Those who regularly follow my blog will know that I am a keen sports fan following a wide range of sports and have posted several times on matters to do with cricket and football. I have participated in a number of sports over the years but not these days, unless you count going to the gym 3-4 times a week. When I did play, I was never that good but I was keen and dedicated and enjoyed playing.
One unlikely experience occurred soon after I began to attend a teacher training college, 1974-75. At that time, I was fairly fit and up for most things sports wise. One early Saturday afternoon, I bumped into the captain of our college men’s field hockey team, who asked me if I could play for the team as they were a man short. I told him I had never played hockey before. He reassured me that it wasn’t an insurmountable problem. After a brief induction, I found myself turning out for the team some two hours later and over the coming months getting the hang of the game. So my hockey career began. I did practice but found my playing abilities never got much better than moderate, although I enjoyed the experience of playing a game I grew to love. I played for the college team for the rest of the season and it was an important part of my college life. When I returned to my home town of Southend upon finishing my course, I decided to check out the local scene in order to find a team I could play for.
In those days, one of the big clubs in the town was Westcliff, who played in Southchurch Park. I remember watching the first team play one Saturday afternoon, a little before I finished college, and being struck by one player in particular because of his amazing skill with the stick, his quite evident passion for the game and his ability to score goals. His name was Dominic Bann and even then he could be classed as a veteran and a sprightly one at that – on and off the pitch. If nothing else, he reinforced my passion for the game. I didn’t get to join Westcliff but I did join local rivals, the Old Southendians (a club that was linked to my old school), and I played regularly for them, sometimes against Westcliff, for the next two seasons. I became more aware of Dominic over that time, although I don’t recall playing against him as I generally played in one of the lower elevens. It was evident from exchanges players at the club had a respect for the man. I continued to play hockey when I moved from Southend to Poole, and even captained one of the teams, but gave up playing after a few years, and have not played hockey since then.
The reason for these reminiscences was because of an article in the sports pages of today’s Southend Echo that had the title “Bann, 79, proving age is nothing but a number – Hockey star back playing months after heart bypass“. Central to the article was a photo of a smiling Dominic with some of the many trophies he has gathered over his long and illustrious hockey playing career. The article itself recalled his playing career, starting as a 15 year old playing for his father’s RAF team stationed in the Middle East, until the present day. During his career he played at the highest level, particularly in veteran teams, and despite a recent health set back is still playing today. I would like to pay tribute to Dominic Bann, who is truly a local legend and an inspiration to old and young alike. I daresay, now 79, he won’t be running around with the same gay abandon as he once did, but I wish him more happy hockey days to come!
Update 13/04/20: Today I learned of the passing of Dominic Bann. I suspected this might be the case because for the last couple of days I was alerted of people reading the above article, which I posted approaching six years ago. A simple Google search revealed my suspicions but I was pleased to find this tribute to the great man on the Facebook page of my old club, Old Southendians …
What do you write about a legend of the hockey world?
Dominic was born in the last Century, with hockey in his blood and a stick in his hand. His birthplace was Iraq, in a place called Habbanyja.
An account by VP and ex Olympian John French recalls he first played against Dominic when playing mixed hockey for Hornchurch HC in about 1964, and can remember how seriously he took the game. This never changed in all the years we knew him.
Dom played a lot of his hockey at Southend HC, before joining Westcliff HC, where he was an integral part in the success that they enjoyed, playing on the wing and scoring many goals. No matter where he was in the D, he knew where the goal was and he could score as easily with the back of his stick, as he could with the correct side. This was born out on one occasion when our opponents claimed “backstick” as Dom put the ball in the net. A well-known umpire at the time said “you all know it was backstick, I know it was backstick, but I could not see it, Goal given”.
One of Dom’s traits was to shout “Geronimo” after scoring a goal, why we have no idea, but it was always good to hear.
After the demise of Westcliff, Dom joined Old Southendians, where he continued to play in many of the teams and I inspired many of today’s younger players.
He was not only known in and around Essex, but played regularly for The London Indians and at Eastcote Vets. In his latter years he played International Hockey for England Great Grand Masters in age group World Hockey tournaments.
Dominic was one of the most intense players on the pitch but a true gentleman off it.
It was truly a pleasure to know and play with him. He will be missed by many, many people across the County, Country and indeed the World.
Dom, always supported by Ursula, attended the recent VP event which despite poor health he thoroughly enjoyed. He made a generous donation and you will see his name on the Pitch Slice Board
Wherever Dom is now, I am sure he will be playing in the first team.
God rest Dom.