Obituary: Alastair Lessells

With thanks from ESOC for the sharing this touching obituary to Alastair Lessells who was known, admired and relied upon by many throughout the Scottish Orienteering community over many years. The SOA send our deepest condolences to Alastair’s family, in particular Katy, Ruth and Richard as well as all his friends in orienteering across the country.

Dave Kershaw (ESOC, Scottish 6 Days Chair) said

“Alastair was one of ESOC’s long-standing members and contributed a huge amount to the club, and to Scottish orienteering generally, both as a competitor and as an official over nearly 40 years. He was one of a large group of ‘baby boomers’ in Scottish Orienteering and all members of my age, in particular, will remember him fondly for his competitive spirit and friendly post-event discussions. He will be sadly missed when we get back to orienteering together again. Our thoughts are with Katy and the family.” 

Alastair Lessells (ESOC) 28th May 1947 – 16th May 2021

Alastair died at home in Edinburgh after a very short illness from an aggressive cancer of the liver. He is survived by wife Katy, children Ruth and Richard and four grandsons.

It was in 1978 while in Aberdeen, Alastair was taken to his first event by Katy who had heard about orienteering through Guiding and thought it was something Alastair would enjoy. They completed the event together but were surprised to see that most people were running! Shortly after this they moved to Manchester and joined MDOC and soon became involved as competitors, helpers and officials. They made a lot of good friends during their time in MDOC and are still in contact with many of them.

In 1984 they were due to move to Edinburgh and were introduced at an event to Dave and Kirsteen Kershaw so on arrival in Edinburgh they joined ESOC. Ewart Scott recalls he first met Alastair and family in the autumn of 1984. They had just moved to Edinburgh and hosted a social at their home. Many more socials and Hair of the Dogs were hosted there over the years usually with some thoughtful twist in processing the answers.

Alastair quickly settled into ESOC, joined the committee and by 1990, ESOC’s 25th birthday was Club President. Alastair was a very competent event official, with extremely good planning and controlling skills. He was deeply involved with the Scottish 6 Days over the years and was ESOC day organiser in 1987, back in the days when digging latrine trenches and validating wet and muddy control cards were essential tasks! He went on to plan at the 1989 S6D and over the next years was often called upon as controller. In 1995 Alastair was Day Co-ordinator on the Central Organisers Team and was very proud of his maroon Strathspey officials’ sweatshirt which he has been wearing ever since.

The increasing use of computer technology in orienteering largely bypassed Alastair who viewed even a mobile phone
as unnecessary in most circumstances but it did not stop him from continuing to plan and control many SOLs and
SoSOLs always having fairness and the competitor in mind. Although generally fit, Alastair never seemed to train,
much to the frustration of his rivals, accuracy was his secret, along with his distinctive upright running style and an Otop carefully tucked into the waistband of his trousers (much to Katy’s annoyance!)

One of his rivals, Phil Smithard says – “I have great memories – and banter, of course, with Alastair as he was in
my age group and we have competed with each other for years as well as been officials at the same events”.
Alastair is the present holder (2019 winner) of the Scottish Orienteering League M70 trophy, a hotly contested age group. He was also very pleased to get several podium places in the British Relays over the years as he was a keen relay runner. The family had many orienteering holidays at the S6D, JK, Welsh 6 Days and trips abroad to French multi day events and also the O’Ringen where they were able to meet up with old friends from around the country.

Alastair’s day job was as an NHS pathologist at the Western General Hospital. When he retired in 2012 he threw his energies into volunteering. He was a volunteer with Lothian Conservation Volunteers, Edinburgh City Council Rangers on Corstorphine Hill and Cammo, National Trust Volunteers and Bawsinch Nature Reserve where he picked up many new skills. This was where his maroon sweatshirt was now worn and has burn marks from bonfires and holes from brambles to show for it!

As well as an orienteer, Alastair was a keen and extremely good golfer and bowler. He was Seniors Captain at his golf club and he was the Seniors Champion at the bowling club!

But most of all Alastair was a family man and a very good friend.