After a ten-season senior career where he had been in and out of finals contention it was in 1959 when everything came together for Bill Barbour. He umpired the first semi and preliminary finals, was emergency for the second semi and on grand final day he and Alan Nash fronted the Umpires Appointment Board Chairman, Victor Hocking. Unlike 1958, this time Barbour got the nod and took the field for his biggest and last VFL match, the 1959 VFL Grand Final.
After a six goal to one last quarter Melbourne took the flag and Barbour retired from football to follow a business opportunity in Tasmania, although not before adding the Hampden and Ballarat league grand finals to his outstanding season. What a way to finish.
Born on 29 December 1923, William Joseph Barbour began umpiring with the VFL Second Eighteens in 1947 following a successful playing career with Camberwell in the Victorian Football Association. Promoted to the VFL for the 1949 season he debuted in the second eighteens the following year. After only seven seconds matches he walked onto Princes Park for Carlton’s round 11 match against Fitzroy thus earning Heritage No. 211 and beginning a decade at the top of VFL umpiring. That season he umpired three out of four second eighteen finals including the grand final. Further seconds grand finals would follow in 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1957 along with 16 VCFL, 3 Canberra and 1 Tasmanian grand finals.
In an era where finals were dominated by Harry Beitzel and Alan Nash, Barbour made his finals debut in 1953, backing up in 1954 but not getting back until 1958. The 1954 first semi was a bruising, spiteful affair and Barbour had his hands full ending with three reports himself out of the total of five for the day. Two finals and the emergency appointment for the grand final in 1958 led to the brilliant 1959 season culminating in the 1959 VFL Grand Final. It also included South Australia versus Western Australia in Adelaide and an introduction to HRH Princess Alexandra prior to the VFL preliminary final.
All told Bill umpired 154 VFL matches in the field including 7 finals, 59 VCFL, 2 Metropolitan, 26 Tasmanian, 3 ACT, 1 ANFC Carnival and 1 interstate matches. In national round during 1953 he was also appointed to a match on the boundary.
Barbour’s executive service to the association had only just begun in his retirement year when he was elected to the office of junior vice-president. He was awarded life membership the same season. In the years after football Barbour maintained his links with umpiring particularly through the Grand Final Umpires Club. In more recent years a move to Eildon made such connections difficult but in 2015 the association arranged for the two surviving 1959 grand final umpires, Bill and goal umpire Roly Caird, to get together to discuss old times. Both recalled their careers in detail testimony to the part umpiring had played in their lives.
Bill Barbour passed away on 4 October 2017, aged 93 in Eildon after a brief illness.