Glyn James 1931-2021

Glyn James who was a Honorary Member of CUDRRS died on Monday, 8th February 2021 at the age of 89 years in The Red House Care Home in Stamford. 

He joined  the Society in 1996 to boost our refereeing input to the RFU Cambridge University Laws Laboratory which experimented with new laws in midweek matches in the college leagues up to 2008. 

In a Laws Laboratory match at Jesus College refereed by Glyn,  Sky TV tested out a prototype of a “ref cam”.  A chest camera was fitted to him with the lens poking out through from a hole cut in the jersey he wore,  fortunately one “borrowed ” from a student

For a while he served as our University appointments secretary organising referees who came to take part in the experiments from several societies.  He was made a Honorary Member in 2008 in recognition of the contribution he had made.

Glyn came with a reputation of being a character well known for his distinctive and individual style of refereeing in first class rugby.  His experience proved invaluable.

He was extremely fit and could pass for being in his late forties. Refereeing can clearly be good for your health

His first appearance in the middle was in a match between Stamford and Lincoln’s fourth teams in the 1974-75 season. Subsequently, he refereed at every major club in England and Wales, served on the Rugby Football Union’s A list and County Panel as a member of the Notts,  Lincs and Derby Referee Society.

During his refereeing career he took charge of more than 3000 matches reaching that milestone in November 2005, aged 74, in a college match between Trinity Hall and Churchill College. The teams formed a guard of honour going onto and leaving the field.  He was  well respected by the students. 

A proud Forester – born and bred in the Forest of Dean – the former scrum-half and retired engineering lecturer frequently clocked up more than 90 games per season. He often refereed seven days a week taking advantage of college rugby played midweek at Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

His refereeing was brought to a sudden halt in 2009 when he was driving on the A1 to referee a match in Leicester. He suffered a serious stroke at the wheel and was fortunate to avoid colliding with other traffic.  With typical determination, he recovered the ability to walk unaided his ability to talk progressively deteriorated as did his physical health. This  became a frustration that undermined his fighting spirit. 

Over the years he had developed his own distinctive style and philosophy.  In an interview with Brendan Gallagher of the Daily Telegraph in 2005 he explained it.

“My modus operandi, if there is a big flare-up, is to casually wander over to the touchline and have a gossip with the spectators and perhaps cadge a cup of coffee from somebody’s thermos. There is nothing more ridiculous in this world than two grown adults slugging it out in public when the audience have lost interest.

I remember once at the British Police final at Welford Road, quite a big match in those days in front of a decent crowd, there was obviously a lot of bad blood between the international second rows – big Wade Dooley from the Lancashire Constabulary and Steve Sutton from the South Wales Police. Sure enough it all went off from the kick-off.

I sat down near the dug-outs and started taking my boots off. The Lancashire captain – was it Shaun Gallagher from Waterloo? – rushed over and asked what was going on.

“I’m off home, I’m not putting up with this pathetic nonsense,” said I.

“Ref! You can’t do that, pleaded the captain.  All the chief constables and top brass are here. We are going to look bloody idiots and be for the high jump afterwards”.

 “Not my problem sunshine. I’m not a copper. Sort it out yourselves. You lot are pretty good at telling other people what to do”.

“The following 79 minutes was the cleanest and most polite game I’ve ever reffed”.

Glyn could relate many such anecdotes from his vast experience. They were told with his characteristic  mischievous twinkle  in his eye and a smile.

Rugby for me is all about family, friendship and fun. When you start refereeing your family becomes larger and friendships become stronger. The fun increases if you join a referees’ society.

When one of the friends you have made through refereeing dies, the friendship still lives on through memories.   Many people in Cambridgeshire and beyond have good reason to remember with fondness and admiration one of our Honorary Members, Glyn James. I do.

Learning of Glyn’s death,  Ed Morrison OBE, the 1995 Rugby World Cup referee commented ” He was indeed a true rugby champion who served our game with enormous distinction”. 

Steve Hill , ex coach of Oxford University and now of Richmond RFC, knew Glyn at Loughborough University and referred to  him as a “top man”. Gone Yes but forgotten No.

To his wife Barbara and his family, CUDRRS extends its deep sympathy. May he rest in peace. 

Mike Dimambro
February 2021