Tributes have poured in following the death of John Shimmings, a rugby stalwart in both disciplines and the heart of the Netherhall Rugby Club.

If there is one abiding sentiment in the many tributes that have been paid on social media it is that Mr Shimmings, 73, will be remembered as “a true gentleman”.

Born in Grasslot, Mr Shimmings was devoted to his home town and to the game of rugby.

He played rugby union in Maryport before transferring to league, where he played professionally for Whitehaven in the 1960s and ’70s, making 173 appearances.

He is also remembered in Whitehaven for his fundraising efforts.

He returned to Maryport at the end of his playing career and has been chairman of the Netherhall Rugby Union Club for the past 20 years or more.

As one friend said: "He earned the title Mr Netherhall.”

He was a coach in his earlier years and throughout his time in Maryport supported the club with all his heart.

But there was room left, too, for other charitable pursuits – and that was more than going around with a begging bowl.

Edna, his wife of nearly 52 years, said she especially remembered how he would put on shows to raise money for anyone chosen to represent Maryport on the world stage of sport.

A tribute from Netherhall Club talked about his enthusiasm.

That extended to the Maryport carnivals where he would help build floats, dress up on the day and join in wherever needed.

That is the other running tribute – he was always there to lend a hand.

Mrs Shimmings, who is from Dearham, said she met her future husband at Ada’s cafe in Maryport.

He has always had the nickname “Yoit”.

“I didn’t even know his real name and when I told my mother I was meeting a boy called Yoit she was not very fussed on the name!”

When he was not doing something involved in rugby, Mr Shimmings was a sociable man who enjoyed a drink at the club and a bet on the horses.

He also loved his holidays abroad.

He was also a family man, proud of his daughters Joanne and Louise and grandchildren Sean, Greg, Holly and Danny.

Mr Shimmings, who worked as a joiner, eventually setting up his own business, died early on Saturday morning after a battle with asbestosis.

Funeral arrangements are still being organised.