THE family of a teacher from Potters Bar who was killed in an accident while cycling have paid tribute to a “popular and respected” son and husband.

A funeral was held for Richard Haigh, 39, of Richmond Road, at Christ Church in Little Heath yesterday.

More than 300 people packed the church to pay their respects to the natural teacher and talented rugby player.

Richard's mother Barbara Haigh, from Barnet, said: “He was a wonderful young man who never had a bad word to say about anybody and people never had a bad word to say about him.

“How much he meant to people is born out of the fact that yesterday there were more than 300 people there.”

Richard, who became a biology teacher in his late twenties, was head of science at King Harold School in Waltham Abbey.

Barbara said: “He was clearly very respected as a teacher. One of his former pupils has set up a page on Facebook, RIP Mr Haigh, and there is 989 messages on there from students he taught.

“He got on really well with children, really had a rapport and they knew he cared. One of the letters from his school said I learnt more science from you in nine months than I did in four years previously.”

Richard had also taught in Barking, Dagenham, Haringey and Aldenham.

A keen sportsman, Richard played rugby at the Saracens amateur club in Southgate, where his father, Peter, is chairman.

As a mark of respect, the professional team will hold a minutes applause prior to their Friday night game at Vicarage Road in Watford. Richard's image will be displayed on screens around the ground.

As well as contact sports, Richard's mother said he was also an avid cyclist, often competing in triathlons for charity.

Barbara said: “He'd always been a cyclist. When he got to 17 and we thought he'd want to drive, we had a car for him, but he didn't want to pollute the environment so he cycled.

“He did triathlon for charity and the reason he was cycling on that Sunday morning, was he wanted to get fit and lose some weight to do the Barcelona triathlon later this year. The first one he did was for Motor Neurone Disease because one of his friends at Saracens died from it. Subsequently the money he raised was for the Lance Armstrong charity.

“He dedicated a lot of time to sport and gave a lot of his time to extra curricular activities with students. He really gave time to other people, that was the sort of guy he was.”

Richard was a former pupil of Ashmole School, and a graduate from Brunel University. For a brief period, before entering teaching, Richard spent time on a remote Scottish island studying animal behaviour after completing his masters degree in Manchester.

Richard is survived by his wife Jo, who wed in 2005 at Christ Church, Little Heath, the same venue as the funeral service.

Richard's father hopes to set up a trust at the Saracens amateur club in his honour.

Peter said: “We will have a player from the colts, which is under 19, and the coaches and manager will nominate one player and we're going to put money into financing university.

“We think going to university is so important for youngsters these days. Richard knew from an early age he was going to go and that was it. In the present financial culture and attitudes to it we thought we are going to set it up in perpetuity.”