Family 'overwhelmed' by tributes after death of rugby and port legend Bern

Man and family

Bern the family man - Credit: Submitted

The world of amateur sport and the port of Brixham has been saddened by the death of well-known and much-respected character Bern Caunter. 

The local rugby legend and loving family man has died aged 75. 

Bern was ‘Brixham through and through’ and was born in the town in 1946 to parents Edward and Lena. 

He was the youngest of three brothers – with Ted and Michael his siblings. 

Family group

Bern and family - Credit: Submitted

He went to Drew Street primary and then Furzeham secondary schools for boys. 

He started his working life as an apprentice upholsterer at Jordains. He then became a driver for Lawrance and Rea Fish Transporters before working for Torbay Council and its housing maintenance section. He ran the tip on Rea Barn Road on Sundays and opened Fore Street every evening at 6pm. He was a food operative before retiring in 2006. 

He met wife-to-be Jennifer at the old Tembani Hotel in Paignton as 18-year-olds. They were to marry in 1970 

Flashback to wedding

Wedding day - Credit: Submitted

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Number 24 Lindthorpe Way was the family home for 41 years. After their children moved out they did something Bern had always wanted to do and  moved to a home with a sea view in Marina Drive. 

The couple have two sons, Simon and Matthew, and grandchildren Thomas, Toby, Ellie, Laynë and Jack as well as great-grandchildren Baye and Ralph. 

When Bern retired he and Jennifer enjoyed local walks together - venturing further afield when the free bus pass came into play – and all walks required regular ‘refreshment’ stops. 

Treasured time was also spent supporting / watching his boys play rugby / football / cricket. Watching his grandchildren play netball and rugby ,going on holiday on cruise ships, holidaying with close friends and simply enjoying life with the local Sea Anglers or at the Conservative, rugby or cricket clubs. According to son Matt: “Anywhere that served bitter and gin!” 

The family and extended family were passionate about sport.  Bern and his brothers all played rugby and he was to become a well-known and hugely respected figure in the local sports community. 

 But it would be arch rivals Torquay Athletic where he was to make his playing name. 

Matt explained: “Then there was no youth section at Brixham so their mother took them over to Torquay.” 

Scrum half  Bernie played 589 first team games for Torquay – he received a clock for his 500th game that was placed on the wall in the family home. 

Flashback to rugby action pic

Bern in action - Credit: Submitted

He did not make the Devon team but many team mates and others from that era thought he should have. 

His rugby career highlight was winning the Devon Cup in 1979 at the third attempt. He played for an International XV at the Recreation Ground against Devon.  

Matt says: “Dad was a last-minute replacement for Nigel Melville, then the England scrum half.” 

The family say they have been ‘overwhelmed’ with the messages and tributes since his death. 

Matt says: “Social media makes it a lot easier and has allowed over 300 messages to be sent from all parts of the world - South Africa, Australia, Poland and, France to name a few) The family has also received 50 plus cards.  

“The rugby family has offered lots of kind words and also some funny stories. Unfortunately, some that were shared last Saturday by Steve Geary, Robert Dart and Jason Grubb are definitely not printable. The family look forward to hearing many more stories about Bern at the funeral and in years to come.” 

He added: “Dad was a family man, fun loving, kind and caring. An entertainer. He would help anyone if he could. The amount of friends mum and dad have says it all.” 

A celebration of Bern’s life is planned at All Saints Church on Friday October 22 at 2.30pm and will continue at Brixham Rugby Club.