PENARTH RFC president John Coughtrey has died following a short illness at the age of 86.

Mr Coughtrey, or ‘Mr Penarth Rugby’ to some, was a hugely popular figure at the club with whom he was associated for nearly 70 years.

Born in Cardiff in 1931, he began his near lifelong involvement with the club at the age of 18 as a backrower, and was among 15 local lads selected to represent Penarth & District against Cardiff Youth.

It was the first attempt to raise a youth side in Penarth.

“It was a good idea, but unfortunately it did not last long,” he recalled recently.

“We played only a few matches in all. I was playing in the back row, after which most of us went on playing for Penarth Athletic.

“Soon after that I started my National Service, but I carried on playing.

“When I came back, Penarth had a very good back row, so I joined Penarth Athletic and captained them in 1957.”

Mr Coughtrey was forced to end his playing career in 1958 due to injury, but he became an increasingly important cog in the Penarth club administration, joining the club committee and becoming chairman in 1973 for a single season.

He was later heavily involved in the planning for the club’s centenary (1980-81) alongside Alun Edwards, Ian Owens, Dot Wilkie, Frank Wilson, Kevin Bush, Bob Lewis, John Musselwhite and Alan Stamp.

One of Mr Coughtrey’s finest moments with Penarth came in 1985, when he convinced a then young South African number eight to take a break from travelling through Wales to turn out for Penarth.

Rudi Straeuli, who went on to earn 10 caps for the Springboks and coach his national side, scored two tries on debut for Penarth as they defeated Swansea for the first time in 12 years.

After the conclusion of the annual Barbarians fixture and rugby’s professionalisation in 1995, Penarth’s glory days began to fade, but Mr Coughtrey remained a committed servant to the club.

Current chairman Mike Gooding said: “No job was too small for him and he supported the club whenever was needed.

“He was a fantastic clubman, and he will be sorely missed by all of us at Penarth RFC.”

In 2006, Mr Coughtrey succeeded Kevin Bush as the the club’s 17th President, and remained in the role until his death earlier this week.

Mr Coughtrey is survived by his wife of 64 years Olive, his daughter Sandra, sons Philip, Ian and James and several grandchildren.