, usually when shoes or a school coat were required for his family.
Love of his life
Willie met Irene McEwan ‘at the dancing’ in Perth City Hall.
The daughter of James McEwan Snr – who ran the Perth funeral directors of the same name – their courtship consisted of teddy boy Willie doing a lot of late night walking.
For whenever Willie walked Irene home to Perth he would almost always miss the last bus back to Scone.
The young couple married in St John’s RC Church, Perth, on August 10, 1963.
Their first child, Andrew, was born in September 1964, followed by Shona, Jamie and Billy in quick succession, resulting in four children all under the age of five.
James McEwan and Son
Irene, Bill and their young family moved to George Street where they lived above Irene’s family’s business.
James McEwan and Son Funeral Directors was established in 1890 and remains a key fixture today.
It became Willie’s place of work too, alongside his father-in-law, James McEwan Snr, and his brother-in-law, James McEwan Jnr.
Hard work went hand in hand with all Bill did.
He renovated their home while working full time in the funeral business.
And was no stranger to late night elbow grease, cleaning cars at 10pm for the following day’s services.
Bill and Irene at the helm
After a time Bill and Irene began running the business on their own.
In the days before mobile phones, being on call meant a life dedicated to being there day and night when families required their help.
Bill’s son Andrew wrote that nothing was too much trouble for his dad.
“He worked in the background ensuring everything went smoothly with good humour and humility.
“He was honest and fair in life and business and supported many local sporting groups and charities and under his watchful eye he transformed the business into the largest and most successful funeral directors in Perth.”
Throughout his life Bill maintained a love of football, especially Scone Thistle Junior FC.
Starting as a player for the team – in an extremely successful squad appearing in a Scottish Juvenile Cup Final, he since occupied many roles at Scone.
Whether putting up goals, serving teas or acting as honorary president, he loved his time with the club.
After playing for Thistle, he moved to Glenfarg Amateurs, where he finally retired at 43.
Trying his hand at management while there made him realise that being a football boss was not for him.
So he returned to his first football love, the Jaggy Nettles, although he was also fan of St Johnstone FC.
Time for themselves
Bill and Irene’s youngest son Billy joined the family business on leaving school at 16, followed by Jamie, and in 1998 by Andrew.
This allowed Bill and Irene to travel enjoying holidays that combined Bill’s other passion: cricket.
The pair watched England mainly lose to West Indies, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, India and South Africa.
He also loved watching his boys, Jamie and Billy play cricket for Perthshire.
Bill retired at 65 years after two episodes of cancer.
Never one to fully rest, he spent his later years enjoying long walks with Irene and decorating the business premises and the homes of his family.
Bill and Irene remained inseparable for the whole of their 58 years of marriage.
They worked together, raised four children together and loved their time with their 19 grandchildren and their first great-grandchild.
Against the odds
In January 2019 Bill and Irene had a meal to celebrate Bill’s birthday.
Bill choked resulting in his heart stopping.
Despite not being expected to survive, he spent nine months in hospital before returning home to his family.
Unable to walk or swallow, his final two years of life were challenging.
However, he retained his interest in life, still wanting to chat about St Johnstone and Scone Thistle.
He enjoyed trips in his wheelchair to Doo’cot Park where grandson Rory represented the next generation of family cricketers.
And always looked forward to his daughter Shona visiting.
Bill passed away peacefully at Perth Royal Infirmary on the January 3 2022.
He is survived – and missed – by Irene; his children Andrew, Shona, Jamie and Billy, and his grandchildren and great grandchild.
“He will always be remembered with a smile and as a man full of fun and humour.
“A wee man fae Scone who lived a big life.”