Popular former Whitehaven forward John Pringle has died at the age of 79.

Pringle had started his sporting career at Frizington School as a promising footballer, where he was a very capable centre half, sometimes operating at centre forward, and earned county honours.

After school he played in the local West Cumberland League and came to the attention of Hearts and was offered trials.

Nothing developed but then a friend invited him to try his hand at rugby union with Moresby.

He was so green at the game that when selected at centre he had to ask where to stand – but once into action it was clear there was raw talent waiting to be nurtured.

Jim Brough, arguably Cumberland/Cumbria’s finest rugby all-rounder, saw the potential and signed him professional in early 1965 at the age of 23 for Whitehaven.

It was Brough, with his astute eye for a player, who converted him into a forward with huge success.

Standing over six foot tall and quick, he was an exciting addition to the Whitehaven ranks and he went on to play 281 games in the chocolate, blue and gold, scoring 35 tries and kicking one goal before retiring in 1978.

He also represented the county on four occasions.

The RFL awarded him a benefit after ten years of service to Haven.

It is testament to him that players of the stature of David Watkins wrote a glowing appraisal in his testimonial brochure.

Pringle’s pace made him stand out as a prop; he was one of the fastest, if not the fastest, prop forward of his time.

A fine example of his pace was in a top 16 play-off game at Central Park, Wigan.

Five minutes to go and Wigan pulled back to make the score 20-20.

Then a break by Wigan saw them with the try line at their mercy. Pringle chased him all the way and in the shadow of the posts, aided by stand-off Ron Barnes, he tackled the Wigan player short of the line earning Haven a replay at the Recre which they went on to win.

A message on the Haven Vice President’s Facebook page said: “A giant of a man on the field, strong, athletic and to Haven John was a gentleman off the field.”