Cowichan RFC remembers the life of John Collins

John Collins b. August 18, 1929 – d. June 27, 2017

John was born in Birmingham, England. He lived in Sutton Coldfield when he was young until he joined the Merchant Navy training ship HMS Conway towards the end of WW2.  John passed his exams and joined Royal Mail Lines where he rose rapidly to First Officer. He then went in the Royal Navy as a Hydro-graphic surveyor and rose to the rank of Lieutenant.

In 1959 he left the Royal Navy and joined the RNR gaining his Master Mariners certificate and promotion to Lt Cmdr. Also in 1959 he joined the Port of London as a Dock Master at London Dock rising to Shipping Officer of the PLA.  In the mid 70s he moved to British Waterways as Freight Services manager and rose to Director of Freight Services on the board of directors, running all of their docks, ship canals and warehousing.

He was also appointed Managing Director to one of the subsidiary companies and also made Harbour Master General of the ports of Sheerness and Gloucester. Notably, John was made a Freeman of the City of London in the early 80s.  When the Freight Services was privatised, John and his wife Sonia took early retirement and moved to Maple Bay. 

John first visited BC in 1952 when his ship docked in Vancouver. While on shore leave, he visited the Vancouver Island and immediately feel in love with the place.  So much so, he nearly moved there then.  John and Sonia returned to Vancouver Island many times on holidays during the 1970s and 80s, and following a rugby tour they decided to move to Maple Bay in 1989 and never regretted it.

John was a rugby man from the time he was in school, through his time in the Navy for HMS Conway, into civilian life and retirement in Canada.

In the late 1940s early 1950s he played for his ship in places like Argentina and Vancouver. At this time he also played for Sutton Coldfield RFC, near Birmingham, when on leave. He played 1st class Rugby for United Services Portsmouth and the United Services Chatham after he joined the Royal Navy.

From 1959 till 1974 John played for the Port of London whom he captained from 1962 till 1965 and was treasurer after that. Whilst he was captain the club won the McCallister Cup for the first and only time. In 1975 he joined Aylesbury RFC where he wound down his playing career and sometimes refed matches. He was on the selection committee for many years.

His playing career ended abruptly when playing for Aylesbury vs Old Galwegians in Ireland with a serious leg injury.  He toured to Western Canada as part of the management team around 1980, including a match in Cowichan!  John played flanker for most of his career but moved to hooker later on. John was a very good player and was always willing to give advice to youngsters. His rugby sense of humour regularly surfaced in various club houses and he loved singing rugby songs. 

When John and Sonia moved to Maple Bay, they quickly joined Cowichan RFC.  John became a member of the club executive and a fierce supporter of all things Cowichan Rugby!  His generosity was often unseen: from providing financial support to junior or student players who couldn’t afford to play or tour, to making sure the boys were alway well “watered” post game, to supporting the club with his own funds when times were tight.  He loved the game, he loved accompanying the teams on the road, and he loved the atmosphere and culture that is Cowichan RFC.

John was a member of the executive through one of our most difficult times in the 1990s when our existence at Herd Road was under threat.  John first served as Vice President, Administration and later as President.  Though he was very new to the Club, he understood that his job was to preserve what the members had spent so many years building. His respect for the will of the members coupled with his very persistent nature brought us through some tricky times.  CRFC achieved some of our greatest successes on the pitch during John’s tenure on the executive.  

CRFC is grateful to have had John as a member and friend.  Our deepest condolences to his family both in Canada and abroad.  


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