Tributes to dedicated Gainsborough referee, volunteer and former RAF aircraftman

Robin Clay
Robin Clay

Tributes have been paid to a dedicated referee, volunteer and former senior RAF aircraftman from Gainsborough who “put far more back into life than he took out for the benefit of others”.

A large congregation gathered at Gainsborough All Saints Parish Church to celebrate the life of Robin Clay, who passed away recently at the age of81.

Grahame Lyner, chairman of Lincolnshire Football Association paid tribute to his close friend.

He said: “Robins’s dedication, devotion and enthusiasm for the benefit for others is a credit to him, his wife and all of his family.

“He was a true volunteer who put back far more into life for the benefit of others than he took out.”

On leaving school Robin successfully completed a five year electrical apprenticeship, before being called up to serve in the RAF as part of his National Service at the age of 21.

He served his two years and achieved the rank of senior aircraftsman, and went on to join the co-op in the Works Dept firstly at Gainsborough and then Lincoln.

Robin worked for the co-op for a total of 37 years.

During this period he became the longest serving member of the welfare committee, organising many events and outings for the benefit of the society’s employees before he was appointed chairman to complete 17 years of further loyal service.

Away from work, Robin was a keen sportsman.

He commenced playing Association Football for Blyton at the age of 13, originally as an outfield player and finally as a goalkeeper.

In 1961 Robin passed The Football Association’s Referee Examination and commenced refereeing in the Gainsborough Saturday and Sunday League.

He quickly moved up the Leagues graduating through The Lincolnshire League, The Northern Premier and finally in 1969 the full list of The Football League Referees and Linesman.

He considered all the appointments important but some of the major fixtures were the Cup Finals of the Northern Premier League, The Texico Cup and Semi Finals of the F.A. Youth Cup, Lincs. Senior A Cup, the Anglo Italian Cup in Italy and the Football League Cup.

Robin refereed his final game on the Football League in 1977 but continued to referee at local level as well as helping young referees in the Gainsborough to progress up the ladder, serving as social secretary and chairman of the Gainsborough Referees Association for many years.

Despite all his work for local sport, Robin still found time for his beloved garden and dancing at the Blues Club where he met his wife, Margaret.