While visiting Hong Kong a couple of years ago, I mentioned that Tokkie had been a close friend and proudly that I had played with him a few times for the Colony.
Also like him I had a Sevens mug, although admittedly both for winning the original Hong Kong Blarney Stone Sevens.
No one seemed to know very much about him except that he had been founder of the Sevens and a sound Football Club member.
To make matters worse, the Rugby Union had thoughtlessly lost all its records of those decades. Over a beer it was suggested that I write a memo about him from memory for the files.
There was an air of mystery and intrigue about it all. He had indeed founded the Hong Kong Sevens and had been renowned locally then as Mr. Rugby. Then he suddenly disappears and is unrecognised by the HKRU and the Sevens except for obscure mentions in journals.
When we got back to West Vancouver just out of interest I did some research but came up with very little more written about him. This was intriguing and disappointing because he had devoted his whole life to rugby.
The Sevens were well established when l last had dinner with him and his wife Terry in Hong Kong in 1978 and he was excitedly about to host his third Sevens.
Then we lost contact until I heard, sometime after the fact, he had died too young in 1985. The obvious answer to my curiosity was to ask contemporaries what had gone on in his later life. As I had known so many of them I expected it to be easy.
He was already almost 50 when he died which would now place contemporaries in their 80s. I called around but soon found that depressingly few were still with us. Fortunately I found some
very helpful 'youngsters' who were present then and filled gaps in the story.
I was honorary secretary of the then HKRFU during the 1960s which provided me with a good background for the story.
We then did much of the spadework to set up formalised rugby in Asia and develop Hong Kong’s contacts around the world.
It started out as a dull memorandum of rugby activities and facts but then a book started to emerge as a fun project.
As his story revealed itself it expanded into colonialism, empire, racism and apartheid. Into
booze, infidelity, duplicity, betrayal and finally tragedy.
Throughout, however, it remained focused on his brilliant achievements: opening up the game and the Founding of the Hong Kong Sevens.
He has not yet received the recognition he deserves!
We have completed a new book dedicated to Tokkie Smith and the creation of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.
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