On Saturday April 4th the sport of eventing lost one of its great supporters and personalities, Bill Allen. My first thought was for his wife Ann, and his family as I know how close they all are.
I couldn’t help it but I cried. For me Bill was special, as a friend and a colleague. Without Bill, I would never have got Borde Hill Horse Trials back onto the calendar. As my co-organiser, Bill taught me everything I know about running a horse trials, and helped assemble a first class team to put on the event. For many Bill was a first-class starter, and the joint-organiser of the successful Purston Horse Trials, but he could turn his hand to almost everything. But most important thing I learnt was that the organiser was responsible for chucking out the rubbish bags.
There have been so many tributes to him, and they all say, “how helpful and supportive of many events and people he was”. That he was “such a hard working lovely man, always with a joke and a smile and will be SO missed”. We “will miss his cheerful banter and big smile!”
Of course for me Borde Hill Horse Trials wasn’t the beginning as I already knew Bill. He was one of the linchpins at so many events that I attended, initially as a journalist, and then as co-ordinator of the South East Eventers League. In fact the SEEL organisers made sure to honour Bill & Ann for their crucial work ‘behind the scenes’, by presenting them with the Seahorse Achievement Award in 1998. And, of course, Ann was an integral part of the partnership – and of any event she scored or helped at.
Bill continued to support me as life got harder because of my multiple sclerosis, making sure that provision was always made for my disability. He ensured, with the two main sponsors Johnny Hill and Bill Kear, that I had a mobility scooter to continue going to events. However, MS eventually took its toll and I had to give up as co-organiser at Borde Hill, but although he too stood down, Bill Allen still helped the new team.
As my MS got worse, I went to fewer events, but tried to go to at least one Borde Hill event each year. And one of the first people to greet me was Bill Allen, even if he was busy doing things to keep the event running smoothly. Sadly, 2013 was the last time I went to the Horse Trials at Borde Hill, as we moved to Wales in 2014. So that was the last time that I saw Bill & Ann Allen.
So I wasn’t aware that he had cancer, or that during Tweseldown Horse Trials in March, Ann was visiting him in hospital ever evening, after working at the event.
Eventing has lost a great supporter and friend. I just feel devastated. My love and condolences to Ann and to all his family.
R.I.P Bill Allen, a great heart and a generous man.
R.I.P Bill Allen, a great heart and a modest man.