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
At the time, Dave was still on the
committee of Manx AC and for a while secretary of the Isle of Man Athletics
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
'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
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.