Pembrokeshire Rugby loses ‘gentleman Keith’
Pembrokeshire sport in general and rugby in particular has lost one of its real gentlemen this week with the passing away of Keith Bryant, aged 80, who was hugely involved in working with the Pembrokeshire Junior Union and the Pembrokeshire Society of Rugby Union Referees.
Keith moved to Pembrokeshire with his work from his native Gloucestershire and quickly became immersed in the game at local level, using the experience he had acquired as a gritty hooker in his home county.
Real enthusiasm for refereeing – and mentoring others
He took up the whistle and quickly became synonymous with officiating a huge number of school matches during the week and for local clubs on the weekend.
He was renowned for mentoring new referees; amongst them Sarah George as the first female match official in the county, travelling to her games with his late wife Margaret to give Sarah support at a time when some top Welsh officials weren't sure that women should be allowed to referee men's matches.
But he stuck to his guns and Sarah did really well as part of a legacy that Keith leaves in the local game.
Amazing support for local tournaments
In his role as Hon Secretary of the local referees Keith did a superb job of organising officials for the Pembrokeshire Junior Finals and the Neyland Junior Festival of Rugby, as well as the popular Newport Sevens Tournament, where he reffed for almost two decades, took photographs at them all during that time and gave them to the local press.
Ken Davies, who organises the hugely popular junior rugby finals, said,
"Keith Bryant was amazing in his willingness to help and I looked up to him for his rugby knowledge and enthusiasm - we have lost a true friend and he will be sorely missed by us all."
It was a view reflected by Peter Davies, who was in charge of the Neyland tournament and told us: "Everyone who was involved at Neyland knew what an inspirational character Keith was. We only had to ask him to sort out the referees and it was done without delay. He will be hugely missed by a lot of people involved in rugby for his knowledge and sense of fair play.”
Top organiser with Pembs Junior Union
Outside of his refereeing Keith also played a key role as Hon Secretary of the Pembrokeshire Junior Union, as well as organising meetings and keeping minutes which kept club delegates informed.
Trefor Evans, who was Hon Treasurer of the Pembrokeshire Junior Union, said: "Keith was a wonderful administrator and a real gentleman of our game, and since he became ill we have felt his absence from meetings - and such dedication is hard to replace these days. His departure is a very sad loss to our group and the clubs we serve."
Great support for Reg Jones Memorial Trophy
Keith was instrumental in making sure that The Reg Jones Memorial Trophy was awarded each year for good sportsmanship, with the winners playing a celebration match against a junior union representative team.
Keith and Reg were great friends and travelled on a number of British Lions' Tours as far apart as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, with friendships made with referees from those countries maintained right up until he passed away. Only recently he had visitors from Ireland that included a long time referee and friend, and his death will be met with sadness from those who know him in other countries.
On a personal note I have lost a smashing neighbour, friend I trusted implicitly and a real character who also loved travel, walking, aviation, bird watching and gardening as other interests, and he will also be sorely missed in his home village of Treffgarne.