ONE of the most colourful characters in the Tynedale sporting world has died at the age of 81, after a courageous battle against cancer.

Tributes from rugby clubs, players and officials poured in for John Shotton, one of the key figures behind Tynedale Rugby Club’s successes on the national stage over the last half-century.

An impeccably observed minute’s silence at Tynedale’s home game against Huddersfield on Saturday (October 7) eloquently demonstrated the esteem he was held in across the rugby world.

Thanks to his drive and commitment, Tynedale’s amateurs rose to National League Division One, the third tier in English rugby, where they competed successfully against fully professional teams from all over the country.

They were recognized as the leading amateur rugby union team in the land, finishing fourth once and fifth twice against clubs from as far away as Cornwall, Jersey and London.

Much of the success was down to John Shotton’s genius at finding and recruiting players from Cumbria, nurturing good relations with Newcastle Falcons and keeping constantly in touch with all local players of proven quality.

The key factors were his personality and his commitment. He kept in touch with and helped players in every possible way, and always showed them that they were important to him.

His sometimes abrasive nature did not endear him to all rival clubs, notably nearest neighbours Blaydon, who on one November 5 night burnt an effigy of John on their club bonfire.

Tynedale stalwart and fellow life member Douglas Hamilton said: “A true force of nature, John had a greater influence on the Tynedale senior side’s achievements and promoting the club to the outside world over the last fifty years than any other person.”

John worked tirelessly for the good of the club, and every year wrote scores of letters to former players inviting them to the annual Past Players’ Lunch at Tynedale Park. He also organised various well-remembered club tours.

He was also a prominent member of the Tynedale RFC team which dominated the popular Tynedale knockout cricket competition for many years.

Away from the world of sport, John was a salesman for Haltwhistle-based Agma Ltd for many years, travelling throughout the North East and Scotland.

He leaves four sons - Justin, James, Henry and Felix - and a daughter Hannah, and he was very proud when James became a successful member of the first team squad around the turn of the Millennium.

The funeral service will take place at Hexham Abbey on Monday, October 16 at 12pm, followed by a celebration of his life at the rugby club in Corbridge.