Written by DB
Tragically,Andy Ripley succumbed to prostate cancer on Thursday,June 17th,at the age of 62.
Tributes can be found worldwide throughout the internet and the Obituary published in the Daily Telegraph is reproduced below.
It has been announced that there will be a Public Memorial Service for Andy at Southwark Cathedral on Wednesday,December 1st at 2.30 pm,to which all are welcome.
Firstly,though a personal tribute by your General Secretary,who knew him very well and ran in the same 400 Hurdles events with him. It is,hopefully,slightly different and will reflect the feelings of many other of my,and Andy's, contemporaries and colleagues in athletics for the years he gave to our sport.
NOT A TIME TO GO,NOT A WAY TO GO
Andy Ripley touched many,many people’s lives;one of those was mine;and one of our shared activities was Athletics;not at international level,as with his rugby,but as sports afficionados……
I remember when Andy Ronay first announced to Poly that he had persuaded this galloping England Rugby talisman to try his hand at athletics….
I remember when he drove up from London to a National League match at Hull on his high-powered motorbike,ran his socks off for the team,helping them to a rare win, and then drove away to a Charity cricket match on the following day in another far distant part of England……
I remember reading his book – Ripley’s Rugby Rubbish,written for Charity – full of his zest for life,sport and family - read it several times – liked one of his definitions of Sport – ‘being part of the B string team in athletics’…..
I remember attending one of the Sporting Dinners he organised for a crippled member of his beloved Rosslyn Park…..
I remember his being one of the Speakers at the Poly Centenary Dinner – all off the cuff– not a note in sight – enlivening the proceedings – could have been the original athletics buff,such was his grasp of so many sports/activities……
I remember turning up at an Open 400 Hurdles race at Copthall – unknowingly,so had our five other sub 55 sec hurdlers – so had Andy,out of the blue – his vast enjoyment and commitment and knowledge of team commitment in a sport at which he only dabbled…….
I remember his empathy,understanding and support when there was a particularly difficult team decision to make…..
I remember we used to rub our hands in anticipation when he lined up on an outside lane stagger at 400 or 400 Hurdles – it would have been a ploy we would have engineered ourselves – massive inferiority complex for those on the inside lanes…….
I remember many things…and I will not forget…..
The last great English Sportsman of the Amateur Era they have said….
AND THEN SOME……
VALE,ANDY – REQUIESCAT IN PACE
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
Andy Ripley, who died on June 17 aged 62, was a giant of a man in several ways and one of the most colourful personalities in the history of English rugby.
Described variously as “rugby’s first hippie”, “the original Crazy Horse” and (in a tribute that was perhaps just a little extravagant) “a man with a brain like Einstein and a pen like Shakespeare… who might have doubled for Steve McQueen”, he excelled not only at rugby, but also at rowing, athletics, swimming and sailing.
He also made a small fortune in the City and won the BBC Superstars contest in 1980. At the age of 50 he gained an MPhil at Cambridge University and even tried out, unsuccessfully, for a place in the Boat Race crew.
A gangling 6ft 5in tall, with flowing locks streaming out of a headband, knees pumping almost up his chest and the ball under his arm, “Ripley in full flight”, as one observer put it, “will remain forever an image to brighten the day.” Another wrote: “He played with the studied nonchalance of a Harlem Globetrotter warming up.”
Ripley won 24 caps for England at number eight between 1972 and 1976. The Seventies were a low period for English rugby, with Wales and France in the ascendant, and he lost his first six Five Nations matches. England then had surprising victories over South Africa and the All Blacks, in both of which Ripley played a prominent part, and in 1974 he scored the winning try in England’s first victory against Wales at Twickenham since 1960.
Later that year he toured with the British Lions to South Africa, where they were unbeaten in 22 matches and won the Test series 3-0. Ripley was, however, shouldered out of the Test side by Mervyn (“Merv the Swerve”) Davies, of Wales, who had great admiration for his English rival and described him as “the best — certainly the most awkward” number eight he had ever played against.
This was no consolation for Ripley. Asked 36 years later how disappointed he had felt about missing out on the Lions Test place, he replied: “Disappointed? Into devastation and beyond.”
He was also an exceptional seven-a-side player and won the inaugural World Cup Sevens with England at Murrayfield in 1973, once running the length of the field to score.
In 1976 he lost his England place, “being jettisoned at his peak”, according to the official history of the Rugby Football Union. In fact he was unlucky to face unusually brilliant competition in his position, for in addition to Davies he had competition at home from Roger Uttley, who went on to captain the England side and star with the Lions. Ripley had revenge of a sort on Uttley many years later when he beat him to the world veterans’ indoor rowing championship in 1992.
Ripley was also a champion triathlete and reached the semi-finals of the 400 metres in the Amateur Athletic Association championship in 1978. He was a qualified canoe instructor and skilled at basketball, tennis and water-skiing. He was perhaps the last in a great English tradition of all-round amateur sportsmen going back to CB Fry — a tradition ended by the specialised disciplines of professional sport.
Although rugby union did not go professional until 1995, six years after Ripley had retired, he lived in the twilight era of “shamateurism”, when players were rewarded in secret. On one occasion the whole England team were persuaded to wear a sponsor’s boot in return for £50 a man — a transaction of which the RFU was wholly unaware. Ripley once found himself with two boot sponsors to please — a problem he resolved by wearing a different boot on each foot.
Andrew George Ripley was born in Liverpool on December 1 1947 and educated at Greenway comprehensive school in Bristol and the University of East Anglia. He started playing rugby only at university at the age of 19, having been at a school that favoured association football. He spent his whole rugby career at Rosslyn Park, playing until he was 41.
When he retired in 1989 he was elected club president, turning up for the annual dinner on his Triumph motorbike in jeans and a T-shirt proclaiming: “I ate before I came.” He had a thing about T-shirts, sporting one on a Lions tour reading: “I’m so perfect it scares me.”
He became deputy general manager of the United Bank of Kuwait, where he took pleasure in arriving for work by bicycle or motorbike wearing a bowler hat and carrying a rolled umbrella. A chartered accountant himself, he also ran a company called Dart for training accountants and another, Incredibly Fit Co, for marketing rugby gear. He was a director of Esprit health clubs in London.
In addition to his many other talents, Ripley was a fluent linguist and worked as a rugby commentator for French television. He did much work for charities, including the Sport Aid Foundation, the Bristol Sporting Association for the Disabled and the Aston Charity Trust for Homeless People.
His reputation as a world-class athlete was such that newspaper pictures of him in May, receiving an OBE from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace, blind, shrunken and seated in a wheelchair, caused a great shock in the sporting world and among his many admirers. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005.
By 2007 he had apparently made such a good recovery that he published his diary, the subtitle of which was The Rugby Icon’s Ultimate Victory Over Cancer. But the disease returned in 2008 and early this year reached his skull and affected the optic nerves. He became a roving ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Charity, for whom his eccentric, stream-of-consciousness patter made him a hugely popular speaker.
In the foreword to his book on cancer he wrote: “Dare we hope? We dare. Can we hope? We can. Should we hope? We must, because to do otherwise is to waste the most precious of gifts, given so freely by God to all of us. So when we do die, it will be with hope and it will be easy and our hearts will not be broken.”
He is survived by his wife, Elisabeth, and three children.
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