EVERY seat was taken in St Lawrence Church, Abbots Langley, on Monday, as friends and family of the late Bob Simons gathered to pay their respects.

Mr Simons, who died on December 21, aged 89, left children Mary, Susanna, and Richard; grandchildren Patrick, Morag, Emily and George, and great-grandchildren Charlie and Harry.

Born and brought up in Abbots Langley, Mr Simons lived in the High Street in a house which had been owned by his family since 1820.

An only child to George and Susan Simons, he attended Berkhamsted School, where he excelled academically but it was sport that would singled him out and at 17 he made his debut keeping wicket for Hertfordshire in the Minor Counties Championship. During his last year at Berkhamsted School, he was Head Boy and captain of both the rugby and cricket teams.

In 1937, he met his wife to be Dorothy while playing tennis, and they married in St Lawrence church in 1943. Daughter Mary was born a year later, followed by Susanna in 1946 and Richard in 1952.

When war arrived, county cricket was shelved and Mr Simons took his place to fight for Queen and country. According to his family, he remarked that although “the army has disrupted our lives, it has taken me to many pleasant places".

And it did, from Petersfield to Redcar to Barmouth and, ultimately, to East Africa. Although only 21, Mr Simons relished the challenge of turning raw African recruits into soldiers.

In early 1946, Dorothy, with Mary, set sail for Nairobi to spend 18 months there alongside Mr Simons. Although there were picnics in the Ngong Forest, lakes of flamingos and plenty of cricket and rugby, the call of home was too strong to resist and the family left Kenya in 1947.

On arrival in post-war England, Mr Simons had contracted meningitis and Dorothy, expecting Susanna, had polio.

In order to support his family and be free to play cricket mid-week, Mr Simons found work with an insurance company, a job he remarked he was “totally unsuited” to.

When his father died, he took on the family butcher's business in Abbots Langley and bought new shops in Carpenders Park and Leverstock Green.

The family lived for a time in Abbots Road and later Green Ways.

Apart from breaks for illness and the war, he was first choice wicket-keeper until 1969, topped the batting averages in 1948, and was selected to play for the Minor Counties against India.

Mr Simons was county vice-captain for ten years, playing the supporting role to his close friend Robin Marques.

Richard Simons said: “His extraordinary ability as a wicket-keeper, standing up to all except the fastest or most erratic bowlers, was developed here at Abbots Langley, throwing a ball at the rough brickwork in the garden and trying to catch it as it shot off in unexpected directions.

“He put a lot back into cricket, setting up the Hertfordshire Indoor Cricket School in the early 1960s, chairing the county committee, promoting club competitions and youth cricket, serving as president for ten years, and writing a widely acclaimed history of cricket in Hertfordshire.”

As Mr Simons’s cricket career drew to a close, he took up golf, joining West Herts Golf Club where he served as captain and president, and took a leading role in negotiating the new lease. He also completed a book on the club's history.