Colin Price (1937-2004) – An account of Colin’s last years by Ernie Barrett.
In 1977, having been moderately successful as a runner and athletic coach, I formed an athletic club on Canvey Island. In April of that year, answering a knock at my door I found a very unkempt chap, with head bowed, standing on the step. He introduced himself as Colin Price, an old school friend. He reminded me that we were both in the Mayfield School Athletic team that had taken part in the district schools championship of 1953. I had real difficulty believing the man standing before me was the Colin Price I knew at Mayfield. He looked very down at the heel and had put on a great deal of weight. He went on to explain that he was suffering from bipolar personality disorder. Apparently, he had been working for British Rail as an over-head line technician when a freak accident happened that led to the death of two of the men under his supervision. Colin blamed himself for this and suffered a total mental breakdown, from which he never fully recovered. My wife Lynne, and I, felt that Colin’s offer to help out with the youngsters in the athletic club might also do him some good, so we accepted. Colin embraced the chance wholeheartedly and even started exercising on a regular basis. He shed a few stone and helped at a number of running meetings.
Colin gave much time in helping the running of Canvey Island Athletic Club. He loved to see youngsters participating in sports and would regale them with stories of his, and Mayfield’s, sporting achievements. He could even remember the names of all his final year classmates.
On that first occasion when he visited me at home he asked if he might join me to watch the forthcoming F. A. Cup Final as he didn’t possess a television at that time. I said he could but only if he smartened up. I promised that if he made a good effort he could even stay for dinner. The great day arrived and prompt at 2:45pm Colin arrived. I nearly collapsed; there at the door was an immaculately dressed guy, clean shaven, suited, with shiny shoes and freshly washed and pressed shirt and tie. I felt totally under-dressed. Of course he stayed for dinner.
Colin was full of surprises. Like the day he donned a peak cap and money satchel and stood at the entrance to the free car park demanding fifty pence to park. Colin collected quite a few pounds that day and at the close handed it all in to the estate agent’s office next door. However, as most people on Canvey knew Colin, nobody asked for the money back so it was donated to charity. But it did give people a laugh.
On Friday evenings, Colin would attend the local night club. He was never shy in asking even the prettiest girl in the place for a dance. People never laughed at Colin, but rather with him. For he would always laugh at himself.
Colin loved his dad, who had been a Class 1 football referee. From that love came a burning desire to become someone in the world of football. He applied for every major managers job that became vacant. His C.V. mentioned that he had played for Mayfield School and that he had run the line for Canvey Island F.C. He received properly written rejections to every application he made, as most of the football teams seemed to know Colin. The replies were often couched in personal terms. He kept them all in a scrap book. The letter of rejection of which he was most proud occupied the whole of the middle pages. It was from Walter Winterbottom who thanked Colin for his kind interest in the England Managers post. In the letter, Walter explained to Colin that unfortunately he did not possess the kind of experience that the Football Association was seeking.
In 1982, my wife and I together with our son, Tyron, went to live and work in Florida. Canvey Island Athletic Club dwindled down to just a few. We discovered later that Colin lost heart and confidence during the time we were away and slipped back into his old depressed ways. He was hospitalised for long periods and apparently, in 2004, a badly administered injection sent Colin into a coma from which he never recovered. Colin left behind a wife and son and a great many people who were genuinely fond of him. He was always gentle, kind, and very, very funny.