David Shaer 1946-2021
Since Dave’s death on Thursday 8 April, after a sudden heart attack by Chalkwell Park, my e-mail in box has been deluged with notes of commiseration and sympathy from all sections of the club brethren, old and young. Dave was, without doubt, not only an outstanding club servant but a man who was also revered in many other walks of life, almost too many to mention.
Dave was the eldest of five children – his father Albert, or AK as he was affectionately known, was a formidable inhabitant of the Southend community, despite being an Old Southendian, rather than an old Westcliffian. Albert, who was renowned for an exceptional speech at a particularly-rowdy Players’ dinner at the Holywood function suite in Thundersley, was an irascible and impatient man, who failed to suffer fools gladly. Dave and his younger brother Jon, who also represented the club with distinction as a more-than-useful scrum half in the seventies, were diametrically opposite, but one thing that AK and Dave had in common was the fashion in which they were revered by those lucky enough to have met them.
Dave joined OWRFC in the mid-sixties, directly after leaving the school – indeed thanks to the influence of Jim Harrison he was one of many senior boys who was called into action on a Saturday afternoon, after having first played for the school in the morning. Dave was at all times a man of great self-deprecation, but gave himself up fully to the phenomenon known as Old Westcliffians Rugby Football Club. A useful scrum-half / full-back, Dave spent most of his time in the A XV, which he was to skipper for a number of years.
Off the field, Dave served in a variety of roles at 1008 London Road – he was secretary of the club, which lamentably was not duly recorded on the honours board, treasurer and bar chairman. Dave was a qualified chartered accountant, having worked for several years at Goldwyns, under the iron rule of John Bermon, and enjoyed a varied and successful career in a number of jobs in the City and London generally, in particular showing a profound understanding of computer systems, a definite advantage in the infancy of the said medium.
It is said that retirement should bring relaxation – instead Dave probably worked harder post-retirement age than he had done before. He was a member of the Southend Arts Council, a founding member of the Writers’ Club, auditor for the OWCC, 500 Club organiser at WRFC and most recently secretary of the Iveagh Hall Conservative Club, which he rescued from a state of near-collapse into a viable establishment.
Dave was a fluent French speaker, and with his second wife Marjorie invested in an ancient property in Rollancourt, not far from Calais, which was a holiday home where several club members were privileged to enjoy their hospitality. Dave met several of the locals during this time, including one Paul Glacon of Fressin, who was to be chief distributor of the sumptuous wines which were enjoyed at the Summer Balls which the club enjoyed in the nineties.
Dave was, like his father, an astonishingly-entertaining raconteur, and would often mesmerise comrades with his reminiscences. The French connection was to expand, with several Anglo-French weekends, both at Twickenham and in Paris, being unforgettable experiences for those fortunate enough to be present.
Dave lost his beloved wife Marjorie after a long illness in 2014, but found solace in Barbara, a nurse at Fair Havens, who had tended Marjorie in her last illness and was soon to become the love of his life.
Dave’s favourite phrase was “Sorry” – he never ever thought of himself – maybe on a selfish day he would think of himself last. There was nothing he would not do for others – he was resolute in his desire to help others and went beyond the required mile frequently, while never giving a fig for the stress that he was perhaps piling upon himself. Dave loved being in the company of people – preferably with a glass in hand. The happiness of those with whom he mixed was to him the ultimate goal. Dave was an ever-present at league lunches, both home and away, and his charm when being requested to entertain visiting club committees endeared him to many, while at the same time doing the PR of WRFC many favours.
Dave possessed one of the sharpest brains that I have encountered, even if befogged from time to time by the course of the evening’s events. His organisatorial skills were second to none, and it is impossible to over-estimate his contribution, primarily to WRFC, but to all the other entities mentioned above.
Dave – you have been selfish just once. You have gone without giving us the chance to tell you just how much you meant to us. We will forgive you just this once.
Written by: Nick Crowe