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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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Maryport mourns rugby player who died in Eastbourne Pier fall

The death of Maryport man Stephen Penrice has stunned the close-knit community where he was well known as a rugby player and member of the Netherhall club.

Tributes were posted on the club’s Facebook page soon after news broke of Mr Penrice’s tragic fall from the pier at Eastbourne on Tuesday.

The 44-year-old was working on the fire-damaged pier for Maryport firm MP Marine.

He had a passion for rugby and played for Netherhall Rugby Club for many years.

John Shimmings, 66, club chairman, said the club was planning a memorial to Mr Penrice, known as Penny.

He said: “At the moment we are all still in shock. Penny was a loyal member of the club for many years.

“Even when he was away he’d come in at weekends.

“He liked a flutter. Just recently he put a bet on who would score the first try in some international game or the other.

“He won and put money on who would score the first try in the second half and won again.

“Next thing he was coming away from the bar with two tray-loads of drinks for everyone. That’s what he was like, so generous and so happy.

“He had the biggest smile in the north of England.

“He was small for a No 8 but still played on into his senior years.

“He retired from the game about five or six years ago but we would call him back when we needed him to fill a place.”

He showed early potential as a rugby player, captaining the Netherhall under-17 and under-18 teams and representing the county at junior level.

He also played alongside current England rugby union head coach Stuart Lancaster at Netherhall.

John Pickering, 64, of Grasslot, Maryport, knew Mr Penrice for 27 years and was his coach at Netherhall from under-17 to under-21 level.

He said: “He was one of those lads who you would tell to do something and he would do it without any argument.

“He was a fantastic rugby players. If he had been a foot taller he would have played for England, he was that good.

“He was a fantastic guy and always had a smile on his face. He was good company. A good lad to knock about with.”

Colin Martin, one of Mr Penrice’s friends, took the photograph of him that has been used in media tributes to him this week.

Mr Martin said: “I bought a new camera and tried it out on him during the last carnival day in July. We were just fooling around at the club. I am glad I have that picture.

“I don’t know anyone who would say a bad word about him.”

Shaun Scholey, 47, of Skiddaw Avenue, Maryport, knew Mr Penrice when they were growing up and played rugby with him for several years.

He said: “He was a great friend and a true gentleman and will be sorely missed.”

Neighbour Ryan Winthrop, 45, of Sandy Lonning, said his wife Susan went to school with Mr Penrice at Crosscanonby St John’s Primary School and Netherhall School.

Mr Winthrop said: “He was a gentle giant and everybody knew him.”

Another neighbour Lorraine McClusky, 56, said: “He was a lovely man and they are a lovely family. He was a gentle giant. He got along with everybody he met.”

Philip Cueto, owner of The Golden Lion Hotel in Maryport, where Mr Penrice was a regular, saw him on Saturday.

He said: “He was faultless. He never had a bad word to say about anybody. He always had a smile on his face. If you wanted someone to do something, Penny would just do it.”

Mr Penrice’s uncle, Robert Maxwell, said: “My wife and I were on holiday in Tenerife with him and his partner Shannon just two months ago. He went there often. He had a timeshare at one stage. We enjoyed his company.

“He is going to be very much missed. I don’t think it has sunk in yet.”

Have your say

God Bless Penny and His Family, in a Town like Maryport everybody knew Him for what He was, simply a nice Lad & a true Gent, although not a close Friend of mine I, like many others, liked Him for what He was, like Him I also work away & rather ironically, & sadly, the last time I saw Him was @ Blackpool last year, I was with My Grandchildren & He was having a Tea break on the South Pier ( He was working there ) in true Penny style He came over for a crack and bought the Teas, type of Lad He was, He will be sadly missed by All, God Bless you Stephen.

Posted by Kevin Winn on 22 August 2014 at 17:52

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