A Tribute to Mike Gillies

‘Though he be but little, he is fierce’ – Adapted from William Shakespeare

For all his sublime skill on a rugby field, excelling in the amalgam of a concentrated physical clash over 80 odd minutes, with hand-eye coordination denied most of us, fleet-footed speed and agility, all reliant on a high degree of teamwork and mental toughness, there was so much more to Mike Gillies. 

Seeing off a threat to his life with great courage, determination, and the sheer will to live, Mike adapted to his circumstances with remarkable equanimity and class. A group of people provided support and encouragement right to the very end. They are to be commended.

Tributes from friends, fellow-Ikeys and admirers provide a poignant and moving picture of the man. The stories and tributes are at times funny, illuminating, and straight from the hearts and minds of people who shared much with him.

Gavin Fernie


Dearest Jenny,

The long list of recipients to your sad Email bears testament to a fine, humble, incredibly talented man who, I am privileged to say I spent two very happy years sharing a house at No 1 Dean Street with.

I am also happy that you have not excluded those of us that have passed on because I can’t help feeling that where ever they may be now they will also appreciate an Email about their Buddy. No doubt Basil will be especially pleased.

Of course, Mike will have to make his peace with Kathy our maid to explain to her that really he did like the vegetables Mike so rudely pushed aside explaining that all the vitamins he needed were to be found in a can of Castle!

Go well Mike, hope Alky is there to meet you.

Kind Regards.
Richard Dollar

Hi Jenny.

My sympathies to you and yours; never an easy time. While I didn’t know Mike well it’s certainly wonderful to see so many of his very good long-standing friends paying such moving tributes.

You are all very fortunate to have such a closely knit fraternity as the 1960’s team members of UCTRFC. Full marks!

Kind Regards to all.
Tim Saunders

Thanks for keeping us all informed Jenny.

We all salute the memory of a great talent, a wonderful team man and a great competitor.

To the ‘remnant’ – keep well, and blessings to you all.

John Benn

Thanks Jenny

Very sad news. You are right, a great guy and he leaves a lot of good memories.

To you, stay well – and to all recipients, greetings and best wishes

Zed Tomes

Hi, Jenny and all the rest of you,

I was saddened to hear about Mike. One of my oldest friends from Junior Grey onwards when we were in Std 3 together. That is aged 10. He and I were in the same class and the same sports teams throughout our schooling at Grey and then in Cape Town until we went out into the world. 

When I was at boarding school at Grey I used to spend many weekends with his family in Walmer in PE, so today’s news brings back many wonderful and still vivid long ago memories of a very special friend who has been nicely eulogized by several of you today.

My enduring memory of Mike is an always decent and modest individual who never let his huge natural sports talent go to his head. He was kind and respectful to everyone and his non complaining courage in recent years an example to us all.

I send all my old friends copied on this email my best wishes and appreciation for the
friendship and fun we experienced together.

Vincent Mai

What sad news!!

I’ve just returned from Cape Town and every time I met chaps from the old days ( which was frequently ) Mikes name came up, and more or less, the same stories were told. All funny and respectful of a great man on and off the pitch. A sign of the affection and high esteem in which he was held by all. He was  another “one off.”

Members of the Jewish community have a very apt phrase often used in circumstances such as this. To adapt it for these present purposes I wish you one and all “a long life.” The fact that there are names on the recipient list of some who are no longer with us, is evidence of them remaining in our thoughts forever. I hope that practice will continue.

Best regards
Carl Snitcher

Hi Jenny

So sorry to hear that and very sad news indeed. I was down in Kenton in November for an 80th and so pleased I was able to spend some time with Mike who as always was his normal perky self. We come a long way having first played rugby against each other at school in 1958.

Greetings to all of you and trust you are all well. Time is definitely against us so make the most of it.

Jacot Guillarmod

Hi Jenny,

What a sad day made a bit brighter by hearing from so many old friends recalling better times with Mike and acknowledging the wonderful talents he possessed. I think that Basil was among the first who recognized Mike’s real sporting ability and let’s hope that they are now having a good chuckle together. 

I recall the carefree days together at Smuts Hall when we would laugh at Mike’s study schedule. We started off in the U19 rugby team when Mike first showed his extraordinary skills, which blossomed over the following years and he became a modest rugby star, loved by the crowds. We grew into a wonderful happy rugby family, with some great successes, which created great memories and I consider myself very fortunate being a part of it. The good times included bonding at Forries and laughs a plenty at Dean Street.

From afar I could only admire Mike’s courage when fate moved in and wonder now whether we can be thankful that the days in a wheelchair are over. Mike, in many respects, did it his way and he must be admired for this. He will be remembered and missed by his many friends around the world. RIP Mike.

Kind Regards to all.
David Barrow

Hi Jenny

Thanks for letting us know.

I was sorry to learn the news. Mike was certainly a very talented sportsman but very modest and well liked by everyone. I will never forget the 5 enjoyable years we spent together in Smuts and in digs in Weltevrede. He was a great character and a good friend.

Best wishes to you and everyone.
Rob Williams