Tributes to rugby fan from Cramlington who died at Six Nations game

Tributes have been paid to a devoted rugby fan who suffered a heart attack at the Six Nations game in Scotland at the weekend

Ken Johnston, who died at the Scotland v England rugby match at Murrayfield
Ken Johnston, who died at the Scotland v England rugby match at Murrayfield

Tributes have been paid to a prominent member of the region’s sporting and farming communities after he died at a rugby international match.

Ken Johnston passed away after suffering a heart attack at the England v Scotland match at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The 60-year-old, an avid Scotland fan and long-serving member of Gosforth Rugby Club, was travelling with seven others from the club when the tragedy happened.

He was taken by ambulance to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary but was pronounced dead.

Now his wife Susan and son Gordon-Ross have paid tribute to the “popular fellow” who was always the life and soul of a party.

Mrs Johnston, from Cramlington, Northumberland, said: “He had been going to Murrayfield as a fan for so many years, he had been there longer than some of the stands.

“He was the biggest joker you could find - he dropped a lot of corkers. He always thought life was a celebration and he would never want a sombre affair now, he would want a party.

“He was the life and soul of a party, whether it was 2am in the morning or earlier on. He was always chatting someone up, whether it was the ladies serving tea and coffee or highly important dignitaries.

“He was also known for his fashion sense or, at least, he liked to think himself as a bit of a fashion icon. He was very much loved by everyone and will be very much missed.”

Mr Johnston was born in Scotland and went to Dollar Academy, in Clackmannanshire, where he started playing rugby and represented the school.

After finishing his studies, he got into the insurance trade and moved around the industry until he moved to Northumberland in 1974.

He met Susan in Newcastle and they married in 1977 before having a son, Gordon-Ross.

Mr Johnston started as a player at Gosforth in 1974 and played for 15 years before becoming a referee for 10 years. He was President of the club from 2010-2012 and represented them on the County Committee.

Mr Johnston retired last September after 38 years with the National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited, the last 20 of which being as the National Farmers Union senior group secretary for the North Northumberland group, based in Alnwick.

During this time, he worked closely with Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith over rural matters in the area.

Mr Johnston travelled with friends to the Calcutta Cup game.

David Hall, one of those, and chairman of Gosforth Rugby Club, said: “We go to the match every year and alternate between Ireland and Scotland. He was the biggest Scotland fan you could find. While most of us were wearing sturdy trousers, he was in his tartan jacket and trousers. The players had just come out on the pitch when it happened and with the voices of 60,000 Scotsmen singing ‘Flower of Scotland’ ringing in his ears. It was rather apt.

“Rugby was a huge part of his life, as it was his father’s, it definitely ran in the genes. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and the rugby community in general.”

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