Pembrokeshire sport and the community of Carew lost a popular and respected figure last week with the death at his home, 2, Pisgah, Cresswell Quay, of former Welsh Amateur football international Gerald Harcourt Hicks. He was 70 and had been in poor health for some time.
One of a large family born in Carew village to stonemason Ronald Hicks and his wife Maud, Gerald was educated at the village school and at the Coronation School in Pembroke Dock where he made many life-long friends and enjoyed taking part in the highly-ambitious musicals which the school staged every year.
Gerald subsequently attended Neyland Technical College before serving a plumbing apprenticeship in Pembroke Dockyard. This led to him embarking on a successful career as a self-employed plumber, later specialising in skilled lead-work. He became widely renowned for his expertise in this latter trade, becoming the go-to craftsman whenever sympathetic repairs were needed to the leaking roofs of historic listed buildings throughout Pembrokeshire and further afield.
Being self-employed meant that Harkie, as he was familiarly known, was able to juggle his day job around his life-long passion for sport. While many will remember him for his prowess on the football field, it was as a rugby player that he first made his mark, as a Pembrokeshire schools representative at junior level and as a member of the team that won the National Methodist Youth seven-a-side rugby competition.
Growing up in a house with a garden backing onto Carew sports ground meant that Gerald was immersed in the sporting life of the village from an early age. He became groundsman at the age of 15 and was still taking care of his treasured cricket square over 50 years later when failing health forced him to take a back seat – though he still had plenty of advice to offer his successors!
A left-handed bat and fearless fielder, he played cricket for Carew over many seasons, helping the club to win numerous honours during a ‘Golden Age’ of cricket in the village. However it was as a footballer that he made his greatest impact on Pembrokeshire sport, as a player and later player-manager of Carew; as a combative midfielder for Pembroke Borough in the Welsh League over many seasons; and as player-manager of Milford United.
It was during his time at Pembroke Borough, in the early 1970s, that Gerald was called up to play for the Welsh Amateur team, and his international cap and jersey remained among his proudest possessions. Always super-fit, he continued playing Pembrokeshire league football well into his forties, and he was still turning out in age-group games until nearly 60, travelling as far as Cardiff for matches.
The social side of sport was important to Harkie, and while he could be a fierce competitor on the cricket or football field, he was always the first to sit down with his opponents after the game and enjoy a pint and a chat.
Well-liked by everyone who knew him, Gerald played an active role in many aspects of community life, not just sporting, and he was a life-long member of Carew Wesley Methodist Chapel. He lived all his life in Carew parish, taking great pride in converting an old quarryman’s cottage at Pisgah, near Cresswell Quay, into an attractive home for his family, wife Jenny and children Rebecca and Timothy.
He fought his final illness with typical courage and fortitude over several years, but this was one opponent that could not be beaten and he passed away peacefully at home on Easter Monday surrounded by his family.
Predeceased by his brothers Reg and Mel, Gerald is survived by Jenny, children Rebecca and Timothy and their families, his sisters Elvina and Wendy, and numerous nephews and nieces, to all of whom he was devoted and to whom sympathy is extended.
The funeral takes place on Friday, April 29 at 2 pm at Carew Wesley Chapel, followed by interment at Carew Cheriton. There are family flowers only by request, with donations in lieu to Carew Wesley Chapel.
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