Former Saffron Walden mayor and rugby club founder dies aged 85

PUBLISHED: 13:45 11 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:48 11 July 2017

Iain Wright-Watson who was Mayor of Saffron Walden in the 1980s. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO/SAFFRON WALDEN TOWN COUNCIL

Iain Wright-Watson who was Mayor of Saffron Walden in the 1980s. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO/SAFFRON WALDEN TOWN COUNCIL

Saffron Photo 2017

Tributes have been paid to “a jovial, kind man”, Iain Wright-Watson, architect, co-founder of Saffron Walden Rugby Club and former Mayor of Saffron Walden who died on June 28, aged 85.

Mr Wright-Watson, a hooker, was the rugby club’s first captain. Fellow player and current club president, Peter Reader said: “He was our first skipper for two seasons in the early 1960s. He came to us from Kent where he had played for the county and we were pleased to get him. He had a lot of experience and was also very skilful. He led from the front and his enthusiasm and commitment made a great foundation for the club. He was the ideal chap to pull the side together in those days. He was a sociable guy on and off the field.”

After the Saturday matches, the players would all pile into Mr Wright-Watson’s family home in Hempstead for food and drink and parties. His wife Tessa, a former biology teacher at Saffron Walden County High, recalled: “We had one bathroom and there would be 15 men all queuing up to use the bath. Upstairs, the children would be filling the beds, we all had young families. When the rugby club started, some of the wives made marmalade and sold it in the market to raise funds.”

Aged 54, Mr Wright-Watson suffered a severe stoke, leaving him unable to speak or draw which ended his architectural career but he continued to follow the rugby club’s fortunes assiduously and was later made a life president. Peter Reader said: “Despite his illness, he was still thrilled to attend the club’s 50th anniversary in July 2013. He was a great guy and we’ll miss him.”

Another past president and co-founder of the club, Martin Smith said: “We started the club after putting an advertisement in the local paper. Then we had a meeting in the Cross Keys. In one game against Bishop’s Stortford, we had five men in the front row instead of three and Iain hooked all the balls in the scrum, theirs as well as ours. He was a good friend and he had a good sense of humour.”

Mr Wright-Watson was a councillor for the town and district councils from 1976 and became Mayor of Saffron Walden in 1982.

Town clerk at the time, Malcolm White said: “Iain was a very nice guy. He was chairman of the finance committee and key to the refurbishment of the town hall and the extension of Saffron Walden Cricket Club. As an architect, his advice was invaluable. He was a lovely guy, very jovial, friendly and helpful. He didn’t stand any nonsense, he was a straight-talking person but with a kind manner.”

Born in Barcelona on June 15, 1932, where his father was working as a private secretary and his mother was an artist, the young Iain was a boarder at Lancaster Royal Grammar School before doing National Service with the Royal Engineers and afterwards training as an architect, taking evening classes at Brixton School of Building.

He met Tessa, then Tessa Noble, at a party at Beckenham Rugby Club in Kent where she had gone with fellow students from her teacher training college in Tooting, South London.

They married on August 23, 1958, Tessa said: “Iain was a man who achieved things quietly and without a fanfare. He wasn’t one for pomp and ceremony. His greatest achievement was qualifying as an architect and I can drive round here and see his buildings. After his stroke, it was such a long haul. He recovered because of his quiet determination. His saying was that ‘he who attempts the absurd achieves the impossible’. We both hate formality. His funeral will be a farewell.” The family has requested that people at the service do not wear black.

Mr Wright-Watson leaves a son Jon, daughter, Beth and six grandchildren, Poppy, Joe, Levi, Layla, Oran and Ross. His funeral is tomorrow, Wednesday July 12, at Cambridge Crematorium.

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