kind permission of John Watterson and
Isle of Man Newspapers
OF MAN NEWSPAPERS WEBSITE
THE Isle of Man lost a prolific sports administrator and
statistician last week with the sad death of Dave Phillips.
It's so easy to gloss over Dave's involvement purely as a
freelance reporter and broadcaster for he was heavily involved with many
factions of just about every sport imaginable.
Quite simply he lived and breathed sport, and was a tremendous
inspiration to many hundreds of individuals, even in his latter years when ill
health severely restricted his mobility.
Dave moved to the Island roughly 30 years ago from the
Stockport area of Cheshire, having attended The King's School in Macclesfield -
a highly regarded Grammar School.
He first worked as a counter clerk at the Employment Exchange
in Westmoreland Road (Old Noble's Hall). One of his colleagues there was the now
head of Customs and Excise, Denis Maxwell, and the pair for a while had a joint
interest in a chip shop in Buck's Road.
Dave had several jobs in and around the Douglas area, working
with accountancy companies as a book keeper and for some time Okell's
He had a brilliant head for facts and figures, but it was
amazing how he balanced his profession with his various bits of freelance
journalism, his club work and more latterly his involvement with Peel Town
Shortly after the opening of the Queen Elizabeth II School in
1979 he started coaching long jump to some keen teenagers of a summer's evening.
It was after one of these sessions, while mulling over a pint in the Royal and
waiting for his bus back to Douglas that Dave suggested to a couple of the
parents that they should consider setting up an athletics club in Peel as the
school, after all, possessed what at the time was the Island's best running
Gordie Brew offered to stand as chairman, with Brian Maddrell
as secretary. Diana Parslow was co-opted on as treasurer and the Western
Athletics Club was born in the Spring of 1980.
At the time, Dave was still on the committee of Manx AC and for
a while secretary of the Isle of Man Athletics Association.
Before long he was taking parties of junior athletes away to
meetings in the north west of England. Out of those initial groups came many
fine athletes from right across the Island, not least Danaa Myhill, Cheryl Done,
Sian Pilling, Gordon Crowe, Mandy Radcliffe, Robert Crowe, Debbie Priest, Nicola
Dixon, Rob Parslow, Ross Perriam, Sharon Corlett, Keith Surridge and many more.
He was also inspirational to other stars of the future such as Alistair Audsley
and more recently Martin Aram.
A grade two timekeeper and a qualified field coach, there was
hardly a meeting anywhere on the Island that Dave didn't attend.
But it was to Peel he gravitated in the early 1980s, and to
what he truly regarded as his real home town.
By now the fixtures secretary and press officer for the Western
club, he arranged the still regular visits by Sale Harriers and in the early
1990s set up the Peel Sports Festivals, which again brought many hundreds of
people to the Island and the west in particular.
Having suffered from polio as a child, Dave's own involvement
in sport was somewhat limited. But he was a keen cricketer, a more than useful
table tennis and badminton player, tennis player and field athlete when he got
Cricket gave him his first start in broadcasting when he acted
as an assistant to the BBC radio commentators for Lancashire County cricket
prior to moving to the Island.
His reports for the local newspapers and Manx Radio soon began
to grow, and before long he was also producing regular bulletins for Border TV,
teletext and national newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph.
Dave's skill with the stopwatch also led him to timekeeping for
the TT and MGP at Glen Helen and Ramsey. He officiated at the first Island Games
and attended every Games thereafter as a freelance reporter for this newspaper
up to and including the Isle of Wight in 1993.
He sadly declined my offer to also represent Isle of Man
Newspapers at the Gibraltar Games two years later, for by then he had been
elected to Peel Town Commissioners and 1995 was his first year as chairman.
It was during that very week in July that Dave suffered a foot
injury when a taxi door blew shut on him outside his home in Peel. What started
off as an innocuous injury soon turned more serious due to him being a diabetic.
Within a few weeks he had lost the lower part of his left leg. A month or so
later he underwent a further operation to have most of the upper leg also
Dave had a stubborn and sometimes belligerent streak which
didn't always endear him to others, despite his untiring efforts. As a
politician he certainly wasn't afraid to rattle a few cages and it would be true
to say he had more than his share of critics over the years. But they all
It was over a difference of opinion that he eventually quit as
a Peel commissioner in February 2000 after serving on the board for a total of
some 10 years.
He failed to persevere with a prosthetic limb he was given, so
his mobility soon suffered. His health took another serious turn for the worse
when his eyesight began to deteriorate. Dave had numerous operations on his
eyes, but for the past two years or so his sight was severely restricted.
Through it all, though, he rarely complained despite his
obvious discomfort and pain, always putting others before him.
He somehow continued to file reports for Isle of Man
Newspapers, Manx Radio and Manx Telecom's website manx.net, plus several other
outlets. Amazingly he did most of his live radio reports off the top of his
head, having taken verbal notes down via Dictaphone from his numerous sources,
prior to committing them to memory for broadcasting. He was the middle man for
many sports and individuals, not least junior football (of which he was closely
associated for many years), rugby, athletics, boxing (for which he was a
representative on the Commonwealth Games committee), golf, bobsleigh, athletics,
cycling, motorcycling, indeed just about every sport in one shape or another
over the years.
His own obvious problems led him to a closer affinity with
disabled sports and he was heavily involved with Manx Spirit. He helped keep the
annual Sports Personality Awards night alive in the 1990s, and was largely
responsible for its revival this coming April. Sadly he will not now be there to
applaud the recipients - many of them men and women he has helped and encouraged
over the years.
His death, in the end, was quite sudden. Only last week he had
filed his usual 'shorts' columns for the Manx Independent and on the very
morning of his death he phoned the office to inform me of a change of kick-off
time for the Vagabonds game in Powergen League.
'Thanks Dave, is that all?' I asked, working briskly to a tight
deadline as we do on Thursday morning.
'Yes, that's all John, speak to you later.'
Within a couple of hours Dave was discovered in a collapsed
state in his room at King's Reach in Ramsey, which had been his home for the
past four or five months. He'd had his lunch and was just starting to work on
some more information from another source.
He died so suddenly, but left a huge void behind him which will
be so hard to fill, not only in sport but in many aspects of his varied
I, amongst many people, can only thank him for his support and
unstinting endeavours over the years. He was indeed an example to us all to
never give up on what we believe in and love doing best - no matter what curve
ball life throws.