London Welsh regrets to announce the passing of Ernest Brian Williams.

Ernest Brian Williams 1930 – 2021

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Ernie/Taffy Williams. Ernie was Chairman of London Welsh from 1993 – 1996 just as rugby was turning professional.

Wales and rugby were two themes that dominated Ernie’s long and adventurous life. Born in Skewen in 1930, aged 17 he played hooker for Swansea First XV. He left Wales at the age of 21 for East Africa to shoot wild game, something he later regretted. So began a nomadic life living and working all around the world, largely in Africa and the Far East. He was always a proud Welshman wherever he went and never lost his Welsh accent despite never living in Wales again. 

In 1954, Ernie played for East Africa against visiting teams. By this time he was working as a surveyor for East African Railways building the line that was hopefully to run from Cairo to Cape Town. During a short stint back in England, Ernie combined playing rugby with being a society referee, coaching at a reform school, having a family and pursuing a career in pharmaceuticals. He and his young family then moved to Karachi where the rugby pitch was on the mud flats and had to be marked out each time afresh. I’m not sure there were any goal posts! Somehow he managed to get a shipment of laverbread flown in for St David’s day by some friendly BOAC crew. 

Next stop was Johannesburg. Ever the hospitable Welshman, he was fortunate enough to host many of the 1974 ‘Invincible’ Lions team at his home. In Johannesburg, Ernie answered an advert for free flying taster sessions. He got his private pilot’s licence, then his commercial licence and became Chairman of the local flying club. He would then fly himself on business trips to the likes of Angola and Mozambique, thereby killing two birds with one stone and keeping his flying hours up! He served on the board of the South African committee investigating air crashes and safety.

And then to Hong Kong. By this time, Ernie was managing director for the Far East for American Cyanamid, an agrochemical multinational for whom he travelled extensively in the region.  Ernie was involved in negotiations to build a factory in China, a trailblazing adventure at the time. He continued refereeing and had the dubious accolade of being the only ref to break his leg during a game when the scrum fell on it! Ernie was also a supporter of the inaugural HK Sevens Tournament in 1976, which has now grown into probably the most prestigious Sevens tournaments in the world. He also served as the chairman of the Welsh Society in Hong Kong.

Ernie and his wife, Lorna, retired to UK in 1987. They built a house on the river at Chertsey. Ernie was involved with the local Conservative business group and devoted much of his time to creating a beautiful garden. He and Lorna then moved to Cobham. Lorna predeceased him in 2012.

Ernie had 5 children, 16 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren who will all miss his humour and love enormously.

Our deepest condolences go out to all of Ernests family and Friends

If anyone reading this knew Ernie and would like to attend, Ernie is having a service of Thanksgiving on Wednesday 8th September at 3.30pm at Cobham United Church, 38 Stoke Road, Cobham, KT11 3BD and afterwards at his home in Cobham.