TRIBUTES have been paid to a well-known Newport tradesman, who once competed against Sean Connery in a Mr Universe competition.

John Bennetts was a watchmaker, clockmaker and jeweller based on Commercial Street in Newport city centre for many years.

He died in July aged 84 and his funeral was held at Langstone Vale crematorium on August 6.

Mr Bennetts undertook his apprenticeship in central Cardiff as a teenager and cycled to and from his home in Malpas to work on a daily basis.

South Wales Argus: Tributes have been paid to Newport watchmaker John Bennetts who has died aged 84. As a young man he was a keen cyclist and body builder

On completing his apprenticeship he honed his watchmaking skills in Switzerland before working for other jewellers. He then branched out and traded on his own some 50 years ago.

His brother Robert said: "Whether casually dressed or suited he always looked immaculate."

He played squash into his late seventies and worked right up until his illness earlier this year.

Robert said: "John was a one-off, the like of which are unlikely to be seen again. A beacon of life and laughter who was extremely popular with other traders in Newport as well as others further afield.

"His customers and associates were countless, and there was an almost constant stream of people calling in to see him just for a chat and to hear his latest joke. There are numerous people who benefited and were the recipients of his generosity and not just those who he thought they were down on their luck."

Mr Bennetts was a keen cyclist in his younger years and he was also interested in bodybuilding. He entered the Mr Universe contest in London where Sean Connery, who went on to international stardom at James Bond, was also a participant. Although not participating another Hollywood legend was also in attendance at the event - Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mr Bennett's brother Robert said: "John could also imitate birdsong and the birds would call back to him. He was a truly remarkable character, loved and respected by many."

Gerald Lee, of Newport, said: "I was very sorry to read that John Bennett had died. He was probably the last working watchmaker in Newport and was truly a master of his craft.

"John was a cheerful outgoing personality, who clearly loved company. He may only have had a tiny rather cramped booth, but every small local business is important and often impossible to replace."

His comments were echoed by David Hando, of Newport, said he had happy memories of playing football with Mr Bennetts with Gaer Casuals.