LLANELLI'S rugby fraternity has paid tribute to a much-loved former Llanelli RFC and Wales international described as one of the town's rugby greats.
Ray Williams, who lived at Hedley Terrace, passed away at the age of 86 on Sunday after suffering from a long period of illness.
The winger, who played for Felinfoel RFC before going to Llanelli RFC, was described as an exceptional try scorer by his peers.
His talents earned him three caps for Wales, once against Scotland in the 1953/1954 season, again against France in the 1956/57 season and against Australia in 1957/58.
He was also a PE teacher at Gwendraeth Grammar School, where he is given credit for mentoring Wales great Barry John.
Rugby legend and president of Felinfoel Rugby Club, Phil Bennett, said: "Ray was born in Felinfoel, the same village as I was and growing up he was a hero of mine.
"I would put him up there as one of the greats of Llanelli rugby.
"He was a true gentleman who never forgot himself as a man of Llanelli, a man of Felinfoel and was proud to wear the jersey.
"I can't emphasise how much of a humble gent he was. I remember getting a schoolboy cap and went to play in Twickenham.
"I played on a Wednesday and came back midweek and Ray came up to me and said well done — encouraging me to work hard and keep progressing.
"A well done from him meant everything.
"It was absolutely devastating when I heard last night — words can't describe.
"Felinfoel will be in deep shock at the loss of Ray and my thoughts go out to his family."
Fellow player Terry Davies said Ray was a great servant of Llanelli RFC.
"In the professional era you do not get club servants like that who would play 300 or 400 games anymore," Mr Davies said.
"He was one of these players who would get everybody off their seats when he had the ball — to see him in flight was amazing.
"He was a cool character, nothing bothered him and when the game was balanced Ray would come up trumps and win it for you."
Aside from his rugby talents, Mr Williams was also a keen member of Cor Meibion Llanelli for over 20 years, and there was a minute silence in his honour at the choir's rehearsal on Monday night.
Chairman of Cor Meibion Llanelli, Mel Harries, said: "Ray was a stalwart member of the choir and will be greatly missed by us all."
Robert Lloyd, media consultant, added: "Ray Williams was one of life's gentlemen.
"Always caring and considerate, he was never showy about his achievements on the rugby field.
"But he could, along with his old pal and neighbour journalist Harry Davies, often tap into a rich stream of anecdotes about rugby in its halcyon amateur days."
Scarlets general manager, Jon Daniels said: "It is great sadness that we hear of the passing of one of Llanelli RFC's great players, the first player ever to be presented with a life membership of the club.
"Ray is the second highest try scorer in Llanelli RFC history and played for the club for 15 years – a fantastic achievement in any era.
"After making his debut at the age of 18 he had to retire in 1961 due to injury. Arthur Davies, Llanelli RFC secretary at the time of Ray's retirement said 'he is the greatest asset Llanelli have had since the war', showing how highly he was thought of by his peers.
"We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Ray Williams at this sad time."
Ray's funeral will take place at Holy Trinity Church at noon on Wednesday, January 15. Reverend Eldon Phillips will conduct the service as Scarlets chaplain.