The croquet world has lost one of its most venerable figures. Bernard Neal passed away on 26 March 2016 juust short of his 94th birthday. He had been unwell for some time and had been admitted to hospital after a series of falls at home in Cheltenham.
Croquet owes a considerable debt of gratitude to Bernard as a top-class player, a very capable administrator and an invaluable link between the Croquet Association and the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where he served as a committee member and Vice President for many years. It was through Bernard’s good offices that the AELTCC presented the Wimbledon Cup in 1989 to be the trophy for the Association Croquet World Championship.
Bernard came to croquet via lawn tennis and Wimbledon after a full-sized croquet court was installed in 1957. He joined the Croquet Association in 1960 and soon rose to the top of the game. He represented Great Britain in the MacRobertson Shield in 1969, 1974 and 1979. He was soon elected to Council which benefitted over many years from his sound judgement and wise advice. He became Chairman of Council in 1972 and proceeded to set a record that is unlikely ever to be beaten, namely winning the Open Championship in both years of his chairmanship! His other unique claim to sporting fame is as the winner of the greatest number of Wimbledon titles, namely 37 times the winner of the Wimbledon Croquet Championship. This far surpasses the haul of any tennis player.
Bernard enjoyed good health into his nineties and it was a very fitting tribute to him when he was elected President of the Croquet Association in 2004 in succession to John Solomon.
Above all, he was a gentleman, the most sporting of opponents and a very good and generous friend to very many croquet players in England and across the croquet world. He will be greatly missed and our thoughts and condolences go to Liz, Mike and Cathy on the loss of their husband and father.