An extremely popular figure with players, officials and supporters alike, Tudor Thomas was a central figure in the team behind the scenes for many years at Welford Road.
He was known within the club mainly as first-team secretary and as a ‘go-to’ for the players in the tradition of men like Tom Crumbie, Jerry Day and John Allen who gave stalwart service while expecting no reward in return.
But Tudor also had the visibility to supporters as the man on the matchday microphone and, for a man who could tell a good story, he became well known for the authoritative “Shhh” if noise threatened to disrupt a kick at goal by either team.
Born in Penycae in North Wales in November 1928, J Tudor Thomas moved to Leicester to take up a teaching role in 1962. His enthusiasm for his work and for helping to shape the futures of the young people around him ensured his popularity across the generations.
After swapping village school life in Wales for the city surroundings of Leicester, he soon began an association with the Tigers which stretched beyond half a century before his passing in the summer of 2018 at the age of 89.
Tigers chairman Peter Tom CBE described Thomas as “a true Tigers clubman in every sense”.
He said: “The good name of the Leicester Tigers was built on the commitment and expertise of officials who volunteered their services and worked tirelessly for the club, and Tudor was a part of that group for many years, both as team secretary and then as honorary secretary in those challenging years at the start of the professional era when he did an outstanding job.
“He was a very popular member of the team behind the scenes and a great number of players, officials and supporters will remember him fondly as much for his good humour and that unmistakable Welsh voice as for his hard work on behalf of the club.”
Tudor’s long service began as team secretary with the Swifts and then the Extras, before becoming first-team secretary in 1978 just as Tigers were establishing themselves as the Cup kings of English rugby with Chalkie White as coach and Peter Wheeler captain through an historic hat-trick of knockout wins at Twickenham.
Dean Richards was the talismanic leader of the next generation and became firm friends with the Welshman, so much so that Thomas was an usher at his wedding.
“In my early years at Welford Road, it was Tudor who took my wife, Nicky, and myself under his wing and looked after us,” Richard wrote in his 1995 autobiography. “He was always extremely hospitable to us both.
“At the club he took on loads of duties, from being match secretary to ensuring that all the kit was cleaned, ironed and ready for the next game. And he was Marje Proops of the club: if anybody had any problems, they went to Tudor, and he invariably helped them out. He was always there to talk to.”
Marjorie Proops, for supporters of a later era, was among the country's first 'agony aunts' in the national newspapers, solving problems sent in by readers.
Tudor remained in post as first-team secretary until 1993 as well as serving as club president (1993-95) and also stepped into the role of honorary secretary when the game went open (1995-97) before being awarded life membership in 2007.
The official posts, and the length of time he served in them, tell of his integrity and reliability but nothing of the warmth and the good humour that went along with them or of the breadth of work each successive role included. There were few players – past or present, friend or foe – who did not stop for a chat and a warm handshake, first in the old Nissen Hut at the Aylestone Road end and latterly in the Groundsman’s Room in the tunnel or in the Droglites Bar among old friends.
Tudor remained a regular visitor on matchdays, meeting up with old friends, and his wife Barbara also worked for many years in the club shop. It was Barbara and their sons who collected the Tigers Family Award on Tudor's behalf at an emotional Supporters Awards evening at the end of the 2018/19 season.
World Cup winners Ben Kay, Lewis Moody and Sir Clive Woodward were among the former players to pay tribute after Tudor's death in 2018.
“Tudor was ever-present at my six years with Tigers and was just a great support and help on all fronts,” said Woodward who made nearly 150 appearances for the club and led England to their World Cup win in 2003 as coach.
“Tudor was such a wonderfully colourful character to have around the club,” added Moody on social media.
Kay, a double European Cup winner with Tigers and twice World Cup finalist with England before joining the club’s board of directors, said: “No one did more to welcome my family to the Tigers.”
TV commentator Nick Mullins added his own tribute, saying: “His smile, his warmth, his voice for so long over the PA and more latterly the handshake as he sat next to us in the commentary box. Trips to Welford Road won’t be the same without Tudor.”