Bill Pritchard, 1947 - 2019
An Obituary, by Mike Nelhams
William Frederick Pritchard, or ‘Bill’ as he was widely known, sadly passed away on Sunday February 10th 2019.
He was born on Tresco at Old Grimsby in the house called Ocean View in the spring of 1947.
Bill was educated on Tresco and upon leaving school he undertook a Carpentry apprenticeship through Tresco Estate where he learnt his trade and worked closely with his cousin Peter Locke for most of his career. I doubt there is a house or building on Tresco that Bill had not worked on in his 50 years and more of dedicated service to the estate.
Bill was widely know across the islands for his love of sport, none more so than as the legendary second stroke for many years in the gig Czar, his easy style giving the boat an unrivalled stability in often choppy Scillonian waters and winning countless trophies along the way. Always generous with his time he was also a mentor to many young rowers across the years that were grateful for his knowledge, patience; wise words and assistance in helping them become proficient oarsmen.
In 1968 Bill was also a proud member of the Czar crew that rowed from Scilly to Penzance in just over 9 hours and upon arrival a champagne reception was held for them at the Old Railway Hotel. On return to Scilly the Dorrien-Smith boat Soleil d’Or’ was despatched to tow the gig from St Marys to Tresco where they were met by Commander Tom Dorrien-Smith and treated to a chicken dinner and enough beer to sink a battleship. Bill always recounted in a typical modest manner how proud he was of that achievement with his rowing partners, Bruce Christopher, Henry Birch, Mike Pender, Johnny Pender and Vincent Darling.
In the eighties there were frequent Gig festivals held in Brittany where Scillonian crews regularly took part. Bill loved to travel and could always be relied upon to fully participate on these international occasions. At the end of each day’s nautical festivities he would put on a fresh shirt, comb the hair and drop down into the town to enjoy the Breton hospitality and local gastronomic delights. He really enjoyed the team spirit, meeting new friends and the telling of those stories once back to Tresco over a pint in the New Inn.
As a cricketer Bill represented Tresco on hundreds of occasions, often donning the wicket-keepers gloves to great effect. Bill would scamper about behind the wicket saving many runs each season playing against the off islands and St Marys. Table tennis was religiously played twice a week at Tresco reading room where Billy regularly thrashed all comers with his “brick wall” style of play; wherever you hit it, Billy gently and consistently would play it back until the opposition became exhausted.
He was also an avid Manchester United football fan attending a game at least once a season at Old Trafford to see his team in the flesh.
Saturday afternoons were reserved for his much loved vegetable plot, the fertility of his patch augmented each year by regular barrow loads of seaweed collected religiously by hand in the spring from weed washed up into New Grimsby harbour. You could set your watch by Bill as he pushed yet another barrow up the Gig shed slipway. The resulting bounty always used for his very popular soup experiments, what he grew and couldn’t eat he would give away to his friends.
Sundays in the summer months were devoted to his boat. Bill would take many friends on fishing trips around the islands, his favourite haunts being the waters between Tresco and Round Island where he would fish for mackerel and Pollack with his best friend Bruce Christopher.
He would occasionally take to the water on sailing expeditions. A quiet and placid adventurer there was nothing he wouldn’t have a go at given the chance. On one occasion he was out sailing in his Mirror dinghy when he managed to put his foot through the flimsy and half rotten bottom of the boat. Totally unfazed he turned the boat around and headed back to shore leaving his foot dangling through the hole as to remove it would have increased the intake of water. That was Bill: always practical and solid.
New Year’s Eve festivities were always enjoyed by the Tresco inhabitants; none more so than Bill with his always original ideas for the fancy dress competitions. Who will ever forget his near naked parade around the old Tresco reading room at Townshill one year wearing just a nappy and a glass case with the words “In an emergency break glass” written on a placard!
Throughout his life Bill was always in the thick of it on Tresco. Whenever any event or gathering took place, there was Bill, whether giving one of his slideshows with his eclectic mix of images or being dunked by a bucket of water at the Village fete, assisting, helping out and joining in. A lovely gentle, quiet thoughtful man of good humour who everyone respected and had a good word to say of him. Tresco doesn’t make them like that anymore. We shall all miss him.