I've always known him as Dad, but to everyone else he’s Billy the Mechanic. William ‘Billy’ Teeling was born in 1938 in Dublin. After serving in the British Army in Cyprus at the age of twenty-one, he returned to his hometown where he currently resides.
Growing up as the son of a mechanic, Dad’s garage has always been a place of wonder for me. As a child, my main concerns were what colour the car was, how big was the spoiler and did it have a tape deck or a CD changer? I didn’t really care about what was under the hood. I had a particular fascination with any car that had pop-up headlights; Porsche 944, Mazda 323F and the Toyota Trueno AE86 were particular favourites. Whenever there was one in his garage that he knew I’d like, he’d make sure I got a spin in it.
I would wait for him in our front garden to return home from work. My excitement levels would be high, because I knew he’d have a Kinder Egg or some sort of chocolate bar for me. Years later, he still has a drawer in his garage crammed full of Cadbury’s chocolate. When he pulled up to the house, he’d put me on his lap in the driver seat and let me steer the car into the driveway. As a six year old I was delighted to be ‘driving’ Billy's car.
Dad left our family in 1994. I was seven years old at the time.
I didn’t get to see him as regularly as I used to after he left. My main interaction with him would be when he was required to collect me after school. I would wait around the corner - outside of Abra-Kebabra - until he arrived. I didn’t enjoy school too much, so this was always the most exciting part of my day; I’d get to see my dad and the new cars he was working on. Plus, it meant that I didn’t have to get the 27 bus back to Coolock with the other kids.
If he were working on something special he would make sure he picked me up in it. There were Morris Minors, a couple of Lancia Delta Intergrales and many a Honda Civic, but the one that sticks out was the time he collected me in a white Mitsubishi Galant Estate, which was covered in painted leopard spots. I remember seeing the car in the distance and knowing immediately that it was him. He told me it was his car for, “going on Safari.” I believed him.
To this day, Billy the Mechanic works in his garage in Ballybough, on the north side of Dublin, just around the corner from where he grew up.