Reg Turner: A legend on and off the pitch

Reg Turner
Reg Turner

LEGEND is a word which is over used in the world of sport.

But not when you are talking about Reg Turner. The word legend barely does him justice.

West Hartlepool, his beautiful family, his pals, rugby, cricket and life, you can select your own order, have lost a true friend.

The West president died after collapsing just moments after watching his side beat Chester 24-20 in National Three North at Brinkburn on Saturday.

Despite heroic efforts from people from West and Chester, and the paramedics, Reg could not be revived.

I usually detest the oft-quoted “he died doing what he loved” type of thing you hear at funeral services and the like.

No-one wants to die – we all want to go on for as long as we can, don’t we?

But, and I don’t want to sound flippant here, at least Reg got to watch and enjoy his team win a fantastic victory over a good rugby side like Chester.

He loved watching West and took great delight at Saturday’s success, and was about to go and enjoy a beer with his friend and former team-mate Joe Huntley in the bar at Catcote Road.

His passing, at the age of 81 years young, is an absolute tragedy.

A look at the message board of West Hartlepool’s website indicates the esteem in which Reg was held.

At the time of writing this column, there were 61 posts in tribute and I’m sure there are many more to come.

Reg was some player in his career – a big, strong unit from his schooldays, his physique ensured he could handle himself from day one.

So well in fact that it is believed he was the youngest ever Durham cap when he was named in the county pack in 1948.

Reg was part of West’s successful side in the fifties, a team which featured accomplished players like Jack and Jim Collard, Sid Guthrie, Jack Maughan and Norman Wilkinson.

He had the honour of captaining his club and played at Twickenham in the Middlesex Sevens.

After his playing days he became team manager and, like a true club man, when young prop Ken Horseman – yes he was at one time in his life – missed the bus for a midweek trip to Redcar, rather than take to the field with 14 men in the days before replacements, Reg pulled on his boots for the final occasion for the Brierton Lane side.

Powerful on the park, he would go on to display his strength off it as a very determined chairman in the 1970s.

West set out to be the top team in town, and then a force in the north, and he headed a very focused committee which set about achieving those aims.

Sadly for Reg, he never actually saw West play in the top flight because just after the centenary season in 1981-82, the Turners moved to Texas where he worked as an electrical engineer for the next 20 years.

Typically, rugby was still a big part of his life, even in Houston where he coached the Bay Area club.

After two decades of sun and fun, the Turners returned home and when Ron Greig stood down after doing a sterling job as president during some difficult times, Reg was an obvious successor.

Most fellas past their 70th birthday may have preferred the quiet life but not the former lock and prop forward.

He answered the call and was a tremendous president, watching the side every week and not just on Saturdays, you would see him out on a Sunday morning checking out the next generation of players at Brinkburn.

And while he struggled to get about because of a bad back, Reg would not be put off watching the game, even if it took him a while to walk from clubhouse tp the pitch.

Reg would always have a word of advice or encouragement but I never ever heard him say, as you get with some players of a bygone era, “well, in my day it was better than this rubbish” etc.

Sometimes the age difference can prove a bit of a barrier between men of Reg’s generation and the young fellas who go out onto the field but I have to say that all the players adored him.

The affection was genuine.

And while this writer did not know Reg as well as some, I found him, like most people will bear out, a complete gentleman and nice man. Whenever I was in the company of Reg, and his lovely wife, Joyce, they seemed an absolutely delightful couple.

I am sure I will speak for all by saying that the thoughts of everyone are with Joyce and their children, Stephen and Susan, and their seven grandchildren.

His family and rugby were not the only two passions Reg enoyed.

He was a big cricket man and played many years for Hartlepool, opening the bowling with his medium-quicks.

In fact, it is believed Reg was still playing for the Third XI at Park Drive in his early 50s before the Turners moved out to Texas. In short, Reg was an all-round sportsman, but more than that, he was an all-round lovely fella who was loved and respected in equal measure.

Brinkburn and the world will be a poorer place without him.

God bless you Reg.