The rugby community have paid tribute to Arthur Bowden, an influential stalwart of the sport.

Born in Caerphilly in 1928, Arthur went to Peterhouse College, Cambridge, where he read French and Spanish after he completed his army service.

He then undertook a diploma in education at Bristol University before going on to teach at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury where he stayed for 37 years becoming Head of Languages, Bursar and Deputy Headmaster. Arthur contributed enormously to the development of the sport of rugby union for more than 75 years.

He first laced up his boots for Salisbury in 1945 while still at school, Peterhouse College whilst at Cambridge, then for Dorset & Wilts in 1948 and, also Harlequins, before injuries forced him to retire in 1952.

Arthur then became a Club and County administrator. He served as Chairman of the Salisbury Club for nine years, from 1966-1975.

He was elected to represent Wiltshire Clubs on the Dorset & Wilts Rugby Football Union in 1966, serving first as Assistant Secretary from 1968 to 1975 and then as a General Secretary between 1975-79 and 1985-2007. Arthur then served two terms as President of the Twin Counties, between 1981-83 and 2005-2007 and became an Honorary Life Vice President of D & W RFU before retiring in 2017.

Wilton Rotary are saddened to share the passing of our founder and life President Rotarian Arthur Bowden. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joyce at this difficult time.

Posted by Wilton Rotary - UK on Saturday, 2 January 2021

In 1990 Dorset & Wilts RFU were the very first constituent body of the RFU in the South West to appoint a Youth Development Officer (YDO). Arthur helped create a unique partnership between the RFU, South West Sports Council and several local authorities in Dorset and Wiltshire to provide core and revenue funding for a YDO to be employed to support clubs. An additional post was created in 1996 so that Clubs in both of the Twin Counties received even more support. Despite a difference in age, he developed a close and successful working relationship for many years with successive YDOs, who eventually became Rugby Development Officers (RDOs) when the RFU took over their funding and management.

The Twin Counties press officer Idris Martin said: " I have known Arthur for over 30 years and the phrase Gentleman and Scholar is probably the best way to describe him. I have travelled with him in the back of Willie Wildash's car to many Dorset and Wilts county away matches and he would keep us entertained with his tales mostly of his time that he spent in the army and teaching future England International rugby players one of which is World Cup winner, back row forward Richard Hill".

"Arthur always had wicked sense of humour and made those long journeys very much more tolerable, he will be sorely missed by his family and everyone that knew him". 

Chippenham RFC are saddened to hear the death of Arthur Bowden, a true legend of Dorset & Wiltshire Rugby. A full statement has been posted on the CRFC website and our thoughts go out to the rugby family.

Posted by Chippenham Rugby Club on Sunday, 3 January 2021

One of Arthur’s great strengths, as remembered by his friends and colleagues, was that he always had the willingness to accept change and move forward. Child welfare, discipline, on and off the rugby field, became challenging issues that required his expertise and personal skills.

During the Rugby World Cup held in England in 2015 Arthur led a Dorset & Wilts RFU Unity Project team which visited Switzerland to begin the process of supporting the growth of the game over there, as part of a twinning project backed by a joint RFU, World Rugby, FIRA, and UK Sport programme.

Many clubs will remember Arthur’s inspirational and entertaining after dinner speeches. He was gifted, witty speaker and made many such occasions live long in the memory of those who had the privilege to be present.

Arthur Bowden passed away on Friday after a very brief stay in Salisbury District Hospital. As some of you will know,...

Posted by Salisbury Rugby Club on Sunday, 3 January 2021

Amazingly, Arthur also found the time to improve quality of life and make a difference in his local community by serving as a Rotary District Governor, Chairman of Salisbury Round Table, Chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh Award’s panel, President of the Salisbury District Sports Council, and Chairman of the Salisbury/Saintes Twinning Association. He even found time to be a visitors’ guide at Salisbury Cathedral.

Arthur was supported during his rugby career by his beloved wife Joyce, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. The paid married in 1956. Members of Arthur’s "Rugby Family" who wish to express their condolences may write to: Mrs J Bowden, 40 Hulse Road, Salisbury SP1 3LY