(Derry Now)

Tributes have been paid to ‘Bogside Artist’ William Kelly in his adopted home of Mildura, Australia.

The murals he painted with his brother Tom and Kevin Hasson are internationally acclaimed.

They depict various scenes from Derry’s past including the Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday.
They form part of the ‘People’s Gallery’ in the Bogside area of Derry.

Mr Kelly lived in Australia for 14 years after moving there with his family.

Speaking to ‘Mildura Weekly’ Mildura resident Leo Male fondly remembered Mr Kelly saying he had “the pleasure of calling Will a friend” during his time in Australia.

“Will was very famous, especially in Northern Ireland, and in his home town of Derry,” he said.

“He was a damn good character, and I know the Irish press wrote some wonderful things about him following his death.

“He lived in Sunraysia for close to 14 years, with his wife, Joan, who was from Cardross.”

Mr Male said that he ‘first met Mr Kelly four years ago, when the pair – alongside their partners – were invited to a Slow Food event in Mildura’.

“We were both cynics at heart – so of course we hit it off immediately,” Leo said.

“Will’s favourite food was chips being an Irishman, so of course he was quite cynical of the food being served that night.

“We just got on well together, and then Joan, his wife, starting involving us a bit in their lives. She would organise functions and always invite my wife and I.”

Mr Male said that ‘During his time in Mildura, Mr Kelly was a regular creative writing teacher for the University of the Third Age’ and that ‘he would often share stories of his time in Ireland, and of his time forming the Bogside Artists, with his Mildura friends’.

“I think he ultimately came to Australia to escape it all,” he said. “But it was so much a part of him that he couldn’t.

“The more beers or glasses of wine you shared with him, or the longer the night went, the more he went back to where he came from.”

Mr Male said that ‘Mr Kelly had eventually returned home to Ireland after Joan’s death, as a result of Leukaemia, a few years ago, gifting several prints and pieces of original and one-of-a-kind artwork to him prior to his departure’.

“A rental that I own has an entire bedroom dedicated to some of Will’s work, with a sign on the door welcoming guests to ‘Free Derry’,” he said.

“It’s a tribute to him now, and I feel very lucky to have the prints and pieces of artwork he created over his time – they are items I will treasure.

“I have one painting in particular that features features Andy Warhol, which is titled ‘Whatever happened to Andy Warhol?’, and again it is the only one of its kind.”