The couple of hundred people who turned out at Waltonwrays crematorium in Skipton on Friday to say farewell to Gordon Thomas was testament to the impact he had on their lives.

So many had been inspired by his teaching, encouraged by his writing and grateful for his years of support for Wharfedale Rugby Union club, that the service had to be relayed outside.

Mr Thomas died on August 20 in Airedale General Hospital, aged 72, where he had been re-admitted after recovering from a neurological condition which struck him at Christmas last year and which later was diagnosed as lymphoma.

Among tributes which have poured in is one from author and poet, Blake Morrison, who was taught by Mr Thomas at Ermysted’s Grammar School.

He said: “I remember Gordon arriving at Ermysted’s, full of energy and enthusiasm – for sport as well as for literature. He made English Literature seem a living thing, full of relevance and excitement, not something ancient and remote. I’m sure Gordon went on enthusing and awakening other pupils, long after my time at Ermysted’s.

“Those of us lucky enough to have been taught by him will always remember him for his wit, intelligence, irony and humour. He’ll be sadly missed.”

Mr Thomas, who leaves a daughter Paula, sons Carl and Glen, grandchildren Emma, Matthew, Connie and Cora and his confidante, Pauline Eyre, arrived at Ermysted’s in 1968 where, as well as teaching English, he became legendary for coaching boys at rugby and cricket. He became head of the sixth form in 1989.

He cared devotedly for his late wife Monica when she became ill with cancer and after leaving Ermysted’s he went on to teach mature students at Craven College.

He was a supporter and member of Wharfedale Rugby Union Club for 45 years, worked as a coach of the first team and was a member of the general committee and latterly, press officer.

Club rugby director, Michael Harrison, said there had been a minute’s silence in memory of Gordon at the club’s game against Otley.

He said: “Gordon was a loyal member of the club and well informed about rugby, with many connections in the game and, as a Welshman, was a product of the traditions of Welsh rugby. He was a very knowledgeable critic of the game and was on the selection committee for a long time.”

Gordon’s daughter Paula has set up an online tribute to her father to raise cash for Vasculitis UK, an organisation which works to improve the recognition and diagnosis of the disease.

She said: “Our donations mean that next time someone calls them up, desperate and frightened like I was, they will be there to pick up the phone.”

People are asked please to donate at GordonDelmeThomas. They are also invited to share their memories of Gordon at