Tributes and memories have poured in from cricket clubs and players following the death of umpire Vic Heppenstall, aged 86.
Vic was still umpiring in local leagues last season, but died following a short illness just a month before the start of the new season.
His was a familiar face and reassuring presence to thousands of cricketers over more than 40 years of officiating in the Grantham and Melton Cricket Association, South Notts league and South Lincs Border League.
While a champion of grassroots local cricket, Vic also got the chance to run the rule over a few of the game’s internationals in big feature matches, particularly over the last decade through the Belvoir Castle Cricket Trust.
The elite names to have come under his scrutiny included Richard Hadlee, Chris Broad, Graeme Swann, Mike Gatting and Clive Rice.
A batsman by trade, his playing career was cut short following an accident at work, but umpiring gave him an outlet to stay right in the middle of the game he loved.
Vic summed up his outlook on umpiring after celebrating his 1,500th match in 2006.
“I’ll do it as long as I can do it properly and sensibly,” he said.
“A lot of people pack up playing cricket and go playing golf so maybe 20 years are lost to the game when there is something they could do.
“I’ve got a lot of pleasure from it and I’ve met a lot of people. It’s that kind of game.”
Vic’s second home was at Belvoir Cricket Club whom he joined in 1977, and conscientiously compiled their fixture booklet every season.
To generations of members and players, he became known as Mr Belvoir.
Belvoir Cricket Club chairman Andrew Dann said: “He was just one of the good guys.
“Many local cricketers have trophies that Vic made for them for taking either five wickets or hitting a ton.
“He inspired young cricketers with his knowledge and encouragement and it has been a real tribute to him that so many of these young cricketers have sent some amazing messages to his family.”
Andrew added: “He always enjoyed what he did, always enjoyed a quip, but nobody undertook the role of umpiring matches more seriously.
“He was so professional in his approach to his role, and we will all have fond memories of him, on and off the field.
“The word legend is probably used too freely, however, for Vic it just doesn’t seem enough.”
Former England A batsman and Nottinghamshire captain Darren Bicknell got to know Vic when he started turning out for the club after becoming director of the Belvoir Castle Cricket Trust in 2008.
“It’s such a sad loss,” he said. “Vic was one of those rare men who made you feel like a very special person, whether you were a bin man or an international cricketer!
“Nothing was ever too much trouble, and he always finished a conversation with the words ‘thank-you for what you do for the club’. I won’t forget that.”
Egerton Park CC life member and former chairman Geoff Goodson shared the umpiring duties with the MCC registered official at a charity match in Melton in 2011.
The Howzat Cricket Day, in aid of Prostate Cancer charity, featured former England bowlers Matthew Hoggard, Devon Malcolm and Tim Munton.
“I have many memories of Vic,” said Geoff.
“We had many games against Belvoir over the years in the Notts Alliance on Saturdays, so-called friendlies on Sundays, and Salaman Cup games in the evenings.
“Vic was an ever-present umpire in the days before so-called neutral umpires and he was both very knowledgeable and fair with his decisions.
“If there were Salaman Cup semis and finals, Vic was very willing to officiate.”
As wicketkeeper at Thorpe Arnold, Dom Exton also had the chance to share a few words with Vic.
“Everyone at Thorpe Arnold is truly saddened by his passing,” he said.
“I had the pleasure of knowing Vic personally and he always ensured that the game was played in a correct, yet competitive, manner.
“It was a privilege to have known him and witness firsthand his enthusiasm and true love for the game.
“No-one could command respect like Vic could. Local cricket has lost one of its’ true gents.”
Vic’s funeral takes place at St Wulfram’s Church, in Grantham, on Wednesday, April 11 at 2pm.