Mourners pay tribute to rugby union stalwart Brian

TRIBUTES have been paid to Brian Smith, the former Oldham Rugby Union Club player and official, following his sudden death aged 73.

The esteem in which Royton-based Brian was held was underlined by the size of the turnout at his funeral at Oldham Crematorium.

Steve Fox, a former Oldham RUFC player and friend for more than 50 years, said: “Brian touched many people’s hearts which was shown by more than 300 people attending his funeral and 200 plus at his wake.

“Brian was a social animal and never missed a ‘do’ and had a large circle of friends from rugby, bowling and elsewhere. He was full of fun and will be missed by many.”

Brian joined Oldham RUFC aged 23 having never previously played rugby.

Though Brian played most of his rugby at centre in the ‘A’ team, which he captained for many years, he also appeared in the first team, mostly on the wing, and was in the squad that twice reached the semi-finals of the Lancashire Cup.

In 1977-78, Brian was awarded the club’s coveted red tie for being player of the year.

“Brian was a good but not a great player. He was very honest and played week in, week out,” explained Steve.

Later Brian played for the veterans’ team for many years and joined the committee 40 years ago and served on many sub-committees including playing, fixtures secretary, referees’ co-ordinator, grounds and premises and social. He was still a committee member at the time of his death.

Brian was appointed senior vice president in 1998 and was twice president from 2000-02 and 2014-15.

He joined the Manchester Referees Society after retiring and officiated for many years.

Brian also became an accomplished bowler after retiring from rugby representing Oldham RUFC, Royton Cricket Club, Crompton Cricket Club and Shaw Comrades. He was still playing up to his untimely death.

When younger, Brian was a member and later a leader in the Boys Brigade.

He began his working life at Oldham firm Platts and qualified as an engineer.

Brian later travelled the world in the Merchant Navy and afterward became a salesman for a number of companies. His last job was as a bus driver.

Brian leaves wife Jeanette, son Dean, daughter Dale and three grandchildren.

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