Saturday, 14 March 2015

Remembering my dad & running for stomach cancer research

I am lucky to have got a ballot place at next month's London Marathon, all I need to do is turn up and run, I don't have a fundraising target in return for a charity place. However when I do tell people I'm running they invariably ask what charity I am running for, so I have decided to create a low-key 'Just Giving' account so that friends and family can make donations if they wish. I have chosen to raise funds for Core: Fighting Gut and Liver Disease, a charity that funds research and provides information in relation to digestive disorders. My dad, Dugald Orr (1935-1997), died from stomach cancer and this is one of the diseases that Core focuses on.  

Me and my dad
Of course there's lots I could say about my dad and his life, which started on the Isle of Islay and ended in Luton & Dunstable Hospital 62 years later. But as this is a running blog I will focus on sport, which some of my best memories of my dad are tied up with, football especially. We jumped for joy when we watched Luton Town beat Arsenal at Wembley in 1988, and didn't sing quite so loudly when we saw Scotland lose 5-1 to England at the same venue in 1975 (I was so small I had to stand on a stool on the terraces).  With his father, my grandad Neil Orr, we saw Luton beat Chelsea 4-0 (1976 - those days will come again!). and went to see Rangers play at Ibrox in 1977. The following year my dad took me to see Partick Thistle, the team he supported when he lived in Glasgow while doing his shipwright apprenticeship at Alexander Stephens shipyard on the Clyde. 

I remember watching him play football with his work colleagues at Vauxhall Sports Ground in Luton, but his main involvement with football was as a coach in youth soccer. A qualified FA coach, he coached St Joseph's youth football team for six years in the 1970s, and then helped out with Meads United before going on to the committee of the Chiltern Youth League, the Bedfordshire under-18s league. When he died the Luton News described him as 'one of the most popular local soccer coaches in Luton' and 'one of the best loved characters in the local game' ('Sad loss of a coach who lived for youth soccer', February 19 1997),

Of course I'm sad that my dad isn't around to know that I'm running the marathon, and since I've got more involved in the world of club running I've come to appreciate more the  work he put into youth football. The athletics clubhouses with their trophies and changing rooms remind me of the very similar football places I went to with him. Running and football, like most sports, are sustained by the efforts of countless volunteers like my dad who share their time, knowledge and skills without financial reward, just because they love it.

St Josephs football club, Luton, 1970 - my dad at back in tracksuit, me as mascot to right of the ball. Other adults in this picture are Tony Coyne on the left - whose son Laurence Coyne (crouching  behind me) went on to play professional soccer in the US - and Bud Aherne (right), who played for Luton Town and Ireland.

Tom 'Bud' Aherne (1919-99)

My dad (back row right) in early 1960s - my mum thinks this was Totternhoe FC who he played for

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