‘Pip’ Burrows, a stalwart of local sport, passes away – but his legacy lives on and will never be forgotten

BY FRANK BALDWIN, CHRIS TAVARE AND WILLY STEWART

One of the true stalwarts of both football and cricket in the Sevenoaks area sadly passed away in November. Phillip ‘Pip’ Burrows managed St Lawrence (Stone Street) FC getting on for nearly 50 years. During that time his teams have won an impressive list of trophies in cup competitions and several league championships.

Last season St Lawrence finally won the one trophy that had so far eluded Pip – the Sevenoaks & District Football premier league champions’ cup.

It is standing in the sitting room of his Sevenoaks home, but the other trophy that made him even prouder is the one that stands beside it. It is the Sevenoaks & District Football League fair play trophy which his ‘Saints’ have won three times in the last four seasons.

As well as being a football manager – and occasional player, particularly when one of the teams were short – Pip was also a qualified football referee and a minor counties cricket umpire.

Cricket was another sport he loved and as a pupil at Sevenoaks School was in the same year as eventual Kent and England players Paul Downton (who Pip also persuaded to play football for St Lawrence) and Chris Tavare.

He joked that with such talent already ahead of him in the batting line up he was better off becoming an umpire. In later life he still found time to don the whites to play for St Lawrence cricket club whose ground is right next door to the football pitch in Stone Street.

In the summer of 2020, he umpired a first team match at Sevenoaks School which marked 50 years of him umpiring there.

Pip’s association with local football started when, not long after he left school, he managed a team that played on a former pitch located within the Otford chalk pit in the early 70s. Many of the players were former Sevenoaks School mates and they formed the nucleus of the squad that Pip eventually united with St Lawrence in the mid 70s.

In those days the St Lawrence changing room was a small old wooden cow shed with a mud floor in the corner of the ground. It had a sink with one cold tap and no electricity which made trying to get dressed after a match on a cold dark winter’s evening a voyage of discovery. Eventually, and not before time, the football club started sharing the cricket club’s changing room. There is nothing left of the old cow shed, but if you search in the bushes you’ll find remnants of the old sink.

Despite these basic facilities, Pip still managed to attract talented players to the club and the teams he started to put together soon became a force to be reckoned with. Visiting clubs who thought they could turn up and ‘turn over’ this small village club were in for a shock.

In the 70s and 80s Pip’s teams won a host of trophies. Nick Cobb, one of Pip’s ‘signings’ from his Sevenoaks School days, once scored more than 80 goals in one season in all competitions. An incredible feat.

While some village clubs were forced to close because of lack of interest and players, St Lawrence, under Pip’s management, went on to form a reserve side which is still playing in the Sevenoaks & District League.

The amount of organisation and admin work Pip carried out – particularly phoning all the players in the days before email etc and even marking out the pitch himself – was quite extraordinary.

However, what many of the players are not aware of is the other work Pip did behind the scenes, not only generating income for the club through things like shirt sponsorship but also giving up his time to serve on the Sevenoaks & District Football League committee where, according to other members, Pip did a tremendous job representing the interests of St Lawrence and its players.

In the early days of his management St Lawrence team meetings were held at the former Rose & Crown pub in Stone Street and ‘training’ – this word is used in the loosest sense – was held in the car park. When the pub was turned into the Snail Restaurant, the club moved down the road into The Padwell Arms which was the scene of many a victory celebration. Sadly, this also closed down and so over the years other team HQs were set up by Pip in The Bucks Head, The Five Bells in Seal, and the former Golding Hop in Plaxtol.

A few years ago, Pip was diagnosed with cancer. Despite this battle, and with the help of Jonny Herbert who stepped into the first team manager’s role, Pip remained the driving force behind St Lawrence FC.

Even when his treatment left him very weak Pip would still turn up on match days. Right up until the end Pip could be found watching his teams play while sitting in his car.

Pip’s achievements with St Lawrence will always remain on record but there is an unseen legacy which cannot be overlooked.

I was lucky enough to be part of the early days of Pip’s management when he brought amazing success to the club. He created what can only be described as a ‘community feel’ within St Lawrence that still exists today. The people I started playing with more than 40 years ago still remain good friends to this day and we have Pip to thank for these enduring friendships and the fond memories we all have.

The pandemic means St Lawrence players, supporters and his other connections in local sport, cannot give Phillip ‘Pip’ Burrows the send-off he truly deserves, but plans are already being discussed to organise a get together in his honour when Covid conditions allow in order that his amazing contribution to local sport can be celebrated.

Sevenoaks School friend and England International Cricketer, Chris Tavaré reflects on Pip’s life
“Pip started umpiring for Sevenoaks School in 1971 as a year 11 student. He started by standing in 1st XI matches against adult teams and then school matches once he had left. Despite the loss of this summer term’s cricket fixtures due to COVID, Pip finally registered his 50th year of umpiring for the school in the 1st XI v Leavers match in September. Pip was a regular during that time. He loved coming to the Solefields ground where he liked to encourage young cricketers whether they be in the home or away teams.

“He would invariably give the master in charge nervous moments wondering whether he had remembered he was due to umpire, but unfailingly a cloud of dust trailing behind his car would be seen 5 minutes before the start as he drove up the track. He also enjoyed a good tea which often lasted more than the official 20 minutes. One day Pip rang up a recent master in charge to ask for directions to a school he had not been to before.

“After 5 minutes of looking for the details the MIC returned to the phone to find he was still talking.

“Pip then umpired for the Vine in Premier League matches and eventually progressed up the ranks to Minor County and Kent 2nd XI. Paul Farbrace, the then Kent Academy coach and future England Assistant Coach, rated his umpiring very highly. Fair and consistent was his judgment, more Dickie Bird than trigger happy. This was so important when young cricketers were looking to secure contracts and 1st XI selection with their counties.

“When Pip wasn’t umpiring he played for Seal St Lawrence on a Sunday. He opened the batting and was never happier than being 20 to 30 not out at tea. Not a believer in the single, quick or otherwise, many a partner was run out trying to get on strike. In the field he would always stand at first slip where he took some good sharp catches, as long as the ball came straight to him.

“Pip has given so much to the Sevenoaks and wider cricketing community during the last 50 years. A man passionate about the game and helping others, he will be much missed by us all.”

Willy Stewart, the football clubs highest ever goal scorer pays tribute to Mr St Lawrence
“It was in the mid 1970s when I was a teenager that I, together with a few school friends, was asked through Pip to play for a local village football team called St. Lawrence, ‘the Saints’, one Saturday afternoon. It was a bit of a shock to the system; middle of nowhere, cowshed with no electricity for a changing room, bobbly pitch, egg-shaped centre circle and a few fellow teammates older than my dad. I even remember one of the players wore a bobble hat throughout the game and only took it off to head the ball, then put it back on!

“For many youngsters, one game would have been enough but somehow Pip managed to persuade some of us to stay involved, got other local youngsters to join and pretty soon we had a new squad and a village club saved from the brink.

“Pip took it upon himself to organise the football club and manage the team. For a club with limited resources we had a lot of success in those years, and I was lucky enough to carry on playing continuously for the team for over 25 seasons. More recently, the club has been on an upward trend again. As I write, the first team is currently top of the Sevenoaks and District League Premier Division. This is some achievement for a village club. This is thanks to Pip, John Herbert and other dedicated members, not to mention of course some very talented players.

“For many years, the social side of the football club revolved around the two local village pubs, The Padwell and the Rose and Crown which were both frequented on a regular basis. Many lifelong friendships were made on the pitch and off it. Sadly, both pubs have shut their doors, but thankfully the football club survives.

“Throughout his forty plus years involvement with the club, Pip has managed not only to keep the club going but also thriving whilst many other local village clubs have folded. It is even more remarkable that the club still manages to run a first and a reserve team every week. This is all down to Pip’s sheer determination and persistence, not to mention his considerable administrative skills. Pip has a remarkable ability to recruit new players, often spending many hours on the phone using his powers of persuasion to get players to take the first step to joining. It is a credit to the Pip, the club and its membership that so many players, having taken that first step, continue to play for the club for many years. Some ex-players’ sons, including my own, now play for the club which is great to see.

“Many things have changed with the club over the years – I would say almost all for the better – but one thing has never changed and that is Pip’s dedication. Over the years, and despite his serious health problems, Pip still manages to make it to the touchline every Saturday come rain or shine, and his good humour and good spirit has always remained.

“In short, Phillip Burrows is St. Lawrence Football Club. Without him, the club would probably have disappeared years ago and hundreds of players past and present would not have had the great times nor made the friends they have. This is down to Pip’s hard work and self-sacrifice. Pip has dedicated much of his life to the club and has put his heart and soul into it for the benefit of others. He should be very proud of his achievement. A lot of people, including myself, owe him a debt of gratitude.

“Finally, it should be pointed out that in addition to his overall running of the club, Pip has been instrumental in raising much needed funds and has also, at times, helped the club with finance personally when money was tight. I understand that there are financial challenges coming up again, as the club’s changing room facilities are now required to be greatly upgraded due to current requirements. It would be a terrible shame if the club, which has been such an important part of the local community for such a long time, and which has given so much pleasure to so many people, were to go under solely as a result of not being able to finance these upgrades. We all wish the club to be able to continue to prosper and continue to be the valuable asset that it is.”

* This tribute has only touched the surface of Pip’s contribution to local sport. If anyone has their own memories, please comment below or send them to: editorial@sevenoakssports.co.uk and we’ll add them to his story.

Pip Burrows is pictured on the far right of this photo after a St Lawrence victory in the Smiths Charity Cup final in the 70s at Greatness Park, Sevenoaks. Frank Baldwin, the author of this tribute, is on the far left

Pip was given a guard of honour when he walked out to umpire a Sevenoaks School 1st X1 cricket match this year as 2020 marked his 50 years of umpiring at the Solefields ground. Pip is himself a former Sevenoaks School pupil

St Lawrence players celebrate with Pip who is holding the winners trophy after another recent triumph

Pip is pictured far left with some of his first team players at a Sevenoaks & District Football League awards evening after they picked up another trophy

Pip overseeing a St Lawrence training session