Ron Stonehouse – an appreciation of his contribution to Athletics.
Ron Stonehouse was born on 28th August 1928 in Badshot Lea , Farnham. From an early age Ron suffered from mastitis – an ear complaint that afflicts him to this very day.
However this did not prevent him from pursuing a career with the SEB as an electrician and progressing to become Maintenance Manager for the various factories and branch offices of local engineering company Martonair Ltd.,
Neither did it impact him playing football at a half decent level for teams such as Farnham Town FC. or, more significantly, becoming a very good athlete and (latterly), a highly successful coach.
It’s always been difficult to get Ron to share his many achievements – let alone his athletic record. More difficult still is for him to acknowledge the pivotal role he played in many people’s athletic careers and personal life.
BUT with input from various sources here are highlights, firstly of his athletics career :-
>1954 White City 880 yds 1.54.2
>1955 White City 3000m SC 9.16.06
>1954 Birmingham 1 mile 4.11.00 (see AW cover).
>Winning the South of Thames XC in 1954 (see AW picture and results of race).
(As late as 1962 Ron ran 2.01.07 for 880 yds at Motspur Park!)
Front cover of Athletics Weekly Oct 16th 1954
From Athletics Weekly of NOV 20th
From Athletics Weekly of NOV 27th 1954
Jerry Fletcher (who now lives in New Zealand) has been a major help in putting this piece together; in fact Jerry was able to provide this ‘link’ to Ron’s (and his) transition from football back to athletics :-
> Sat 17th March 1962:
Last match of the season for Farnham Town Reserves in the Surrey Senior League Reserve Section. Another disappointing loss cements their position at the bottom of the table. “Why don’t you continue to come down to the Memorial Ground during summer but instead take up athletics?” suggests the Right Winger to the Left Winger. Ron Stonehouse (Right Winger) was always keen to encourage anyone to spend their spare time running – even if the Left Winger (Jerry Fletcher) immediately thought the exciting invitation meant spending his summer months socialising in the Long Jump pit with the Farnham AC ladies section. However, the Left Winger was soon to learn that Ron kept the socialising to the “Fox & Hounds” by the Memorial Ground – training and racing were far from “social”!
So, as Ron’s top level career came to a close (and football didn’t fill the void) he threw himself with vigour into club athletics with Farnham AC, some extracts from Jerry Fletcher’s training diary of 1965 give an insight into those early days :-
>Sun 4th – Sat 10th April – A typically “brutal” Ron Stonehouse training week:
Sunday: 11 miles at Frensham/Hankley including 3 hills, 6 x 500 and 4 x 220.
Monday: 8 ½ miles in Farnham Park including 6 x ¾ mile with a 440y jog – Keith Hazeltine leading the way.
Tuesday: 7 miles in Farnham Park including 12 x 440y with 1 ¼ min jog – again Keith leading the way.
Wednesday: 6 ½ miles from Memorial Ground to Farnham Park and back including 6 x 880y with Ron leading the way and ensuring they were all within 3 seconds of each other.
Thursday: Again 6 ½ miles from Memorial Ground to Farnham Park and back including 20 x 220y on cricket pitch.
Friday: Committee Meeting (thank goodness….)
Fri 16th April 1965 – Good Friday training at Aldershot:
“Ron took us to Polo Fields for 4 ½ mile run. Espied the Aldershot Camp at Mons! “ (To amalgamate or not to amalgamate – that was to be the question.)
Sat 30th October 1965 – Inter-Club CC at Croydon:
Youths race (2 laps) and Senior race (3 laps) started together and when Ron and Jerry Fletcher approached the end of Lap 2 with only 2 pimply youths in their company , the Senior race seemed done and dusted for the Farnham duo. However, no-one had told this to future internationals Don Faircloth and Norman Morrison and in the ensuing battle over Lap 3, Faircloth sprinted to victory over Jerry with Ron finishing a close 4th behind Morrison. “It will teach us a lesson”. (Next day another 10 ½ mile “recovery” session including 4 x 1 ½ miles with 880 jog. Someone asks “I hope we aren’t treating these Sunday session as races?” Answer: Ron sprints away on the final one in 7:19…)
So, this is what life was like – not only for Jerry but myself and others( I was just 16/17 years of age and training with these seniors and racing against them too at times!).
It was during 1965 that the idea of amalgamation was in the air – initially overtures were made with Guildford and Godalming AC these further two excerpts from Jerry’s training record of 1965 note this :-
Saturday 10th April Puttenham – 3 x 2 ½ mile interval laps. (Included Guildford’s Robin Harwood, Bob Belmore and Dick Raynsford – possibly an early start to amalgamation talks???
Friday 5th November 1965:
No training on Ron’s schedule. No, not because it’s Guy Fawkes night. Instead there was a committee meeting to discuss the proposal of amalgamating with Guildford & Godalming (which, of course, doesn’t eventuate).
BUT of course amalgamation DID ‘eventuate’ as John Lofts recorded:-
The founding of Aldershot, Farnham & District Athletic Club on 7th August 1966, was a momentous occasion and as we look back it is difficult not to take it all for granted.
The merger of Aldershot and District A.C. and Farnham A.C. was a marriage on the rebound. The negotiations between Farnham and Guildford and Godalming A.C. stumbled over the inclusion of Godalming in the name. As the Guildford and Godalming clubs had previously merged about a decade before they wished to include their name in full while Farnham thought the name in full would be too much of a mouthful.
And so it was that Aldershot, Farnham and District Athletics Club was conceived and we can see how secondly, Ron’s career morphed from competitor to coach.
Ron coached many, many young athletes – formally and informally. He also has a very keen eye for the youngsters with real potential – such as Bernie Ford who had joined Aldershot AC at 14 years of age. This is an extract from a support letter Bernie provided some years back when we were attempting to get Ron a UK Honour:-
Bernie Ford (Double Olympian, Double UK Senior CC Champion, and more)
“I cannot stress too much how vital to all my success Ron was. The simple fact is that without Ron it would not have been possible. He was there for us when we needed him, whatever the weather, whatever the time of day or night”.
Extracts from similar letters of support echo Bernie’s:-
Christina Boxer (Triple Olympian and Commonwealth Games representative)
“When I became the first British woman to break the 2 minute barrier for 800m I had asked Ron to accompany me when the press and local TV cameras came to the club to do a feature. I wanted recognition for him too, but when the cameras arrived, Ron was nowhere to be found. He does not coach for his own self recognition or aspirations but purely to help others get the most out of their lives and ability”
Roger Hackney (Triple Olympian and Commonwealth Games representative)
“He guided me through adolescence to become several times a National champion and three times Olympic athlete. Without Ron I would not have achieved the success I gained. He believed in me when I had no such conviction and became a close friend and a mentor”.
Such comments from these great athletes (and others that space does not permit inclusion) is replicated many, many, times by the hundreds of club athletes both young and old who have benefited from this amazing man’s skills, wisdom and friendship. His approach to coaching might be termed holistic – it goes way beyond body and mind and touches the soul.
Ron’s legacy continues on through the generations; there are many examples of this but the two mentioned here would, perhaps, please him more than most because they involve ” coaching youngsters – this where I get the most success and satisfaction .”
Ruth Smeeth (who Ron coached to National and International honours) is mother to the highly successful Lily Partridge who won the Woman’s English Cross Country Championship in February 2015 – thus replicating her Mum’s success 20 years earlier!
Similarly, Peter Adams (who Ron coached to an early international junior cross country vest alongside Bernie Ford in 1971) has a daughter Emily who is also an England International at cross country.
Along the way Ron HAS gained recognition of his contribution from various quarters – although National recognition or awards have eluded him (or more likely shunned by him!) . However, Brian Greig’s proposal to vote Ron as ‘Farnham’s Senior Sports Personality – 1980’ was successful and gave some overdue publicity.
Now in the twilight of his years Ron is unable to mark out the reps on the Polo Fields on a Tuesday and Thursday night (which he did regularly until his late70’s), but the Athletics Weekly arriving through the letter box is still a major highlight – as is watching sport on TV.
I’m sure too, that Ron misses the ‘buzz’ he got whilst he interacted with the ‘next generation’ of talent out on the Polo Fields or at the track – he simply loved encouraging and inspiring these youngsters.
Even at 86 years of age Ron brushes off any hint of thanks or praise – let’s hope he reads and enjoys this appreciation from AFD !
With grateful thanks to :- Jerry Fletcher. Bernie Ford Chris Boxer Roger Hackney Brian Greig The late John Lofts
(Plus many more current and ex members of Farnham AC and AFD)
Phil Stamp (April 2015)