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A nature-lover, talented artist and one of the last people to see boxer Rocky Marciano alive retired from his job as Woodford Golf Club’s head greenkeeper today.

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Stuart Runciman has called time on a 43-year career tending the fairways and greens of the club in Sunset Avenue on the same day he celebrates his 65th birthday. He trained as an artist, winning travelling scholarships from the Royal Society of Arts, but a newspaper advert brought him to the nine-hole course, set in Epping Forest, land in 1970.

Working with nature had been the most enjoyable part of his job, said Stuart.

Speaking about his retirement, he added: “I’ve had lots of time to think about it. I’m 65 and it’s time to think about doing other things.”

Stuart started out as the assistant greenkeeper, when the course was in “much worse shape than it is now”, according to current club captain John Michael Wade.

And during a heatwave in the summer of 1976, Stuart had to deal with frequent fires.

He said: “Everything was scorched and burnt to smithereens. I never thought we’d get it back to looking like it did. It took two or three years and it looked right again.”

He put his drawing talents to good use, drawing caricatures of 22 club members for a centenary brochure in 1990.

And his RSA bursary took him to America in 1969, where the Italian-American family he was staying with also had heavyweight boxer Marciano as a guest.

Stuart had his photo taken with the boxer before he and the family saw Marciano off at a Californian airport, on the fateful flight which was downed, killing the undefeated champion.

Stuart, of North Chingford, will still visit the club three days a week to help out and is looking forward to seeing more of London.

He said: “I’ve got the Freedom Pass but I’ve hardly used it.”

Mr Wade said: “Stuart has been a huge asset to the club for decades.”

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