WILLIAM JAMES COUZENS 1936–2002
Bill Couzens competing in the Club Championships of 1974 at Battersea Park.
Photo by Ron Linstead
I am very proud to write a few words on the life of my friend William James Couzens - known to many as Bill.
Complications arose when Bill went to work at Rosser & Russell where his father worked and was also known as ‘Bill’. So our Bill used his middle name of Jim and this stayed with him for all his professional working associations. Bill met his ‘wife to be’ Gwen at work so she also knew him as Jim.
I met Bill at the age of thirteen when we started together at Christopher Wren School.
Evidence of Bill’s competitiveness, his perseverance and doggedness was seen early on when he entered the school boxing championships and put up an extremely good performance against the best in the school who was taller with a longer reach and later frequented fairgrounds to battle for prize money.
Bill and I enjoyed many camping weekends together at Ashtead Forest, Walton on Thames the river Mole and many others. He also enjoyed the 3rd Fulham scout camps and made many friends. It also was at this time Bill started his life-long interest in fishing.
On leaving school at 15 years he started an apprenticeship with Rosser & Russell to train as a heating and ventilating engineer.
Bill joined Belgrave Harriers at 16 years of age – more about this later.
Music of many types has always played a large part in Bill’s life. I remember the times when, at Baron’s Court at the Couzens’ family home, Bill, George Stanley, Pam’s ‘husband to be’ and myself would drive his parents and sisters Pam and Sylvia crazy with our attempts to play skiffle, imitating Lonnie Donegan. Many years later at Belgrave Hall a much-improved group was formed with Bill on guitar and this group was affectionately known as the ‘Swinging Jockstraps’
Bill did his National service at 20 years of age, joining the army and representing them extensively in athletics.
Gwen and Bill were married in 1961 and their family was completed with the arrival of Tina and David. Years of family happiness followed of which many people would be envious.
Bill wanted a dog when Tina and David were young but he wanted one that was good with children so he got a Great Dane that he called Jason. The dog was huge and when it laid down in the lounge it more resembled a horse. At this time Bill had a small boat on the Thames and Jason always wanted to be with the family and was sad if left behind – but he was terrified of water. Bill always had the dilemma of whether to leave Jason behind or make him walk the plank each time in a nervous state. Jason nearly always went with them!
For nearly twenty years Bill and Gwen with John and Jenny Martin have held together a camp over the August bank holiday in the New Forest. This has always been well supported by Tina, Tony and the children, David and Stephanie, along with other members of the family and many friends. There was one occasion when there were at least thirty people.
Bill and Don MacLean inaugurated the Denmark Pot Darts championship as far back as 1963 and Bill has had an enviable eleven wins.
One extremely amusing incident occurred when Bill was on holiday on the Norfolk Broads. He attempted to take a rather large cabin cruiser under Potter Heigham Bridge. There was not quite enough headroom and the boat became wedged under the bridge. It happened alongside a pub garden where there were plenty of onlookers. So Bill quickly invited them aboard, this lowered the boat in the water enough for it to pass safely under the bridge and on its way.
Bill’s athletic career started at the age of sixteen with Belgrave Harriers when he ran mainly cross-country.
Following his spear throwing antics during our primitive camping weekends the inevitable progression was made to the Javelin which became his main event. He threw the javelin 170 ft (52 metres) and was club champion in 1961, 1962 and 1971.
He also represented Belgrave in the discus, shot, hammer and pole vault scoring many valuable points for the club, to which he became devoted. As a veteran Bill ran two London Marathons, beating the 3.5 hour mark.
Bill served the club in many ways for many years and was very proud when he was made Club President in 1975. More recently he was elected General Secretary. His services to Belgrave will be greatly missed.
Bill always put tremendous effort into all he did. He was fiercely proud of Tina and David and he was devoted to his grand children Jack and Katie with whom he loved to be.
Bill took it very badly when Gwen died nearly five years ago. They were such a close and devoted couple and Gwen had always supported him in all his endeavours. Bill was always very heavy on emotional feelings. Bob Taylor, whose close friendship with Bill stretches from the fifties, was again very supportive in the period that followed as he started rebuilding his life.
Most people will be aware of Bill’s recent cycling exploits. Reaching a very high standard, he remained as competitive as ever.
It is not possible to name all the people who meant so much to Bill – there were so many!
Bill was always considerate of those around him. He was extremely conscientious in his work as with all that he attempted. His standards were very high. He had great strength of character. He could, when required, be strong and firm but he had a very kind, soft centre. He commanded respect because he earned it.
Bill expected little but gave everything. He was a perfect friend.