George Richardson

The Officers of the Royal Canoe Club wish to extend their sincere condolences to the family of George Richardson, who has passed away following a short illness.

George’s funeral will be on Wednesday 7 May. There will be a church service at Kingsdown Methodist Church (Kingsdown Ave, Ealing, W13 9PR) at 10.30am followed by refreshments in the adjoining hall.

In the afternoon at 1.30pm there will be a short crematorium service at Breakspear Crematorium, Breakspear Road, Ruislip, Middlesex, HA4 7SJ if people also wish to join.

George was a club coach at Royal over several decades, introducing hundreds of youngsters to the sport of canoeing and encouraging many of them up the rankings and on to the international stage. Jess Walker, a two-time Olympian and K1 200m finalist at London 2012, started canoeing under George’s supervision, as did current club captain Jon Boyton.

George’s caring approach and enthusiasm for the sport rubbed off on many of his charges and he was a familiar sight at races and regattas as he selflessly drove kids to events around the country for years.

George became an institution at the club, well into retirement he was often to be seen arriving on his bike from Ealing to run groups of canoeists at all hours of the day. He gave freely of his time and only seemed to interrupt his many sessions on the water to pop into the clubroom for refuelling with tea and cake.

Perhaps one of George’s proudest moments was when his son, Tony, set the junior Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race record with Richmond’s Steve Jensen in 1993. The time of 14 hours 12 minutes 59 seconds significantly lowered the previous best time for this class and will, according to most seasoned DW watchers, remain for some years to come.

If you would like to pay tribute on the club website to George, please email us with details.

Jon Boyton writes: George was one of those individuals whose level of dedication and commitment to helping others is rarely seen now days. During his life he inspired hundreds of people to take up the sport and was a huge part of Royal canoe club for many many years. 

The legacy that George leaves behind is huge. A significant proportion of the paddling community have had contact with George at some time and his time down at the Canoe club spans across almost three generations. During this time he has inspired individuals to take up the sport that have gone on to represent Great Britain as well as those that are now in coaching roles. This was very much a secondary outcome for George though who was simply happy if he could see people enjoying themselves.

I have no doubt that had I not first encountered George when I was 10 years old my life would look completely different to how it is today. A lot of happy days were spent canoeing when I was younger and this was down to the hard work and time that George put in.

Anna Wise writes: I have an awful lot to thank George for, he inspired me to start canoeing when I went to Royal CC with my school. Royal CC quickly became my second home and George spent hours coaching me and many other juniors. Not only did we all spend time on the river with George learning how to race canoes, he also introduced us to cycling in Richmond Park, running and circuit training – he also helped me pass GCSE German! George has been a huge part of my life and I am sure it is down to him that I still canoe, run, swim, cycle and live such a happy and active lifestyle. Thank you for everything George.

Jack Staddon writes: I first met George in about May 2003. I had just been rowing at Walbrook and had seen the canoeists and decided it looked like a good idea. George’s initial response was, in typical George fashion, dismissive and he told me that if I wanted to try it, to come back next week as he was busy. The next week I came back and he put me in the worst boat he could find (without a rudder) and I had my first session going in circles near the Lensbury club (he later told me that he had no wish to encourage rowers!).

Unfortunately for George’s master plan, I was hooked and rapidly devoted my free time to hanging around asking him questions.  Over the following years George had such a major influence on my life. Everything from lending me boats and paddles, to giving me lifts to races, to long conversations in the clubroom before and after training and even Christmas presents (perhaps the wire cutters for my bike cables have never quite seen the use they were intended to though), the list goes on and on!

It’s not just me that George had this impact on. There are countless people, some still involved in the sport and others long since stopped, who owe a great deal to George and the time and energy he put into Royal and its members. He was a constant and valued member of the canoeing community. Its a shock to hear about his sudden passing, but I was glad to hear that he was still enjoying what in a recent text to me he called his first love, cycling, until very recently.

I will always remember George with great fondness and warmth as the man who couldn’t quite tell me to just go away when he first met me back in 2003. And I’m so glad he didn’t, because without him, I don’t think my life would be the way it is today. I could go on and on, but I don’t think George would really have liked that very much so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Thanks George – for everything, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying, I will miss you.

Peter Gardner writes: George was an inspiration to young and old alike at  Royal. It  has not been the same without George for some time now. He was always willing to give advice with enthusiasm regarding  weights, canoeing and cycling that was helpful.

Janet and Doug Evans write: Our memories of George will be different from others, as I never canoed with him.  Doug coached with him and once entered a K2 race with him at Nottingham – first and last time this happened.  George was always at the club, some people must have thought he lived there, but he was there for any child who needed to do homework before a training session and also during holidays to run training sessions, which must have helped many parents who did not know what to do with their children during the long summer holidays.
He had amazing knowledge on so many subjects. He would scribble away when he was teaching himself a new language and could read books in many different languages.  If we had a new member join who was from a different country he would get involved in a new language and would ask their help. I think he found Russian quite hard going! He never tried Chinese as far as I know.  George loved the written word, but  never travelled.  He would say, when asked, that he had seen enough of the world when he was in the Navy doing his National Service.  Our  lasting  memory of George will always be the amount of cake he could eat – he could get through cake as if there was no tomorrow!

Guy Dresser writes: I have many canoeing memories of George but it’s for his help with cycling that I will remember him most, in particular his help in preparing a couple of Royal members for a Lands End to John O’Groats cycle ride in 1989. I’d say George’s undoubted expertise in all matters canoeing was equalled by his encyclopaedic cycling knowledge and ability.

Ed Shaw and I planned the ride, in aid of a local charity, at the end of that year’s canoeing season. Ed was a keen cyclist but my experience of biking was limited to the ride to work in Richmond and so I was more than a little worried about our planned 6-day epic. I bought a bike from a mail order catalogue and, in passing, asked George if there was anything I should remember to do with it.

George, visibly rolling his eyes at my naivety, insisted on helping me fit the bike out, advised me on my cycling position and even gave me a plan of the route, as ridden by a fellow cycling club member, which became our bible for the trip. George’s parting gift was a special cycling jumper (that I still use today) with pockets on the back for storing bananas and cake. Not content with all this help, George even took me off to Surrey in his minibus to compete in some 10 mile timetrials and get used to pedalling hard.

His verdict after my first one was classic George: “That was a good effort but it’s just as well you can canoe a bit, you’ll never be a brilliant cyclist.”

Andy Beer writes: I learned nearly everything I know about kayaking from George. When I joined the club as a complete novice he allowed me to paddle around with the kids that he was instructing and I picked up lots of valuable tips. I also capsized a lot and felt guilty about the time that George spent pulling me out of the water when he could have been coaching the youngsters. I nearly gave up after a series of dunkings but he was tirelessly encouraging and helped me to stick at it.

I eventually became more of a help than a hindrance and he encouraged me to become a qualified coach myself. I never knew a fraction of what George did but joining in his sessions was a great way to learn how to coach. I spent many happy hours on the water with George and even more hours in the clubroom chatting over tea and cakes about our shared interests in kayaking, cycling and books. In his seventies, he was fitter than most men half his age and I was amazed and inspired by his energy and enthusiasm.

It was a very sad day when he left the club and there were lots of tears at the end of his last session.

George had an incredible rapport with the youngsters and they really missed him when he left. It was great that he still turned up at the Hare and Hounds afterwards and was still dispensing treats and presents to the kids as he had always done. I tried my best to take over his coaching role at the club but George was, of course, totally irreplaceable.

Paul ‘Hobo’ Hobrough writes:

It is with great sadness that I learned today of George’s passing. I raced with his son Tony for a few years as a junior international and George was there every step of the way. I watched as he developed new talent and inspired countless generations into the sport we all love so much. George even painted the flat Paul Darby-Dowman and I shared in 2003 and we shared many a cup of tea putting the world of canoeing straight. In the near 30 years that I knew George, I knew only kindness, help, support and an unwavering love of canoeing. He was a terrific father to his kids Jo and Tony and an incredible coach. Thanks for all you did George, rest in peace.
Malcolm Lane writes:
I’m devastated to hear of the sad passing away of George, he was a true gent and a very special man who gave all his free time to coach canoeing. He gave so much to the sport and especially the juniors who had just started which is probably the most important thing to keep this amazing sport flourishing with talent. My deepest thoughts go out to Jo, Tony, Sue, Karen and his Wife Jill, He will be sadly missed!