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Peter James Wilson [09.08.42-22.03.24]


It is with great sadness that Hoci Cymru has learned recently of the passing of Peter Wilson.

Peter James Wilson, known affectionally as ‘PJ’ Wilson in the hockey fraternity, passed away at home on the 22nd of March 2024. It is no understatement to state that Peter was one as Wales’s greatest ever hockey players. Those that played with and against PJ have paid testament to his skill, sportsmanship and ability; ‘the best player of his generation’ was one colleague’s assessment of him.

Peter was born in Weston-Super-Mare on 9th August 1942 and was educated at Chatham House School in Kent before gaining a place at Oxford University, where he studied Geology at St Edmund Hall. Peter then went on to be a much - loved teacher at Dragon School, Oxford, where he taught for 55 years; known affectionately as ‘the great PJ’ to generations of Dragon boys.

PJ Wilson made his debut for Wales on 16th March 1963 against Ireland at The Headquarters Ground, Londonbridge, Dublin. Peter played 87 times for Wales over a 15 - year period, playing his final game against Sweden in the 3-0 win on 18.09.78. He also captained Wales for the last 5 years of his Welsh career [1973-78] and did this with distinction on 49 occasions. Peter scored his first international game for his country on 10th April 1965 against Scotland at Ruabon and continued to score regularly for Wales.

PJ was a pivotal part of the history making Wales team in 1974 which took the Triple Crown for the first time since its beginnings in 1903, the highlight being a victory over England by three goals to one in Cardiff. As Desmond Eagar’s report stated, “in the dying seconds Wales were awarded a penalty stroke, and the captain, Wilson, who deserves credit for his country’s triumph, capped a great day for Welsh hockey by adding a third goal”.

During his Welsh career Peter played for Oxford University before moving to Cliftonville, City of Oxford and Welsh Dragons Hockey clubs.  PJ’s Corinthian nature flourished with the touring Ladykillers hockey team, especially at the Folkestone Festival; and in 1973playing against the then European Champions, Frankfurt 1880, with their German Olympic stars. Ladykillers beat them 4-1, causing RL Hollands in the Daily Telegraph to write, “This Festival match provided as fine an exhibition of hockey in the modern style, as I could remember, and that includes the last Olympics. The team had pace, punch, and a degree of skill which delighted a crowd who had hockey in their bones”.

Apart for a stella career with Wales, Peter was an Olympian, playing for Great Britain in the 1978 X1X Olympiad in Mexico City. His debut for G.B. was on 30th December 1963, winning 35 caps and captaining Great Britain once. His GB career spanned 4466 days, making it one of the longest GB careers that did not span WW2! He was also the only British player to be selected for the European X1 v Asia to mark the 50th anniversary of the FIH.

Besides being a great hockey player Peter also played two first class cricket matches for Oxford University in 1964 against Derbyshire and Hampshire and was a Welsh international squash player. He was also talented at tennis, football, rugby and golf.

His teammate Brian Griffiths remembers the ‘hair raising trips’ they made from Oxford in PJ’s mini cooper, and ‘even in the era of grass surfaces, he could effortlessly send aerial balls half the length of the pitch’. Brian remembers him as ‘charismatic’, a ‘natural athlete’ bit with an ‘intellectual curiosity’. Brian believes that PJ Wilson was: ‘the complete player, to whom sporting success came naturally, but he carried it lightly, and was wholehearted in his contributions to the team. Truly, a unique all-rounder of his time’.

Hoci Cymru extends its sympathy to his wife Celia and daughters Susie and Catherine.

 

Phil Bailey

With thanks to Mike Smith [The Hockey Museum], Patrick Rowley, Brian Griffiths, Freddie Martin, Lynne Morgan, and Vera Savage for their contributions.

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