Vale Alan “Alby” Taylor

Sun, Mar 24, 2024, 7:23 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Alby Taylor at a presentation of the Hammond-Taylor Shield with former Wests captain Jeremiah Lynch.
Alby Taylor at a presentation of the Hammond-Taylor Shield with former Wests captain Jeremiah Lynch.

It says much about his unquenchable service to rugby that Alan “Alby” Taylor was a Life Member of both GPS and Wests clubs as well as the Queensland Rugby Union.

Being a foundation player at Wests, a Club President at GPS, a juniors coach, a referee, a willing doer on committees and a proud spectator on the sidelines watching his great grandsons take up the game meant he contributed in every corner of the game.

It is a merely a snapshot of all that the highly-respected figure gave to the code and why so many in the rugby community felt his loss on Friday when he died at 91.

He passed away peacefully in hospital surrounded by Margaret, his wife of 61 years, and family.

It says much of his humble manner that he rarely put OAM near his name despite the honour of being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia. As full a life as he had in rugby, the OAM was more for his “meritorious service to society.”

He was the State Auditor for the St Vincent de Paul Society for some 30 years amongst his many roles and was still delivering Meals on Wheels to the needy into his 70s.

It led him to once quip: “I was delivering meals to people younger than myself today.” “A saying from dad has always stuck with me, ‘If life has given you something, always remember to give back’. That’s how he lived his life,” son Michael said.

“To hear and read comments about how much he was respected and how much of a gentleman he was is a great comfort at a time like this.”

Taylor’s love of rugby first flared in the late 1940s when a student at Marist College Ashgrove under Brother Cyprian, the Kiwi principal who replaced rugby league with his preferred code. Taylor was just 18 when he joined Wests for their inaugural 1951 season when they ran teams in third and fourth grade and called “The Flats” at Marist their first home field.

Best friend and teammate Alan “Wally” Hammond would 50 years later pen a description of the Wests’ “Originals.”

Of Taylor, he wrote: “Gangling second-rower. Noted for doing inadvertent damage to opposition.”

Taylor played 15 seasons for Wests and rarely above 87kg in the engine room. Unfortunately, recordkeeping was too hit-and-miss to count more than 61 first grade games between 1961-66. He played many more in the seasons before that which were not recorded. He played more than 200 across the grades from 18 to 34.

As a chartered accountant, he was in demand and also a good fit when player-Treasurer (1958-63) at Wests during the club’s pivotal shift to set up home at Toowong Memorial Park in 1961.

He also served as QRU Treasurer (1962-65). He was made a Life Member of Wests in 1971 but his service to the game still had decades to run. He was a long-time figure on the QRU judiciary and served on numerous committees.

The QRU will acknowledge Taylor’s service to rugby at Saturday’s Queensland Reds match against the ACT Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium.

Rugby even helped in courtship. Taylor met his wife-to-be at a dance while on a club rugby tour to Toowoomba. He and Hammond married sisters.

It’s why the Hammond-Taylor Shield always held such a special place for him when contested between Wests and GPS. Both Taylor and Hammond became important forces in the juniors club at GPS after the first Ashgrove Emus junior teams were aligned to Wests in the mid-60s.

Taylor served as Club President (1987-89) and Treasurer (1996) at GPS Rugby Club, helped raise seven kids and still had time to be President of the Queensland Rugby Referees’ Association (1983-84).

It’s family folklore that Taylor was watching a game at Ballymore when Margaret was delivering their sixth child, Richard, at the Mater Hospital.

“Over the PA, Dad was asked to come down to the admin office underneath the old Ballymore stand. He proudly came back into the stand and told us kids that mum had given birth,” Michael said.

“His next line: ‘We’ll go up to the hospital in about an hour…after the second half'.”

He was made a Life Member in 1997 at GPS where Margaret put in long hours as well registering young players. The QRU acknowledged his service to rugby over five decades by honouring him as a Life Member in 1999.

“As a club, Wests were on a knife edge for a long while (in terms of surviving in first grade) so I felt a lot of pride when the feeling changed. ‘We were finally somebody’,” Taylor recalled of the 1950s and ‘60s when interviewed for the book, Bulldog! Bulldog! 70 Years Of Wests Rugby.

Taylor could be forthright in debating a topic in any rugby boardroom. He could be understanding and a mentor as well. He loved a laugh and family. No job was too big or small for him in club-land. He got things done when clubs ran on the smell of an oily rag in the amateur era.

One of the Taylor sayings was that he lived life by the three Fs…family, faith and football. When the first coolness came into the air as a new season approached, his family would joke they were unsure which came first.

One comfort is that “Alby” Taylor can again catch up with best mate Wally Hammond and share that beer they’ve both been missing.

Taylor is survived by wife Margaret, children Michael, John, Anne, Suellen, James, Richard and Kate, 18 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Family and friends are invited to attend a Funeral Mass for Alby Taylor in St Finbarr’s Catholic Church, Ashgrove on Wednesday, 27th March at 1:30pm.

A get together will follow at GPS Rugby Club.

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