More tributes to Terry Friend following his funeral
DEVON RFU chairman Geoff Simpson has paid a personal tribute to committee colleague Terry Friend following his death at the age of 76.
Friend, whose funeral took place on Friday at the Devon & Exeter Crematorium, was a rugby player, referee and administrator for more nearly 60 years.
He was also a county standard cricketer who played for Paignton and Devon and had trials for Worcestershire as a teenager.
And away from the sport ground Friend was a competition-winning ballroom dancer and later coach.
Rugby friends came from as far away as Bristol to attend Friend’s non-denominational funeral service St Peter’s Chapel on Friday (June 17) afternoon. Apologies for being unable to attend were lodged from numerous rugby referees’ societies including Somerset, Hampshire Berkshire and Bedfordshire.
Friend served on Devon RFU committees from 2005 until his death. He was an officer of the Devon Rugby Referee’s Society from 1997 until 2016 and held posts in the Divisional refereeing community until 2021.
“The recent sad news that Terry Friend has passed away brings to an end a remarkable lifetime’s service to sport in Devon and beyond,” said Simpson.
“Terry was well known in his playing days, especially in rugby and cricket. In rugby his involvement continued with the whistle and he rose to the highest levels of English club rugby as a match official. When this phase of his rugby journey came to an end, Terry became a leading administrator in the South West referee community in general and the Devon Rugby Referees’ Society in particular.
“Within the Devon Rugby Football Union Terry used his considerable organisational skills to co-ordinate competitions for junior age players.
“Terry was his own man and knew how he wanted things done. The outcome was that everyone else knew what was required and as a result competitions were run with meticulous efficiency to the benefit of countless youngsters.
“The sit-down meals after the end-of-season, age-grade finals were no exception and were memorable for all in attendance. The link to adult rugby and the traditions of the game were reinforced by Terry asking both captains to make a brief speech in the time-honoured manner.”
“More recently, despite declining health, Terry assumed the chairmanship of the Devon RFU competitions sub-committee at a time when the RFU’s Future Competitions Strategy was being formulated.
“Terry’s vast experience and intuitive feel for what would work will be hugely missed by the rugby community, to whom he was totally committed. Our condolences go to his family at this challenging time.”
Adam Friend, Terry’s son, followed his father into refereeing and quickly discovered how well-known his father was in the wider rugby community.
While delivering the eulogy to his father at the service, Adam said “As a rookie referee I went to lots of clubs all over the country and when I got there and people realised I was from Devon, and recognised the name, they would come to me and say ‘do you know Terry Friend?’
I would always say ‘yeah, I know him,’ waiting in anticipation for what they were going to say
“Now, as a rugby referee it is fair to say not all rugby clubs and people are going to like you. Dad was a rugby legend, but he was also very, very stubborn. I would listen to them offloading what they wanted to tell me and say to them ‘yep, I know this as he is my dad’ and I would watch their faces drop.
“I would always call dad on the way home and just laugh, often while guessing what the outcome was: positive or negative?”
Friends, team-mates and opponents from the worlds of cricket and rugby were represented at the half-hour service, which was conducted by Rachel Tucker, an independent funeral celebrant.
Devon RFU were represented by secretary Treve Mitchell as well as former president Max Turner. Bob Staddon, the president of Exeter Chiefs and a former Devon cricket team-mate of Friend’s was also at the service.
Devon Rugby Referees’ Society chairman Dean Davies attended, together with Dennis Swadling and Tom Healy, who were refereeing contemporaries of Friends. Trevor Hunter and John Scott were there on behalf of the Plymouth RRS, of which Friend had also been a member.
Among other representatives was a contingent from Brixham RFC, where Friend played before taking up refereeing.
Friend’s coffin, decorated with floral tributes in the shapes of a cricket bat and a rugby ball, was carried into the service by six family members.
In a clear nod to Friend’s enthusiasm for ballroom dancing, the coffin was carried into the service to a recording of Chris Barber’s Jazz Band playing ‘Petite Fleur’
“It was his favourite foxtrot,” Terry’s long-time companion Rosie Gaynor was overheard to say.
Dancing figured heavily during the service. The hymn was ‘Lord of the Dance’ and mourners left the service to the strains of The Drifters Classic ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’.
Terry Friend died at his home in Uffculme in East Devon on May 29. His three children – son Adam and daughters Danielle and Suzy – survive him together with long-time partner Josie.