North Bristol Rugby Club is sad to announce the death of its most revered and influential member at the age of 83. Charles Hill was associated with the club for some 62 years, during which he held a variety of responsible positions within the club.
Born on 10th December 1919, Charles died suddenly on 2nd November 2002.
A talented scrum half he played his first game for the club on 10th April 1940 against an Army XV at the Bristol Memorial Ground. Having been made redundant from Greyhound Motor Co., Charles obtained work at BAC Aero Engines Division, thanks to the influence of a Mr.Price from Bishopston Rugby Club. This of course meant that during the war, in a reserved occupation, he was not allowed to sign up for the forces. However in 1944, he was conscripted to service in the Far East.
Prior to his spell in the Far East, Charles had captained North Bristol for the two years 1942 Ė1944. On his return from duty, although he played a little, Charles became ill, it was discovered that he had contracted TB. He spent the next 3 years in Ham Green Hospital, where he had to have a lung removed. The long-term effect of this was his inability to resume playing rugby, as well as permanent insecure health, about which Charles seldom complained.
Following his discharge from hospital Charles was appointed President of his club, a post he relinquished in 1953, to take up the post of Club Secretary, during an unbroken period of some 47 years. Then ill health intervened, but he retained the Presidency, which he had also accepted for the second time in 1988, until his death in 2002.
Charles was a single man, living with his sister Margaretís family, whose love for his club led him sometimes to say that he was Ďmarried to North Bristol. He was in fact known locally as ĎMr.North Bristolí. A well known rugby figure, he had worked as Northís representative on the Bristol Combination, where respect for him grew among other club reps. His stature locally was further strengthened by his personal touch. Charles welcomed every visitor to the club, especially referees and opposition players, and their needs were always met. He was no less attentive to his own club members and no attention to detail was spared. He ensured oranges were provided for half time, and cups of tea for post match refreshment. That said, he did once mistake salt for sugar in the tea and some 120 of us pulled some pretty gruesome faces one afternoon as they took a swallow.
Charlesís record keeping was meticulous over the years, and the club can look back over its history both on and off the field, thanks to his care. Points scoring and appearance records, as well who held which office and where the club went on tour, are well-documented facts.
Charlie spent many hours checking up on the clubís routines, making sure the dressing rooms were cleaned, doors were locked, flags collected and his nagging of the team captains about the collection of match and practice balls is legendary.
In 2001/02 Charles became one of the first recipients of the new Rugby Union Valued Volunteer awards. Sadly at Christmas in 2001 Charles suffered a short illness after a longish period of strain. He was left confused and his memory, especially short term, became unreliable. This meant he needed special care in a residential home. He rarely left it, but did visit North Bristol to attend the NOBS reunion days, which he last enjoyed, one week before his death. Charles had himself spent many hours in previous years ensuring such events were successful.
Charles was a warm, caring individual, with a human touch. He enjoyed a quiet sense of humour, oddly enough the humorous poem below, was one he enjoyed in his way, but it prophetically described a condition which was later to befall him, but which he could at least smile at. It was a favourite of his.
ĎA little mixed upí
Just a line to say Iím living, that Iím not amongst the dead.
Though Iím getting more forgetful now, and Iím mixed up in my head
Is it my turn to write to you ? or did I write before ?
I think I owe the letter, Iíd hate to be a bore
Iím used to my bi-focals, my new plates fit me fine
My hearing aid is perfect but, Lord, I miss my mind
I stand before the fridge at times, my poor head filled with doubt
Have I come to put some food away, or come to take some out ?
There are times when it is dark out, and with night-cap on my head
I ask, am I retiring or just getting out of bed ?
Sometimes I canít remember, at the bottom of the stairs
Must I go up for something, or have I come down from there ?
I do know that I miss you, sometimes I heave a sigh
And now its almost mail-time, so I must say goodbye
Iím standing by the post-box, with a face so very red
I didnít post your letter, I opened instead.
Charles was a true Bristolian, loved all Bristol rugby clubs, especially his own and his brotherís Ė Bishopston. He was a keen follower of local cricket too. He was a member of Gloucestershire CC, but he toured the local clubs to watch games, where he would often stop to talk to those who knew him, and there were many of those.
Charlie, ĎMr North Bristolí, he will be much missed, not only by his family and his fellow club members, but also by many others throughout Bristol
Sleep in peace Charles.