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Derby twin Virgil dies

Running sensations: Neville Virgil, left, and twin brother Neil at St George’s Cricket Club in the 1960s

The sole surviving member of the only running twins to finish first and second in the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon Derby has died.

Neil Virgil, who was also well-known in the local hospitality industry as a bartender, died yesterday morning at age 70 after a bout with illness that also claimed the life of his twin brother, Neville, five months earlier in April.

Mr Virgil passed away at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in the presence of family members, among them loving wife Phyllis, whom he uttered his last words to after his condition had taken a turn for the worse 24 hours earlier.

As news of Mr Virgil’s death gradually spread throughout the Island yesterday, tributes began to pour in for a man always willing to give so much for very little, if anything, in return and who was perhaps the most dedicated and loyal fan of Somerset Cricket Club.

“Neil was by far one of our greatest supporters who you could rely on at any time,” said Alfred Maybury, the president of Somerset Cricket Club. “You didn’t have to ask him for anything; he would just look around and if it was something that needed to be done he would make sure things happened to get it done.

“He is going to be a great loss but we have to understand that death is a part of life and remember all that each person does and uphold their memories which we can cherish.”

In the 1964 Derby the Virgil twins made history by becoming the only twins to finish first and second in the race.

Then 19, the twins entered the race as firm favourites in the absence of legend Ed Sherlock, who was semi-retired at the time with a thigh injury, and they subsequently lived up to expectations.

Neville finished first, crossing the finish line at Wellington Oval in 1hr 23 min, followed by Neil 35 seconds later.

The third-placed runner Wilfred Smith finished more than seven minutes behind the Virgil twins.

“We extend condolences to the family on behalf of the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon Derby committee,” Gina Tucker, the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon committee president, said. “Like his brother he carried a similar legacy of tremendous spirit for the race and his participation is evidence of his commitment to what has become one of the most important races in the community.

“He and his brother will for ever be remembered for the legacy that they have left and we are very saddened by his passing.”

Mr Sherlock, a six-times Bermuda Day Half-Marathon winner, was also among those paying tribute to the late Mr Virgil.

“We guys all ran together and every time we see each other we also had good conversations about the old days,” he said. “I always had a good relationship with Neil and his brother Neville. Neil was a very nice guy and it’s sad we have lost both of them.

“We lost Calvin ‘Baldy’ Hansey, lost Peter Lever and now we have lost the Virgil twins.”

Running enthusiast, author and former Member of Parliament Dale Butler spoke fondly of the Virgil twins.

“It’s a sad day for Bermuda’s racing community and I extend my condolences to his wife and family,” Mr Butler said. “The Virgil twins came along, in my opinion, when the marathon was beginning to sort of lose interest and they added the fact that people were excited you had a set of twins running and the fact that they wore those white gloves and then went on to come first and second, which really added an impetus to the race. So they will go down in history for the outstanding contribution that they made in ensuring that the race, that had an excellent history but was declining, was given the necessary stimulus and so it’s very sad that he should pass very close to his brother.”

Mr Butler added: “As ordinary citizens to the community they were both outstanding citizens and people genuinely loved them because they were very sincere, very genuine and very friendly. They sort of personified Bermudian hospitality and so all round, not only from a sportsmen point of view but even from a workplace and a social point of view, this is definitely a big loss for the country.”