Tony Williams obituary

Tony Williams, an Oxfordshire life – hugely well lived 

Tony Williams, who sadly died on 3rd November at the age of 70, used humour and the power of his personality to obtain great things for people with ME in his home county of Oxfordshire.  

One of his finest achievements came 20 years ago when there was £8.5m available from the Department of Health to set up multi-disciplinary clinics for people with the illness throughout England. Tony, the long-standing secretary of the local OMEGA ME group, co-wrote the bid with local NHS managers. 

He knew exactly what was needed and then managed to drive a coach-and horses through the arguments marshalled by the local NHS bureaucracy who wanted to cling on to adult-only services and the even-by-then dangerous and discredited, old hogwash of CBT and graded exercise as frontline treatments. 

“Tony co-wrote the bid to the Department of Health and persuaded some of those NHS managers to sign off on it.  To be accepted, the bid had to include services for people under 16”, said former OMEGA chair Patricia Wells this week.

“Managers were reluctant to commit to this and I vividly recall one meeting when Tony argued cogently that, if they didn’t include this, they wouldn’t get the money.  They signed!”

As a result, a community service was commissioned in 2004 and Tony joined the old Primary Care Trust implementation group which kept the service running on an even keel for many years. 

Tony came to Oxford to take up of the post of Head of Development Education at Oxfam.  He had previously been a CSV volunteer in Thailand and spoke the language fluently, something that westerners find really hard to do as we can’t attune ourselves to its tones easily.  He thoroughly enjoyed displaying his language skills on visits to local Thai restaurants. 

He joined OMEGA (Oxfordshire ME Group for Action) in the mid-1990s, quickly establishing his leadership credentials to become a powerhouse of a group secretary. The work of the clinic group was massively important and he was the right man for it. 

“In many, many meetings with local NHS managers and health meetings, Tony would persuade them of the justice of our cause. We had to convince them of the reality of ME and of the need for much better services,” said Patricia. 

There were also GPs to be surveyed, MPs to be brought on board and all the usual paraphernalia of a busy local group – talks and events for members and their families, individual cases to be argued, being on call when people needed you. 

MEA medical adviser Dr Charles Shepherd remembers how busy things were in OMEGA at the time and said: “Tony played a very important role in all this.” 

Tony had lifelong interests in a range of international development and volunteer projects. Before he became ill, he was involved with Returned Volunteer Action, an organisation involved in honing the skills of volunteers before re-assignment to the field, and had worked for the Catholic Institute for International Relations and been Head of the Consortium of Development Education Centres. 

He was a long-time director of Oxfordshire Voluntary and Community Action, the umbrella group for third sector groups in the county – an interest he kept up after becoming ill.

“Aside from all his activism, Tony was a wonderful, funny and generous friend to many of us”, remembered Patricia. “More recently we would worry about him.  After long silences, he would ring when he was able and we would talk for at least an hour.”

David Polgreen, another colleague on OMEGA, commented: “As the migraines and depression took over his life, we would still get glimpses of the old Tony. He could still cheer us up and we only wish we could have helped him more. As many say, one always expects to have more time.” 

Tony leaves two sisters, Deborah Williams and Lindsay Marsh, a nephew Leon, a niece Naomi and his great nephew and nieces – Harrison, Abigail and Oliver.  The funeral will be held on Tuesday, 6th December, at 12 noon at Oxford Crematorium in Headington, OX3 9RZ. No flowers please – but, at the family’s request, donations to the ME Association would be most welcome.

Huge thanks to Patricia Wells for her help in compiling this obituary – Tony.

Tony Britton
Senior Fundraising Consultant, The ME Association Mob: 07393 805566

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