Peter was first diagnosed with cancer fifteen years ago and, although he enjoyed a few years in remission, he developed blood cancer in 2018. He underwent extensive and difficult treatment and had shown signs of recovering and made a very welcome attendance at the Society meeting at Stafford RUFC on 21st October 2019. He was his usual positive and optimistic self and we enjoyed an evening of reminiscences and shared stories.
It was all the more shocking to hear of his unexpected death on Thursday, 2nd April from complications linked to Covid-19. He leaves his wife Judith, daughter Laura and son Ed and his three adored grandchildren. In retirement from his final educational role as Deputy Head, his family and increased time in their holiday home near Bergerac in the Dordogne became his pleasure and his annual pre-Christmas booze cruise to France with his rugby mates made good use of his language skills and wine knowledge!
Peter joined the Society in the late ‘70’s after playing for Wednesbury RUFC as scrum half. His early move into refereeing proved a good one as he progressed quickly through the Society ranks and on to regional panels. His “A” list status saw him regularly on exchange beyond the Midlands group. In these times, exchanges involved a full car of SRUSR members travelling together, refereeing at different levels and enjoying a full day in each other’s company. I was fortunate to spend many such days and weekends with Peter and have the fondest memories of his sense of humour, his generosity and his love for the Game. On one such trip to Cornwall for our annual Easter visit, Peter was refereeing at Redruth when his watch stopped during the 2nd half and he did not realise until the 97th minute! All enjoyed his embarrassment, which culminated at the next Society meeting with him being presented with an alarm clock!
Peter’s personality was a great asset in his refereeing. His skills as a High School Science teacher gave him a natural sense of control, but also empathy and good humour. He was usually enjoying himself and the players responded. When I was Society appointment secretary and had a “challenging“ fixture to appoint, Peter was one of my “go to“ referees. These interpersonal skills made his progression to assessing and coaching straightforward and for the last fifteen years or more he has been a central figure in the development of referees in Staffordshire, the Midlands and beyond. He was Society Chairman and served on the committee for many years and at the time of his death was Society Vice-President. The Society’s status in the development of referees to National level owes much to his influences both individually and collectively.
Our ability to pay tribute to Peter, to offer our condolences to his family and to celebrate his life and love for the Game is greatly restricted at present. The Society will, when possible, find an opportunity to raise a glass or two to his memory and ensure that his passing is not forgotten.
Roy Smith – President SRUSR
It is well over thirty years since I first met Peter, and I got to know him really well (over countless pints of Guinness) in 1987 when we were sent to Dublin on exchange on International weekend, refereeing on the Saturday morning before heading to the old Landsdowne Road ground for Ireland v England in the afternoon. However, what goes on tour, as they say, stays on tour, so no more of that.
Peter, like me, was one of the fortunate ones – blessed with a wonderful family and success in his chosen profession, with rugby as the icing on the cake. Roy talks of his adored grandchildren, and I can remember a sunny day at the Lichfield 7s a generation earlier, with just Judith and a single small child in attendance – Peter’s pride in both was clear and obvious (to use current terminology), but only between matches, of course. Most of the many memories are, inevitably, rugby related. My introduction to Cumberland sausage was thanks to him – on a stop for something to eat on the way back from refereeing in Carlisle. And he was in the passenger seat (with another SRUSR member, a minister of the church, in the back) when I was breathalysed on the way back from Newbury. Peter had been in the middle at Henley and had had a considerable wait – and the opportunity to rehydrate on a hot day – before I arrived to pick him up. The policeman flagged me down outside the gates of Blenheim Palace, and the inside of the car must have smelt like a brewery. The officer was clearly most disappointed when my result was negative, but it was one of the few occasions when Peter kept very quiet. I learnt a great deal from him – on those journeys and from watching him referee. He was a proponent of “preventative refereeing” years before the expression became popular and “Don’t even think about it” was one of his well-used pieces of advice to players at the breakdown. He was the Midlands senior “watcher” and referee selector for many years and would have been welcomed with open arms on National Panel had he made himself available.
One final story illustrates the sort of person Peter was. Our son (now 36) was a Lego fanatic as a child and Peter, as a scientist, was involved with the development of technical Lego for educational purposes. One day, he made a detour to our house on his way home from a match, to view the Lego layout which took up most of the floor space in our loft. There was no need for him to visit, but he was happy to do so, and the arrival of the “Lego tester”, and the time he spent with us, made one small boy very happy.