At this year’s SJA annual meeting, Bill Colwill stands down as Treasurer after an extraordinary 12 years of service. Here, Trevor Bond, who worked alongside Bill in various capacities during that time, pays tribute to the hard work of a cherished colleague and friend
In paying this tribute to Bill Colwill, I go back to how it all started. It was in 1995, the second year of my chairmanship of the Sports Writers’ Association, as it was then, that I approached two people to come on board the committee. One was Chris Moore, whom I had known since my schooldays and had worked with over many years on local and national newspapers before hiring him to become the hockey correspondent of The Sunday Telegraph.
By this I time I had moved on and Chris had become the hockey man for both Telegraph newspapers. It was also a time when the SWA was experiencing a period of personnel change. Enter Bill Colwill OBE. He came with Chris as a package.
Jim Bygrave, the longest-serving Treasurer in the SWAâ€™s history, was standing down through ill-health â€“ a sad blow to the Association for whom he had served as a committee member from 1974 and as Treasurer from 1978 until 1994.
The committee needed not only a vibrant and driving voice â€“ which is why I approached Chris Moore who sadly never lived long enough to fulfil his and my ambitions for him within the Association â€“ but it desperately needed a Treasurer who not only knew a balance sheet from a cricket scorecard but would devote himself to the Association in the job which nobody ever wants.
Chris and Bill were officers of the Hockey Writers’ Club. Bill had carved out a new career for himself as hockey correspondent of the Independent group, after a mightily successful lifetime as a â€œSir Humphreyâ€ in Whitehall â€“ not least as Bernard Inghamâ€™s cohort in the Thatcher government. It was this that had earned him his gong.
Perhaps he should have another one now for services to the SWA and SJA over 12 years as our quite brilliant Treasurer.
He brought to the task enormous expertise, lovely enthusiasm and, not least, an ability to keep our books balanced under the greatest hardship.
This was not least when my own enthusiasm in putting together the 50th anniversary gala dinner before the Princess Royal at the London Hilton in 1998 bankrupted the Association. Yes, we had 50 of our great winners present and we had an unforgettable evening, but the cost was exhorbitant and Bill has probably never forgiven me for making his life hell.
But I would like to think he has. For a man who could read a cricket scorecard – he knew his cricket and played the game well as a young man- as well as a balance sheet, he has pulled financial strings, dug chestnuts out of fires and, by watching the pennies to pay the pounds, has kept our Association financially afloat and thriving despite the absence of the sort of sponsorship we once took for granted from the likes of Yardley, Guinness, Evian and Carlsberg.
Black tie dinners have had to go â€“ hopefully to be restored as a one-off for our 60th â€“ but have been replaced by awards lunches which have been greeted with acclaim. Billâ€™s steady hand on the tiller has been totally influential in all these changes.
He and I have had our handbags-at-dawn â€œdiscussionsâ€, but on the end of a telephone, one quick call was all it took to restore peace and develop a personal friendship which I have valued and will always value.
He stands down now for personal rather than age reasons. No one quite knows how old Bill is â€“ Barry Davies, his great friend, asked me only the other day if I knew and I had to confess I did not. But that is Billâ€™s to reveal if he thinks fit.
Bill’s lovely wife, Jean has been his friend, his loving partner and his support for all their married years. I would phone him in some faraway spot where he was covering hockey to be told: â€œWe are about to leave. Jean is just packing the suitcases.â€
She was there in Madrid when Bill (who would never box at bantamweight) was quite badly injured falling through scaffolding at the end of a dayâ€™s world hockey event. Fortunately, also present was the GB team doctor who ensured that Bill received immediate hospital treatment. Jean was at his bedside all the time.
Bill has worked with five chairman: myself, Ian Cole, Paul Trow, Peter Wilson and now Barry Newcombe; and with three secretaries: Mary Fitzhenry, myself and Steven Downes. I defy anyone of us not to say: Bill, It has been a pleasure and an honour.
We thank you and, hopefully we are honouring you now in a fitting way and, in wishing you a happy retirement, hope that you will remember us as a true colleague and a great friend. As we will remember you.