A WHARFEDALE stalwart has retired after serving invitational rugby side Barbarians for over 15 years.

Grassington resident Gordon Brown, 76, retired from the Barbarians committee, having served 10 years as honourary treasurer and five years as honourary secretary.

Brown got involved with the club through fellow Wharfedale colleague and former Barbarians player John Spencer, who is chairman of the Barbarians.

"I said yes straight away," said Brown. "Who wouldn't? It's the most famous rugby club in the world.

"I was brought in because of my background in finance," said Brown. "I made one or two proposals on how to incorporate the club and make it a charity."

Brown, a retired merchant banker and former president of the Manchester Society of Chartered Accountants, had similar experience of advising Yorkshire RUFC and Wharfedale RUFC, where he also served as both treasurer and secretary.

He said: "The Barbarians had been around since 1890, but the club had become big business."

The Barbarians, nicknamed the Baa-Baas, are an invitational rugby union side based in Britain, but over the years they have featured players from 31 countries.

They traditionally play about six matches a year, primarily in England but Brown said since he has been there the Barbarians have had tours take them to Australia, South Africa, Belgium, France, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Georgia and Tunisia.

"It was a pleasure having met great players like George Smith and Matt Giteau (both of Australia) and Bryan Habana and "The Beast" Tendai Mtawarira (both of South Africa)," said Brown: "The first meeting I went to had famous players like Derek Quinnell (Wales), Micky Steele-Bodger (England), Jeff Probyn (England) and John Jeffrey (Scotland).

"Every single one them is nice bloke," said Brown, who added: "And no matter how famous they are, they all want to wear a Barbarians shirt."

The Barbarians play in black and white hoops, though players wear the socks from their own club strip.

With this mind, Brown has always been prepared and had an extra pair of Wharfedale socks, just in case the players forgot their club socks.

Brown recalled: "The Beast, Matt Giteau and George Smith all wore the green socks when they took the pitch."

Gordon, who stepped from the committee at the same time as Quinnell, said it was pleasure to serve with the Barbarians.

"It's been such an honour," he said. "In terms of rugby, I can hardly think of anything better. But it's they should have a younger man doing it.

"I was presented with a signed shirt by the players that said 'To Gordon. Thanks for the memories.' It was rather touching."