Obituaries of players and lovers of the game

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Obituaries of players and lovers of the game

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Tue Jan 12, 2010 8:53 am

Chaps,

Just a thought, to keep us abreast of those that we lose who have brought something to the game we all love.

In memory of all of them.

Pip pip,

Tim
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Professor Sam Perry, England and Cambridge University

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Tue Jan 12, 2010 8:56 am

Professor Sam Perry, who died on December 17 aged 91, was a pioneering researcher in the field of muscle biochemistry, identifying the gold standard for diagnosing heart attacks; during the war he escaped from the Germans three times and after the conflict played rugby for England, winning seven caps
Perry's commitment to applying research results to the understanding of modern diseases and their treatment was illustrated in his support for sufferers of muscular dystrophy.

Captured in Africa in 1942, his adventures as a PoW were worthy of the popular television series Colditz (which he loved). Having enlisted and been commissioned as a second lieutenant, Perry's artillery regiment was engaging Rommel's troops in the Western Desert when it was overrun south-west of Derna. There followed years as a PoW in prison camps in Italy, Germany and Silesia. But Perry, energetic and headstrong, found it hard to tolerate any form of imprisonment.

His first attempted escape involved running through a German cordon and crawling through a maize field at a prison camp near Modena. Shortly after recapture, he jumped off a train at Mantua while being transported to a German camp, and travelled on foot north of the town, trying to find his way to the Swiss border. By an unlucky coincidence, as he approached a bridge, he was recognised by one of the German guards who had recaptured him five days earlier.

He was escorted to a commandeered Mantuan villa where German officers, impressed by his bravery, asked him to recount his adventures as an escapee and offered him food and wine before locking him in the bathroom. There then followed moves to camps in Germany and Silesia, and as the Russians advanced in 1944 his section was moved west to Brunswick.

On the journey to Brunswick he made his third escape: this time he and a friend cut themselves out of a prisoners' cattle truck and jumped off the train as it was moving through Bohemia. Once again, the taste of freedom was short-lived as he was quickly found by a German patrol, and appeared before a military court in Hildesheim.

According to the Geneva Convention, prisoners could not normally be punished for escaping, but the court decided to charge him with damaging the property of the German railways and sentenced him to a month's solitary confinement. Despite the sentence, Perry realised that he had been fortunate to face trial, as on his return to Brunswick he found that in his absence the city and his PoW camp had been hit by an American air raid and several fellow prisoners had been killed.

His love of biochemistry helped to sustain him during his 1,165 days as a prisoner. He ran courses in biochemistry and agricultural chemistry, and requested that some biochemical literature be sent out to him in prison in Padula. With the help of the Red Cross the Annual Review of Biochemistry of 1942, volume 11 reached the camp. After each of his failed escapes he miraculously managed to retrieve the book, and even took it home with him to Britain after liberation. This much-travelled volume, now in the archives of the Biochemical Society, became, as he drily put it, "a monument to my incompetence as an escapee".

Samuel Victor Perry was born on July 16 1918 on the Isle of Wight and brought up at Southport. He studied Biochemistry at Liverpool, then one of only three British universities providing undergraduate courses in the relatively new scientific discipline, which examines chemical processes within living organisms.

At Liverpool he met his lifelong friend and subsequent Nobel Prize-winner, Rodney Porter. Both graduated with first-class honours degrees in 1939, but their ambitions to begin postgraduate work were put on hold with the outbreak of war.

Returning to Britain after the war, Perry completed a PhD at Cambridge, under the distinguished scientist Kenneth Bailey. Perry was one of a group of talented, prize-winning scientists, sharing a laboratory with his lifelong friends Porter and Fred Sanger, who himself went on to win two Nobel Prizes.

These were what he called his "halcyon days", when he was developing a reputation as a major figure in muscle research and winning the Trinity College prize fellowship in recognition of his pioneering doctoral thesis. He took up a lectureship at Cambridge.

During this period he also became a member of the Cambridge University rugby team. His prowess brought him to attention at national level, and he made his Test debut against Wales at Cardiff on January 18 1947. The following year he played for the Barbarians, and eventually played seven times for England.

In 1948 he also married Maureen Shaw, an actress and artist whom he had met in his home town of Southport. She produced a series of intimate portraits of Perry, including striking images of him as a dashing young scientist and as a more wistful, retired professor at home in his beloved watermill in Pembrokeshire.

The couple bought and started renovating the mill in 1959, and he spent the next 30 years landscaping the grounds and stream to create an extraordinary terraced garden of ponds and rare plants.

Postgraduate students were mischievously persuaded to spend weekends there digging trenches and laying stones as part of their "PhD research".

Most of those students studied with Perry after he had moved to Birmingham University in 1959 to head a new Biochemistry department, which was expanded under his chairmanship to include Medicinal Biochemistry and Physiological Chemistry, and which he led until he retired in 1985.

For researchers who work in biochemistry, Perry's extensive work on the proteins found in skeletal and cardiac muscle has been seminal, and has directly informed the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in modern medicine.

He continued this research as an emeritus professor long after retirement, assisted by his loyal research assistant of more than 30 years, Val Patchell.

He served for 30 years on the medical research committee of the Muscular Dystrophy Group of Great Britain and Ireland (now the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign). He also chaired the British Heart Foundation and the Biochemical Society and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974.

Perry left a remarkable legacy for science education. As a teacher he was known to be energetic, entertaining and demanding, expecting his students to follow his own high standards, and often his opinions. He produced more than 300 scientific papers.

Samuel Perry is survived by his wife, their two daughters and a son.
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Rupert Cherry, Telegraph Rugby Correspondent

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Tue Jan 12, 2010 8:58 am

Rupert Cherry, who died on December 8 aged 100, was a sports journalist who spent many years covering Rugby Union for The Daily Telegraph.

Cherry, then late of the News Chronicle, joined the Telegraph's sports staff in 1961 as a summer sub-editor and winter writer. Following retirement in 1974, he continued for a further 11 seasons as a Telegraph freelance match reporter. A past treasurer, he was chairman of the Rugby Union Writers' Club from 1975 to 1978 and president for seven years, beginning in 1981. He also donated a special award to mark the work of those, notably coaches, outside rugby's playing ranks.

Rupert Cherry was born in London on April 18 1909 and educated at Mill Hill, where contemporaries included Sir William Ramsay, twice president of the Rugby Football Union. After leaving school, Cherry's varied journalistic career, which began as a district reporter in Gloucestershire, included 21 years with the Gloucester Citizen. A much debated return to London finally came in 1950, when he joined the sports desk of the News Chronicle until the paper closed in 1960.

A precise man, immaculate in dress and manner, Cherry – when rolling up his sleeves prior to sub-editor duties in the Telegraph's then Fleet Street sports room – provided a memorable vision of sartorial elegance; so, too, when he exchanged scissors and paste for notepad and typewriter, to resume winter reporter employment.

Though not entirely resistant to change, Cherry greatly admired the traditions of the amateur Rugby Union game: the County Championship, especially the West Country grouping; the build-up to the Varsity Match; Easter tours; the Middlesex Sevens; and, his favourite, the Hospitals' Cup. Not for him World Cups and professionalism.

There was a view in the Telegraph's sports room that the Hospitals' Cup, which gave Cherry the excuse to disappear for lengthy periods, did not, in fact, exist. The draw and the matches, including the final, his colleagues insisted, were played out at the Cherry residence at Gerrards Cross, with Helen, his wife for more than 60 years until her death in 2000, acting as referee, typist, copy runner and telephonist.

Hence Cherry's joy at the competition's Richmond final one year, when his presence was testified to by the medical students involved carrying two enormous banners. One read: "Guy's For The Cup", the other: "Rupert Cherry for Editor".
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Monsignor Tom Gavin, Ireland

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:48 am

Monsignor Tom Gavin: Rugby union international, teacher and inspirational priest

By Dr Vincent McKee

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Monsignor Tom Gavin, who died on Christmas morning in his native Coventry aged 87, was something of a living legend among the ranks of British Catholic clergy.


He was a one-time Irish rugby union international, his priestly calling leading to various responsibilities that showed up extraordinary capability in one whose talents were deployed over 40 years as a headmaster, educationalist, parish priest and papal organiser.

That a bishop's mitre never came proved more of a loss to his Church, but probably resulted from a colourful personality and independent mind that submitted to none. For sure, he made enemies, as much within as beyond the Church; he did not suffer fools gladly, and found inept and unreliable fellows the gravest of crosses to bear. Moreover, his legendary short fuse was most often directed at self-serving school heads, LEA hacks and "princes of the church". Yet he could point to achievements that rarely emanate from any average clergyman. His life was devoted to getting things done. Gavin never sought the limelight, but nor did he tolerate pompous nuisances or frosty eminences obstructing his various projects.

Significantly he was at his best when operating alone. After all, what other person aged 60-plus could simultaneously run a large Coventry parish, head the Birmingham archdiocesan educational service and organise the 1982 visit of Pope John Paul to Coventry airport that – against an uncertain background of the Argentine war – drew an attendance of 375,000 people? Answer - only Tom Gavin.

Always a priest with a conservative predisposition, he behaved with total propriety, and indeed felt hurt by those bringing embarrassment to the Church and Holy Orders. Indeed, for all his strident mannerisms and run-ins with various church and secular authorities, he adhered faithfully to the defined rule of a priest. That meant reciting his daily office (set prayers required of all priests), saying Mass and hearing confessions. So too was he capable of great kindness to parishioners and others needing his help. Essentially, he was a very Christian man at heart, albeit one who, like St Paul, served higher authorities out of duty rather than appreciation of their judgement.

Born in March 1922 in Coventry to Irish immigrant parents, Tom Gavin attended local schools before joining Birmingham diocesan junior seminary, Cotton College, Staffordshire. As a seminarian he was excused war-time service, and was ordained on 21 July 1946. He proceeded to Cambridge, where in 1949 he graduated with a first in Classics. After a year's spell at Ampleforth teaching Classics – where his peers included a young Benedictine monk called Basil (later Cardinal) Hume – he returned to Cotton College to head the Classics department, before taking over the reins as College Principal from 1967-78.

In that office he recognised how times had changed, and that the days had gone when young teenagers could be prepared for the clerical life without previous social experience. Thus it was Gavin who reluctantly counselled the then Archbishop of Birmingham, George Patrick Dwyer, to close Cotton College and concentrate on developing the intake of students and their training at the senior seminary, Oscott College. He was very much a Vatican II man.

The versatile cleric cut a fine dash with many students, not least through being a formidable rugby player. He played for Coventry, Cambridge and London Irish, and was on the Irish side that defeated England to lift the 1949 Triple Crown. Not that he dined out on successes, but his first brush with ecclesiastical authority occurred that same year when refusing an ordinance from Dublin's autocratic Archbishop, John Henry McQuaid, to stand down from the Irish team. McQuaid believed that clerics should not participate in team sports, but Gavin was having none of it, and had his status redefined as a visiting student under the authority of Birmingham's archbishop. It was a gesture that set the patterns of a life time, and his healthy disregard for the finer points of church discipline, while costing him promotions, later also conferred an independence of mind that characterised many wise judgements.

Aside from co-ordinating the highly successful historic papal visit of May 1992, Gavin's other great achievement was his renegotiation and integration of the archdiocese's 48 Catholic secondary schools into the maintained sector with a dozen or so local education authorities following the phasing out of the tripartite system in the 1970s. He further led the way in introducing a new religious education curriculum that was followed in all West Midlands Catholic secondary schools from 1981 onwards, only to be overtaken by the National Curriculum.

For the last 26 years of his working life, 1978-2004, he headed St Thomas More Parish in Coventry, where notwithstanding a headmasterish style he won genuine affection among his 6,000 parishioners. Granted, many a young cleric found the Monsignor a hard task-master, and with one exception their stays tended to be brief. Yet, he was often heard to say: "A priest's life is a hard calling, and ordained young men need to face the full magnitude of their calling". Central to development was a capacity to take responsibility and carry it through without failing. He had no tolerance for "cop-outs"' or excuse-mongers. "Lay people are entitled to a positive lead from their priests", was another of his oft-stated comments.

Tom Gavin's was a life of prodigious attainment, hard work and solid Christian witness. How sad that he will not be around to see Pope Benedict beatify one of his heroes, John Henry Newman, next September in Birmingham.

Monsignor Thomas Joseph Gavin, priest and educationalist: born Coventry 28 March 1922; died Coventry 25 December 2009.
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Bill Stone, Barnstaple Rugby Club

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:53 am

Chiefs' last pre-war player dies at age of 93
Thursday, November 26, 2009, 07:00Comment on this story

THERE will be a one-minute silence before kick off at Barnstaple Rugby Club on Saturday in honour of ex-player William Morton Stone.
Bill who died on November 13 at the age of 93, was the last pre-war Barnstaple Chief.
He played for Barnstaple Rugby Club from 1933 while still at Barnstaple Grammar School.
He was first asked to stand in at the age of 16, in place of a player who had to make a coffin that day.
He graduated to the Chiefs' as a prop in 1935 alongside Bert Jones and Clifford Clive.
His last game for the 'Old Crocks' was in February 1952 when he played alongside old team members including school pals Gordon Summers and Guy Casey.
Bill was a graduate of the Nobby Thomas Barum school of forwards: fast, hard and skillful.
During his playing career his only absences were when he played for Bristol University 1st XV and for Chester, where he was working at the time.
After the Second World War his career took him to other parts of the country where he soon found himself in demand for the first teams of Chester, Bridgewater and Stoke-on-Trent.
While working away, he also represented these places at water polo, something he had done in Barnstaple.
During one game for Chester, Bill scored the winning goal in a fiercely fought local derby match and, for his own safety, had to be escorted from the swimming baths by the police.
Bill was born in Ashleigh Road, Barnstaple, on May 30 1916, the only son of Richard and Emily Stone.
He was encouraged to learn to swim, dive and play rugby by his father who had also been proficient at swimming, diving, sailing and horse riding.
Bill's sporting talent also prospered at school under headmaster H Sydney Jones and Dixie Dobell, the physical training instructor, whose Swedish training regime contributed to many pupils' general fitness in later life.
Bill could recall seeing the first airship R100 in 1930 over Barnstaple and flying in one of Sir Alan Cobham's biplanes from an airfield at Heanton.
In 1936 Bill graduated from Bristol University with a BSc in civil engineering, presented to him by Winston Churchill.
He then returned to Barnstaple where he worked for Devon County Council under his father who was county surveyor for North and West Devon from 1914 to 1946.
Bill worked on several road and bridge contracts including the Pilton by-pass and bridge in 1937.
He was also introduced to Lord Portsmouth in 1923 when Portsmouth Bridge — now Butts Bridge — was opened just outside Braunton.
While working on war effort construction in Chester, Bill volunteered for the Second World War and served four years in the Royal Engineers in many countries, including South Africa, India, Egypt, Persia and Italy where he was awarded an MBE in 1945 for his services.
On his return from the war, Bill married Helen Squire from Weirholme, Barnstaple, in 1946.
After 22 years' marriage, she sadly died in 1968 after a long illness.
Bill's long and varied career in civil engineering took him and his family to several parts of the country including Bristol where he worked for the construction firm, Nott Brodie.
The firm's managing director Dick Lorraine, was a student with Bill at Bristol University and had spent part of his war service in Colditz Castle.
Bill's career included work on the East Coast defences during the flooding of 1952 and running open cast coal mines with Barumites Bert Ray and David Tilsey, another Barnstaple RFC player.
Bill also worked on the first motorway.
He was always very proud of his association with Barnstaple and took every opportunity to return to his roots, eventually retiring to Croyde where he lived for nearly 30 years with his second wife, Jean. She died in 2002.
Throughout his life Bill was a keen supporter of the rugby club and during his retirement he was always ready to go along to most home games as long as he was able to drive.
He was made a life member in 2004.
Bill leaves behind two sons, Clive and Richard, and step daughter June.
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Duncan Paterson, Borders, Gala and Scotland (Player and Manager)

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:56 am

Duncan Paterson: rugby player and team manager

Elite players do not always go on to serve their sport as wholeheartedly as Duncan Paterson did Scottish rugby. His efforts to keep Scotland competitive when rugby went professional in 1995 led to his involvement in internecine political warfare and eventual withdrawal from the game but that should not detract from the work he achieved as a player, national team manager and administrator.

Perhaps the game as a whole did not recognise the talent that Paterson possessed. He did not win the first of his ten caps until 1969, when he was 26, and was superseded three years later; he managed Scotland through the 1991 and 1995 World Cups and then helped the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) to establish an executive body designed to find a way through the pitfalls of the professional era. He did not suffer fools gladly and many had cause to remember that but, in the words of Jim Telfer, the former Scotland coach, “there have been about half a dozen people involved at Murrayfield \ who really knew about rugby and Duncan was one of them”.

Duncan Sinclair Paterson was born in 1943 in Galashiels where he attended the local academy and subsequently established himself in the textile industry. Borders rugby, so central to Scottish success during the amateur era, was in his blood as was the seven-a-side game in which he distinguished himself during the late 1960s when Gala dominated the abbreviated form. His first national trial as a scrum half came in 1964, his first cap five years later against South Africa when Scotland won 6-3.

He reserved his best efforts for England, against whom he scored a try and dropped a goal during the 1971 Calcutta Cup win by 16-15 at Twickenham and then, a week later, participated in another victory against the old enemy at Murrayfield. He was possessed of great pace off the mark and vision for the game, which was not always in great supply during the 1960s.

He retired in 1972 but continued to serve Gala and the Borders as a committee man and returned to national rugby in 1986 as a member of the SRU committee. He was appointed the Scotland team manager in 1990, after the grand-slam win in the Five Nations Championship, and won the respect of his players during a difficult period when the parameters of amateurism were being stretched to breaking point.

When rugby went open, he brought his business acumen to bear as chairman of the SRU management body alongside Telfer, then the SRU’s first director of rugby. His aim was to create a model for professional rugby in Scotland but funds were limited, the traditional clubs were keen to preserve their identity and the four professional regions that the SRU established initially contracted to two amid a welter of criticism from former international players and the media.

Paterson resigned in 1998, though he continued to help Gala, and took considerable pride in the achievements of his nephew, Colin Paterson, the Edinburgh full back who has become Scotland’s most-capped player.

Paterson is survived by his wife, Lucille, and three sons and a daughter.

Duncan Paterson, rugby player and administrator, was born on March 27, 1943. He died on December 21, 2009, aged 66
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Bleddyn Williams, Cardiff, Wales and Lions

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:01 am

Modern sport does not tend to splash sobriquets around but, 60 years on, when a Welshman referred to the “Prince of Centres” he would invariably be thinking of Bleddyn Williams. He played rugby union for Cardiff, Wales and the Lions with natural intelligence and the gifts of speed and strength, to which he added tricks of the game that placed him in a class of his own in the northern hemisphere.

The third of eight sons born to a coal-trimmer in Taff’s Well, a village just outside Cardiff, Bleddyn Llewellyn Williams always retained a down-to-earth attitude and a modest disposition, which made him the most approachable of men. There was a loyalty too, to the game that earned him worldwide fame, to Cardiff where he and every one of his brothers played, and to his friends of whom the closest was Jack Matthews, with whom he played club and international rugby in the centre.

He might have turned to rugby league after the Second World War, when Leeds offered him £6,000 in 1947 to join the professional code, but Williams turned down what was then a vast sum. He did so because he felt the amateur game had given him his start in life, by helping him to a scholarship at Rydal School in North Wales (then a strong rugby nursery) and the opportunity to play for his country.

A promising senior playing career started with Cardiff Athletic in 1938-39 when Williams was still at school, where he learnt a valuable lesson from his headmaster, the Rev A. J. Costain. Delighted to have beaten four opponents en route to the try-line, the pupil was taken aside by the teacher afterwards. “If you had passed to your winger, he wouldn’t have had to beat anyone,” Costain observed and Williams took the lesson to heart.

The quality of his passing earned a succession of Cardiff wings a hatful of tries but Williams, a low-slung 5ft 10in but heavily built for the era at 13st 7lb, was blessed with speed and a sidestep to which he added a jink learnt from watching a boyhood hero, Tommy Stone. He volunteered for service in the RAF in 1942 where he met Matthews, a crash-tackling player who complemented Williams so well.

He trained in Arizona as a fighter pilot but was switched to gliders in time for the Allied offensive into Germany, from which he was summarily withdrawn after a week in a slit trench to play for Great Britain against the Dominions at Leicester one weekend. His commanding officer ordered him to catch the last supply flight out of Holland, he arrived in Brize Norton and reached Leicester the next day in time to play — and score — in the winning side.

When the war ended, Williams joined the Steel Company of Wales and started a career with Cardiff that brought him 185 tries in 283 appearances, including a club record of 41 tries in the 1947-48 season. He also made the first of 22 appearances for Wales in 1947, in his schoolboy position of fly half; Wales lost 9-6 at home to England and, thereafter, all his caps were won at centre though, remarkably, the Welsh selectors chose him and Matthews in tandem on only five occasions.

The first was a 6-0 win over Australia. But injury affected Williams over the next three years, never more than in 1950 when he was due to be appointed captain of Wales. That honour went instead to John Gwilliam and Wales won the grand slam by beating the other home unions and France; however, Williams did tour New Zealand and Australia with the Lions, as vice-captain to Ireland’s Karl Mullen.

In the event, he led the Lions in three of the six internationals — the first Welshman to do so since 1910 — when Mullen stood down in favour of the Wales hooker Dai Davies. He did not lead Wales until three years later (eight years later his younger brother, Lloyd, also captained the national side) but it was an annus mirabilis for Williams; not only did he lead Cardiff to victory over the 1953 New Zealand touring side, he did so for Wales too in what remains the last win Wales have achieved against the All Blacks.

Cardiff beat them 8-3, Wales 13-8 in a match in which Williams damaged knee ligaments and thereby created the situation from which Clem Thomas, forced to ignore his limping captain, cross-kicked to make the try for Ken Jones that won the match. Williams was overlooked for the 1955 Lions tour to South Africa because the selectors chose to ignore anyone over 30 and he retired a year later, taking up the post of rugby correspondent for The Sunday People, which he retained for another 30 years.

After retirement, his remained a familiar face at every Wales international in Cardiff, invariably accompanied by Matthews, the last of them the grandslam win by Ireland in March, despite a back complaint.

Violet, his wife, predeceased him and he is survived by a son and two daughters.

Bleddyn Williams, rugby union player, was born on February 22, 1923. He died on July 6, 2009, aged 86
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Haydn Tanner, Cardiff, Wales, Lions and Barbarians

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:04 am

Haydn TannerWelsh international rugby scrum-half and team captain in 1947

Wales has produced few better rugby players than Haydn Tanner, who has died at the age of 92. His feats as an international between 1935 and 1949 may be confined to a few dusty old newsreels, but his unprecedented long- evity and the fact he was never dropped said everything about a scrum-half widely compared with Gareth Edwards.

Had Tanner's career not been interrupted by the second world war, he would have won more than 25 caps. He made his Wales debut as an 18-year-old against New Zealand in 1935, part of a winning team, as he had been a few weeks earlier when he appeared for Swansea against the All Blacks, partnering his cousin Willie Davies, who was also at Gowerton county school at the time, at half-back. "Don't tell them at home that we were beaten by a pair of schoolboys," the New Zealand captain, Jack Manchester, beseeched journalists from the then dominion.

Tanner never scored a try for Wales, but he created several. It was not until Edwards started his international career in 1967 that scrum-halves became known for their try-scoring prowess; until then, their contribution lay largely in kicking and passing, but Tanner redefined the position by looking to make three or four telling breaks each match.

In the first year after the resumption of the Five Nations after the war, 1947, Tanner was given the Wales captaincy. A defeat to England was followed by a resounding victory in Scotland, before the team travelled to Paris to face France at Stade Colombes. His opposite number, Yves Bergougnan, was known as the "Idol of Paris" but he left the field in tears after being tormented by Tanner.

"Tanner was our inspiration and completely outplayed Bergougnan," wrote the late Wales centre, Bleddyn Williams, an international and club colleague of Tanner's at Cardiff after the war, in his autobiography.

Tanner led the Barbarians against Australia in 1948, a match arranged hastily to raise funds for the Wallabies that became an end-of-tour tradition, not least because of the quality of the rugby produced that January day. Tanner was his side's hub, creating one try with a typical break and scoring another. Tanner had missed Wales's international against Australia at the end of 1947 because of an ankle injury, the only Test he missed between his debut and retirement in 1949 at the age of 32; in 1938, he had gone to South Africa with the Lions, but injury restricted him to one Test.

Tanner, who was born in Penclawdd on the Gower peninsula, where his grandparents ran the village pub that was also the rugby club's headquarters, served in the Royal Corps of Signals during the second world war. He studied chemistry and maths at Swansea University and joined Cardiff after the war, having landed a teaching job in Bristol.

After retiring from rugby, he became an industrial chemist and moved to Surrey, where he coached Esher and became a member of London Welsh.

His wife of 60 years, Vera, pre-deceased him, and he is survived by his daughter, Madeleine.

• Haydn Tanner, rugby player and chemist, born 9 January 1917; died 5 June 2009
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Bill McLaren

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:17 am

Bill McLaren, who died on January 19 aged 86, was to millions of sports fans “the voice of rugby”, bringing wit, erudition and style to hundreds of commentaries on BBC radio and television in a career spanning half a century.

His hallmark was the mellow Scottish baritone with which he described the action on the pitch, a voice once described as being as warm and satisfying as a flask of Scotch broth on a raw January afternoon at Murrayfield. It could be clipped or melodious as the occasion demanded; such was his command of language and knowledge of the game that even viewers with no particular interest in what was happening would be drawn in by his narrative flow.

Famously fluent, McLaren cheerfully broke the first law of television commentating, which holds that you should only speak when you can add to the picture. But as his fellow broadcaster Brian Johnston noted: “I honestly don’t think I have ever heard anyone say they did not like Bill as a television commentator and there can be precious few — if any — of whom that can be said.”

Self-effacing, undemonstrative and steadfastly traditionalist, McLaren fashioned a unique style at the microphone, adopting a wryly Olympian tone in which he treated victor and vanquished with equal respect. But beneath the surface calm lay a deep reservoir of nervous angst: “You have got to be keyed up like the players,” he told The Daily Telegraph in 2002, the year he retired from broadcasting. “Trust in your ability and experience, just as the players do.”

McLaren was never less than totally prepared, and always did his homework before a game. Following a tip from the racing commentator Raymond Glendenning, he reinforced his research by preparing cards for each player and a large piece of paper — his “Big Sheet” — containing essential details of the teams, ground, referee, touch judges and coaches. On the morning of a match, he would re-read the laws of Rugby Football.

He took another tip from Richard Dimbleby – to collect as much information as possible before a game. “You’ll only use about three per cent and you’ll feel that much of your work was wasted,” Dimbleby warned. “But don’t you believe it.”

McLaren’s encyclopedic knowledge of rugby was matched only by his scrupulous impartiality. But his customary sang-froid threatened to desert him in the 1969 international between Scotland and France. When, with a minute to go and the score tied at 3-3, Jim Telfer broke to score the winning try for Scotland, viewers could just discern an upward change of pitch in McLaren’s normally unruffled tones.

William Pollock McLaren was born on October 16 1923 at Hawick in the rugby-mad Scottish Borders. In 1935, when he was 11, his father took him to watch the All Blacks. William played at flank forward for the local high school and later for the Hawick side. During the Second World War he served in Italy with the Royal Artillery, where as a second lieutenant he fought at Monte Cassino. As a forward spotter in 20/21 Battery, 5 Medium Regiment, he was identified enemy targets and relayed the information back by radio.

His ability to report concisely and accurately proved invaluable in his future career as an observer of top-class rugby.

Another wartime experience haunted him all his life: a huge pile of some 1,500 mutilated and unburied corpses in an Italian churchyard, the victims of a massacre. At 21 the sight changed his life and forged his attitude to sport. Rugby was in his blood, he explained, “but in the great scheme of things it really doesn’t matter”.

On his return from the war he trained as a physical education instructor in Aberdeen. But on his arrival home in Hawick he went down with tuberculosis. He spent 19 months in a sanatorium where he was treated with the new miracle drug streptomycin, which saved his life.

Always a useful rugby player as a young man, McLaren had turned out for Scotland against the Army and in 1947 had played in a Scotland trial, but the onset of TB put paid to any hopes of an international career. After his recovery he taught physical education in local schools, became a supervisor and coached several players who went on to play for Scotland.

At the same time he was covering rugby for the Hawick Express. Without his knowledge, the editor recommended McLaren to the BBC. By way of an audition, he was invited to commentate for Scottish radio on a game between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and this led, in 1953, to his national radio debut covering the Scotland v Wales international. In 1962 he switched to television.

His years commentating on rugby for the BBC’s Grandstand programme on Saturday afternoons (largely unseen, for he rarely appeared in vision) earned McLaren the accolade of “the players’ commentator”. He intuitively knew what the players were thinking — “He’ll be cursing himself” or “He’ll be sorry about that”.

In 2002, on his retirement from the commentary box, the crowd at Cardiff Arms Park for the Wales v Scotland international sang For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow, while one Welsh supporter unfurled a banner proclaiming “Bill McLaren is Welsh”.

“No one voice is more closely associated with a single sport,” declared the Telegraph’s rugby correspondent, Brendan Gallagher, “and ironically that is now a cross rugby must bear. We have heard the 'best’ already. Nothing can or will compare with McLaren in his pomp. He didn’t just reflect rugby’s camaraderie and ethos, he helped inspire it. Right sport, right man, right time.”

McLaren’s services to rugby were recognised in 2001 when he became the first non-international to be inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. He was appointed MBE in 1979, OBE in 1995 and advanced to CBE in 2003. His autobiography appeared in 2004.

Away from rugby, McLaren was a keen golfer, playing off 10 in his late seventies.

Bill McLaren is survived by his wife, Bette, and their elder daughter.

Their younger daughter died of cancer in 2000.
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