BOB SILSBY 1929-2007
Silsby, one of the best loved and warmly loyal of Old Gaytonians died on April
1st 2007 of a heart attack. Known
best of all at Sudbury for his rugby career – and to many more as a cricketer
– Bob was for 15 years Membership Secretary of the OGA. As in everything
he did, he was diligent and efficient, and many Old Gayts will have joined the
Association on his watch and they and many more will have bought their OG ties
from him. On his retirement from
that post the Association recognized his sterling work by electing him
Dulwich to a parks and gardens family in 1929, he lived sometimes in grand
houses in various parks as his father's career progressed, eventually to
Superintendent of some of the largest and most famous of London parks.
When his father was promoted to a desk job at County Hall with the LCC
the family moved to South Ruislip where Bob went to junior school before passing
the 11+ to attend Harrow County in 1941.
there that he discovered his love and talent for rugby a passion which stayed
with him all his life. (Just the
day before he died he went to watch Wasps as they defeated Leinster.)
It was inevitable that he would join the Old Gaytonians RFC.
A fine, thinking fly half, he was described as one half back partner as
"the best . . .I ever had the fortune to play with. . . always in the right
place at the right time." And
a centre said, "always a good pass out to the centres, and never ever put
you into trouble with a hospital pass."
His loose limbed, bandy legged running style, elbows out, seemed to give
him exceptional balance and he tackled in classic style: never a massive hit,
just perfectly positioned and totally effective.
After his days in the 1st XV, he took on captaincy of the Extra A XV,
where he passed on his understanding of the game to many up and coming younger
leaving school at 16, Bob followed his father into the LCC (later the GLC),
where he worked in various departments for the rest of his working life and
where he met his wife, Yvonne. During
National Service in the RAF he was posted to Germany where he worked on the
celebrated Berlin Air Lift. The
German capital, Berlin, had been divided between the four occupying powers,
Britain, America, France and Russia, but it was situated in the heart of East
Germany under Russian control. The
Russians, in an early major move in the Cold War, closed down the road and rail
corridors to the Western powers and they maintained supplies to the besieged
city of everything from medicines to coal by air.
When the Russians eventually climbed down, Bob knew he had played his
part in the first victory of the Cold War.
boy, Bob was always keen on the outdoor life, especially scouting, and he became
a King’s Scout, a rare achievement. Later
he went on to run the 1st South Ruislip as Scoutmaster.
His love of the outdoors and the countryside included walking
particularly. For some years he
enjoyed developing walking routes in the Mendips and used to lead rambles along
the West Mendip Way.
inherited the family gardening genes and his back garden was a lovingly and
diligently tended masterpiece of a vegetable garden (“not flowers; it had to
be vegetables,” said Yvonne). He
joined the Newton Park Horticultural Society, a group of keen local gardeners
and allotment holders who put up a shed – which grew to quite a large one over
the years – and bought materials of all sorts in bulk. Bob, who had actually been there the morning before he died
to stock up with topsoil, was one of those volunteers who did a regular Sunday
stint in the shed as members came to buy their supplies.
He also entered their competitions and won a considerable array of prizes
for his displays in the annual show. As
cricketer and rugby player Bob was always utterly fair and honest, but he was
not without the necessary guile to win. And
son-in-law Tony Williamson confided at Bob’s funeral that he learnt a few
subtleties to enhance his winning vegetable displays.
The sad and affectionate tributes came in profusion on the news of Bob’s death. Over and over again the word “gentleman” was used, “an exceptionally nice man”. Many referred to his kindness and presence. “A low-key man with an abundance of style – always a pleasure to see and I never parted from his company without feeling warmed by his enthusiasm and friendly manner.” And a man playing his first away game was offered a drink by Bob, who had been playing for the 1st XV: “I told him I was an Extra A, but he said that I was an Old Gayt, so please have a drink.”
A very modest man, Bob would have been embarrassed by all this praise and affection, but we grieve with Yvonne and their daughters Jane and Sue at the passing of a man of such rare spirit. He was among the very best that most of us will ever know.
Colin Dickins 2007