Carnill encouraged his players – he was a terrific role model
Rod Gilmour gives a first-hand account of what made Denys Carnill so special
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