Gawley’s life devoted to hockey is honoured

John Gawley. Picture: Malcolm Wells
John Gawley. Picture: Malcolm Wells
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Hockey stalwart John Gawley insists he has no plans to give up on the sport he loves after picking up a richly-deserved MBE from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace.

The 81-year-old, from Havant, is president of the Hampshire Hockey Umpire’s Association.

He was handed a gong from the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to hockey after devoting 63 years of his life to officiating or coaching umpires.

Gawley admits he was never much good as a player, but after falling in love with the game during his 42 years of service with the navy, it did not deter him from taking great satisfaction from the sport and excelling as an umpire.

He also picked up a lifetime achievement award at England Hockey’s annual awards.

Gawley said: ‘I never found it frustrating to be an umpire rather than a player.

‘I took to umpiring and always found it extremely satisfying.

‘I’ve only played twice and I was so staggeringly dangerous because I couldn’t co-ordinate myself with the stick.

‘When I played, I was just hopeless and I could never make the stick do what I wanted it to do.

‘I still coach umpires these days but I have gone as far as I can in the world of hockey and I am very content. I shall be content if hockey keeps me going.

‘But I’m pleased that I have had so much pleasure from the game and it’s very flattering to win awards for doing what I liked doing.

‘I’ve certainly no plans to give up. Hockey will give me up.’

Gawley had to keep his award a secret for several months last summer. He then eventually enjoyed a brief chat with the future king on a memorable day at the palace.

He said: ‘I received a letter from the Cabinet Office in April of last year giving me the option of accepting the award.

‘Naturally, I said “yes please” and I was put under strict silence until it was published on June 16.

‘I went up to be invested with my son Mark and daughter Anna, and chairman of Hampshire hockey Mike Ward.

‘It was a very brief chat with Prince Charles – he only had 40 seconds or so to talk to you.

‘But he mentioned that he had played hockey when he was at school and it was very nice to meet him.

‘I’ve got the DVD and it was splendid day. I thoroughly enjoyed it.’

The former Lt Commander, who served on HMS Loch Glendhu, started his long association with the sport he loves in 1950.

He said: ‘I started out umpiring all over – Mauritius, Persian Gulf, Singapore, Somalia and all kinds of places.

‘But I came home and wanted to improve so the navy sent me on a week’s course and I came out of there with a pretty good knowledge of hockey and the rules.

‘Myself and a guy from the RAF formed the umpire coaching sub-committee of the old Hockey Association, which was the first attempt to coach umpires.

‘In due course, I became a national selector as well, so I found myself travelling all over the country selecting and coaching umpires.

‘I was also a founder member of the national umpire coaching committee.

‘But I’m still coaching now and I still enjoy it – I wouldn’t be without it.’