After 41 years as Wickford Tennis Club's treasurer Reg Iles figured it was time to stop balancing the books.

So the 80-year-old stepped down from the role but did not turn his back on the Swan Lane club -- he became its president and still regularly plays.

Reg applied for membership in April 1959 and after a trial where his standard of play was scrutinised, he joined after paying the annual subscription of £3 3s 0d.

With matches only played in the summer Reg, of Southend Road, Wickford, thought he would be in for a quiet winter.

But he was elected treasurer on January 4, 1960 and made his first report to the annual meeting a year later.

He continued making the yearly declaration of the club's financial state, with the exception of 1971, until his retirement late last year.

"I enjoyed my role as treasurer although it was hell of a lot of work," admitted Reg, who still runs his own property management company from Wickford.

"The biggest thing was to pile up funds for when the courts needed resurfacing and I saw the club's finances go from £2 to about £21,000."

The increase in funds is not the only change Reg has seen in 70 years playing tennis.

"It is amazing how much the game has developed," he added. "The game is a lot faster now and players use yellow balls and various sized raquets.

"When I started it was wooden racquets, white balls and we had to wear white. Racquets were a standard size and we used to use them to measure the net height, but you can't do that these days."

Born at Hovefields, Reg started playing on a grass court his parents had built at their Courtauld Road home.

The switch to hardcourts from grass took time to master but Reg, who served with the Home Guard, RAF and Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War, adapted to win the club's mixed doubles in 1960 and the men's veteran doubles in 1995.

Reg's daughter Kay Debenham is keeping up the family tradition of committee work at Swan Lane -- she is the club's fixtures secretary.

Published Thursday, March 21, 2002