Tony Hughes (1938-1999) - A Fives Legend
Tony Hughes first came to notice in Eton Fives upon reaching the final of the Public Schools Competition in 1957 when he and fellow Edwardian, J. C. Green, lost to Aldenham (G. B. Vine and D. R. Barker). He was disheartened not to have won, but a quiet word from the stalwart Old Olavian, Doug Keeble - always a supporter at the various competition finals - inspired him to put this match behind him and come back the next year to win the Kinnaird Cup.
So began a domination of the amateur championship for several years. With A. J. G. Campbell, also from KES, the partnership was formidable. Gordon Campbell was a strong, steady player with a good cut and he would volley at every opportunity. Tony's strengths were his incredible retrieving and considerable courtcraft and guile. They were the first pair to win the Kinnaird Cup four times, eventually making it eight and Tony achieved a ninth win once with D. J. S. Guilford (Old Harrovian). Tony's record, however, of nineteen times in the final is unparalleled.
But Tony was not just outstanding as a player - his service to the game was equally so. He founded the Old Edwardian Fives Club in 1958 and led it with enthusiasm all his life. He inaugurated and organised the Midland Tournament, ran the County Championship and served regularly on the EFA Committee. He was regarded as the obvious EFA representative on the international front and contributed numerous articles for the Annual Report. He wanted to play Eton Fives on every continent and persuaded another Edwardian, Richard Tyler, to accompany him on most of the trips, which included Zuoz, Zurich, Diusseldorf, Rheinberg, But he was not satisfied just to play on all these different courts - he dedicated much time in coaching at all levels and a letter from Northern Nigeria pays a glowing tribute to him.
Other sports which Tony took to easily were Rugby Fives - he even played in Boston, North America Handball, which took him to Ireland and Canada and he was also more than competent at squash and lawn tennis.
In 1995 he was a contender for the Chairmanship of the EFA. He had much to offer and had many loyal followers. Although he missed the appointment narrowly he accepted the result with good grace and immediately pledged his continued support.
To some, Tony may have come across as abrasive and too competitive, but he spoke his mind, sometimes with an acerbic wit. He had no difficulty in motivating himself for anything he believed in. His impact on the game has been enormous and he always championed the cause of the underdog. For such a talented player to have devoted so much time to promoting the game including far afield is unique. In his memory, one of the competitions is to be named after him.
In business, Tony was a successful accountant and behind all his efforts has been his devoted wife, Gill, to whom we convey our sincere condolences.
A full church at his funeral bore witness to the respect felt for Tony and our thoughts are with Gill as we all try to come to terms with the huge vacuum that Tony's demise leaves.
FUNERAL ADDRESS - TONY HUGHES
9 September 1999, Lodge Hill Crematorium, Birmingham
As probably everyone here knows, next to Gill what Tony cared for most was his juke box - the genuine Rockola juke box that Gill gave him as a sixtieth birthday present in June last year. It was an inspired gift typical of Gill, of course - and it resulted in Tony's developing an enthusiasm for record collecting, particularly of skiffle and jazz, to the extent that one or two of those close to him began to nurture a suspicion that he might be becoming just a tad obsessional about this new interest. This nonetheless provided him with a very real and absorbing pleasure, a pleasure that was shared with us at the start of this service.
One record that was not included in that juke box collection, not surprisingly really, was one of the King Edward's School Song - Tony won a scholarship to King Edward's. The second verse of the song goes:
Here's no place for fop or idler; they who made our City great
Feared no hardship, shirked no labour, smiled at death and conquered fate;
They who gave our school its laurels laid on us a sacred trust;
Forward, therefore, live your hardest, die of service not of rust.
Tony was certainly neither fop nor idler, and his life can be seen to have observed the exhortation of that last line: 'Forward, therefore, live your hardest, die of service, not of rust'.
He was born in Ward End, and his earliest school days were spent locally at Thornton Road Junior School. On leaving King Edward's, he chose not to go to University but instead took up accountancy in Birmingham in his final year coming out as top student. He was articled to Grant Thornton, and then took over J. W. Scrivens in Moseley in 1961; Guy Litherland subsequently joined him, and in 1975 the Partnership was established; during the 80s the firm moved to its present premises in Bournville. Tony loved accountancy and he served his clients well; he always worked his hardest, and had high expectations of those around him. It is not surprising that many of the letters Gill has received in recent days have been from clients who recognized in Tony a professional integrity, a commitment to the business and, above all, a down to earth, human approach; they also expressed an awareness that they had lost a friend.
The commitment Tony showed to the business was reflected, too, in his commitment to Gill. They married in September 1974, celebrating, therefore, their Silver Wedding Anniversary last year. They made their home in Moor Green Lane - currently in the middle of significant building works as some long cherished plans are being put into effect. Mutually supportive throughout their married life, they together developed a love of Malta, and spent many happy holidays there.
Just as Tony worked his hardest, so he played his hardest, and many people here today will have come to know him through sport. There was a strong competitive streak in him, and he enjoyed sports of all kinds, whether as a player or as a spectator. He played squash and tennis to a good club standard, annihilating me on one not so memorable occasion, and he ran several marathons. His real sporting love, though, and the game in which he achieved international eminence, was Eton Fives.
He had been introduced to the game during his school days, and had the distinction of winning the British Amateur Championship (the Kinnaird Cup) a total of nine times, eight of which were with the same partner, Gordon Campbell - this achievement merited a mention in the Guinness Book of Records. His appearances in the final, in fact, winning or losing, totalled nineteen, spread over a period of thirty-two years. Typically, he had not given up the idea of winning the title just one more time. Equally typically, he served his sport well, seeking to give something back to it by devoting a great deal of time and energy into running the Old Edwardians Eton Fives Club.
He also, latterly, took up Rugby Fives, and relished playing in two tournaments: The President's Cup and The National Veterans Championships - he inevitably became Veterans Champion twice and won the Vintage Title twice. He also became a devotee of Irish Handball, playing in England, Ireland and Canada, and from all these games - Eton Fives, Rugby Fives and Irish Handball - he derived enormous fun and treasured all the friendships that resulted.
He brought an engaging enthusiasm to any project that interested him. Some ten years ago, as his fiftieth birthday loomed, he decided that it was time that he saw more of the world, and took up backpacking. To be fair, this was not for Gill, and his stalwart companion was his regular Fives partner, Richard Tyler. Over the next few years, always with Fives gloves in their packs, they visited such off-the-beaten-track places as the Everest Base Camp, Northern Nigeria, Chile and Patagonia.
Everyone here will have their own memories of Tony, perhaps his quirky sense of humour, but above all his zest for life, underpinned by a transparent decency. Those memories will stay with us. And although all of us who knew him will be sharing a sense of loss, the reminder in this service is not one of despair but of hope. This is not the end. The Christian message is that in Our Lord's death, death, and our fear of it has been overcome. As Christ said to his disciples:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; I am going now to prepare a place for you.
We can take further comfort from the knowledge that Tony chose to live his life to the full, and that this was a fulfilled life. Perhaps, too, there is a message we can take away from this service in those words from the King Edward's School Song:
Forward therefore, live your hardest, die of service, not of rust.
FIVES ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA
Tribute to Mr Tony Hughes
I learnt with deepest shock of the death of Mr Tony Hughes on Tuesday 31st August, 1999. To us in Nigeria, Tony's death meant the loss of the only Eton Fives player who believed in Nigerian Fives.
I recall way back in 1988 and through sheer intuition, Tony spend considerable time and energy to trace us with a view to establishing the lost contact and relationship between EFA and Nigerian Fives. I swear he went through a lot of frustrations. I can also swear he never gave up. His efforts finally paid off which resulted in an extensive tour of Nigeria from 19th December 1988 to 8th January 1989. He, in company of Mr Richard Tyler came to Nigeria, a visit that perfected his vision of International Fives.
Throughout the visit, he remained understanding, trusting and accepted the peculiarities of the game in Nigeria and the UK. Tony studied every aspect of the Nigerian Fives, including the various peculiarities of our courts and even players. He remained optimistic that despite our best team beating his pair, such a team could not repeat such a feat in the UK. How true this came out to be.
Consequently, in March 1989, we visited the UK and participated in the Kinnaird's competion for that year. Tony hosted us in his house and stayed with us throughout the visit. One thing that struck us was that unlike in Nigeria when everything about Fives comes up naturally, in the UK everything has to be arranged through endless phone calls and disappointments. Tony, however, persisted and eventually got us through. When we asked whether it was worth all the effort and bother, he assured us that he was ready to go through more traumatic situations to sell Nigerian Fives. I recall using some derogatory terms such as 'Fives courts in the UK are mere graveyards' and that considerable efforts in time and energy have to be put to bring human beings to use them, he simply agreed. That showed how much of a large heart he has.
Like all human beings, one has to fail at some time or other. Indeed Tony failed to get UK players to acknowledge, understand and appreciate Nigerian Fives. His last comments, I recall, was that English Fives players maintain 'a dignified silence' whenever Nigerian Fives is mentioned. As far as we were concerned it wasn't Tony who failed, but the UK players who failed to appreciate what Tony was talking about. To us in Nigeria, Tony was the only International Fives player. His death has undoubtedly created a vacuum and has left a big challenge to all UK Fives players for unless the game becomes internationalised, there is no way it could be played at the Olympics.
Until his death, Tony was married to two wives - his lovely wife, Gill and his charming game of Fives. May his gentle soul rest in peace, Amen.
Adamu Yakubu National Secretary