by Roy KirkhamJohn Churchward

John, who has died aged 79, was the last surviving member of a group known to the longer serving members of the club as the Nailsea Mafia (John, John Horseman, Roy Smith, Ken Hector).

How they came to be known by that sobriquet I do not know as a more unpretentious bunch of guys it would be hard to find.

John was born in Plymouth and remained there until passing his 11+ for Cotham Grammar School.

It was here that his love affair with sport began, enhanced by his National Service with the Somerset Light Infantry.

All forms of sport were his passion, particularly rugby- he played hooker for Bristol Harlequins for a number of years.

Later he became interested in hockey through his daughter Jayne and became an umpire. Then he became interested in motocross through his son David. His brew-ups on Sunday motocross events became the stuff of legend.

He met Christine in 1959 at a local dance and although there was some mutual attraction he declined her offer of a first date for the following Easter weekend as he would prefer to play rugby (much to the chagrin of Christine’s mother). He soon made amends, marrying in 1963.

Following a honeymoon in Jersey, he quite literally carried his new bride across the threshold of a newly-built house in Nailsea.

For many years, John worked for DRG, finally becoming payroll co-ordinator for the group. The position required travel to all sites in the UK. On retirement he joined the Corps of Commissionaires.

In 1992 he was introduced to the club and quickly established himself as a good lead and secured a county badge after four years of apprenticeship, playing some 30-plus matches.

He was a good club member. He and Christine always attended social functions and the annual spring tours.

In 2006 he was diagnosed with the first of five cancers, which led to operations, hospital stays and very unpleasant therapeutic treatments.

However, he faced those trials with great dignity and immense courage, simply refusing to accept his lot. His only complaint to me in all that time was that in the last two years he was unable to enjoy his bowls.

However, he continued as a member and could often be found supporting the club, whilst well wrapped up perched on his mobility scooter.

This story is not yet ended. He has proved an enigma to the medical profession in that none of his illnesses were related. As a result, Genetics have been involved and his DNA has been sent for study by scientists at Cambridge University. Might we yet see a Churchward Genome?

I have been fortunate to regard him as a friend.