TRIBUTES have been paid to Paul “Sammy” Handy, who has been described as “the life and soul” of Malvern Rugby Club.

Mr Handy, who died in hospital on Sunday, March 3, was a former player, who, when his playing days were over, became the club’s sponge-and-bucket man, becoming known to all as Sammy the Sponge.

Mr Handy was employed at Morgan Motor Company for most of his working life.

And his involvement with the rugby club similarly extended over many years.

Peter Woods, of the club, said: “Sammy played for the club during the 1970s and 1980s until he had to stop for heath reasons.

“He was the hooker. He was only about five feet eleven, if that, and he used to hang off the shoulders of the props.

“After he stopped playing, he became the sponge-and-bucket man and he’d be there with the sponge and cold water whenever he was needed. These were the days before we had our own physiotherapists.”

Mr Woods said that one of the high points of his career was when the club played the final of the Pilkington Shield.

“When he came on to the pitch during the match, there were about 3,000 Malvern fans chanting ‘Sammy, Sammy, Sammy.’ It was one of the great moments of his life. He was really pleased with that.”

He said that Mr Handy was a familiar figure around Malvern, especially in the Link.

“He was the life and soul of the rugby club, and one of the most sociable people I’ve ever met.

“No-one had a bad word to say about him, and everybody loved his company. He loved railways and, after he retired, he used to take the train to all sorts of places.

“I often met him as he was setting off on one of his journeys and he would tell me with great delight of his journey plans for the day.”

A celebration of Mr Handy’s life is being held on Friday, April 5, at 12.30pm, at St Matthias Church, Church Road, Malvern Link, and all are welcome.