Back in the 1990’s our then Secretary, Neil Foden, attended the Cheshire annual general meetings as part of his duties. At these meeting all the committee officers give reports of the years activities and the current status of affairs for their area of concern. Each year at these meetings the Judge Liaison officer (JLO) would stand up and give his report, and then finish with a request for archers to volunteer to become judges. At the 1999 meeting the JLO again gave his report but this time his request for volunteers was slightly different. He informed everyone present that if the county didn’t start recruiting judges that tournament organisers would struggle to host their tournaments as without judges you cannot hold a tournament.
At this time Neil was preparing to stand down as Secretary of the club (having filled the position for 10 years), and the appeal by the JLO hit a nerve, so Neil volunteered to become a Candidate judge, though he kept this secrete from the club until his first judging appointment, which was at New Century Bowmen’s Open Double York in the July of that year. The other judges that day were Peter Whittaker (Cheshire JLO) and John Harvey.
For this shoot Neil had acquired most of the equipment he would need to start judging, (note book, rule books, magnifying glass, whistle & of course Red pens) as well as basic parts of the uniform (white shirt, green tie) but he still didn’t have the green blazer, that was then part of the judges uniform, having been unable to source one at the time.
This was soon rectified now his fellow club members knew he was a judge. Harold Ashcroft, a founding member of the club, gave Neil a green blazer he had bought, but never worn. All Neil had to do now was purchase the GNAS (Grand National Archery Society) embroidered badge to go on the breast pocket, and sew it on.
Over the next couple of years Neil attended local county and open tournaments, slowly gaining experience and improving his knowledge, and just as importantly getting his name known to tournament organisers and to other judges.
One of the major tournaments he was invited to attend during that time was the first indoor Double FITA round to be shot in the UK. This was held at the Scoccerdome in Trafford Park. Besides the FITA round being shot on one pitch there was a FITA 18 round being shot on an adjacent pitch. Several of the other judges that attended that shoot were well known and well respected judges, including Peter Morris who was chairman of the national judges committee and international judge (It was Peter who invited Neil to attend the tournament), Bill French, Frank Hughes, David Page and Tony Ikel.
In March 2001 Neil travelled to the Yorkshire Indoor championships, where he was to undertake his assessment to become a County judge. There were two parts to the assessment, the first was practical, judging the tournament doing his usual duties as instructed by the CoJ (Chairman of Judges), the second was a verbal Q&A interview, which was conducted by David Brunt (JLO for Northern Counties) and Dennis Heritage. Neil successful completed both parts of the assessment and was upgraded to a County judge. At this time when a judge was upgraded from one level to another they were awarded a shoulder flash stating their new grade, this flash was traditionally sewn on to the right sleeve of the blazer, just below the shoulder. This later changed to being awarded a badge which was worn on the left lapel of the blazer.
As a County judge Neil now started to attend tournaments in neighbouring counties. Mostly within Lancashire as at the time they only had one judge, Frank Hughes, but he did also venture into Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, where he judged at the Welbeck spring bank holiday shoot, which was a favourite tournament for the club members to attend.
Over the next two years Neil became a regular judge at most of the Cheshire shoots, including the inter county matches, as well as the Cheshire Clout and Field championships.
Towards the end of 2002 the then JLO of Cheshire, Ian Greenwood, announced that he was stepping down and would also be retiring as a judge. Ian approached Neil to see if he would be willing to take the role on, which after a short discussion to ascertain what was involved, Neil accepted, and took over when he was voted in at the Cheshire AGM in February 2003.
Shortly after this, having gained all the necessary experience and attended the required number of shoots, Neil applied for his assessment to become a Regional judge. This again took place in Yorkshire, but this time at the Bronte Double FITA in July 2003. The assessment consisted of an on field practical along with a verbal exam. Neil passed both parts of the assessment and was upgraded to Regional judge.
Up to this stage Neil had been able to balance his shooting and judging, but having attained Regional status the judging side now started to take over.
As a Regional judge he was now invited to apply to judge at National tournaments, most of which are held at Lilleshall, the headquarters of Archery GB, or the GNAS as it was in those days. At this time the number of judges applying for National tournaments was quite low, so over the next several years, Neil applied for, and was accepted, to judge at, at least three tournaments a year. This meant that he started to become very well known to all the senior judges in the country, as well as a lot of archers, including members of the Olympic squads.
It also meant that he gained considerable experience, especially when attending the tournaments at Lilleshall, which included the new Head to Head formats and this, led to him judging at several of the selection shoots, both for international events and the Olympics.
As well as judging at National tournaments, Neil could now be the judge in charge at UK record status tournaments. The first of these tournaments he ran were New Century Bowmen’s annual double York/Hereford and the Cheshire Clout Championships, both of which Neil would continue to do until he retired.
2004 saw the Cheshire Clout officer, Peter Gregory, introduce a new County clout tournament to be held on the Mayday Bank holiday. This would be a FITA clout and Neil was appointed as the CoJ of this tournament. Unlike other clouts at the time, Peter and Neil agreed to run the tournament using timed ends, a first in clout. This was also the start of a long collaboration between Neil and Peter to raise the visibility and status of the discipline both with archers and judges.
Also in 2004 Neil was invited by Peter Morris (Chairman of the Judges committee) to be one of the judges in control of the practice field at the Junior World Championships, which were held at Lilleshall in August of that year and was a weeklong event with archers attending from all over the world. This was quite a privilege as well as recognition of Neil’s abilities, as all the other judges assigned, Andy Pointon, David Page, John Poyner and Geoff Barham, were National status.
This week also saw the start of Neil’s collection of pin badges and stickers, which both archers and officials from the nations gave away or swopped.
2005 was a quite year judging wise for Neil, but one announcement in July of that year would have a great effect on Neil’s future judging career and his life in general. That announcement was that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
In 2006 Neil, joined John Allison on the judging team at the Clan Donald Tournament on the Isle of Skye, following the sad death of Frank Hughes, who had been the CoJ of the tournament since its inception some 27 years earlier. This was a tournament Neil had first attended in 1991 as an archer and had returned each year until 1999, but had just started attending again in 2005. Being invited to judge at this tournament, especially as a replacement for Frank was a great honour and became one of Neil’s favourite tournaments to judge at.
At the end of 2006 Neil was ready to apply for National status, which is the highest grade you can achieve in the UK. Unlike previous assessments, National assessments were held at Lilleshall, with the practical being at one of the National tournaments and the exam, which for this grade is a written paper, being held separately later in the year, again at Lilleshall. Both would take place in 2007, or so Neil assumed.
At the 2007 judge’s conference in February, midway through the first day of the conference the then Chairman of the Committee, Peter Morris, announced to everyone that the committee had selected several judges to attend a training course, the aim of which was to raise them to a standard where they could be judges at the newly created World Cup event, the fourth leg of which was being held in Dover later that year. There was also a long term goal of them being able to officiate at the London Olympics in 2012. Twelve judges were named from which eight would be selected, after attending a weekend seminar which was to be held two weeks after the conference. As you may have guessed Neil’s name was included amongst that twelve.
The seminar was held at Lilleshall and hosted by Neil Dimmock, who was one of the UK’s International judges at that time. The seminar involved a day and a half of classroom studies and practical exercises, followed by a written exam, held on the Sunday afternoon, lasting up to three hours. The names of the eight who passed the seminar were not know until later in the week, but when they were finally released, Neil’s name was there along with Richard Breeze, Katy Lipscomb, Hannah Brown, Ann Jackson, Sue Richards, Chrissie Mortlock and Andy Woodger. There now followed an intense summer of email correspondence with Neil Dimmock who sent a series of question papers relating to problems that could occur at international competitions. All the questions had to be completed and returned within a specified time. The answers to the questions also had to include references to all rules, bylaws or interpretations that applied.
Also in 2007 Neil was asked by the Cheshire committee if he would consider applying to join the National judge committee, as the then chairman Peter Morris was standing down having completed the maximum term allowed. Neil was willing to do so, as it was something he was interested in. He had to compile a C.V. of his archery & judging career which was then endorsed by the Cheshire committee and submitted to Archery GB for their consideration. Neil’s application was approved and he was voted on to the national committee at the April AGM.
Approximately a month before the World cup tournament, Neil and the other seven judges, had to attend a tournament on the outskirts of London. This was to be both a team building exercise and a practical test of their abilities and knowledge, as the tournament would be run to international standards. All eight judges arrived on the Friday to carry out checks on the venue and range equipment. Saturday was a FITA Star (WA1440) shoot, followed by a head to head on the Sunday.
The judge in charge of the tournament was Neil Dimmock, who was also assessing each judge over the weekend. All the judges passed the assessment with flying colours and deemed ready for the big event. Those who were not already National judges were informed that they had now gained National status.
It was also at the tournament that the eight judges, as part of the team building exercise, became known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, each taking the name of one of the Dwarfs. Neil was “Happy”.
The World Cup event in Dover was held from the 31st July until the 5th August, but Neil and everyone else involved in the tournament had to be there several days early to do checks and familiarise themselves with the venue. On the Sunday evening prior to the start of the tournament, Neil and the other judges were all officially confirmed as National Judge’s and were awarded their National status badge.
National Regional County
The judge in charge of the tournament was Jean-Nicolas Schoos (Swiss), who,along with Henrik Larsen (Denmark), Matsiewdor War Nongbri (India) and Mi Ja Jung (Korea), all of whom were international judges, would be working on the field alongside Neil and the other National judges.
The week-long event was a steep learning curve for all the judges, but it was a week they all enjoyed, and gave many of them the confidence and desire to go on to try to attain Continental & International status.
As a National judge and a member of two committees (not including the clubs, which he now held the position of treasurer on), shooting now became a very rare event for Neil, as a lot of his time was taken up attending tournaments and committee meetings, and when not doing that he would be reading rule books, guide books, or undertaking duties assigned to him as a member of the various committees.
Over the next couple of years Neil attended a growing number of Open and National events, being either the CoJ (Chairman of Judges) or DoS (Director of Shooting) at a majority of them.
One of the events Neil attended in his first year as a National judge was the World Fire Fighter games which were being hosted by Liverpool. The archery event was held at Blundell Sands archery club in 2008, and Neil was invited to be on the judging team by John Allison, who was the CoJ, and accompanied by Peter Morris. This event while run to normal FITA Star standards, did have a mixture of competitors, from the experienced archer to a few who had never done archery before and thought it would be interesting. This made for a very entertaining and busy three days for John, Peter and Neil.
In March 2009 Neil was informed by the other members of the National committee that EMUA (European & Mediterranean Archery Association) was running a Seminar in Wiesbaden, Germany for National judges wanting to try for Continental and International status.
Neil applied for and was accepted on the seminar, which was held in October 2009. The cost of the seminar together with travel costs all had to be self-funded by Neil, to the tune of several hundred pounds.
The seminar was similar to the one Neil had attended at Lilleshall prior to the Dover world cup, but covered more ground and detail. The seminar started at 9:00am on the Saturday morning and finished at 7:30pm in the evening, with breaks for lunch and tea. On the Sunday the seminar again started at 9:00am and finished at 12:00pm. After lunch the applicants had to take a written exam, which they were allowed up to three hours to finish. Having completed the exam all the judges were taken to the airport for their flights home.
The results of this seminar were not known for three very long nervous weeks, but at the beginning of November Neil received confirmation that he had passed and was now qualified as a Continental Judge. The other British judges who had attended the seminar for Continental status were Andy Woodger, Ted Burnham & Terry Shough, unfortunately Ted and Terry were unsuccessful.
Richard Breeze, Hannah Brown & Katy Lipscomb also attended the seminar and passed the exam for International status, having already achieved Continental status at the beginning of 2008.
A few weeks after qualifying as a Continental judge Neil received a list of the 2010 Continental tournaments, which he was invited to apply to judge at. After careful consideration he applied for two of the tournaments, the European Target Championships to be held in Rovereto, Italy in May and the European 3D Championships to be held in Sassari, Sardinia, Italy in October.
Around the beginning of December in 2009 the national Judge committee issued their first reaccreditation exam for all National judges, which was based on the same principles as the FITA reaccreditation exams. The exam was brought in to try and raise the standard of judging by making the judges read the current rule books, something which a number of them were failing to do, with the result that some judges were applying old rules while being ignorant of new rules. These exams have in the region of twenty to thirty questions, some of which can be multi part questions, and even though the answers to a few questions could be just a single word, you have to back up your answer by quoting all the rules, guide lines, bylaws and interpretations that have a bearing on it. To allow time to formulate an answer judges are allowed about six weeks to complete the exam and can refer to the various rule books etc.; for the information. However as the pass mark is around the 85-90% range a lot of time has to be devoted to answering the questions correctly and thoroughly as well as searching for the information and references, so six weeks can go very quickly.
As a member of the committee Neil was not required to do the exam, but as the JLO for Cheshire he organised a seminar for the Counties National judges, plus other grades if they wanted to attend. John Allison from Lancashire also came along, and all the judges discussed the various questions and their answers, with Neil giving pointers if required.
At the beginning of 2010 Neil received notification that he had been included on the judging panels for both of the Continental events which he had applied for, but only as the first reserve. This however was soon to change when he was notified in late March that he was now required to attend the event at Rovereto due to a judge having to pull out. For full details of his adventure read the newsletter article he wrote at the time.
In March 2010 Neil also took over the role of JLO for Northern Counties Archery Society, when the current JLO, Richard Breeze, stepped down.
Richard wanted to concentrate more on his International judging duties, and as Neil had professed an interest in the role, Richard had asked him if he would take over, as he knew Neil would maintain the standards he had introduced when he had taken the position on a couple of years earlier.
Having completed and enjoyed his first Continental adventure, Neil was quite surprised and excited when he received notification in August that he would also be required to attend the tournament in Sassari. The circumstances behind this notification were bitter sweet as it was caused by one of the judges having to pull out due to health problems, and even worse as it was Derrick Lovell, who was a friend and fellow national committee member. Read the newsletter article for this event below.
Another notable event that took place in 2010 was the introduction of the Cheshire Tri Clout Tournament, which is a three day competition, held over the August bank holiday weekend. Together with Peter Gregory, the T.O, Neil played a significant roll in devising the layout of the tournament, he also named the tournament and produced the entry forms for Peter for several years. Neil was also the CoJ for the tournament from its inception until his retirement.
At the beginning of 2011 FITA issued its reaccreditation exam for international judges, this is something that happens every four years, which EMAU adopted a few weeks later, the first time they had done this, and issued it to all its Continental judges to complete. Neil had already been in the process of answering the questions, purely as an exercise in how to do them but also as a means of revising and keeping his knowledge up to date, so he was not taken by surprize by EMAU’s decision, and completed the exam well within the time limit. The results of the exam were not issued for a couple of months, but when they were, Neil was relieved to find that he had passed the exam and thus retained his Continental status for another four years.
2011 was also the year prior to the London Olympics & Paralympics when all the sports included in these events would hold a test event. Archery was being hosted at Lords cricket ground for the Olympics and the Royal Artillery Barracks for the Paralympics. Neil and his fellow Dover judges were all given key roles to play at one or the other of these events, which they were all notified about in May 2011. Neil was assigned to be a scorer at the Olympic test event at Lords in October, a role he would share with Hannah Brown, Richard Breeze and Ann Jackson.
In September Neil set off to Montevarchi in Italy for the European Field Championships, which was his only Continental assignment for this year. He had learnt the previous year that if you applied for a single event you were almost guaranteed to be appointed, whereas if you applied for more you tended to be placed as a reserve. Details of this adventure can be read in the newsletter article below.
While in Montevarchi Neil received an email message from the daughter of John Allison, informing him that John had been taken into hospital and had been diagnosed with brain cancer. John was both a good friend and a fellow judge that Neil had worked very closely with at many tournaments throughout the years and this was very unwelcome news. It was with even greater sadness that Neil was informed in early December that John had died from his illness.
Shortly after his return from Italy, Neil was off on his travels again, this time to London and the Archery Challenge Tournament (Olympic test event). This event was a dress rehearsal for the Olympics and as such was the most important tournament Neil had attended so far. While being a competition in its own right the event was testing the facilities and the officials to make sure they were all fit for purpose and could all do their respective jobs. As a scorer Neil, along with Hannah, Richard and Ann were responsible for scoring the arrows as they hit the targets and recording their values on a score sheet. As soon as the last arrow hit the target they had to proceed from their cabin, which was behind the backstop wall, to the targets as quickly as possible while totaling the scores for the targets.
Once at the target an International judge would verify the arrow values which the scorer would check off on their sheet, correcting any line cutter values, which are always initially marked down as the lower value, and then re-totaling before transmitting the arrow values and scores by radio while quickly heading back to the cabin. As there were four scorers, they divided the work up so that two would look at the monitors, which showed the arrows hitting the targets, one for each archer, one would write down the values and go to the targets, while the fourth one would have a rest. After each match they would rotate one place, thus allowing each of them to experience each duty and have a chance to relax.
While the week was extremely hard work, it was also very enjoyable and allowed Neil to see the best archers in the world, while experiencing the build up to the world’s greatest sporting event.
As part of the run up to the London Olympics, 2012 started with Neil attending a special seminar which was held in London next to Wembley stadium. These seminars were held over a series of weekends and all volunteers and officials involved in the games had to attend one of them. As well as being an introduction to the games the seminars focused on the behaviour and attitude that was expected for everyone taking part.
At the judge’s national conference in March, Neil was presented with a certificate of appreciation for his service and dedication to both judging and the judge committee.
Along with his normal schedule of tournaments and events 2012 also saw Neil take over the role of CoJ at the Clan Donald Tournament in Skye following the death of John Allison. Neil remained in charge of this event until it was cancelled by the director of the centre in 2015.
The day soon arrived when Neil had to set off to London and the start of his Olympic experience. It was a hot and Sunny Tuesday as he caught the train down to London, followed by a tube ride and a ten minute walk before arriving at the Danubius hotel, which is located just across the road from Lords Cricket ground.
The remainder of that day was spent getting his accreditation,this is the photo identity card you have to wear at all times at these events, and collecting his uniforms and equipment.
This consisted of:
FIELD OF PLAY UNIFORM
- 2 shirts
- 2 pairs of trousers
- 2 pairs of Socks
- 1 pair of trainers
- 1 Baseball Cap
- 1 Shoulder bag
- 1 Umbrella
- 1 Water bottle
- 1 Rain Coat
- 1 pair of Waterproof trousers
- 2 shirts
- 2 pairs of trousers
- 1 Jacket
- 1 Tie
- 1 Hat
- 1 Laptop bag
The following day was taken up with rehearsals and the team captains meeting, this is where the CoJ goes over the tournament schedule, informs the captains of any rule changes that may have come into force and answers any questions they may have. At this particular meeting archers and officials were encouraged to use social media to raise people’s awareness of both the Olympics and Archery in particular. It was then that Neil first started using Facebook, an action that would totally alter his life in just a few short years.
This was also the evening when the opening ceremony took place, an event that all the Archery officials were invited to, and one that all the NTO’s (National Technical Official) decided to wear the dress uniform to. Neil later told club members that it was a fantastic evening, but three things that really stood out was the noise made by the drummers at the start of the evening, it was completely deafening and you could feel the vibrations, the smell of coal from the chimneys that rose up from the ground as part of the industrial revolution scene and the heat from the flames that shot up from the stadium floor as the Olympic rings were lowered. The NTO’s did not arrive back at the hotel until after 3:00 am, but as the competition started the next day, they all had to be up for 6:00 am, which meant that first day was difficult especially for the scorers who needed to be able to think and calculate clearly, and it was mostly excitement and adrenalin that got them through that day.
The next eight days of competition saw some truly memorable archery, with unprecedented coverage on the TV, which led to Neil being spotted on several occasions as he carried out his duties, the highlight being the Ladies Gold medal match for which Neil was the scorer. During this period Neil and his fellow NTO’s and ITO’s (International Technical Officials) were all invited to an evening dinner at the Royal Tox, which is one of the oldest Archery clubs in the UK and membership is by invite only.
Everyone who took part in the Olympics as an official was presented with both a certificate of participation and a mounted silver medal as a memento.
While at the games Neil was approached by the chairman of the International judges committee and asked if he was attending the International seminar later that year, when Neil replied that he hadn’t applied for it yet, the chairman looked at him and said “You are applying”, so part of that evening was spent downloading and filling in the application form which he sent off as soon as he returned home.
Just a month after returning from the games Neil was off to Trakoscan in Croatia, to attend the European 3D championships, where he was not just on the judging panel but had also been appointed as the deputy chairman for the event after being asked if he would do it by the chairman, Jay Ben Ari, who he had first met when he went to Rovereto in 2010. Trakoscan is a remote village consisting of basically a very imposing Castle on a hill with a lake and hotel next to it. While ideal for field archery the only off duty entertainment was to look round the Castle and grounds, which was well worth doing. The whole event went very smoothly except for the second day of eliminations when the weather turned bad and it rained all day. This led to some very worrying moments on Neil’s part of the course which was in the forested area with steep slopes which were slowly turning treacherous. Fortunately there were no problems and everyone finished the course safely, though they were all soaking wet and cold by the end.
Towards the end of October Neil set off for Wiesbaden in Germany, to attend the WA seminar to try and attain International Judge Candidate status. As with his previous visit here he arrived on the Friday evening ready for the seminar starting on the Saturday morning. It generally followed the same agenda as the previous seminar, but with a few more practical sessions included. The exam on the Sunday started at the same time, but whereas for the previous one candidates were allowed 3 hours for the exam, this time they had reduced it to 1.5 hours. Again as previously done, once the judges had completed the exam they were taken to the airport for their flights home and a nervous wait for the results, which turned out to be just a few days this time.
Neil had passed the exam and was now an International Candidate judge, making him the fifth highest ranked judge in the UK at that time.
An International Candidate Judge is like a probationary step to full international status, which you are upgraded to once you have completed a number of international tournaments and received good reports from the CoJ of those events.
Because 2012 had been such a hectic year with the Olympics, Continental and National events, as well as committee meetings and seminars, Neil decided to have a more relaxing year, so he did not apply for any Continental events deciding to just focus on local and National events, he was also fortunate in the fact that it was too late to apply for International events as these had already been assigned for 2013. Apart from all the usual tournaments he attended, Neil judged at the British Open Field Championships for the first time in 2013 and was a late addition to the judging team at the National Indoor Championships in December that year, when several judges pulled out.
It was also in late 2013 that Neil started corresponding with a lady who had contacted him through Facebook, having seen some of his photographs of the Olympics and Continental events, and was curious to learn more about the sport.
The start of 2014 saw Neil suffering from a chest infection and cough, which was doing the rounds at the time, and though it cleared up after a couple of months Neil’s Doctor had sent him for a chest X-ray to check there were no underlying problems. The resulting X-ray showed everything was fine except that Neil had a slightly enlarged heart, which could be a natural occurrence or there might be something causing it, so his doctor ordered further tests.
In the meantime while waiting for these tests Neil continued with his judging and attended the European Youth Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia in May. This was a Target event and the first one Neil had done at this level in four years, so a few procedures had changed since the last one, and being a youth event there were several more categories than usual so it was a good refresher before Neil’s first International event which was coming up later in the year.
2014 saw the sudden and untimely end of the Clan Donald Tournament on the Isle of Skye when the centres new director terminated the agreement with the Scottish Archery Association allowing them to hold the tournament there, only a couple of months before it was due to be held. This was a vast disappointment for all the archers and judges who attended each year, and it suddenly left Neil with a week free at the beginning of July. Rather than cancel his holiday leave, which he had already booked off from work, he arranged a trip to see the lady who he had been corresponding with since the previous October, and so it was that Neil flew to Thailand to meet Jumnean for the first time.
In August Neil attended his first WA tournament as an international judge candidate, this was the fourth stage of the Archery world cup, which was held in Wroclaw, Poland. The venue for the elimination rounds was held near the stadium built for the 1934 Olympics with the hotel neatly place between the stadium and the archery field. The elimination rounds were run along the same lines as other events of this type, with a few minor differences, which is mostly down to the preferences of how the CoJ wishes to run the event.
The finals though were of a different standard, and more akin to the London Olympics than the conventional Continental event. The venue was at the Fontanna Multimedialna, which is a beautiful public park. The archery final area was laid out on a strip between the main building and an ornamental fountain. With all the media and cameras situated on the right hand side of the range, the main spectator gallery behind the shooting line and archers, and the remaining side of the range open to members of the public using the park to stand and watch, it was an exceptionally busy area. All the matches were also screened live on the WA YouTube channel, and because of this the judges are briefed on the protocol required as well as how to run each match. That makes these types of matches a lot less fun to judge and definitely more stressful as the first thought in your head is “Don’t make a mistake”, especially on the first match. Except for the shooting line tape coming loose mid-way through one of the matches Neil judged, which he handled without any problems, the event went off without a hitch, and was a good start to what Neil hoped would be a long International career.
The beginning of September saw WA issue its next reassessment exam which coincided with Neil taking his second trip to Thailand to see Jumnean. Because of the unfortunate circumstances of that trip, Jumnean’s mother was taken seriously ill just as Neil arrived and died at the end of the first week, Neil had some unexpected time to work on the exam while accompanying Jumnean when she visited her mother in the hospital and then as she hosted the funeral wake, in Thai culture this is five days long and precedes the actual cremation ceremony.
Towards the end of September Neil received an appointment to go to the hospital for an ultra sound scan of his heart, this was the follow up test to the X-ray. The results of this test were inconclusive and just confirmed the X-rays findings that he had an enlarged heart but with no discernible reason why it was so. So more tests were required.
The results of the FITA reaccreditation exam were not released until the end of October, but when they were Neil had again successfully passed and retained his status.
2015 would be a year of great changes for Neil, which started off with Jumnean returning home after having visited over the Christmas period. Because of his growing relationship with Jumnean, Neil had decided to abstain from doing any Continental or International shoots in 2015 so that he could use his holidays to visit Thailand and Jumnean, and so this year he concentrated again on home grown tournaments, starting in February with him officiating as the CoJ at the inaugural Cheshire Junior indoor Championships.
April saw Neil fly off again to Thailand to visit Jumnean for a couple of weeks, were he took everyone by surprize by proposing to her on her birthday while out on a Sunset cruise in the Andaman sea, who to his delight accepted.
The news soon spread through the archery community together with the fact that Neil was now planning on emigrating to Thailand the following year which was when Neil & Jumnean were planning to be married, making 2015 his final year of judging in the UK.
Several T.O’s who learned of Neil’s plans presented him with mementos for judging at their events over the years. These included the Cheshire Tri Clout tournament, the North Cheshire Bowmen Double FITA Star and Lancashire Archery Association for attending both their outdoor and indoor Championships.
The beginning of May brought a further medical examination for Neil, this time in the form of an internal ultrasound scan, which is administered by having a fibre optic tube lowered down the throat to scan the heart from the inside out. This time the examination did reveal what was causing the enlargement of Neil’s heart. It was a hole located between the top two chambers, however the resolution of the scan was not detailed enough to allow the doctor to state if the hole was of a size to represent a problem, for that Neil would need to have an MRI.
Exhibiting no symptoms or problems Neil continued on with his usual activities, which the following week included the British Field Championships. These were held at Raven Field Archers in Hampshire, which is a fairly hilly course, which some of the younger judges there struggled with when they were inspecting the course, but which did not cause Neil any problems.
The date for the MRI scan came through quite quickly and was conducted in mid-July. On leaving the hospital Neil wasn’t told when he would be informed of the results, but the patients prior to him had all been told that they would hear within two week, so he assumed his results would be the same. After a month had passed with no word, Neil assumed that the hole was only minor and that the doctors had determined it did not need further attention, just how wrong could he be.
Just a couple of weeks before he was due to fly off to Thailand again he received a letter from the hospital with an appointment to see the doctor, which Neil assumed would be just to confirm what he already thought. Not so. At this appointment the doctor informed him that the hole in his heart was fairly large and would need to be corrected with surgery, but because of its location this could not be done by keyhole surgery, it would have to be open heart surgery. He was also informed that as well as the hole the MRI had shown that two veins where connected to the wrong side of his heart which increased the problem of the hole, and these would need to be repositioned also. The doctors could not say how long it might take for these factors to start effecting Neil’s health, it could be six months or thirty years but the longer he left surgery the less chance of a full recovery he had, so Neil agreed to have the surgery, but explained to the doctors what his future plans were so that they knew what time constraints existed.
Neil went ahead with his visit to Thailand in September where he became officially engaged to Jumnean which involved a small ceremony for family and friends.
Once back in England Neil now had to break the news of his condition to his fellow judges and the committees he worked on, he also arranged substitutes to stand in for him where necessary while he was recovering from the surgery.
All the judges and committee members were very supportive and understanding, with many of them giving him much needed words of encouragement.
Neil’s last couple of months of judging epitomised the majority of his career, which was as that of a judge who involved himself in all aspects of the sport. He was CoJ at the National Clout championships held at Bronte, which had a record turnout of over 130 archers, he arranged and presented a regional seminar, which dealt primarily with the Regional judge reassessment exam which had just been issued. He attended the national judge committee meeting at Lilleshall, and the Dearn valley field shoot, but his final official tournament was the Lancashire indoor Championships where he received a beautiful wooden chest set presented in a case with a commemorative plaque on it.
Neil had his heart operation on Saturday 12th December which took 5.5 hours, he was in hospital for seven days, being allowed home on the following Friday, just in time for Jumnean arriving the next day, who had come over specially to look after Neil. At the end of her two week visit Neil’s recovery was well on the way though there was still one minor snag. Because of where the hole was located and the repositioning of the veins, the surgery had damaged the natural pacing node of Neil’s heart. This caused his heart rate to drop to around 40 bpm, which was a cause for concern, but the doctors hoped that it would recover with time. This however did not happen. With regular monitoring they found that while sleeping Neil’s heart rate dropped as low as 18 bpm, which would eventually lead to the decision to implant a pacemaker.
This problem altered all Neil’s emigration and marriage plans, as until then he was still on track for emigrating in late March and marrying in April, now however everything was throw back for several months at least.
On Sunday 21st February, at the club A.G.M., Neil was awarded with an Honorary life membership for the years of service and decication he had showed, both to the club and judging.
Neil finally had a pacemaker implanted on the 3rd March 2016, which was done under a local anaesthetic and involved just an overnight stay in the hospital.
On Sunday 6th March Neil attended the Cheshire AGM, where he formally stepped down as the counties JLO, a position he had held for thirteen years. The committee presented him with a gift certificate in recognition and as a thank you for his time and dedication to the role.
Saturday 19th March saw Neil attend his last NCAS AGM where he also formally stepped down as the Regional JLO having filled that role for the past six years.
The final retirement was from the National judge committee when Neil also formally retired as a UK National judge which he did on Friday 1st July 2016.
Having been given the all clear to travel in April, Neil finally emigrated to Thailand on the 8th July, accompanied by Jumnean who had flown over the week before.
Neil married Jumnean on the 2nd August 2016, and now lives the quite retired life.
Neil held on to his position as Continental and International Judge Candidate until March 2017 when he finally decided that he could no longer continue in those roles. This decision was dictated by his health and more precisely the Pacemakers effect on it. While generally fine. Neil suffered from occasional, but unpredictable dizziness and light headedness, which could strike him suddenly after he sat or crouched down, as well as a tightening of the neck and chest muscles if subjected to sudden or high levels of stress. Neil was concerned that either of these could happen to him while on an archery field, the result of which could be both dangerous and distracting to Neil as well as other judges and archers and was something he was not willing to risk.
CHESHIRE ARCHERY ASSOCIATION
As the JLO for Cheshire Neil’s duties at first were not defined all that clearly. He was primarily to be a point of contact for any archers wanting information about becoming a judge, provide contact information of judges to T.O’s (Tournament Organisers) if they needed a judge and attend bi monthly committee meetings.
These basic elements remained as part of his duties, but Neil also started organising the judges for the Cheshire shoots by sending out invitation forms prior to the start of the year. Mentoring new candidate judges, which joined the county. Produced a welcome package, which was all paperwork initially, but in later years was put on a CD, for new Candidate judges. Created and maintained the judges section of the CAA website.
NORTHERN COUNTIES ARCHERY SOCIETY
When Neil took over the role from Richard Breeze, Richard had already put into place new procedures, so the duties were well defined.
These included the attending of the NCAS committee meetings which were held every three months. Provide contact information of judges to County JLO’s or T.O’s when requested for tournaments, organise assessments for County & Regional grades, administer written exams, organise and run one or two judging seminars per year and liaise with the national judge committee.
On top of this Neil introduced checking of the written exams and providing feedback, issuing of certificates when judges attained a new grade, adopting his CAA introduction package for new judges and introducing a monthly judge’s newsletter which contained general judging news as well as information on new rules, bylaws, interpretations and occasional training exercises.
GNAS/AGB JUDGE COMMITTEE
Neil’s duties at first were not defined but he was soon put in charge of organising the annual judge’s conference. He was also given the responsibility of revising and creating new J forms, these are the administrative and information forms used by judges, sending out and collating the returns for appointment of judges to National tournaments, compiling a database of questions and answers for use in the national judge assessment exam which he produced from the database. He also created several training presentations, the main one of which was on Clout archery, which was the discipline Neil championed throughout his time on the committee. He also created an introduction to judging presentation which he presented at a seminar he ran for Cheshire and Lancashire counties and which was hosted by Stalybridge Archery Club.
- Applied to become a Candidate Judge February 1999
- Gained County Judge Status March 2001
- Became Judge Liaison Officer for Cheshire Archery Association February 2003
- Gained Regional Judge Status July 2003
- Appointed to the judging team in charge of the practice fields during the World Junior Championships held at Lilleshall August 2004
- Became member of the National Judge Committee April 2007.
- Gained National Status June 2007
- Judged at the World Cup held in Dover August 2007
- Attended EMAU/FITA Judge Seminar in Wiesbaden, Germany October 2009
- Gained Continental Status November 2009
- Became Judge Liaison Officer for Northern Counties Archery Society March 2010
- Judged at the European Target Championships held in Rovereto Italy May 2010
- Judged at the European 3D Championships held in Sassari, Sardinia, Italy October 2010
- Judged at the European Field Championships held in Montevarchi, Italy September 2011
- Attended the Archery Challenge Tournament (Olympic test event) as a National Technical Official held at Lords in London October 2011
- National Technical Official at the Archery event during the Olympic Games held at Lords in London between July & August 2012
- Judged at the European 3D Championships held in Trakoscan, Croatia September 2012. Appointed as deputy chairman.
- Attended WA International Judge Seminar in Wiesbaden, Germany October 2012
- Gained International Candidate Status November 2012
- Judged at European Youth Championships held in Ljubljana, Slovenia May 2014.
- Judged at World Cup Stage 4 in Wroclaw, Poland August 2014.
- Retired from National Judging July 2016
- Retired from Continental & International Judging March 2017