North Midlands RFU president Paul Kaminski has led the tributes to retired referee John Burgum, one of the leading officials in the country in the 1960s, who died on October 1, aged 86.

John spent 36 years as a referee, all but seven of them of them on the RFU County panel, and then served the North Midlands Society of Rugby Football Referees for 25 years as secretary and was made an honorary life member when he retired in 2001.

Kaminski extended the union’s condolences to John’s bereaved son Jeremy and daughter Claire: “The rugby community and that of North Midlands in particular will be deeply saddened by the death of John Burgum.

“Older referees, players and administrators will recall his long, distinguished and significant refereeing and touch judge career, whilst those of a later era will be grateful for the coaching and mentoring of many an up-and-coming referee.

“John proved a faultless administrator, providing and supporting the structure essential for the smooth running of a foremost refereeing body.”

He returned to Birmingham from Exeter University in 1947 and enjoyed a long and successful career as a referee, which included taking charge of the North East v All Blacks match at Harrogate in 1963.

He was also appointed touch judge for a France v England Five Nations in match in Paris, officiated in 36 county matches and was mentor to Steve Guy, immediate past president of North Mids and himself a former referee.

“I first met John Burgum when I joined the Referees’ Society in the early 70s, me the rebellious young referee, he the exact opposite,” Guy recalled.

“It was a clash of cultures, he did not suffer fools gladly and was never afraid to voice his displeasure if his standards were not met.

“I became Chairman of the Society with John as my secretary. It was only over this period of time that I fully appreciated his work

“He was tireless in his efforts to support and improve refereeing in North Midlands. I met John on many occasions in his later years.”

* The funeral takes place at St Francis Church, Bournville on October 20 at 2pm, followed by a private cremation. Family flowers only but donations can be made to Help for Heroes.