Huge turnout to say farewell to legendary ‘Skonk’ Nicholson

2011-03-05 00:00

MEMBERS of the rugby fraternity, relatives, those who counted him as a friend and scores of Goldstone sons taught and groomed under his accomplished hand as rugby coach at Maritzburg College came from far and wide to pay their final tribute to a man they knew as a coach, teacher, role model, a man with a larger-than-life personality.

James Mervyn “Skonk” Nicholson (94) was laid to rest at a funeral service held at Maritzburg College, where he spent 38 years as a geography teacher and later deputy principal. Thirty-five of those years were spent coaching the College first rugby team.

Among the sporting greats who attended the funeral were internationally acclaimed rugby coach Ian Mac, former coach of the Natal Wildebeests Beans Bateman, former Springbok Jeremy Thomson, Test rugby referee Craig Joubert and Craig Jamieson, who captained the Natal rugby team that won the Currie Cup for the first time.

Bateman, Thomson, and Jamieson were all coached by Nicholson.

Former Maritzburg College headmaster Dudley Forde and Matthew Marwick, a member of staff at the school,and the former president of the Maritzburg College Old Boys’ Association, shared their accounts of they years they had spent with Nicholson.

All three of Nicholson’s daughters attended the service. His youngest grandchild, Karen Crouch, nearly did not make it to the funeral as she only learnt of her grandfather’s death on Wednesday while on a remote island in Cambodia.

There were several occasions for laughter during the service as speakers remembered Nicholson’s unfailingly cheerful nature and his humorous stories, gleaned from a full life spanning 94 years.

Besides being remembered for his immense knowledge of rugby, Nicholson was described as health-conscious, a Zulu linguist and a man of compassion, but with a lively sense of humour that often left him laughing long before he had reached the punchline. He was also a deep thinker and strategist with an abiding love for history.

Margaret, one of Nicholson’s daughters, described the funeral as one of the most difficult moments for the family, and her youngest sister, Ruth, summed it up with, “Our loss is heaven’s gain.”

He was a man who could walk with kings, but never lose the common touch

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