The Hilston Family Reunion : Thirty odd years later they meet at Gusto

Six months ago we wrote “Coffee With Bill” . It was a personality profile on quirky and loveable people living in the Tanjung Bungah community. Bill is a natural story teller, and you know he’s not just telling tall tales because the punch lines never change. I want to say we’ve adopted him as our surrogate grandad, but actually he’s adopted all of us;  tolerating our buzzing mobiles, our raised voices just for the sake of being heard, our furious bangings on lap tops, our incessant pawings on our ipads, freaking out at “only 7%!” , how we down our coffee without tasting it, the way we are always running somewhere,  to go…well… nowhere…He’s 80+ he’s got a point.

A few months later after we published the blog , Penang Local received an email from William Hilston, Bill’s nephew:


How awesome it was for us to facilitate a family reunion! We didnt have Bill’s number and reached out to Jason from Gusto.  Jason is Hillside’s life line, and Gusto is where we all gather for our coffee fix, our wifi, burgers, breakfast, lunch, get our problems solved, where we grumble to listening ears.. etcetera…  (We’re like lost souls on Wednesdays because Gusto is closed.) Jason , always the man of action,  contacted Bill to pass the details.

Hilston Reunion
Bill and his nephew Jim Hilston

Today, 30+ years later, the younger nephew , Jim Hilston rocked up to Gusto to finally catch up with his legendary Uncle Bill. Jim is an international polo commentator, he also played for England in his younger years. It was a priviledge to be part of the reunion (Thank you Jim for getting in touch!).   Bill and his late brother David Hilston were worlds apart in career and geography, but I imagine them to be always mischievous together when they did meet up; Egypt, Cambodia, Malaysia (when it was Malaya)… I was captivated just as Jim was listening to the memories of them. “He never told us this..”,  Jim kept saying. Bill to me was the hippie of the family, abosrbing all experiences, learning languages, customs, David was the James Bond, gathered from some stories I heard today.. I am not sure I can repeat here.

Bill pulled out an old photograph, with its faded folded corners , and pieces of sticky tape too risky to peel off, ” I had many photos of you boys growing up but I could not find them, this is all I have and its on my wall.” (oh my heart…)

Sitting down from left is Bill, his late sister and brother David, behind David are their parents.

Vincent van Gogh said “If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.” I am sure Bill’s family would have gone to the ends of the earth looking for him, come what may. Jim on his previous trips, tried to visit Penang Club  , one of the oldest and more established clubs in Penang, to search for any clue of his Uncle and his childhood memories while they were in Butterworth. He remembered it being the happiest years his father had ever been, but with their strict members only policy he wasnt able to. We will make it happen the next time you visit , Jim and family. You and the Hilston clan will be our VIP, Jason and Penang Local will make sure of it.





4 Comments Add yours

  1. Margaret Byrne says:

    I really enjoyed this story. I was in Penang for 6 weeks from July to August and would go to Gusto every day …except Wednesday, when it is closed. Every day like clockwork ‘uncle Bill’ as they called him , would arrive for coffee. Jason, Chung and the staff treated home with so much affection and respect that it was a joy to see him arrive and be greeted. I remember his watch band was broken and it took a couple of days of trying different methods to fix it.

    What I love about this story is that it captures the village that Hillside is, with Gusto as the rock where people come to meet and stay connected.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Penang Local says:

      Thanks Margaret! Yes we can’t help mentioning Wednesdays either. You’re not a Gusto regular til you grumble about Wednesdays, right?! It was nice to see Uncle Bill connect with family, priveledged even, to be part of it. Hope you come back to visit! You’ll always be part of the island.


  2. equinoxio21 says:

    How wonderful that you were able to help foster this family reunion. Very nice.


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