William (Bill) Druce

Bill Druce

Bill Druce     Obituary by Herbert Winterflood         Guernsey Press     7th July 2014

William (BILL) DRUCE, who has died at the age of 90, crammed a tremendous amount of activity into his long life and certainly left his mark on Guernsey, notably through his working and sporting activities. He was a jovial, likeable person, with the interests of the island foremost in his mind. Very much a family man, he and his late wife, Betty (nee Robilliard), had two daughters, Frances and Rachel, and two grandchildren. As manager of the States Works Department, his contribution to the island was considerable. He retired in March 1986 with vivid memories of wrecks and oil pollution, incidents in which his department had taken a leading role. In addition to these, Bill was involved in improving sections of the island including Vale Castle, La Vallette and La Mare de Carteret. Bill joined the States in 1943, during the German occupation, when the Essential Commodities Committee had the responsibility of managing the food supply to islanders. John Loveridge, later to become Sir John, Bailiff of Guernsey, was the secretary of the committee and on his retirement, Bill expressed his eternal gratefulness to the late Sir John for the help and advice he had received from him. Later, Bill switched to the States Engineering Department and produced a paper on the amalgamation of direct labour forces in the island. The plan was accepted by the States and he was asked to take over the new department in 1968, changing the name from Public Works to States Works. This included the amalgamation of the’ Board of Administration and Public Thoroughfares Committee workforces. New work methods were introduced, including single manning of cesspool- emptying tankers, street washing by mechanical means, the introduction of commemorative floral displays and the use of unemployed labour on landscaping schemes at La Vallette, La Mare de Carteret and Vale Castle. In addition to all that, Bill became involved in the reorganisation of several other procedures aimed at ensuring that other public facilities were improved and maintained. Since 1968, the department has also been involved with the management of major incidents such as the La Salle shipwreck off the west coast, the Torrey Canyon oil pollution, the shipping disasters Elwood Mead and Prosperity, the Orion oil rig stranding, air accidents involving the public highway, foot and mouth disease in cattle and many other incidents.

When he retired, Bill recalled the Torrey Canyon disaster, when his department
pumped a million gallons of oil from the sea and introduced a method of separating the oil from the water. This was achieved using sewage tankers – a method later adopted by the French. When the ship President Garcia grounded at Saints Bay with a cargo of copra, each day he had to travel by boat from St Peter Port to the bay to ensure no pollution of any kind was occurring. Help also had to be given to the salvage team charged with towing the vessel clear of the bay. Incidents such as those resulted in the need for additional resources and a collection of vehicles and equipment was mustered and held in readiness for emergencies. Bill was always willing and pleased to assist charity organisations, especially during events held at Saumarez Park. Alec Forty, a former States supervisor, recalled that he was a very practical man – one who called a spade a spade. He produced some very practical and constructive ideas.

Former manager of the States Works Department John Ozanne, who followed Bill as manager, said Bill had invented the States Works Department: ‘It was
his baby,’ he said. He added that he was very popular with the workforce and
had some good ideas. John played a lot of golf with Bill and remembers him being appointed captain of the Royal Guernsey Golf Club. Bill Robilliard played cricket with Bill, who was captain of the Guernsey Cricket League team, and recalled that he played for the successful Pessimists. Back in 1955, an Evening Press journalist wrote: ‘Bill Druce would be on the final shortlist in a poll to decide the all-round sportsman of Guernsey. He has reached the top of badminton, cricket, table-tennis, football and softball’.

His keenness on the sports field was illustrated when, on one day in 1951, he helped Northerners to win the Wheway final in Jersey, then flew back to Guernsey to win the men’s singles badminton championship. That same evening, he played in the mixed and men’s doubles finals as well, such was his stamina in those far-off days. He flourished in all the sports in which he took part. Bill’s success on the football field began the year before the start of the Second World War when he was with the junior Bels, who reached the final of the Old Vic Club competition, and he won a junior Muratti cap. When the GFA was reformed after the war, he played for St Martin’s, which then fielded a very strong team including Bill Whare. Bill moved on to Bels in 1950 and then Rangers. He played cricket for Pessimists and the GICC, taking part in most of the important matches. He also played in the Green Trophy table tennis matches, again with considerable success. Such was the long and active life of William Druce.

He never wasted a moment and used his organising and sporting talents to the full, helped by a congenial personality which carried him through life.

A final tribute to cement that memorial has come from his nephew, Peter Martel, who declared with conviction that his uncle was a great motivator. He said that it was Bill who encouraged and influenced him to get involved with and support sport. His uncle, he said, had himself been a supporter of the St Stephen’s Boys’ Club. ‘Bill was a winner – he had to win,’ he concluded.

He played 8 times for Guernsey appearing in the first inter-insular encounter in 1950. He scored 142 runs in 7 innings with a creditable average of 28.4 in the days before covers. His highest score was 71 in 1953 at Victoria College in a total of 245 for 9 declared but still lost by 2 wickets. His other score of over 50 was in 1959 at College Field where Guernsey scored 218 and Jersey held out for a draw on 214 for 8. He also took 4 catches and bowled 1 over which yielded 11 runs.