Death of a Legend Brings Match to an Early End

Our first Chairman, Paul Clements, writes about the death of his Dad, Stanley, during the 1995 match against West Hartlepool.

 

“One of the great things about the new WhatsApp Group has been the way it has encouraged the sharing of memories.

 

In my case, this was being able to chat with some of the players who were in the team against West Hartlepool on Saturday 4th November 1995, when my Dad had a massive heart attack that brought the match to an early end.

 

 

The memorable event was the West Hartlepool skipper, Rob Wainwright, leaping over the barrier into the Bell Stand and trying to save Dad. Rob was, at that time, an Army Captain, doctor and a Scotland player. He managed to revive Dad who was taken off to Northwick Park Hospital. Sadly, though, he never recovered and two days later Mum and I decided to have the ventilator turned off.

 

On Sunday 5th November, the front pages of many national newspapers carried an article about the event, with a photo, so my Dad managed to go out in the blaze of glory that had eluded him in his lifetime! Although I still have cuts of those articles and the condolence letters written to me by chaps such as Sir Pat Lowry, I never had the programme, until Chris Braithwaite kindly sent it on to me after the chat on the WhatsApp Group.

 

I was not at the match to help Dad. The truth is that I was away for the weekend with my then girlfriend.  We were in the hotel watching the 6 o’clock BBC News which mentioned the event, without naming Dad and just as the programme ended, our room phone rang.  In one of those moments that seem to last an hour, but in fact are about one nanosecond, I realized that it was my Mum calling to say that it was Dad involved.

 

Early in 1996 the match was replayed at Sudbury, there was a minute’s silence and the match was devoted to Dad, who had been involved with Wasps since 1948. That day, Mum and I attended.

 

Dad had been invited to join the Club by his cousin, Monty Owen, who played. Dad had never played rugby before, but soon got the hang of it as a number 6. At 5’ 8” his style was to bend down and let the opposition fall over him. I have the Club cap he won in 1950/51.  However, by 1956, five years of Mum’s home cooking had fattened him up and he moved to the front row and played out his career as a loose head.  His playing days ended in 1961 when he came home late one Saturday, with half his lower lip stitched back up. He was cordially invited by Mum to stop playing.

 

I lost count of the hundreds of times that Dad and I watched the 1st team matches at Sudbury, between 1962 and 1979, when I moved south of the river. I remember the old wooden Clubhouse – chaps only allowed in. Dad and I were at Twickenham in 1985 and 1993, when we won the Middlesex Sevens and to witness the two losses to Bath in Cup Finals. Sadly Dad did not live to see the 1999 Cup win.

 

In 1968 Dad arranged for me to start playing. My best season was 1975/76 when I was part of a very successful junior team in the Club: memory plays tricks and enlarges one’s experiences, but I think we only lost one match all season.

 

Dad would have chosen to go out watching his beloved Wasps. Apart from him doing so after hitting a hole in one at Sudbury Golf Club, I cannot think of a better way for him to have left us.

 

Wasps – the greatest rugby Club on the planet.”