The Guy from Oz

93-year-old William Stewart on his bike.

The Guy from Oz
October 28
14:20 2020

By Susan Surman

On the days when I would like nothing better than to stay in bed and watch my favorite movies on TV, mainly due to self-isolation due to COVID-19, I am motivated and dare I say inspired by my ex-father-in-law to get up, get moving, and do something useful. “One day at a time” never had so much meaning for me because of this horrendous wrench in our lives called a pandemic. 

William Stewart is a 93-year old Scotsman who suffers with Parkinson’s and peripheral neuropathy – although I don’t really believe the word ‘suffer’ is in his vocabulary. I am continually awed by him. For his latest project – well, since 2016 – he is cycling from his home in the south of England to Melbourne, Australia, where he was born in 1927. 

His family moved back to Scotland when he was an infant. The distance is a mere 10,500 miles. Yes, I said “cycling.” On our weekly phone chats, he tells me he has increased his cycling sessions from two 20-minute sessions to three 20-minute sessions per day, six days a week. He calculates his weekly distance is 63.75 miles and figures he will reach Melbourne in March of 2022. 

The motivation? To aid the poverty stricken villagers in Malawi by raising funds for a new borehole to provide fresh water to villages in Ibuluma in the African country. The existing well is too shallow and dries up during the summer, forcing locals to use river water and risk contracting dysentery, typhoid, and cholera. An efficient borehole will not only help to keep the children safe from coronavirus because of illness from water-borne diseases, but will have an influence on the quality of life for the whole community.

“It’s the things you can do that matter, not what you can’t do. Age is not the end of the world. One must have a vision, something that drives you.” Bill’s voice has the enthusiasm of a young college kid.

I was first introduced to Bill in 1981 when I married his son, John Stewart. Through the years, Bill has worn many hats, mainly in the field of social work and counseling. In 2015, he was assigned by the Institute of Counseling in Glasgow to help a Malawian who had applied for a bursary. Two years later, the pair set up a charitable foundation in Malawi’s Chitipa district to support the elderly and hundreds of orphaned children.

Mary Young, Bill’s daughter who lives in Killearn in Stirlingshire, Scotland, helps run the foundation. “My father always longed to go back to the land of his birth,” said Mary. “Now he’s on his way while keeping himself fit.”

The foundation’s target is 5,000 pounds sterling. So far, over 3,000 pounds have been raised. An article in London’s Sunday Times raised 1,000 pounds in one day! 

I look forward to the day when we can travel again. I plan to fly to England and view that famous stationary bike for myself.

For more information, see the website

Susan Surman is a local actress, playwright and author of several novels which are available on

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