Tributes to ‘gentleman’ sportsman

FAMILY MAN ... Ralph Blakey at his 90th birthday party with his great niece and great nephew, Sophia and Seth.

FAMILY MAN ... Ralph Blakey at his 90th birthday party with his great niece and great nephew, Sophia and Seth.

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a retired doctor and dedicated golfer who has died at the age of 91.

Dr Ralph Blakey, a member of Whitburn Golf Club since 1933, passed away last week.

The 91-year-old former GP held just about every position at the club, in Lizard Lane, South Shields, over the years, including acting as secretary, captain, chairman and president.

The Sunderland-born GP had dreamed of becoming a solicitor but when his doctor father Alec became ill, he changed his A-level subjects to study the sciences, before going on to study medicine in Newcastle.

After leaving school, Dr Blakey completed a year’s national service as part of the Royal Air Force, serving in Castel Benito, Tripoli, but his service was cut short when his father died in the late 1940s.

Dr Blakey took over the Sunderland practices his father had run in High Street East, Mainsforth Terrace and Fordland Place, working in practice until the age of 65.

In addition to his passion for golf, he was a keen Sunderland supporter and cricket fan, holding season tickets for both the Black Cats as far back as 1930, and Durham County Cricket Club.

His nephew, Alan Goldman, said: “When my uncle retired he spent a lot more time at the golf club and he was obviously very passionate about it.

“He was a huge Sunderland fan and he was even friends with the son of the once manager, Johnny Cochrane.

“When they went to Wembley in 1937 he stayed with the team at the Russell Hotel, in Russell Square.

“It was his job to pour the champagne into the cup and he wasn’t even old enough to drink it - he was only 16.

“He went to every one of the team’s appearances at Wembley.”

Mr Goldman added: “He would often go to Riverside to watch the cricket as well.

“He was a creature of habit, my uncle, and he would always go to the golf club one day and the cricket another.

“His memory was tremendous, he never lost it. He would sit and tell you about test matches he’d been to in the 50s and he could tell you who’d been playing.

“He was a walking encyclopedia.”

Ian McConnell, the golf club’s current treasurer, said: “He was a total gentleman and he had a very good sense of humour - he could find the funny side of any situation.

“He always put the club first too.

“Even if he felt differently, he would do whatever was best for the club and its members.”

Dr Blakey, who leaves brother Michael, 83, and a large number of nephews and nieces, passed away on September 3.

Ralph was buried in the Jewish section of the municipal cemetery of Bishopwearmouth the following day.