'Mr Yarnbury' leads Horsforth team onto the Twickenham turf

Wharfedale Observer: Raymond Johnson (with hat) leads out the side at Twickenham on his special day Raymond Johnson (with hat) leads out the side at Twickenham on his special day

A lifetime’s dedication to rugby was recognised when a Horsforth man proudly led his team out at Twickenham.

Yarnbury emeritus president Raymond Johnson, 86, was given the honour to thank him for more than 50 years’ service to the club.

Mr Johnson, who joined the Horsforth club in 1951, was president for more than 30 years and played until he was 75. Committee member John Rawson said: “He has dedicated his life to Yarnbury and is loved by one and all.”

He said the club committee had arranged for Mr Johnson to lead his team on to the hallowed pitch.

“Everybody felt he deserved it,” he said. “We have never been to Twickenham before. It was a fantastic day and quite emotional to see Raymond do this. He was as proud as punch.” Yarnbury president David Hornby said: “The RFU gave him special dispensation to lead the team out. They don’t normally do that.

“They looked after him really well and he had a fantastic day.”

Mr Johnson was making his second visit to Twickenham in recent years. In 2013 he was an official guest of the RFU for England's Six Nations game with France in recognbition of being the longest serving club president in Britain. He said: “I sat next to the French RFU president and practised my French beforehand, only to find he spoke perfect English.”

Reflecting on last Sunday's game he said he had been “immensely proud” to have led his club out at Twickenham.

“For junior clubs like ours things like playing at Twickenham only come round once in a hundred years. To lead the team out was wonderful.

“Over the past two years I have gone downhill a little and struggle to walk but I managed it on Sunday.”

The former business consultant is justifiably known as Mr Yarnbury. He was the man who gave the club their motto of Omnes adferamus – which means let everyone contribute.

Raymond certainly has. He founded the club’s colts section in 1962, something he describes as the lifeblood of the club, and has done much to improve its facilities.

He single-handedly dug out the foundations for the extension to their clubhouse, raised the money they needed to buy the land required for extra pitches and planted trees around the Brownberrie Land ground.

Mr Johnson wasn’t the oldest person from the club at Twickenham – also present was 88-year-old John Shay, the oldest surving Yarnbury player.

Sadly, Yarnbury were beaten 20-13 by Gloucester side Newent in the final of the RFU Senior Vase.

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