Our dearest friend, and extremely highly regarded Trust and Club colleague, passed away on Wednesday 6 October. On behalf of the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Trust board and all of our members, we send our deepest condolences to Duncan’s family and friends.
Duncan, a fixture on the terraces for so many years, was elected to the Trust Board in 2017, although he had been providing invaluable help behind the scenes for some time before that. It’s hard to overstate how fortunate we – the Trust board, the Club committee, and every supporter of this club – were to have him. Duncan’s time on the board coincided with what was, as you will all know, the most difficult and challenging period the Club has faced. Duncan’s contribution to the survival of the Club during this period of turbulence was enormous; his commitment to the club was unwavering.
Towards the end of 2017, relations between the Club and the owners of Champion Hill deteriorated. The following year saw the Club playing in exile at Tooting and its survival under threat. Duncan worked tirelessly in raising the profile of the Club’s plight. The esteem in which he was held following his long career in Parliament opened doors for the club and the Trust, exemplified by the debate led by Helen Hayes MP in the House of Commons on 16 March 2018. The time and care he invested during the 2017/18 season saw him receive a greatly deserved DHFC outstanding contribution award.
Duncan was elected co-Chair of the Trust in July 2018 – the Club’s 125th year. By September, still in exile and with no prospect of a return to Champion Hill, the club faced imminent insolvency. Duncan was an instrumental member of a small group working alongside the Club Chairman to seek to broker dialogue between the stadium owners and the Council that might enable the Club to return to East Dulwich, and provide investment to enable the club to survive from week to week. Duncan never sought the limelight and during this difficult and intensely pressurised period, more than ever, his contribution was necessarily made behind the scenes, but it was invaluable. Against the odds, and at the 11th hour, terms to return to Champion Hill were agreed.
Duncan was a talisman in this period. His calm head under pressure, wise counsel, astuteness and commitment to collaborative working, enabled the Trust to forge a close working relationship with the Club’s Chairman. This was critical in kickstarting a series of investments and improvements in working relationships, which has seen the Trust invest over £100,000 and acquire over a 29% shareholding in the Club on behalf of fans and the community. This was something Duncan was rightly extremely proud of – at the heart of everything he did was his steadfast commitment to ensure the Club’s continued existence for the East Dulwich community, now and for future generations.
Duncan continued to take responsibility for liaising with the Council, local MPs and government in relation to the planning application for the new stadium. It was fitting that he became, in 2020, the first member of the Club’s board of directors to be nominated by the Trust, epitomising the closer working relationship between Club and Trust. Not satisfied with this, Duncan spent many a match and non-match day completing safety assessments, working tirelessly on the planning proposals and, as he said himself, dealing with the recurrent blockages in Champion Hill’s antediluvian plumbing systems.
It’s hard to believe that such a generous, kind friend has left us. Wise counsel to many, ale aficionado, curry lover, away day specialist, too often coach monitor, caring and giving to the last – Duncan, we will miss you desperately. You have gone too soon. We will never forget you.