Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Noel ‘Scoop’ Armstead, stalwart of Henley Rugby Club

Noel ‘Scoop’ Armstead, stalwart of Henley Rugby Club

DRY LEAS was sombre at the weekend as we mourned the death of Noel Armstead, who passed away on Thursday, November 22.

Scoop (no one called him Noel) was our anchor through the many trials, tribulations, successes and disappointments faced by Henley Rugby Club from 1964, when, having been appointed to Lloyds Bank in Henley, he played for our 4th XV. 

His dedication to our community rugby started then and never diminished. 

Further afield, he followed England and the British Lions on tours to all the southern hemisphere rugby countries.

Scoop saw the arrival of league tables, Clive Woodward and the rugby style which helped shape England’s successes, semi-professional rugby, the heady heights of National 1 and occasional relegation.

His outstanding contribution was his writing skill. For many years he was the club’s correspondent to the outside world with weekly match reports, editorship of the Henley Hack in pre-internet days and match previews. His writing style was much praised. 

He reported on all away games and made numerous friends among competing clubs. In 2008 he was elected club president. A major challenge he faced was the financial situation of the club and how to continue our level of first team rugby while remaining solvent (plus ça change!) His banking discipline surely helped here. 

As president, he was a true ambassador for the club, forging strong relationships with all levels of the Rugby Football Union and local government.

Everywhere he left a trail of courtesy, trust, warmth and friendship.

Every member will have different memories of Scoop. My own are very precious. 

I met him when he was in the choir at All Saints’ Church in Marlow and he introduced and welcomed me to the club.

For many years we lunched together on Saturdays and I loved his immense understanding and love of the game. I loved his humour, his generosity, his rich singing voice, his frustration at my refusal to eat a lardy cake and his total dedication to the club.

We all share a love of the man. Within an hour of the announcement of his passing, the tributes were flowing in — “a fine, principled man”, “he reminds of us of all that is great about rugby, friendship, honour, respect, tradition” and “what a top bloke”.

What better summary of Scoop’s life than his own words in a press interview in 2011: “Henley is my lifeblood and I will always do my best for the club and the community.”

A true club man who will be deeply missed.

Scoop’s funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church in Hart Street, Henley, on Wednesday, December 12 at 1.30pm. All are welcome at the rugby club after the service.

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