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Obituary: Bryan Long

Bristol Bears regret to announce the death of former player Bryan Long. A prop or hooker, he played 35 games for the first team, scoring four tries and kicking one penalty.

Bryan Austin Long was educated at Bristol Grammar School and made his Bristol United debut early in the 1956-57 season. He played 19 games for the United during the season, and also broke into the first team, playing 16 matches in what was a highly successful season for the club. Under the captaincy of second row Dick Hawkes the team lost only nine games, and when Bristol travelled to Coundon Road, Coventry, on April 27th 1957 they needed one victory and three points to set new club records for a season. Despite preferring to play at hooker, Bryan was selected as a prop for this game. “Bristol coached me to play at prop so I could spread my skills,” he later recalled. “I hated it at first, but I got used to it.”

That afternoon in Coventry Bryan had to prop against future Engalnd captain Phil Judd. As Bryan remembered, “he didn’t smile, he didn’t grimace, he just got on with his scrummaging. It was a warm day, the pitch was dry and the scrum didn’t move all afternoon.” However, Bryan finished on the winning side as Bristol broke both their sought-after records, and to crown a special day in his career he scored Bristol’s only try. At the end of the season he was awarded his Bristol United cap.

Bryan Long made a further eleven first team appearances in 1957-58 and played his final eight the following season. In all he played 55 times for Bristol United, scoring eleven tries. During this time in club’s history Bristol played an annual unofficial fundraising fixture against Rex Willis’s International XV, and in the 1958 match Bryan played for the visitors at short notice when Ray Prosser of Pontypool and Wales withdrew from the side. Bryan had arrived at the game as a spectator and had to borrow some boots off No.8 Gordon Cripps. They were size eleven, and he had to stuff socks in them at half time as they were too large for him.

After his playing days were over, Bryan assisted the Gloucestershire Rugby Union for many years, getting particularly involved in Colts rugby. His son Matt, another prop, played for Newcastle, Moseley and Birmingham & Solihull, and Bryan became closely involved at the latter club. He served on the club’s management committee for many years and was made an Honorary Life Member.   

A service of thanksgiving for Bryan’s life will be held at The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Lea, Ross-on-Wye at 10:15 am on Friday November 22nd. His family have requested that those attending wear something colourful and/or rugby ties. There will be a committal for family and close friends after the service, and all are invited to a reception at The Speech House Hotel, Coleford. All at Bristol Bears send their sincere sympathy to Bryan’s family at this sad time.