DORSET & Wilts rugby is in mourning after the death of its former president Arthur Bowden in his early 90s.

Bowden contributed enormously to the development of the sport of rugby union for over 75 years.

After Army service, he first played for Salisbury in 1945 while still at school, Peterhouse College whilst at Cambridge, then for Dorset & Wilts in 1948 and also Harlequins, before injuries forced him to retire in 1952.

Bowden then became an outstanding club and county administrator, serving as chairman of Salisbury for nine years from 1966 to 1975.

He was first elected to represent Wiltshire Clubs on the Dorset & Wilts Rugby Football Union (D&W RFU) in 1966, serving as assistant secretary from 1968 to 1975 and then as an outstanding general secretary between 1975-79 and 1985-2007.

Bowden had the honour of serving two terms as president of the Twin Counties, between 1981-83 and 2005-2007 and became an honorary life vice-president of D&W RFU before retiring in 2018.

In 1990, D&W RFU were the very first constituent body of the RFU in the South West to appoint a youth development officer (YDO).

Bowden helped create a unique partnership between the RFU, South West Sports Council and several local authorities in Dorset and Wiltshire to provide core and revenue funding for a YDO to be employed to support clubs.

An additional post was created in 1996 so that clubs in both of the Twin Counties received even more support.

Despite a difference in age, he developed a close and successful working relationship for many years with successive YDOs, who eventually became rugby development officers (RDOs) when the RFU took over their funding and management.

One of Bowden’s great strengths was that he always had the willingness to accept change and move forward.

Child welfare, plus discipline on and off the rugby field, became challenging issues that required his expertise and personal skills.

As chair of the Union’s Governance Committee, he guided it expertly for many years through the new millennium.

During the Rugby World Cup held in England in 2015, Bowden led a D&W RFU Unity Project team which visited Switzerland to begin the process of supporting the growth of the game over there, as part of a twinning project backed by a joint RFU, World Rugby, FIRA and UK Sport.

It must be more than a coincidence that three of Bowden’s ex-pupils were from Bishop Wordsworth’s school, Richard Hill, an England scrum-half, captain and British Lion, England forward David Egerton plus England Rugby World Cup winner Richard Hill.

They all remember Bowden with affection and respect, not just because he taught them French, but because he also encouraged them to play rugby to the best of their ability and to respect its core values: teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship.

Many clubs will remember Bowden’s inspirational and entertaining after dinner speeches. He was a gifted, witty speaker and made many such occasions live long in the memory of those who had the privilege to be present.

Amazingly, Bowden also found the time to improve quality of life and make a difference in his local community by serving as a rotary district governor, chairman of Salisbury Round Table, chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh Award’s panel, president of the Salisbury District Sports Council, and chairman of the Salisbury/Saintes Twinning Association.

He even found time to be a visitors’ guide at Salisbury Cathedral.

Bowden would have been unable to achieve all this and become an outstanding member of the rugby family without the support of his wife Joyce who he married in 1956. They recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

The Twin Counties’ press officer Idris Martin added: “I have known Arthur for over 30 years and the phrase ‘gentleman and scholar’ is probably the best way to describe him.

“I have travelled with him in the back of Willie Wildash’s car to many Dorset and Wilts county away matches and he would keep us entertained with his tales mostly of his time that he spent in the Army and teaching future England international rugby players – one of which is World Cup winner, back-row forward Richard Hill.

“Arthur always had wicked sense of humour and made those long journeys very much more tolerable, he will be sorely missed by his family and everyone that knew him.”

Members of Arthur’s rugby family who wish to express their condolences and share their memories may write to: Mrs J Bowden, 40 Hulse Road, Salisbury, SP1 3LY.