TRIBUTES have been paid to former rugby union-playing vet James Booth, who has died at the age of 84.

An active member for both Worcester RUFC and Pershore RUFC, James achieved national recognition when forming one half of the oldest combination of second-row forwards in the country – the Daily Telegraph featured him in 2005 with his fellow lock, Hugh Gibbons; the oldest second row combination with joint age of 141 years!

James was born in Kendal in 1935 and had a lifelong passion for the Lake District, which many of his family have inherited.

He was educated at Rugby School , a keen athlete who was also academically successful. He enrolled as a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons 1959, having studied at Edinburgh University, where he met his wife Jean, a linguist.

James was in practice in Lancashire, Dorset, Lincolnshire, Ireland and Canada for nine years, supported by Jean, raising four children along the way. And in time, there were also nine grandchildren.

In 1969 James joined the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) to research the use of milk sampling for controlling mastitis. Under his leadership The Veterinary Research Centre moved to Worcester in 1970 as a result of his research, becoming England and Wales’ central testing and research unit for mastitis, brucellosis and other quality systems.

He became a world expert on mastitis, writing many research papers, journal articles, and attending and leading conferences.

James became Head of Veterinary Services for the MMB and subsequently Director of Genus Animal Health.

He retired in 1995 but continued as a veterinary consultant for many years; he did not however retire from his beloved rugby or beer!

Daughter Sarah Foster said: “James and his son Andrew formed a solid second row partnership before Andrew moved away, but Andrew would join his father for the odd match and Hash Run when he could.

“In his later years James travelled to run many 10km runs with his daughter Jules; events which they both thoroughly enjoyed.

“When rugby became too much James joined the Malvern Hash Harriers where he enjoyed the runs and, as a member of Camra, the social beer afterwards!”

As his mobility decreased he took to walking and cycling; activity and fitness were key to him.

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James’ other outdoor interests were wildlife; he recorded and monitored for bird and butterfly charities for many years.

Bantam hens were also passion, having kept them as a child he rekindled his love for them in Worcester, keeping, breeding, and frequently showing them (with success) at the Three Counties Show.

James also had a keen interest in politics. He was a Liberal Councillor in the 1960s, subsequently a member of the Labour Party and an avid reader of the Guardian.

He enjoyed informed friendly political conversations and debates with friends, preferably over a beer (in a handled glass!).

Always meticulous in recording, James will be remembered by many for the pocket pencil and notebook which would come out when he thought it necessary. He was a man with manners, a gentleman who lived a full life.

He died at home, quickly, painlessly and peacefully, as he had hoped.

He will be missed, but it will be with happy memories and he has left a great legacy.

James Booth died on May 2 2020 of prostate cancer.