Tributes as Pontypool rugby stalwart dies
8:41am Thursday 17th October 2013 in News
LEGEND: Tom Matthews who has died at the age of 90 having been chairman of Pontypool United for 40 years
PONTYPOOL United RFC’S “rock” and legend, their former chairman of 40 years has died.
Tom Matthews, who was 90, has been credited with making the club what it is today.
As one of the longest-serving chairmen in the Welsh Rugby Union, prop forward Mr Matthews played only four games for United after the formation of the club in 1946 before he was asked to join the town’s senior side.
He enjoyed ten years with ‘Pooler,’ whom he captained in 1951-52 and from 1952-3 and played for Monmouthshire on a number of occasions.
In 1957 he returned to United to finish his career on the field and three years later he became chairman, serving from 1960 until 2000.
Some years ago, Mr Matthews spoke about how in the early days at United, players would have to walk round clubs and taverns after away games, who were good enough to welcome them.
He added: “As a founder player, I can remember at away games using tin baths round the touchline, with only cold water for our ablutions.”
Mr Matthews’ son John, 69, who has two brothers Bryan, 63 and Michael 50, said: “He could have gone to Leeds the rugby league side.
They came down, looked at him, offered him a contract but he didn’t go because he was a Pontypool boy.
“He was a man’s man, he loved all the players, the committee and a couple of pints. Rugby was his life.”
Born in Osborne Road, Mr Matthews married Muriel in 1944 and worked in the tin plate works Central Forge before moving to Panteg steelworks.
With his Pontypool United hat on, Mr Matthews, who smoked a pipe, was known for his no-nonsense attitude, said son John.
Sometimes he would leave behind players who did not get on the bus in time the evening after a game.
Of his achievements with United, Mr Matthews was particularly pleased when he opened its new clubhouse in 1973.
A post on the club’s Facebook page described him as a “rock” and “legend.”
It added: “May you rest in peace Tom Matthews, our thoughts and prayers go out to your boys and their families, you were a true great Tom.”
Melissa Preston-Watkins wrote: “So many happy memories and so many stories about this truly fab fella.
If is wasn’t for his bravery and ambition, the club would not be what it is today.”
Gareth Morgan posted: “RIP Tom! A true ambassador and your family should be proud of all that you achieved!!!”
Laurie Watkins added: “My father has told me over the years, how Mr Tom Matthews was a great person and chairman of Pontypool United RFC.
“I was lucky enough to meet Mr Matthews as a youngster in uncle Tom’s cabin, as my father called it. A great man, RIP Mr Matthews.”
Other tributes on the club’s Facebook site describe him as a legend, a true ambassador for the club and “One of United’s best.”
A minute’s silence was held for Mr Matthews at the Pontypool RFC game versus Ebbw Vale at Pontypool Park on Saturday.
His funeral service is on Thursday at the private chapel, Co-Operative funeral home, Limekiln Road, Pontypool, followed by Gwent Crematorium at 3.30pm.
Family flowers only, donations if desired to the British Heart Foundation to be given at the service.
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