Heartfelt tributes are pouring in today for Leicester Tigers legend and former Market Harborough school headmaster Bleddyn Jones.
Bleddyn, who was the head of the town’s Little Bowden Primary School on Scotland Road for 15 years, has died aged 72.
The much-loved Welsh star made 333 appearances for Tigers, mostly at fly-half, between 1969 and 1978, scoring 42 tries.
And brilliant Bleddyn, who led Little Bowden school until he retired in 2004, became the ‘Voice of Leicester Tigers’ for almost 35 years as BBC Radio Leicester’s match commentator and summariser.
Chalking up hundreds of games, including five memorable European Cup Finals and every Premiership Final at Twickenham, his mellifluous Welsh tones and stirring stories became entwined with the magic of Tigers matchdays.
This afternoon Hayley Brown, the deputy headteacher at Little Bowden Primary School, told the Harborough Mail: “This has come as a real shock to us all – it is very sad news.
“Bleddyn became a legend during his years at our school.
“He loved working here with the staff and all the children – and they all loved him back.
“He’s going to be very badly missed.”
Hayley said that it was Bleddyn, a father-of-two, who interviewed her and took her on as a class teacher back in 1999.
“And it was Bleddyn who promoted me to deputy headteacher under him.
“As well as really enjoying working alongside him, I learned so much about teaching from him,” said Hayley, who said the Tigers icon lived in Leicester.
“He was very passionate about education and learning – he was committed to doing his very best for every single child.
“Bleddyn was inspirational for all of us.
“He was such a genuine warm man, he was a people’s person.
“He had a terrific sense of humour, he was very funny and he could tell a great story,” recalled Hayley.
“Bleddyn built up a strong team here and ran a fantastic school – he was a real leader.
“He’d be out there having snowball fights with the children in the winter, he’d be in the stocks at PTA events and he’d be out entertaining parents on the megaphone on our sports days.
“Bleddyn was a charismatic man, he led from the front.
“Pupils would be upset if they thought they’d let him down.
“He ran the rugby club here and he always had time for all of us.
“Bleddyn loved his golf – and he just loved life, he loved people,” said Hayley.
“The mood here at school is very downbeat today.
“He has left us far too soon.
“We kept in touch when Bleddyn retired here.
“We’d send each other Christmas cards, swap messages and meet up for coffee at Wistow.
“Our hearts go out to Bleddyn’s wife Sue, his children Helen and Gareth and his grandchildren.
“None of us here at Little Bowden Primary School will ever forget Bleddyn.”
Tigers chairman Peter Tom said today: “Bleddyn was such a lovely man, one of the nicest you could ever wish to meet - and he was part of this club for such a long time.
“After arriving at the club totally unannounced as a young man, he established himself at fly-half and barely missed a game for the next nine years.
“Then, of course, that wonderful Welsh voice became a central part of matchdays as a radio commentator.”
Peter added: “Bleddyn had a huge number of friends within the game, which speaks volumes for his character, and everyone at the club is deeply saddened to hear of his passing.
“On behalf of players, staff and supporters, I send the Tigers’ very deepest condolences and best wishes to his family and friends.”
Tigers will stage a minute’s silence in his honour ahead of kick-off in the European Challenge Cup semi-final at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Friday night.
Cllr Phil Knowles got to know and admire Bleddyn when the veteran councillor was the chair of governors at Little Bowden school.
“It’s such sad news that Bleddyn has passed.
“I had the great pleasure of working with him during my time as chair of governors at Little Bowden School,” said Phil, who leads Harborough council’s Liberal Democrats.
“He was always interesting to chat with – but he also had a great interest in listening to others.
“Hearing their views and stories.
“All done in a warm, friendly and professional way.
“Our condolences go to his family, friends and colleagues,” said Phil.