This is a message on behalf of Avon Rugby Football Club from the city of Bath in the south west of England.
We had the privilege of Bruce Bowie playing for us towards the end of the 1980s. Passing through Bath on his European travels in 1987, we were fortunate that one of our members bumped into Bruce in town and persuaded him and his travelling companion, Guy Raleigh, to join Avon. Even more fortunate for us, was the fact that what started out as a few matches, turned into almost two years as Bruce enjoyed himself so much at Avon.
At that stage, we were near the bottom tier of the South West leagues and Bruce could undoubtedly have played for a bigger club as we soon discovered his impressive rugby skills in our 1st team back row. It also wasn’t long before our unsuspecting opponents also learned to fear our secret weapon from New Zealand!
As well as his determined commitment, his ruthless tackling and his non-stop action play, Bruce also entered whole-heartedly into Avon’s renowned social side, fully enjoying the after-match activities off the field as well – particularly when he discovered the dubious delights of the local Natural Dry Cider, more commonly known as “Natch”
Bruce became a close friend to many of us at Avon through his strong personality and developed personal relationships which have lasted over many years and thousands of miles. Several of his friends from Avon subsequently had the opportunity to visit Bruce in New Zealand, where he hosted us in style at the farm in Pongaroa and where we forged many new happy memories. He also returned to Bath for a few holidays over the years and resurrected old friendships here with his former Avon friends.
Eventually, Bruce realised that he needed to return home to New Zealand and do some real work on the farm but, before he left in 1989, he wanted to do something for Avon to commemorate his time with us. This resulted in him donating a trophy to the Club, known as the “Kiwi Cup” which was to be awarded for “Special Services” to Avon RFC. This trophy has been proudly presented to a series of worthy Avon men and women over the past 29 years and will continue to be an endless tribute to Bruce from Avon in the years to come.
We are also privileged that he donated some of his rugby shirts to us. Proudly displayed in our clubhouse are shirts from Puketoi and Wairarapa Bush, alongside the shirts he obtained from France and England B whilst playing representative rugby against those nations. Also displayed is a Puketoi team photo, from where Bruce can look down on us drinking at the bar.
Although his stay at Avon was relatively short, his impact on and off the field was immense. Whilst we can’t offer our condolences in person to his family and friends in New Zealand, we can keep and treasure the wonderful memories of a great rugby man and a tremendous friend whose legacy will live on at Avon RFC.