Douglas (Doug) Unwin, who died at his Prickwillow Road home on October 25th at the age of 85, was the third generation of a well-known Ely business family. For many years, Unwin and son, woodworking manufacturers on Prickwillow Road, were a feature of Ely’s Thursday market with an office and display of agricultural woodwork outside the corn exchange. Educated at Ely High School and Soham Grammar School, Doug joined the family business on leaving school.
He served in the Royal Engineers during the Second World War and was a strong supporter of the Royal British Legion. His younger brother, John, was killed on active service in Italy in 1944.
As a young man, he was an all-round sportsman, enjoying table tennis, tennis and ice-skating. But it is his lifelong association with Ely City Football Club for which he may best be remembered. Like his father, Harry Unwin, he served first as a player, then an officer of the club and finally became its President. This service of father and son, stretching back over 100 years, is unlikely ever to be equalled. Doug was justifiably proud that the Downham Road ground on which he helped to re-establish the club after its move from Paradise is now known as the Unwin Ground in recognition of his outstanding service.
On his father’s death in 1957, he expanded the family business with a wider range of products, including wooden and steel doors for industrial units. Eventually, he concentrated the business in new premises on Prickwillow Road and developed an adjoining industrial estate. On his retirement from manufacturing in 1978, he continued to manage the industrial estate and lead a full and active life. He was very knowledgeable about Ely’s past and took a keen interest in all new developments. He supported Ely City Football Club at home and at matches all over East Anglia, played tennis and followed horse racing at Newmarket. He leaves Polly, his devoted wife of 47 years, sister Mrs Hilda Cooper, of Ely, nephew Michael Rouse and niece Elisabeth Nardone, children of his older sister, the late Joan Rouse. He was a generous, loyal and amusing companion, who will be greatly missed by his family, the City of Ely and all who knew him.
A TRIBUTE TO DOUG UNWIN
It was with the utmost profound regret that all at Ely City Football Club learnt of the death of long serving President Doug Unwin. He died suddenly but peacefully on 25th October 1999 at the age of 85. Doug had not been well over the past few months, a trying period for him in that he loved being outdoors and nowhere better than at the Club's ground. However his health improved such that he was here for our last home game a fortnight ago. Prior to his illness he was at all our home games and a good many away.
The name of Unwin is written large in the pages of the Club's history. Doug did virtually everything that his father Harry did which was to fill every post to the presidency with distinction. Harry started playing for the club in 1902, Doug's first official position was as reserve team secretary in 1934 when he was 20 by which time he was a player. Harry and Doug were involved in the re-formation of the club in July 1945 following the Second World War(during which Doug served in the Royal Engineers) and fifty years ago this year he became Chairman, a post he held for 8 very successful years, culminating in the Club's reaching the first round proper of the FA Cup hosting Torquay Utd on Paradise Ground. Doug had been President of the Club for well over 30 years, not just a figurehead but a worker no matter how menial the task.
When the Club moved there was no hesitation in naming the Unwin Sports Ground after him and there can be few people who have had that honour - a stand or a suite of rooms maybe, but not a whole complex. Doug was indeed a humble man, never pushing himself forward, always one of the crowd. County or League posts were not for him - Ely City was his life. He was honest and frank in his quiet way, a raconteur, dignified, dedicated to the Club and the game which honoured him(and Doug Cranwell) four years ago for fifty years service. He and his wife Polly were very generous hosts. It is of course about football that his tribute is mainly written, but Doug loved horse racing, both flat and national hunt, table tennis and playing tennis which he did until a very few years ago. He was also a very astute and hard working business man, very patriotic and never failed to nail his political colours to the mast at election time.
Our thoughts are with Polly his wife of 47 years and his family and all those who were very close to him. He will be missed achingly because he was such a very big part of this club and his passing has brought sadness and personal grief. It would have been so good to have had Doug lead the club into the Millennium, but that is not to be. His words of wisdom and experience will be no more and the club owe him enormous gratitude for his remarkable contributions. May he rest in peace.
Sam Lawrence: 27/10/99