Like many of the Chinese workers who first came to Kiandra and Central Gippsland, plus other places in the Mountains in the 1800s, Bill Ah Chow is not as well known as he should be.
He was renowned for knowing that part of Victoria east of a line North-South through Bairnsdale from the border to the sea "like the back of his hand". This knowledge came from his experience working for the Forestry Commission and as a fire-spotter. However, he is best known as the builder of one of the most superb huts in Victoria, Moscow Villa These two stories give a good idea of his style! (They were provided by his friend, Bill Russell).
The story obout Moscow Villa was often told by Bill. At the height of the McCarthy era and the Menzies government's attempt to ban the Communist party a group of officials of the Forrests Commission toured East Gippsland, including Moscow Villa (although they did not know it as that).
They climbed out of their car to be confronted with a sign (Moscow Villa) above two bright red gate posts. They erupted. Bill said that when they calmed down he told them the following: (It was a story told well and I am sure I can remember it verbatim.)
I built this hut single handed, and with the exception of two things, I bought everything that needed to be bought, and carried all of the items here. That's why I thought I could name it what I wanted to. I finished the hut the day it was announced that the battle for Moscow had been won. If you can remember (he told the officials), Russia was on our side and that was the first defeat of the Germans. I thought it was an appropriate way to celebrate a win in those dark days. Moscow Villa has other, deeper meanings for me. M.O.S.C.O.W. V.I. L..L. A. " He spelt out. He ticked the words off on his fingers "My Own Summer Cottage. Officials Welcome. Visitors Invited. Light Luncheon Available. The kettle's on. Come inside. By the way - the two things I did not buy were the gate posts. They were supplied by the Forests Commission, and came already painted!"
It is sufficient to say that the name and gate posts remained as they were. The second story goes thus -
In the early 1950s when the Forrestry Commission's lookout towers were first equipped with radio Bill caused consternation by swearing over the radio. (In the early 1950s "damn" was considered almost an obscene word.) Bill was in Mt Nugong tower when he contacted Bruthen (local FC hq) to say that there was a fire about half a mile away from Mt. Nowa Nowa lookout and that the occupants had about half an hour before the road would be cut.
Bruthen contacted Bill a bit later saying that they had spoken to Mt. Nowa Nowa and that they could not see anything. Bill said he would look again and sent the following message to Bruthen. "Tell those silly bastards (that part is accurate) that if they look in the gully right in front of them they should be able to see the smoke. It is filling the valley, but isn't rising. The road out will be cut in ten minutes."
The official passed the message on, and subsequently told Bill that he was reprimanded for swearing over ther radio, and commended for saving two lives. Mt. Nowa Nowa is about 100 km from Mt. Nugong. As I said Bill AhChow was reputed to know eastern Victoria like the back of his hand. He was a remarkable bloke.
Profile last updated 7 February 2004.