Ron Wild 1943-2020: a tribute

Club President Pete Jones has drafted this tribute to Ron Wild – one of the Club’s founder members - who sadly passed away in March. It explains how Solihull Canoe Club came into being.

Ron’s introduction to canoeing was in 1984 when he took his son Richard, a member of 3rd Olton Scout Troop who suffered from Charcot Marie Tooth disease, to Solihull Swans Sports Club for Disabled Athletes where Roy Penhallurick’s Solihull Extension Scouting Team SOLEX assisted with a variety of sports including, on the small swimming pool, introductory paddling sessions led by Pete Jones.

It had always been the aim to take part in BCU paddling competitions and an enthusiastic SWANS team were soon completing in the West Midlands including in 1986 the team relay class in the Birmingham Century 100 mile marathon around a loop of Midlands canals with a mixed team of able bodied /disabled paddlers including Ron and Richard in a touring double kayak and a large support team.

In 1987 Ron prepared the planning and supported Pete and his daughter Sarah in the K1 Relay class of this event for which they were most grateful.

Unfortunately later in the year, when it proved impossible to elect a committee to manage SWANS ,it was decided to close the club and Pete and the paddling support team promised to be available for those members who wished to continue with marathon racing and with Ron’s enthusiastic support they continued to race.

Such was the spirit within the group that an exploratory meeting was held to discuss the possibility of forming a Solihull Canoe Club and in 1988 this was registered with BCU with Ron as Secretary.

Pete had asked Ron to Chair but he suggested that was an easy job and the club would need a good Secretary an offer for which Pete was forever grateful.

Through the club’s formative years Ron worked tirelessly with the negotiations to initially lease the Catherine de Barnes site with semi derelict boatshed from the Schools of King Edward VI and obtaining a residential caravan for changing.

He also wrote the syllabus for the club’s first Placid Water Teachers course (the forerunner of Level 1) to be led by Pete which created an efficient team of coaches enabling us to run introductory courses to increase our membership.

In October 1992 following requests from the marathon racing fraternity to resurrect the Birmingham CC Edgbaston Reservoir to Knowle race it was decided to trial a Solihull 60k Marathon (actually only 58km but the alliterative title sounded good !) and Ron and Keith managed entries and results.

The test event was well received by competitors and from 1993 we also had the assistance of communications teams from Sea Cadets TS Explorer, Gamecock and Sherwood who set up radio links at Catherine de Barnes, Brindley Place and Lapworth giving Ron and his team accurate timings for every boat throughout the race.

Also in 1993 Ron, a keen canoe paddler, persuaded Pete to join him in the Open Canoe Association Frank Luzmore Memorial race from Bridgnorth to Bewdley in his Jensen 18 finishing 3rd.

In 1994 Ron planned Pete’s attempt at the Birmingham Canal Network Challenge to cruise as much of the network as possible in 24 hours and having had time to forget the lack of sleep and normal food in 1995 he set up a relay team of himself, Jason Cook, Keith Nightingale and Derek Whitehouse to complete the challenge in a touring C2.

Whilst the racing paddlers became well established in the West Midland Hasler Trophy series Ron and a group of friends launched the "Solihull Sociables” to organise a touring programme the highlight of which was "The Great Glen Caledonian Canal”.

Another memorable weekend was when Richard and his friend Jackie Edinburgh elected to paddle the Monmouth to Brecon Canal for their Queen’s Scout Award expedition and many of their clubmates joined in to support them.

With his commitment to the Muscular Dystrophy Group and Crossroads for Carers Ron was obviously going to support any charity canoeing event. This resulted in members’ involvement in British Heart Foundation Ironbridge to Bewdley, Guide Dogs for the Blind "Doggy Paddle” Leamington to Stratford and Worcester Canoe Club’s "Swan Along” Bewdley to Worcester for a Severn based swan charity.

Ron and Richard owned a variety of boats but their pride and joy had to be "Ronson”, a Kayel Scandian 18 touring double kayak which they built in the back garden.

Ron also enjoyed a good meal and was instrumental in organising the club annual dinners and it was in 1993 when John Dudderidge OBE President of Honour of the BCU was our guest of honour that he was awarded our President’s Trophy for services to the club.(Pictured)

In 1998 Ron had coronary bypass surgery and realised it might be time to take life a little easier and by way of recognition of his long service to the club he was awarded a Life Membership.

As Guest of Honour at the club’s 25 anniversary dinner in 2013 Ron typically ripped up his prepared speech and regaled us with a hilarious set of tales of the club’s early days before proposing the health of the club with wishes for a thriving future.

Richard sadly died in March 2000 and will always be fondly remembered for the cheerful way he dealt with his illness lovingly supported by Ron, Sandra, Helen and Jason.

Ron’s funeral on 20th March was one of the last at Solihull Crematorium before the Covid 19 rules restricted mourners to family only and a group of friends representing scouting, church and canoeing were privileged to join his family and to hear a beautiful eulogy celebrating his life.

When the world gets back to normal we hope we will all be able to meet to remember Ron.

If all of the above reads like a history of Solihull Canoe Club we make no apologies, as without Ron it would probably not exist.

 

 Ron (left) receiving the President's Trophy for services to the Club in 1993 from  John Dudderidge OBE, President of Honour of the BCU.

 

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