Popular 'father figure' ex-Walcot Boys' Club leader dies
Tributes have poured in for a Swindon boys' club leader who has died aged 90.
Brian Bennett, who worked in Swindon for 15 years, led the Walcot Boys' Club from 1961 to 1974 and the Bristol Boys' Club from 1974 until he retired in 1995. He died on February 4.
Brian was a popular figure with generations of former club members and many have expressed their sadness at the news. He has been credited with shaping the lives of 'old boys' who spent almost all of their free time at the clubs as youths and has been described as a 'father figure'.
Brian was offered an OBE or MBE for his work with children but he turned the honours down.
His nephew Simon Bennett said: “My uncle is a no-fuss person and refused it because he didn’t do it for self-gain. He said he did it for the kids."
The clubs were open to boys aged 11 to 18 as a way of diverting their energies into sports including football, table tennis and badminton and other constructive activities.
Malcolm King, who was a member of the Walcot club, said: "If you had the chance to meet Brian then you were blessed to experience a man whose warmth and kindness and selfless actions touched your life and guided you in the right direction."
Another member Jeff Youd said: "Such sad news. He actually shaped a lot of young lives, especially when many of us where born at a time when we had very little. He gave that thing that money cannot buy called time."
A further added: "Such a kind and giving man, he certainly made a mark on my life and many, many others."
"Brian was an amazing man. Words can't describe a man who put everyone else first and would do anything in his power to help others," his nephew Simon said.
"He pushed young lads such as myself and hundreds of others towards their goals and helped them succeed.
"He was a massive family man and just an all-round great guy. Anyone you speak to that knew him would say the same."
One of Simon's favourite anecdotes about his uncle's time at the clubs is from when he drove one of the members to a job interview because the boy didn't have the money to get there himself.
Brian was born in Bristol in 1931 and lived through the Second World War as a boy. Brian and his two brothers David and Roy lived in a heavily bombed area so the building ruins became their playground.
He was evacuated to Gloucestershire for 18 months at the height of the war between 1940 and 1942.
He joined the RAF in 1949 as a leading aircraftman before leading the clubs from 1961.
When he retired in 1995, he enjoyed watching more cricket and ended up moving to Seaton with his wife Amanda to be by the sea.
Amanda has described him as her "best friend" and added: "He truly was an amazing man and spoke often and with great affection about his time running the clubs. He was so fond of you all and looked back with great happiness at those days."
His funeral takes place at St Gregory's Church in Seaton on February 28 and 'old boys' from the clubs are welcome.