THE “inspirational” former owner of a Newport snooker club has died after a long cancer battle.

Robert Harrhy, 48, who used to run the Pockets club on Clarence Place and had played snooker professionally and for Wales, died at the weekend.

Close friend John Payne paid tribute to Mr Harrhy, who lived with his partner, two children and stepson on Kenilworth Road, and he said was an “unbelievably nice guy”.

Mr Payne, who had known him for more than 30 years, said: “He was so brave and an inspiration. He was always laughing and joking. Never once did he get upset. He had a massive impact on so many people.”

Snooker stars Jimmy White and Stephen Lee took part in fundraisers to raise money for cancer treatments to prolong his life after doctors told him he was terminally ill.

While Mike Gagliardi, who Mr Harrhy employed at his snooker club, said he had helped him “find out about myself and grow into a man”. Newport pool champion Andrew Corten, who took part in a fundraiser in January that was attended by Eggheads star CJ de Mooi which raised £4,500, said Mr Harrhy had been a inspiration when he started to play the game in the 1980s and was well-respected throughout Wales. He said: “When I first started pool he was the number one player I looked up to. I learned everything I know from him.”

Mr Harrhy told the Argus in January that he was grateful to friends and family who organised fundraising events, such as his sister, Nanaimo Higginson, who cycled from Brecon to Cwmcarn.

He said: ““It’s tremendous to know people care about you enough to do something like this. I’ve had some really bad news but to see friends you’re close to rally round is heart-warming.”

He suffered two types of the disease. The first, in his bone marrow, was cured by doctors. But later an inoperable form of B-cell lymphoma was found in his stomach, liver and groin. His funeral will be held at St John’s Church in Maindee on Thursday at 11am.