“IF you wanted anybody in a party going anywhere, you wanted him."

From his eight years playing for York RUFC to organising tours for the nomadic York Unicorns and welcoming patrons to his pubs in later years, family and friends are not short of warm words for Don Butler, who passed away last week from Covid-19.

Described as an "all-round good egg" by the Clifton Park side's head of communications Rob Long, Don's warmth and humour has been heralded by many in an online remembrance book, which can be accessed through York's website.

A long-time team-mate and current York fixtures secretary Allan Robertshaw - who played with Don at York, worked with him at the Unicorns and enjoyed a drink at the Cock & Bottle, where Don was landlord for 12 years - told The Press: “If you wanted anybody in a party going anywhere, you wanted him - he knew all the songs and he was a great singer of Eskimo Nell.

"He was the main man if there was any singing.

“He was always laughing, always full of fun."

Don's playing time as a blind-side wing-forward at York was cut short by injury, struggling to play beyond the age of 29, but his association with the club remained until recently, when he 'retired' after 68 years as a volunteer.

A life member of the club since 1976, he most recently held the post of vice presidents & life members co-ordinator.

Outside of rugby union, Don ran Gate Antiques in York and was the landlord at the Golden Ball before going on to the Cock & Bottle. As landlord at the Cock & Bottle pub, he formed the Cock & Bottle cricket team which played in the York evening league.

“That was the place to go for a drink if you wanted to meet other sportsmen," said Allan.

As a schoolboy, he attended Manor School when it was located in Priory Lane, at the top of Micklegate. He joined a youth club before he went into the RAF, where he was a physical education instructor.

After leaving the RAF in 1954, he joined York RUFC, where he played until 1962.

“He had a lot of injuries," Allan commented. "He broke his leg twice and he broke a bone in his back on tour in Luton. He spent a lot of time in hospital there. Back in York, he got a bed in an antiques shop, where he had to stay downstairs. 0He never recovered from that as a player.”

By the early 1960s, Don had the Unicorns - a representative team made up of players from places including Hull, Selby and the West Riding - back up and running. They tended to play in midweek, which suited Don as he worked on Saturdays at the antiques shop.

He organised Unicorns tours to America, Jersey and the Isle of Man.“They’re not easy to plan," said Allan of the tours. "We went on one nearly every year.

“He judged the opposition and if he knew they were playing a good side, he would put one of his best sides out. He usually got it right."

Don passed away at 6am at York District Hospital on Thursday, January 14.

Funeral details on the York website read: "Those wanting to pay their respects should gather in the Clifton Park car park, socially-distanced, at 12.40pm on Tuesday, February 2. If you are 'gathered' in a car, please honk your horn inappropriately!

"The cortege will proceed to the crematorium for a 1pm funeral, where strict numbers apply."