Chris died on the 15th August 2005. On Friday, 23rd September, a memorial service was held to celebrate his life. The service took place at St. Mark’s Church, Teddington and was attended by well over three hundred people. Past players of Lyons RFC and Centaurs RFC were in the congregation.
Dennis Stacey has provided this personal view of Chris and his rugby career that has been based on the oration given at the memorial service. It is borne out of personal memories that Dennis has of of Chris whilst playing for Lyons RFC and Centaurs RFC, both on and off the pitch and is written with warm affection for a first class bloke.
“On behalf of all Chris’s rugby pals, many of whom are here today, I want to share with you highlights of his rugby career. I want to couple his love of the game with anecdotes and warm memories of a career that spanned some forty-five years.
Chris started his business career with J. Lyons & Co Ltd. It was, therefore, natural for him to join the house rugby club, Lyons RFC, which he did in the early 1960’s.Like his business talent his leadership and playing abilities were quickly recognised. By 1964 Chris was both 1st team and club captain; positions that he held in the following season.
In those days Chris was a regular tourist. On a tour to Denmark there was a card-playing group in the touring party. They retired to their rooms at dawn only to find it stripped of furniture and bed; the hand of Chris had struck. He was also renowned for his deadly aim with a bread role; preferably soaked in bitter. In fact the only place to sit in the dining room was next to him. At least you knew when the conflict was about to start and where the retaliation was likely to come from.
I first met Chris in 1966. Ready to go out on the pitch I looked through the open door of the 1st team’s dressing room. There was the usual pre-match melee of players and officials. Chris sat calmly on the bench; it was if there was a spotlight falling on him. That memory has stayed with me for, nearly, forty years and I want to come back to it a little later.
The halcyon days at Sudbury Hill were not to continue. In 1968 the Company sold the ground and Lyons RFC had to look for a new premises and a name. The Club found a home at Osterley, renamed themselves Centaurs RFC and became an open club.
I am reminded, as I looked back at my old fixture cards, that Chris was “A” team captain in 1971.I carefully recorded the scores so I can say it was clearly a successful season under his leadership.
By now Chris had married (1966) Barbara, a young family in the offing and a burgeoning business career. The pressures on his time were considerable and it was only natural that his playing appearances should slowly diminish. However, Chris never lost touch, and throughout the 1980’s he was often seen at the club, on a Saturday evening, enjoying a few beers with the players.
By the 1990’s Centaurs were beginning to struggle. The Club was losing its playing membership and, for a junior club, grappling with a huge overhead. The old boys, Chris in the vanguard, resolved to help. I want to tell you about one fund raising venture. The old groundsman’s accommodation was converted into four flats so that the club could gather some rental income. Chris, on his own initiative, went off to West Middlesex Hospital, charmed the administrator and came back with four nurses in tow. Once installed the word spread that there were nurses above the bar and, for a time, our playing membership stabilised. I should just add that Chris actually arrived with three nurses and one harridan; the one who always has the blunt needle in the A&E department. I used to fear her ‘phone calls of complaint. However, I had a saviour, in Chris. Off he would go flowers and chocolates in hand and, of course, the problem resolved; what charm!
Despite the best efforts of all concerned Centaurs were eventually unable to field regular playing sides. Still imbued with warm memories of yesteryear and, under Chris’s chairmanship, Centaurs played only social rugby. This of course required regular strategy meetings; chaired by Chris. They were in effect long liquid lunches. The only strategy any of us can remember was how to keep upright on the long journey home!
By now all our wives were beginning to wonder what this old boy’s committee was doing. Much time spent in enjoyment but only infrequent rugby being played. To redeem ourselves a splendid, annual, weekend was spent in a decent hotel with our wives. Originally a dinner dance at the Runneymead Hotel, this year, for a change, at Windsor. Here I want to come back to that spotlight I saw on Chris nearly forty years ago. Wherever, in that Windsor hotel, the conversation was the wittiest and the laughter the loudest; at its centre was Chris. That spotlight was beaming on him, just a few short months ago, as assuredly as it was in the changing room at Sudbury in 1966.
I want to close by saying Chris enriched the lives of all those who knew him. His wit, charm, courteousness and self deprecating manner meant that, for all of us, he was a first class bloke”.