HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The patriarch of the Dougherty family, Bill, is delighted to find two of his favourites in the bag of presents he received on his 90th birthday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The patriarch of the Dougherty family, Bill, is delighted to find two of his favourites in the bag of presents he received on his 90th birthday. Tim Howard

At 90 helping other people is still big part of Bill's life

"I HAVEN'T come far, have I?” said Grafton patriarch Bill Dougherty on the celebration of his 90th birthday.

Gesturing out the window of the Westlawn building to the block of flats diagonally opposite that was once the Runnymede Private Hospital, he said "that's where I started and here we are now across the road”.

The building or its site, which has been the Westlawn Finance headquarters in Grafton since 2002, has been many things. And Mr Dougherty in his 90 years can remember many of them.

"It was a theatre for many years - Dame Nellie Melba sang here, but that was before my time - and then it was a skating rink and became the Trocadero dance palace,” he said.

About 30 family, friends and customers gathered in the foyer of the Westlawn building yesterday to celebrate the occasion.

It gave Mr Dougherty a chance to reflect on the beginnings of his business in 1964, when he made small loans to people to help them buy household goods.

"Our first customer was a man who wanted a loan to help him buy a sewing machine,” he said.

"I was surprised. 'How do I do that?' I asked him. 'You give me the money and I pay you back',” he said.

"We're still in the same game now. It's all about providing help for people who need it and we're still doing that.

"I hope I'm around bit longer to have a few more days like this.”