Neil was a multi-talented person who really only came to athletics by accident. Neil was a graduate in chemistry and physics from Goldsmiths’ College University of London and it was there that he filled a gap in the college team in the hammer. Neil had only attended the University of London Inter-Collegiate Championships as a spectator and he was pulled from the crowd into action at Motspur Park.
Knowing he could do better than his first attempts suggested and like so much else in his life he became accomplished very quickly through dedication and practice. He joined Herne Hill Harriers with a number of others from college including Piers Harold and Marc Flannery. He won the club Championships and Wiltshire County Championships on multiple occasionsand went on to throw the hammer in excess of 47m.
Neil was the ever-reliable ‘A string’ in the British League Team over a number of years. Neil seemed always to respond to the cries of ‘Come on Townsend’ spurred on by the memories of his PE teacher at school.
Neil was known by most as ‘Moddy’ a nickname that he picked up in 1981 at university and it stuck for life. It was a passion for The Who and dressing in a parka that earned him that moniker. It would be hard to find many people with a more diverse range of talents and interests.
He evidently was a success at the sciences. He taught science for 30 years. He spoke German fluently and French well – although possibly with the Swindon accent he never lost. He could sing and play 3 or 4 musical instruments including the double base. Neil was accomplished playing in county orchestras or more recently in a jazz band He could dance and eventually his love of salsa music took over from athletics.
Moddy went on to become a successful salsa DJ in and around the clubs in London where his tidy footwork in the hammer circle converted to moves on the dance floor. Those moves also secured the love of his life – his wife Lee whom he met through salsa.
Neil never took himself too seriously in his athletics life and brought more to the Herne Hill Harriers team than just his hammer throwing. He was reliable, enthusiastic, funny and generous. Moddy was always there for others.
Neil’s health deteriorated very quickly in recent years and his vibrancy and zest of life diminished cruelly with the advance of his illness. He leaves behind his wife Lee and two sons.