Wigan’s rugby league community is in mourning following the death of a “legend” who devoted 49 years to the club he loved.
George Herring was a dedicated volunteer at Wigan St Patrick’s ARLFC, getting involved in any way he could and supporting its members.
Hundreds of people have already paid their respects following his death on Sunday after a short illness.
Club chairman Cath Taylor said: “A lot of people have had a lot to say over the last couple of days, but for me he was the best volunteer a club could have. He was one in a million. You couldn’t find anyone as dedicated to a club as he was.”
Mr Herring lived next to Clarington Park and was there most days, getting involved in all kinds of tasks.
He was the club’s kit man, looked after the changing rooms and grounds, supported coaches and players, looked after equipment, tended to the memorial garden and went to matches home and away.
He is fondly remembered for joking that he was giving white wine, rather than water, to players during matches.
In the early days, he also took to the pitch to play.
Mrs Taylor said: “I think the most important thing he was to anyone at the club was a mentor. He has seen people go from boy to man.”
Despite multiple attempts to nominate him for awards, Mr Herring refused as he was “very humble” and did not want to be rewarded.
However, he was given the Unsung Hero award at the Wigan and Leigh Rugby League Service Area dinner in 2011.
His death has left not just club members, but the rugby league community in mourning. More than 300 messages were left on a Facebook post announcing his death, in which the club said it had “lost its heartbeat”.
St Pat’s hopes to do something to honour Mr Herring in due course.
Mrs Taylor said: “I know the word ‘legend’ gets used an awful lot, but this man was a legend.”
It was not just Mr Herring’s devotion to the club that made him so popular to those who knew him.
“He was the nicest man you could ever wish to meet. He always had a smile on his face. He had the time of day for anybody and everybody. He was a loving, warm man,” Mrs Taylor said.
She explained that Mr Herring loved two things - rugby and his family.
He is survived by his wife Sheila, son Matt, daughter-in-law Amanda and grandchildren Josh and Lucy. Josh is a player at the club.
In a moving tribute, Matt said: “After the worst day of our lives yesterday, one filled with so much heartbreak and sadness, we lost a truly great man.
“A man who we were so lucky to have been able to call husband, dad, grandad and to many many other people a true friend. Having been involved with rugby league most of his life he became very well known for his generosity, kindness and in helping out anybody he could.”
He said he had received “countless” messages since his father’s death and thanked everyone who had been in touch.
He continued: “There are unfortunately no words to describe how immensely proud we are of what George achieved in his life something many can only dream about and something I can hold my head up high knowing he was my dad but loved by many others.”
A funeral will be held at 2pm on Friday, September 20 at St Catherine's Church in Scholes, followed by a crematorium service at Lower Ince Cemetery.
It will be followed by a celebration of Mr Herring's life at the rugby club.
His family has asked for donations, in lieu of flowers, to be made to either Wigan and Leigh Hospice or Macmillian Cancer Support.