William Skyvington with goat and donkey on his three hectare rural property in France.
William Skyvington with goat and donkey on his three hectare rural property in France.

A life lived to the full

By DAVID BANCROFT

FOR many years, former Grafton High School student William Skyvington dropped off the radar.

It wasn't until some of his former class mates started searching for information for a school reunion that his remarkable story started to come to light.

Now living in France, Mr Skyvington was the first computer programmer in the Australian business world.

He worked for International Business Machines (IBM) in Paris and London, sailed a Greek sailing ship through the Suez Canal, and became English language assistant at the prestigious Lycee Henri IV in the heart of the Latin Quarter of Paris (where he mastered French).

He set up the educational department of Cap Sogeti in Paris to train computer programmers.

He made a series of five television broadcasts ? which were shot mainly in US universities.

He made a documentary in Stockholm for French TV on the first United Nations-organised international conference on the environment, and then another at Oxford University on the Pugwash Movement (which was an organisation of scientists who were opposed to nuclear arms).

At 36 he did a season of track cycling ('for fun, of course'), but joined the 'friendly company' of former French Olympic gold medalists Pierre Trentin and Daniel Morelon.

In 1985 he returned to Australia, but within a few days of his arrival learned that the cousin of his wife, Christine, had just been arrested in New Zealand in connection with the destruction of the Greenpeace vessel, The Rainbow Warrior.

He helped organise and competed in the tall ships race during the America's Cup in Fremantle in 1986-87, and did a weekly radio program about France for the Alliance Francaise.

He also found time to carry out freelance assignments on the America's Cup for a French radio station.

After returning to France from his Australian sojourn , he worked as a technical writer for several French companies specialising in advanced software.

In the five years that followed, he visited Israel often, and studied Hebrew and Biblical archaelogy.

In 1993 he left Paris for the south of France and settled down on a three hectare property in Choranche, on the edge of the Vercors region 'in the company of a dog, a donkey, a midget goat and a small flock of sheep'.

His stone house has a cellar dating from about 1600 where the Chartreux monks made wine for four centuries, up until the French revolu- tion.

He says he is preoccupied by the medieval history of Choranche, and is organising the transcription of a detailed Latin description of the local territory (including his property) that was produced in 1351.

Mr Skyvington has written several books, in both French and English.

His best-known work is 'Machina Sapiens', a French monograph on artificial intelligence.

He has also written a tourist guide to Britain, some technical books about Apple computers, a mystery novel in French and is currently working on two English-language novels.

One is a science fiction tale, which moves from Fremantle to Israel, based upon the theme of the Wandering Jew.

Organisers of the July 23-24 reunion are hoping that Mr Skyvington will be able to return to Australia to share some of his stories with for- mer classmates.

nThe reunion will be held in Grafton on July 23 and 24.

It is to involve students who started First Year in 1952 and/or those who were part of Second Year, 1953, Third Year, 1954, Fourth Year, 1955, or Fifth Year, 1956.

Anyone interested can contact Cathy Prowse (Fuller) on 97125840 or Elaine Boothby (Rennie) on 66424210.



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