Derby athletics mourn the loss of energetic and inspirational Richard
RICHARD Dunphy, who died this week, aged 89, will be remembered in Derby as one of the busiest and most enthusiastic volunteers any sport could have wished for.
He was instrumental in establishing Derby Ladies Athletics Club in the late 1950s and served the club in a variety of positions until it merged with the men's club, Derby & County AC, to become Derby AC, in the summer of 2002.
Richard came to Derby in the 50s with his wife Betty, who was an athlete herself.
Initially, he held training sessions on Sundays at the British Celanese sports ground at Spondon before the club moved to Moorways Sports Stadium, where sessions were held on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
To list Richard's roles with Derby Ladies is merely to touch the surface.
He was treasurer from 1959 to 1980 before taking over as secretary and, at times, served as both secretary and chairman of Derbyshire Women's Athletic Association.
He was an executive committee member for the North of England, secretary for Division Two of the UK Women's Athletic League, a technical official and the Derbyshire County District AA team manager.
Possessing a meticulous attention to detail, he not only recorded every single result for meetings involving the club but kept a note of weather conditions, facilities and the type of track too.
Any of that information required by the local press was supplied promptly, in neat longhand: no local athletics reporter could claim not to have been in possession of all the facts needed to compile a thorough report.
Aside from all of the official positions and the paperwork, however, Richard's gift was to inspire and encourage those around him, most notably younger athletes often trying the sport for the first time.
Di Peake, who served as president of Derby Ladies, was among the athletes who benefited from his encouragement.
"He was the most inspirational person you could wish to meet and was responsible for Derby Ladies Athletic Club's success," she said.
"Richard had that wonderful ability to make everyone feel important and always knew exactly what to say to enjoy your success and to help with your disappointment.
"He helped thousands of young women to fulfil their ambition and teach them how important it is to be part of a team. He ensured everyone was treated equally and encouraged to take part in any event – often one you did not dream you could do.
"He had time for everyone and made you feel very special.
"Richard was instrumental in me continuing in athletics and I consider myself very fortunate to have both known him and been part of Derby Ladies. He was a true gentleman and inspiration."
Further tributes have included comments from two Derby athletes who went on to compete at the Olympics.
Double long jump world champion and double Olympic silver medallist Fiona May, who now lives in Italy, said: "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have had the competitive spirit to compete at a high level.
"He always had me competing against girls much older than me and I'm grateful for that."
Phil Harries, current captain of Derby AC, who competed for Britain as a hurdler at the 1988 Olympics, added: "Always passionate about athletics, he was the first one at the athletic club who introduced me to training and competition."
From Cliff Robinson came these words: "He WAS Derby Ladies and, within that, he was an excellent motivator and organiser. He will be sadly missed by everyone who had the good fortune to have known him and trained under him.
"He was a real gentleman who cared passionately about our sport and had such an influence on so many of us," said Karen Hammond.
"I'm not sure that anybody else could have persuaded me to throw the discus or do the 100m hurdles. He was the soul of the club, who instilled a real sense of team spirit."
Richard, who lived at Cobthorne Drive, Allestree, for many years, worked as a lecturer at the University of Derby. He is survived by his wife, Betty, and their sons Nick and Tim.
His funeral will be at Derby's Markeaton Crematorium on Monday, February 4, at 1.20pm.