The hockey community is mourning the loss of one of the game’s stalwarts as Gerald Wilkinson passed away at the age of 82.
Gerald really was a hockey globe trotter: his son Phil – who was Communications Manager for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Organising Committee – said that over the course of a long hockey career, Gerald played hockey in more than 50 countries over five continents. During this time he was acknowledged for helping introduce the sport to China, which will host next year's Hockey Champions Trophy (full article here).
Gerald represented England for many years at over 40s, 60s, 65s, 70s and 75s. His biggest achievement came in 1998 when he captained England to a 4-1 win over the Netherlands in the inaugural Over 60s World Cup in Utrecht.
He also enjoyed a long club career representing Deeside Ramblers, Salisbury, Wimbledon, Guildford, Southgate, Witham and Chelmsford as well as a host of invitational clubs. In 1995 he was a founder of the LX club for Over 60s, the forerunner of the England Masters and Grand Masters teams.
Gerald was a founder member of the Angels touring club, which played on their inaugural tour of the USA and Bermuda in 1963 and subsequently played matches all over the world.
Life long friend Peter Child, paid this tribute to Gerald: “Gerald, during his time playing for Guildford H.C. in the early 60s, assisted Jim Pollock in founding the Angels and organising the famous Angels tours commencing with trips to New York and Bermuda, followed closely by the tour of Jamaica and Bermuda in 1967 and of Rhodesia and South Africa in 1968. Many incredible tours followed in the 70s and 80s,visiting such exotic countries as China, Japan, Malaysia, and South America. He also played on many trips to the famous Lahr Black Forest tournament over Whitsun, starting in the mid-60s. He will be remembered for his darting runs over the right wing, and his unerring accuracy in shooting his many goals for the Angels in almost all known hockey-playing countries of the world.
“From the late 90s, Gerald started his second hockey ‘career‘, helping to form the England LX club for players of 60 and over. Till the very end, he was famous all over the world of senior hockey for his hockey prowess, scoring many goals for England LX and winning many medals and awards.
“He was still playing regularly as an 81-year-old until his illness took toll last year. Gerald was also respected for his great sporting spirit and friendliness on and off the field, and our thoughts go out to his partner in life, Birgit, who gave him loyal support over the many years, and their sons Philip and Benjamin.”
And son Philip added: "Gerald dedicated his time to hockey with great devotion, determination and aptitude. It has been heart warming to receive so many letters of appreciation from the hockey community around the globe over the past fortnight, full of gratitude and respect for his achievements, both on and off the pitch.
"Gerald lived for hockey and in return hockey gave him the greatest experiences, friendships and love of his life. The Angels Hockey Club tours from the 1960s and '70s in particular sounded incredibly exciting and left him with many stories to tell of their pioneering adventures.
"Gerald was described by his peers as a player with effortless speed, skill and vision. He was the epitome of eternal youth on the pitch, and a real leader and an inspiration off it. He saw no reason why the passion and joy of playing hockey at a high level should stop when players passed the age of 60 so in the mid-90’s he set up the LX Club which then blossomed into Grand Masters Hockey around the world over the past two decades.
"As his illness was developing in 2016, Gerald was really touched to receive a personal video message from the Team GB Olympic gold medallists in Rio on the occasion of his 82nd (and final) birthday and for the first time in my lifetime, he shed a tear. He was always at his happiest when playing or talking hockey.”