Ron Ley

It is with great sadness that we report that our President, Ron Ley, passed away on February 19th aged 99. Ron was one of the founding members of Sarum Orienteering Club and was, for many years, our most competitive and successful runner, competing into his 90s. He will be sadly missed not just by us in Sarum but by his many friends and competitors across the SWOA region and beyond.

Ron will be laid to rest, next to his beloved wife Muriel, at Michael’s Wood Cholderton, (SU 221429; What-3-Words hurry.printout.vase) on March 14th at 12:00. Mourners are invited afterwards to the Crown at Cholderton. For catering purposes it would be helpful if those planning to attend the wake advise

Ron’s family have asked that should you wish to make a donation in Ron’s memory this should be to Dementia UK ( or to Salisbury Hospice (

Ron spent his career working at Porton Down. He joined the defence establishment there as a teenager during the war and, as part of the Home Guard, every night he guarded the, long defunct, railway from the Porton establishment to the main line in Porton Village. He spent his career in chemistry, did a fair bit of Rally driving, became a runner and orienteer and was a keen vegetable and fruit gardener. On top of that he was very well read and would often surprise with literary quotes which occasionally included Shakespeare. He was full of aphorisms to suit any occasion. Ron was also something of a poet and, from time to time, contributed his work to SCAN, Sarum’s printed newsletter.

In his early years at Porton Ron met his future wife, Muriel. They were married on Jan 1st 1949 and shared 64 years of mutual support and admiration before her death in 2012. Ron and Muriel had a long and happy life together bringing up four children, Deborah, Susan, Victoria and Nick, all of whom survive their parents.

Muriel was never the keen orienteer that was Ron but was a great supporter of her husband’s obsession and supported him at events far and wide. Muriel was clearly very tolerant of Ron’s orienteering, apparently he never threw his running shoes away and under his bed there were many pairs he kept – in case they might be needed. Ron also had an amazing collection of trophies, mainly mugs, accrued from his many victories over the years, that were stashed on shelves and windowsills all round his house.

Ron was always competitive. He was initially a keen car rally driver but took up running and orienteering after receiving a serious health warning from his GP about his smoking habit. Initially he walked around his village, Porton, working up to jogging and then running with colleagues on the Porton ranges. His friend and colleague David Upshall recalls that Ron was always determined not to give up despite looking ashen and continuously rubbing his chest during the first mile – five days a week. It was from this communal running habit that Porton Camp Athletic Club evolved bringing together a group of runners, many of whom were scientists, who became the core of Sarum Orienteers in its early years. Ron loved competition and, for many years, he would run up an age class, just to get some decent competition in both day and night events be it at club or international level.

Ron was a founder member of Sarum Orienteers. Along with Ted Horton, Dave Howells, Richard Durman and David Upshall he went to lectures on orienteering and two training sessions in local woods given by Andrew Beldowski, Cris Tween and Gary Court and he became a key player in how Sarum Orienteering Club developed.  Ron and David Upshall worked as a team creating the first orienteering maps of Vernditch Chase, Hamptworth estate, Collingbourne, Westwood and Groveley.

As a person Ron was amazingly resilient to any form of injury with recuperative powers that were almost magical. Many of us have memories of Ron that involved blood spatter and stories of unintentional collisions with trees or other obstacles that were in his way. It was said that the St. John’s  Ambulance were always pleased to attend any event involving Ron as it kept them in practice.

David Upshall recalls that at one event he came across Ron writhing on the ground and bleeding from the mouth – David helped him to a sitting position against a tree and stayed until Ron said  that he was OK and David should leave him to get his wind. This he did only to find that at the next control Ron was just leaving it, ahead of his rescuer!  A few weeks later David vaulted a tree on a track, caught his foot and landed face down on pointed brashings and cracked a rib. Ron cleared the same tree minutes later, left his footprint on David’s back, asked if he was OK and didn’t even break stride – he won his course, of course!  On another occasion running on an atrocious winter day with high wind and rain in which the last mile came out of the trees into the wind. Ron appeared out of the trees looking at death’s door. He sprinted the last mile and won his event but was so cold that Muriel had to undo his laces and help him to undress. 20 min later he was up and out chatting to the mob. Peter Hambleton remembers preparing to run in a local 15 mile road race in Amesbury to find Ron looking seriously out of sorts and being tended to by Muriel. Ron was intending to run – after having competed in the November Classic earlier in the day! He did run and did well!  Ron brought out the competitor in others and, for many, a victory over someone 20 plus years older was seen as a great achievement, and one that was hard won.

In his later years Ron became President of Sarum Orienteering Club and for many years he continued to contribute his orienteering wisdom and experience and take a lead at the Club’s Annual dinner.  Ron’s memory is perpetuated through the Club’s Galoppen Trophy, awarded to the leading club runner of the year. Anyone looking at the Trophy will realise why it carries Ron’s name – he won it year after year after year. Ron was not just a successful competitive orienteer he was also a considerate, charming and enthusiastic person who will be fondly remembered by many, not just in our Club but also across the SWOA region and beyond.

Many thanks to David Upshall and others on whose contributions this obituary is based and to Brian Hart for action photos.

Ron, No. 118, running in the 1982 Winchester half marathon for Porton Camp Athletic Club. You may recognise runner no. 116, failing to catch Ron.

Ron, No. 431, running in the 1983 Burnham Beeches half marathon. You may recognise runner 427, yet again failing to beat Ron.