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 Robin Wilmott

Robin Willmott

 

Obituary

Over the years, Southgate Hockey Club has had a number of very dedicated members, who have helped to make Southgate Hockey Club the great club that it is today. Robin Willmott was one of them.

Robin joined the club in 1948 after National Service in the Grenadier Guards. His family lived in Highgate, North London and he was educated at Aldenham School, where he learnt his hockey. During the rest of the 1940s and 1950s Robin played in 1st X1 and 2nd X1. In 1950 he was a founding member of the Pistons Summer Hockey Club.

When I joined the club in 1959 Robin and his wife Joan were often to be seen in the clubhouse at the Walker Ground along with their boisterous sons John (our President) and Tim. Sadly Joan was to die in 1973.

Robin had joined the club committee in the early ‘50s and was later on appointed a Vice-president. In 1974 Robin succeeded Laurie Norman as President and then was made a Life Member. At that time our 1st team (we had no ladies until 1982) was very strong and we won the National League which qualified us to compete in Europe.

Robin wrote in our Centenary magazine: “Few members outside the 1st X1 had any idea of what was going to be involved and so this placed considerable strain on the club’s administration as very substantial sums had to be raised”. We became European Cup Champions in 1976 and again 1977 and 1978. In the late seventies, we had 13 Internationals in our squad. These were the club’s glory years and Robin, as the then President, played a major part.

Robin played in every team and captained several in his long playing career. In 1986 the committee decided to renumber the teams and I became captain of the 7th X1. Robin took over the following year and renamed the team the Magnums, which is our [Southgate’s] Over 50s team.

Away from hockey Robin joined the family building company of John Willmott & Sons (Hornsey) Ltd in 1948. Eventually this was to become Willmott Dixon where Robin was a main board Director. Amazingly Trissa was already Mrs Willmott with four sons and Robin and his new wife Trissa then moved to Bedfordshire. Robin went on to become the High Sherriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire.

By 1990 the club was hiring up to four artificial pitches every Saturday and it became quite obvious that we should have our own astro pitch(es). After 100 years at the Walker Ground inevitably there was some opposition to a move. Several sites were considered until Saracens suggested that we had a joint facility in Trent Park, then occupied by Middlesex University.

After a while we realised that we wouldn’t get planning permission for a very large club house and Saracens left us to it. In 1994 Southgate Sports & Leisure Trust (SSLT; a charity) was formed and Robin became its first chairman and guided the Directors on the project. The cost of our move to Trent Park was £1.4 million. The board explored every way of raising money and the greatest day was when we received a grant for £626,000 from the National Lottery.

Not long after our move to Trent Park, Robin retired from the board of SSLT, but continued to take an interest in club matters.

Robin was a delightful man and always a gentleman. Southgate Hockey Club is very grateful to have had him as a member.

Adrian Scott Knight, June 2017

 

 
Funeral Tribute

I first met Robin well over 50 years ago playing hockey for Southgate and for the Old Aldenhamians. I remember him as a formidable full-back. His passion for the game lasted a lifetime even to the extent of attending ,as a Vice-President,with Trissa the annual President’s day at Bedford Hockey Club in March this year when he was so very unwell. His longevity as a player was exceptional ending up playing in what was, I think, the 9th team at Southgate in which all the players were grandfathers!

Robin was a gentleman in both senses of the word-invariably polite and gentle and humorous in manner. He served our County with distinction in many ways as an active Deputy Lieutenant for 10 years and in 1990 as High Sheriff, when the focus of his support was, not surprisingly, sport and the value for young people of active participation in sporting activities. Robin never forgot his Guards heritage taking on the role of President of the Household Division association in Luton and being a Vice-president of the Northampton Grenadiers association. He also took on many other voluntary roles including that of Chairman of Bedford Victim Support and The Road Victims Trust, Chairman of the Council of Bedfordshire St John Ambulance, Chairman of Pinehill Hospital in Hitchin and Treasurer of Mid-Bedfordshire Conservative Association. He was also a patron of many other organisations. In addition he was a great supporter of Trissa’s extensive charitable work on Bedfordshire Red Cross Appeals committee, the Sharnbrook House Committee and the activities of the Bedford Hospitals Charity. His contribution to the life of this county was immense.

Personally I owe a great deal to Robin because he nominated me to be High Sheriff. I always remember a surprising and secretive visit to my office in Bedford when he asked if I was prepared to be nominated. I remember saying, showing my ignorance, “What does a High Sheriff do?” – I know now!

A fact that I did not know is that Robin spoke fluent French and Trissa says that once, when they were in Martinique, he was mistaken for a Frenchman.

The last few years have been very difficult for Trissa as Robin’s health gradually deteriorated and mobility and many other problems took hold. I know that her care for Robin has been quite extraordinary supported by the family and, I am very pleased to say, outstanding help from the NHS, particularly from nurses Emma and Mary and the staff at Bedford Hospital.

Bedfordshire has lost a great servant. Robin will be missed by us all, particularly by Trissa and the family. Robin, rest in peace.

Brian Woodrow

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