Carnill en­cour­aged his play­ers – he was a ter­rific role model

Rod Gil­mour gives a first-hand ac­count of what made Denys Carnill so spe­cial

The Hockey Paper - - FEATURE - The Hockey Paper­would like to thank Dou­glas Hen­der­son and Mike Baw­den for help­ing con­trib­ute to this fea­ture on Denys’ life.

PUPIL Mike Baw­den wasn’t orig­i­nally a hockey player – un­til he saw Denys Carnill teach and play the game.

I ar­rived at Dean Close hav­ing not played for a 1st XI, and dur­ing my first year I was dropped to the bot­tom game in the school. How­ever, the ar­rival of the new hockey pitch at the school started my im­prove­ment. There was no for­mal train­ing but, de­pend­ing on who turned up, Denys al­ways played on one of the sides.

I gained so much from watch­ing and im­i­tat­ing him. Al­though he played full-back for Eng­land, he re­ally en­joyed play­ing on the left wing or cen­tre for­ward where he was able to use his speed and skill.

Dur­ing this term, I im­proved so much that I was asked to train with the 1st XI in the next term. This was the year of the big freeze (1961-2). The pitches were all un­der a foot or more of snow which had frozen solid.

The first week of term was taken up with the whole school tak­ing it in turns to chop the ice into blocks and then load them onto a board which was then pulled off the pitch. At the end of the week the pitch was clear, all un­der Denys’s su­per­vi­sion.

I slowly im­proved un­der his tute­lage and was picked for the Eng­land schoolboys team in my last year. I went on to play for Cam­bridge for four years, Eng­land Un­der-23, Sur­biton and Sur­rey, when they won the cham­pi­onship in 1973.

If I had been at any other school, I would not have had the op­por­tu­nity to im­prove.

Denys en­cour­aged play­ers, got the best out of them and was a ter­rific role model to fol­low.

That said, one of my con­tem­po­raries re­mem­bers watch­ing Denys train­ing for the Olympics by run­ning round Big Field, but af­ter a cou­ple of laps he would stop and have a quick cig­a­rette!

Ian Ire­land, who went on to play for Eng­land, re­mem­bers Denys or­gan­is­ing a hockey match on the snow-filled rugby pitches, with three balls and fifty a side. His great en­thu­si­asm for the game was truly in­fec­tious.

He was also very mod­est and never talked about his achieve­ments. He was sim­ply a gen­tle­man who al­ways de­manded the high­est forms of sports­man­ship on the pitch.

House­mas­ter at work: Denys re­mained on the staff at Dean Close School for 33 years

A true gent: Denys was very mod­est and never talked about his achieve­ments

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