Full steam ahead for Bill’s ‘bucket list’ book

Charley Farley and The Last Steam Train
Charley Farley and The Last Steam Train

Writing a book is on many people’s bucket lists, but now an east Belfast pensioner can cross it off as he looks forward to seeing his first ever novel in print.

Bill Kerr credited his own childhood memories, his late father, a keenness to raise money for charity – and even a free rail pass – as the inspiration for penning a children’s book that has been 18 months in the making.

Bill Kerr, author.

Bill Kerr, author.

‘Charley Farley and the Last Steam Train’, a story set in post-war Northern Ireland following five children as they embark on a mysterious adventure, is proof you can do anything when you put your mind to it, Bill said.

The former salesman and Ulster Unionist, who now works part-time with the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, had long thought of putting pen to paper but said the usual obstacles, including time constraints, got in the way.

As he entered his 61st year and took advantage of free rail travel, the father-of-two, who grew up in Dundonald and now lives in Newtownards, decided to finally give it a go.

“I have always said if you’re interested in doing something, just go ahead and do it,” he told the News Letter.

“Don’t talk about, just do it. If you keep talking about it you may never actually get round to doing it.”

While the 62-year-old golfer achieved a hole-in-one some time back, he now has another box he can tick on his bucket list – things to do in your lifetime – with a trip to Australia down as one for the future.

“I just can’t wait to have the book in my hand in a few weeks’ time,” he said, looking forward to the launch at the end of June in Greenwell Street Presbyterian, his local church hall.

At 130,000 words, compiling the book was no mean feat, Bill explained.

He handwrote the entire novel, which is named after and dedicated to his dad Charles, in the first instance before retyping it – twice – on the computer.

“I should have been born in a different era,” he laughed. “My son Ryan has been very helpful throughout the whole process. I couldn’t have done it without him. He gave me the computer and I typed it all up, which actually helped. It seemed to flow better in print. There have been about seven different formats since I started work on it.”

Describing the view from his study, where he wrote most of the book, as overlooking Strangford Lough, the Mournes and Scrabo Tower, Bill asked: “How could you not be inspired by that landscape?”

Another apt setting for some of the novel’s composition was on the very mode of transport he was writing about.

“I actually wrote a lot of it on the train,” he said. “People would ask me what I was doing and I told them I was writing my first book about a train!”

While the book is aimed at children, Bill hopes it will also be appreciated by adults who fancy a trip down memory lane reading about references to 1950s money and society, and certain places from their childhood in Northern Ireland.

All proceeds will go to Tearfund, helping children of the conflict in Syria.

With three chapters of the book’s sequel already written, Bill said he is looking forward to his future literary endeavours.

For more information visit www.charleyfarley.ie.