Pat Kamara, who has died all too young at 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 his alma mater at Finchley RFC.

Under his energetic leadership, in 1988 Finchley "did the double" on 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.

Ham & High: Pat Kamara during his playing daysPat Kamara during his playing days (Image: Paul Farrelly)

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 to 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 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.

Always fit, active and hugely 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.

Ham & High: Pat KamaraPat Kamara (Image: Paul Farrelly)

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, 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 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 he 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. With chutzpah, 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.

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 ex-club President Carl Elliott in tribute.

Off the field, Pat enjoyed an eclectic, happy-go-lucky career, much of which relied on sheer charisma: from a stage designer at the National Opera Theatre in his early 20s to co-writer of The King is Black, a play about an Elvis of colour, 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.

A celebration of Pat’s life took place at a packed Finchley rugby club on Saturday, September, 11, where friends raised a glass to his easy demeanour, beaming smile, infectious Sid James laugh, and ever-ready fashion advice.

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

And Pat’s 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.