It is with great sadness that the Club announces the passing of Ali Mills, a man whose stature belied a great heart and a giant personality.
There are those amongst us who go through life in an almost placid fashion, happy with rules and content not to pass an opinion on any subject which might be deemed controversial. Our numbers include many who, like a becalmed vessel, leave little trace behind them regardless of the effort they expend. Such was never Ali’s destiny and so many of us in OARFC and friends in untold other Rugby locations are proud to have shared even a little time with him.
So much of his life involved humour, his laugh was typically infectious and his sense of comedy was never absent for long. His long time friend and colleague, the late lamented Tom Howard, often mused on his erstwhile half-back partner’s abilities, (like the fact that Ali was a useful boxer in his youth); but he was not slow to point out certain shortcomings when he felt the need arose. One such was Tommy’s affirmation that his scrum half was the inventor of the Barnes Wallis pass!
His career at OAs lasted from the 1960’s despite previously being a pupil at Bedford School. He played in every side Albanians fielded and I was privileged to keep him company in at least four of them from 1983.
To say he was a noted tourist is like saying St Paul’s Cathedral is a Chapel and it is certainly true to say that his colleagues, whenever OAs ventured to other clubs (or distant shores!) regarded him as a lively source of mayhem. Whilst he may never have been a great example…he was indeed a terrible warning! He was one of those people who made folks smile even at the mention of his name.
Music played a big part in his life and he brought his enthusiasm to the clubhouse every season. The Ali Mills Night was always a gig which filled Beech Bottom or Woollams to the rafters and seemed to get better as the years rolled by.
I remember meeting him at a training session at Westminster Lodge and I asked him why he was there; after all it had been many years since he’d needed to train! He said “I’ve been given the greatest honour of my life! I’ve been asked to serve as club President and I’m desperately trying to come to terms with that!” Ali was a worthy President for many years, guiding through some turbulent times but never losing sight of the fact that the players were, and always will be, the mainstay of our organisation. Not for him a lengthy coach journey to a distant opposition ground perched at the front of the bus; Ali was always to be found at the back, with the players, asking questions and joining in the fun. He will be especially remembered for that.
Ali had heart problems for some years but that did not stop him playing in the last match at Beech Bottom, Us vs Them! I was delighted to referee the game and, it has to be said, there was no evidence of a bouncing bomb that day!
Ali passed away this morning in hospital after a short illness. He leaves a son, Jonathan, and a daughter, Amy, whose grieving will surely be alleviated by so many memories of a delightful Dad.