North Midlands are mourning county President Nigel Banwell who died suddenly yesterday.
Nigel, 68, was putting out the flags at his club Upton on Severn ahead of their scheduled Midlands West Three South match against Evesham when he collapsed.
Nigel leaves a widow, Jane, a son Oliver, who coaches Upton, and daughter Ruth, who lives in Australia. He taught woodwork at the Elgar High School in Worcester before retirement.
As well as being a stalwart of Upton, where he was still fixture secretary, Nigel devoted his time to Worcestershire & Herefordshire and North Midlands where he was half-way through the second year of his Presidency having previously served the county as Competitions Chairman.
Tributes have been paid to Nigel Banwell from senior North Midlands officials who worked closely with him over the years.
“The news of Nigel’s sudden and untimely death was received with incredulity, absolute shock and deep sadness,” said North Midlands Chairman Charlie Hemmings.
“North Midlands RFU, Upton upon Severn RFC and rugby in general have lost a true gentleman in every sense of the word.
“His charm, knowledge, experience, measured and thoughtful, quiet and respected opinions will be sorely missed as will his devoted and committed input to both his county representative and club duties.
“My deepest sympathies and condolences are wished to Jane and family and to all who knew Nigel and whom have lost a respected friend and colleague.”
Rob Bray, North Midlands Secretary and Senior Vice President, had known Nigel for more than 30 years.
“I have regarded Nigel as a humble, caring, considerate, and diplomatic friend for whom nothing was too much trouble,” Bray said.
“This blanket of humanity covered a passion for the game of rugby which he has served with distinction as a volunteer at his club Upton-upon-Severn RFC, his county Worcestershire & Herefordshire RFU, roles within the Constituent Body of North Midlands RFU.
“Never one to refuse a request to help, I know that I, all volunteers and grass root rugby players will greatly miss his presence, guidance and friendship. Rest in Peace, Nigel.”
Steve Guy and Stuart Potts, the RFU Council Members for North Midlands, also expressed their shock and sadness at Nigel’s passing.
“It is extremely difficult to put into words my feelings on hearing of Nigel’s passing, a man I first met as a prop forward playing for Upton RFC, myself a young referee,” Guy said.
“As years went on Nigel became a friend and colleague, first at Worcestershire & Herefordshire RFU, where he held many roles in the county including director of rugby and President.
“Later he became a member of North Midlands RFU holding many senior offices. Although reaching the highest level at county rugby, Nigel was a driving force at his beloved Upton RFC.
“He was a man of great integrity, quiet, unassuming, modest. He always had time to listen and talk to people, he held office with great dignity. He was a tireless worker, a fantastic ambassador, a true gentleman who was admired and respected throughout the Game
“My deepest sympathies go out Jane, Ollie and Ruth, who have lost a loving, devoted husband and father.”
Potts, who was driving to watch a match at Yardley & District in Birmingham when Guy informed him of Nigel’s death, said: “Nigel was a lovely man and a good rugby servant. I was privileged to have hosted him and Jane in his role as President at Twickenham for the day and post-match dinner last year. It was at the Ireland match and Nigel and Jane rekindled their friendship with Ian Elvin, an RFU Council Member, and his wife Janet. Nigel had played rugby with Ian at University and they were good friends.
“I shall always be grateful for his wisdom and thoughtfulness when dealing with contentious issues. He was a calming influence in committee and will be remembered for his kindly considerate manner.”
Upton’s match against Evesham was postponed as a mark of respect to Nigel. The teams were due to observe a minute’s silence for Upton flanker Nathan Tomkins, who passed away on Christmas Eve.