In Memoriam: Peter Malcolm Smith

Peter Smith and Jason Leonard
October 31, 2017





Peter Smith and Jason Leonard

Peter receives the Prince Obolensky Association award from Jason Leonard, the previous year’s winner

It is with great sadness that we report the passing, on 22nd October 2017, of Peter Smith.

A fitting tribute to Peter’s life has been published on the website here …..

Peter Smith was born on the 23rd September 1943 in Beaconsfield where his mother had been evacuated (from Thames Ditton) whilst his father was serving as a lieutenant RNVR on Atlantic convoy duty.

Peter has been a lifelong member of Rosslyn Park Rugby Club. He first joined the Park in 1958 when he was 15. He remembers being taken by his father to visit Harlequins, Richmond and The Park (where his father knew the then secretary Ken Smith). The former did not think he went to the right school, Richmond were a bit parochial and the Park, as ever, were very welcoming; nothing has changed.

He played his first game for an extra A side at centre; he was normally on the wing. In his first game he was tackled hard and was concussed. Shortly after his father got a letter from Ken Smith suggesting that he went away and joined a junior club to get some less ferocious encounters and come back when he was older and bigger. He joined Harrods.

Later he rejoined the Park and was a regular in the ‘A’s for many seasons, running fast, scoring tries and a prolific goal kicker. His playing days were cut short by a horrific leg injury. He can be remembered hobbling around the clubhouse with his leg in plaster from crutch to ankle. Not to be deterred he turned his efforts to refereeing, running the line for the 1st XV and organising the club’s referees (one of which was a policeman called John Stevens, later to become Commissioner of the Met). He also put a small group together to organise the Club’s development side, the under 21s which usually played on Sundays.

If this was not enough, in the early nineties he became chairman of the Floodlit 7s committee and it is thanks to his organisational skills that this event became one of the Park’s main fundraising events. When Wimpey Homes sponsored the tournament, he persuaded them to provide the metal perimeter fencing round the ground as part of the package.

He joined the Park committee and rose to be Vice-Chairman. There he worked hard behind the scenes on mainly administrative matters such as getting people to understand what their job was rather than what they thought it was. He was active in the Club’s forward planning process and was involved in searching for a new ground and visiting many sites in SW London. There were many attractive options but due to various factors we were unable to adopt any of them.

Peter’s lasting legacy is the Prince Obolensky Association. For many years he was the POA. He and a solicitor named John Brickwood started discussions on the need for an organisation that would help look after the long term interests of the Park, rather than the day to day running of the club which is the clear responsibility of the management committee of the day. They came up with the name of the Prince Obolensky Association. Peter drove the whole thing; he was chairman and secretary, Keith Young the treasurer and he gathered some likeminded souls around him to make it happen. For many years he almost singlehandedly drummed up members, organised events which did not clash with the Club’s fundraising programme, collected subscriptions, negotiated with the club on matters of finance, establishing the policies that are now enshrined in the POAs operation. During the last 22 years the POA has raised nearly £150,000 for capital projects in the Club.

His love of rugby was not just restricted to The Park. He had a desire to see the game extended into the emerging countries and to the less privileged. This led him to try to arrange a Pan Pacific Tournament between Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Korea, Japan, USA and Hong Kong. After a lot of effort he was let down by the authorities and the project was shelved.

In March 1992, following the disaster wreaked by Cyclone Val on Samoa that caused damage to the scale of $300 million, Peter was approached by the Commonwealth Trust to see if he could help arrange a UK rugby tour to raise funds for the disaster relief fund. He readily agreed and set about the task with gusto, calling on friends and contacts to help. He decided on a Sevens tour, as this was considered more practical.

He targeted three Sevens tournaments: Rosslyn Park Floodlit, Caldy and the Middlesex Charity Sevens. The organisers of all three accepted the Samoans, without hesitation.

In the following six weeks he and his associates arranged: a team – the tournament entries – flights – accommodation & food – internal transportation – playing kit – medical kit – insurance and all the extra bits, at no cost to the Samoans. The tour went ahead and the Samoans arrived at Heathrow on the 27th April and appeared in the Floodlits on the 29th. They reached the semi-finals at the Park and Caldy and won the Middlesex trophy; the first overseas winners in the tournament’s 76-year history.

At the 1993 first Sevens World Cup in Scotland, he was there with Samoa, Chester Williams, the first black rugby player to play for South Africa after the apartheid era, approached Peter and asked for his help to arrange for ITHUBA, a party gathered together from the townships of the Western Cape to undertake a tour of the UK. He readily agreed and decided to make it a sevens tour and chose the same venues as he used in 1992. The side had never played sevens before and Peter co-opted various helpers (including Bob Fisher) to teach them the rudiments. Their performance at the Park and Caldy was mediocre. On arrival at the Middlesex tournament they began to show promise. Loud cheers erupted when ITHUBA firstly took out Quins in the quarter finals and then breezed past Rosslyn Park – who had provided coaching lessons for the visitors during the week – to make the finals where they eventually lost to Leicester.

In 2013 Peter was presented with the Prince Obolensky Award for his long and outstanding service to the POA, the Park and Rugby in general.

At this year’s AGM he was unanimously elected an Honorary Vice-President Emeritus
A well-deserved accolade to a true Park man.

Peter fought hard but did not win the long match against a far stronger and aggressive opposition, which came at him from many different directions. He fought with courage, dignity and self-deprecating humour.

It is hoped that he will be remembered with fondness for his friendship, his achievements and his unstinting loyalty, selfless and effective support of all things Park.

The funeral will take place at 13.00 0n Friday 17th November at Putney Vale Crematorium, Stag Lane, Wimbledon. SW15 3DZ. Followed by a reception at Rosslyn Park. All friends and Park members will be most welcome.

John Gunner, Past President, Rosslyn Park FC

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