Bill Wright obituary

Other lives: Teacher and Welsh international race walker

My friend Bill Wright, who has died from cancer aged 81, was a teacher, a Welsh international race walker, a fluent speaker of Spanish, and a supporter of Nuneaton Borough football club for 47 years. He was a man of eclectic tastes and talents.

Born in Alfreton, Derbyshire, to Kit (nee Pritchard) and Percy Wright, a schoolteacher, Bill was brought up in south Wales until the age of seven, and then Southampton.

Following a school visit to Spain in the 1950s Bill embraced the country’s language and culture. After Taunton’s school, Southampton, he studied history and Spanish at what was then Queen Mary College, London, graduating in 1962. The following year he married Janice Barlow, a teacher, and they were inseparable for the next 59 years.

He taught business studies and travel and tourism at Hornchurch College, east London, before moving in 1967 to Henley College, Coventry, where he spent the rest of his career as a senior lecturer, retiring in 1990.

Bill and Janice’s children, Isabel and Alistair, were both born deaf. They were given great support by their parents and Bill helped to set up the Coventry and Warwickshire sign language interpreting service in 1992, one of the first in the UK. Both children have pursued fruitful professional careers.

Bill was passionate about Spain and every year the family camped for several weeks at Banyoles, in Catalonia; latterly they journeyed by motorhome to Alcossebre, north of Valencia.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Bill started race walking in the mid 1950s and was the Welsh 10,000 metres champion in 1976. He carried on competing into his late 70s and he made a huge contribution to the sport as a judge and national and regional treasurer, also acting as the interpreter for the Spanish and Mexican race walking teams. He coached Andy Penn from Nuneaton, who competed for Britain in the 1992 Olympics. At Bill’s funeral Andy commented: “I became an Olympian in 1992 because of one man, the nicest man I ever met, Bill Wright.”

Football was another of his passions and, with Alistair and me, he travelled to World Cup games in France and Germany and to European Championship matches in Belgium and Portugal. He was in Russia for the 2018 World Cup. After his death a minute’s applause was held at a Nuneaton Borough game.

Bill is survived by Janice, by Isabel and Alistair, and by five grandchildren, Moira, Imogen, Seb, Billy and Harry.

Robert Pedlingham

The GuardianTramp

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