Obituary: Bernard Gadney

Don't be last to know! Get the latest local news straight to your inbox.

Tribute to rugby giant

Bernard Gadney was considered as remarkable in the classroom as he was on the rugby field.

The former Malsis School head died on November 14 aged 91.

His catalogue of achievements includes captaining the England Rugby Union team in the 1930s, leading their first victory over the New Zealand 'All Blacks' in 1936 and being a popular forward-thinking head of Malsis School in Glusburn.

Born in Oxford Bernard Cecil Gadney's father Herbert was an antiquarian book dealer.Bernard attended Dragon School in Stowe where one of his classmates was actor David Niven.

The two remained firm friends, despite a brief competition, won by Gadney, for the hand of Kelly Lilley of the Lilley and Skinner shoe family.

He earned an Oxford scholarship but was forced to work at a Bermondsey tannery because of his father's loss of trade during the war. But he also played rugby for Richmond.

His first teaching job was at Winchester House prep school in Northamptonshire.

While there he started playing for Leicester Tigers in 1929. From here the 6ft 2ins scrum half embarked on a highly successful rugby career.

First playing for England in 1932, he was made captain in 1934 and lead victories over Ireland, Wales and Scotland. His most memorable performance was his vital pass in the 1936 match against the All Blacks and a 13-0 victory.

In that match he began the move which lead to the famous try after 25 minutes by the 'Flying Slav' Prince Alexander Obolensky, a Russian emigre.

Much of Gadney's authority came from his height - at 6ft 2ins he was unusually tall for a scrum half - and his formidable build.

Despite offers from league clubs he remained amateur. In 1938 he retired from the game and took up the post of headmaster at Malsis School and the following year married Kelly Lilley.

During his time at the school he helped install a cinema and launch the Malsis School Building Fund which created a swimming pool, gymnasium a chapel incorporating a memorial to old boys killed in the war.

He had a brief absence from Malsis when in 1943 he volunteered as an ordinary seaman in the navy, returning in 1945 as a Sub-Lieutenant.

When he retired in 1965 the number of pupils had swelled from 14 in 1938 to 164. He spent the rest of his life in Suffolk. Kelly died in 1983.

Bernard, the first name on the Museum of Rugby's 'hall of fame,' leaves his three sons.