GORDON JOHN BELL: Old Cambrians: Impala: Kenya Regiment: Scorpions RFC: Kenya 15s: East Africa: (2nd & 3rd) Tuskers (1962 & 1966); RFUEA Presidents 15s: Kenya Central Province Rugby Union & 1966 Tuskers
Gordon John Bell was born on 26th December in 1935 and first played rugby at the Prince of Wales School, Nairobi, Kenya between 1949 and 1952.
‘From School I went for National Service which was mandatory for all. ‘He turned out for Old Cambrians RFC starting in 1952. ’I was one of the last players’ to play for the club when it was still Old Cambrians up-to 1955 before the change of name in 1956’ he recalled in 2017.
Gordon won the Nairobi District and Championship (N.D.C) in 1959 Impala’s first major honours. Gordon Bell scored a brace of tries in the 1960 Enterprise Cup final against Nakuru but the Ngong Road side finished second losing 11-9 in the game played at the Nakuru Athletics Club.
‘Our kicker Paddy Rainsford left his kicking boots at home missing all the conversion and penalty attempts’ remembered Bell.
Bell was awarded the Impala honors cap that year. He was a member of the Impala side that won their first Enterprise Cup in 1961 defeating Nakuru 8-6 in rematch of the previous years final.
He represented the East African Tuskers on the tour of Northern Rhodesia in 1962 and was reduced to a spectator when he broke his ankle early on in the first game against Mufulira on 8 August 1962.
“I was moved from number 8 to fill that gap in the centre,’ recalled Mike Andrews his 1962 Tuskers colleague.
Up to 1968 there were no substitutions allowed for injuries. Bell had the distinction of earning his East Africa cap before the Kenya one joining a select list of players in East Africa’s 33 year history.
He first played for Kenya at centre in the 35-6 victory against Tanganyika at Arusha Gymkhana Club 6/4/1963. He played in the three-quarters and could play any position from fly-half through to wing with distinction.
Importantly Bell scored the try that tied the game for East Africa against Richmond RFC 12 August 1963. East Africa’s captain Chris C.Young then potted the conversion that won the game.
This was East Africa’s first win against a touring team at home. Bell was a winner of the Enterprise Cup with Impala in 1965.The reds won 16-14 against Kampala RFC in a match played at the Impala Club in Nairobi.
They had nearly smoked the cigar in 1963 but lost to Nakuru. Gordon represented the Tuskers on the tour of England in 1966 skippering the team against Vale of Lune 15 September at Woodlands Memorial Grounds.
Gordon Bell was at outside-half when the 1966 Tuskers played at home one of only two Tuskers team’s to ever do so against the Scorpions in a game played in March 1967.
He was part of the Impala team that toured West Germany, Denmark and England in 1968, with Sweden initially put on the itinerary but skipped for unknown reasons.
Bell later went into administration where he was assistant tour manager of the 4thTuskers in Ireland in 1972. He was also a selector first for the Kenya Central Province Rugby Football Union XV and later Kenya & East Africa.
He served the game with distinction in many managerial and selectorial capacities and was Hon-Treasurer of the Rugby Football Union of East Africa in 1973, Vice- President in 1974 and Chairman of the Kenya Rugby Football Union as well as the Rugby Football Union of East Africa in 1975.
Gordon Bell was an accountant by profession and lived in Nairobi-Kenya.
“Robert Balfour-Laing of Kenya Harlequins is probably the finest rugby player to have played in Kenya & East Africa unto 1966 or there bouts,” concluded the veteran in a 2017 interview.
Gordon Bell was for a long time one of only three trustees of the Rugby Football Union of East Africa alongside, Edwin Bristow and George Ngure Kabuki. Gordon passed away in Nairobi 7 August 2019.
Gordon deserves an honoured and treasured place in Kenya and East Africa’s rugby hall of fame. May he rest in peace.
By Paul D. Okong’o, Kenya Rugby Historian