Pat Kamara, who has died aged 63, was an inspirational sportsman, playing first class rugby on the wing for Saracens and Wasps in the 1980s, before returning as captain to transform the fortunes of Finchley RFC.

Under his energetic leadership, Finchley ‘did the double’ in 1988 following the introduction of rugby’s competitive amateur leagues, winning the Middlesex Cup and gaining successive promotions from the county’s first division to the higher London leagues.

Along the way, the club competed in the national Pilkington Cup for the first time in its history, before Pat finally hung up his first-team boots in 1990. He continued to take the field, though, playing in almost every position in Finchley’s Hawks veterans side, and by 2009 had notched up 1,000 games, man and boy, for the club.

He also helped to establish the still thriving Mini and Junior sections at the club’s base in Summers Lane and was influential in developing the new women’s team, which formed at Finchley, before moving to Richmond, from where many went on to play for England.

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Pat with the Middlesex Cup

Always fit, active and very popular, four years ago Pat was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a rare and aggressive form of dementia, and passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, September 5 at The Grange care home in Finchley, his home for the last 18 months.

Such was the esteem for Pat that - on the opening day of Japan’s 2019 Rugby World Cup - record England international cap and fellow ex-Saracen, Jason Leonard, held a City of London fundraising event to help with his care costs, and raise awareness of this little-known, but all-too-rapidly consuming brain condition.

Patrick Augustine Kamara was born on September 28, 1957 in London to parents from Sierra Leone. His father had to return home, leaving his mother alone, and Pat was fostered to an Irish family in Barnet. From there, he went to St Catherine’s Catholic primary and then moved to Bishop Douglass school in East Finchley.

Excelling at most sports, in the mid-1970s, he played 20 matches for Barnet FC, attracting interest from the likes of Arsenal, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, before settling firmly on rugby. In 1974, at 16, he joined Finchley’s Colts team, from where he progressed rapidly to represent Middlesex at county level and gain selection for England’s Under-19 side.

In 1980, he joined a then struggling Saracens team and, on the left wing, quickly established himself as a prolific try-scorer: on his first-class debut, he grabbed a brace against London Welsh and had ten in the bag by Christmas.

A try in a victory against Wasps in late 1982 was to be one of Pat’s last for Sarries, as he joined their north London rivals the following spring. He turned the tables the next season, with a try for Wasps in a win in his first game against his old side.

Pat’s move coincided with an astute recruitment drive by Wasps, which brought England trio Nigel Melville, Huw Davies and Nick Stringer in at scrum half, fly half and full back at the same time.

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Pat died on Sunday, September 5

The game was rapidly advancing towards the professional era, not least with the inaugural Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 1987, when Pat returned to Finchley to become club captain for the start of the new leagues.

“He set the standards, enforced the discipline and did this with an enthusiasm that was infectious. He quite simply made Finchley a place where people wanted to play and enjoy themselves,” said former club President Carl Elliott.

Off the field, Pat enjoyed an eclectic, happy-go-lucky career, much of which relied on sheer charisma: from stage designer at the National Opera Theatre in his early 20s, to co-writing for the Edinburgh Fringe, artist and photographer, decorator to the ‘Islington set’, life-and-soul of a Baker Street sandwich emporium, mature student at Oxford’s Ruskin College, diamond runner in Hatton Garden and, in his final post, as a Parliamentary assistant at Westminster – where aphasia’s communication difficulties first became apparent.

Pat’s funeral will be held at 2pm on Friday, October 1 at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Finchley, followed by a cremation.

His final public service has been to donate his cerebrum to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, at Queen’s Square in London, where he was diagnosed, for further research into this cruel, incapacitating disease.