Manx Harriers 
Fell Running 
IOM Veterans 
Photos by Anthony Brand 



By kind permission of John Watterson and Isle of Man Newspapers


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 brewery.

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 Commissioners.

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 track.

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 the opportunity.

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 removed.

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 respected him.

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, 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 life.

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.

John Watterson

Search this site powered by FreeFind



copyright (c) 2001 - 2003 Murray Lambden. All rights reserved.
[email protected]