Harpenden rugby stalwart dies

HARPENDEN’S close-knit rugby community is in mourning after the sudden death of stalwart David Rapley, who has been described as modest, self-effacing and a “do-er”.

Chairman of Harpenden Rugby Club Jonathan Edwards posted a tribute on the organisation’s website announcing David’s death last Friday, September 21.

The Harpenden man died at the age of 65, just a few weeks shy of his 66th birthday.

David (pictured) was pronounced dead at Luton and Dunstable Hospital after suffering what is believed to be a heart attack while sharing a drink with friends at the Cross Keys Pub in Harpenden that evening.

Jonathan said it was with “deep regret” the club announced the passing of David, known among his many friends as “Rappers”.

He described David as a committed member of the club, whose role over the course of about four decades ranged from initially playing as a “fleet-footed fly half who was First XV captain” to being the First XV team manager, a long-serving touch judge, chairman of selectors and chair of the disciplinary committee.

Jonathan added: “Our deepest condolences go to his wife Joan and family.”

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Among those playing tribute to David was Dick White, also of Harpenden, who knew him from the time he arrived at the club about 40 years ago.

David instantly made an impression when playing centre in Harpenden’s First XV, where his hefty tackles delighted supporters, but devastated the opposition.

Dick said: “People used to love watching him tackle. The whole stand would roar with delight.”

He later converted to playing prop.

Dick described David as a “fixture” of the club and well known in rugby club circles.

He added: “David was self-effacing, very modest, and just a ‘do-er’. He was one of those guys you could go and say anything to, and have a laugh with.”

Dick, who was drinking with Dave on the night of his death, explained: “I was with him in the pub when he had a heart attack. It was very quick. He was with his mates at the Cross Keys at about 6-6.30pm. There were about 20 people, a lot of whom have connections with rugby. We regularly meet on a Friday.

“David was in the company of his domino-playing mates, a game he also played on a regular basis. People are still in shock. He was a stalwart, and always willing to do something.”

David helped organise the National Pub Sevens for many years.

When not at rugby, David spent a lot of his leisure time walking with friends Chris Gardner and Charles Hollingsworth all over the UK.

The club’s joint press officer Charles Ellis said that on the following day, Harpenden’s First and Second XV teams paid tribute to their team manager, “in an emotionally charged afternoon which began with a minute’s silence in memory of the much-loved club stalwart” before playing against Hampstead.

The funeral is being held at West Herts Crematorium, Garston, on Thursday, October 4.