Worcester Rugby Club legend Jem Richardson dies aged 83
With the Rugby Six Nations Championship starting this weekend, St Peter have a new front row star for his Heavenly XV. Because Worcester Rugby Club legend Jem Richardson has entered the dressing room.
This seemingly indestructible man who has played for the WRFC first team more than 400 times – likely a club record – has died aged 83 and today (Friday 3 February) family, friends, staff and club members gathered out Past and Present at St John’s Church to pay tribute at his funeral service.
It’s a part of town he knew well. For 45 years, Jem managed the nearby Dines Green Post Office in one of Worcester’s large housing estates, where even his rugby skills clearly failed to penetrate all corners. Surely the scrawny boy who tried to rob him one day as he was sorting the morning papers was unaware of what he was foolishly about to do.
He sneaked up behind Jem, hit him with a wooden pole and kicked him repeatedly while he lay temporarily stunned. But far from giving up, Jem, who was 70 at the time, got up off the ground and lay on top of his attacker, who fled. Years at the head of a rugby scrum meant a teenage hoodlum was no competition.
Although born on a farm in the village of Standish, near Stroud, Jeremy William Slade Richardson grew up in St John’s where the family had a newsagent on the Bull Ring before also taking over the post office in the newly built Dines Green.
Although he lived on the west side of the River Severn, he went to school on the east side, at Stanley Road Primary.
“Why go there?” said his younger brother Peter. “Because our mother said we shouldn’t see her paperboys at 12 in the morning or at night. I guess it was maybe because of the discipline or the risk of bullying. The reason I say this is because I always remember Jem pushing and helping me up the hard slopes to and from school with his hand on my back. That’s what my brother did for me, and he did it to the highest degree.”
After Stanley Road, Jem attended Worcester Technical High School, where he was apprenticed to engineers Heenan and Froude, where he became a draftsman.
A talented footballer, he played for both school and Heenan’s youth team, but his father had other ideas and persuaded his son to switch to rugby.
His first few games while learning the laws and the sport he played on the second team but it wasn’t long before he was playing for the 1st XV.
Jem Richardson first played for Worcester in the 1956/57 season. He is arguably the player who has worn the jersey of the WRFC the most, both as a player and as a first-team player. Well over 400 games for the first team alone.
However, Peter added: “He hasn’t always held himself to the required standards. David Richardson (a teammate) told me as he was putting Jem’s gear in the car when he noticed a package of Women’s Own Magazines and asked him to drop them off. “No,” Jem replied, “those are my shin pads.”
Jem has played for the county rugby team more than 50 times and has also had trials for the North Midlands. He was captain of the WRFC from 1961 to 1965 and again from 1969 to 1970. He was the club’s chairman from 1983 to 1988 and was also its vice president. In 1992 he was made an honorary member for life.
Former WRFC President David Hallmark said: “Jem was one of the giants of the WRFC who devoted an exceptional amount of time and dedication to bringing amateur rugby to Worcester. He graciously encouraged younger players and made everyone feel like part of the club.
“He represented a family of his father and mother and his two brothers Martin and Peter, all of whom have been massive advocates for the club. Few in the WRFC’s long 150-year history have accomplished so much for so long. His name on the bulletin boards as captain and as president will ensure he will not be forgotten.”
Jeremy Richardson lived at Penhill Crescent, St John’s, Worcester. His wife Nina recently died, but he is survived by children Charles, Jane, Debra and Ian, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.”