On 3rd January, 2013, Dundee Hawkhill Harriers lost Ron McIntosh, a member who put his heart and soul into the Club through decades of unstinting service. The Hawks have benefitted over the years in terms of the devoted input of members and officials but Ron was unique insofar as his support and encouragement for the Club and its members seemed to permeate every area of what we are about, and his inspiration created a momentum he would wish us to maintain.
Ron joined DHH in 1983 and his main forte was in Road Running, achieving some creditable performances at half and full marathon distances. He was also successful in Hill Running and made many an ‘expedition’ to races with overnight stays in the Highlands, and although because of illness, his contribution was restricted at times to that of mini-bus driver, miraculous recovery occurred at the sound of a Scottish Country Dance Band when he would birl like a Whirling Dervish, causing the ladies to run for cover if he approached in their direction.
As well as regularly competing for the Club, Ron played a major role on the organisation side, serving on Committee and in the role of Vice President. He became the mini-bus driver of a somewhat dilapidated vehicle, and in winter the broken heater led to travelling conditions being a trifle Baltic. Ron solved this by installing a heater complete with gas cylinder – Health and Safety Executive, look away now.
Ron could always be found ‘out on the course’ or ‘round the track’ giving athletes that extra shout of encouragement when it was most needed. He was full of praise for the Champions, but was perhaps more at home cheering on those for whom the going was tough, but with his inspiration might just translate a good run into a p.b..
Sadly, Ron’s appearances at the Club became less frequent as the Sjogren’s Disease from which he suffered, caused kidney failure, leading to years of dialysis, and in the process, he lost both legs below the knee. He was placed on the Transplant list and in May, 2009, a kidney donor was found and Ron received his transplant.
Instantaneously, he emerged from the burden and handicap of ill-health. He was a new man – the only problem was he had no legs, but for Ron, ‘no problem Jimmy’.
By now, he had already been fitted with prosthetic replacements, despite being told by some medical staff he would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life, and with his return to good health, he threw himself into sport and life in general, but with even greater vigour than before.
He was always aware none of this would have been possible without his transplant, and felt a huge debt of gratitude to the donor. The only way he could show his appreciation was to treat his new organ as if it was made of gold, and this he did. He maximised the benefits it brought for himself, but often used this situation to assist and support others. I often speak to people about Ron, and usually ask ‘Did you know Ron?’ The answer is often ‘Yes, …….’, and the second sentence usually begins, ‘He helped….’
Ron helped everybody, he made us all laugh with stories, often at his own expense. He worked tirelessly to promote the Organ Donor Service and was infinitely grateful for the treatment he received at Ninewells. He became a hospital ‘Buddy’ – helping patients think positively about their condition, using his own experiences as an example.
Over the last 3 years, Ron’s life just took off and his exploits are now legend, leading to the winning of several National Achievement awards, and also to the pinnacle of his recent success, carrying the Olympic Torch through the middle of Dundee.
Ron has since visited some 20 schools telling of his experiences and I was with him when he spent an evening with the Rainbows of St James Church, Broughty Ferry. He told his story to about 30 girls aged 10. They listened intently, then individually carried the Torch round the hall, having their pictures taken with Ron.
Ron decided that after his death the Torch would be donated to the Medical Museum at Ninewells in appreciation of all that was done for him by the Kidney Unit there.
Ron was one of us – part of our team, but also part of the Ron/Cecelia team. It was always a team effort, but what Ron did, was all the more effective because Cecelia was at his side with practical assistance, but also providing that moral support to let him know she was with him as he took on the world.
There is much more could be written about Ron, his love of Nature, his abhorrence of cruelty to animals, his skill in writing poetry, historical interest in his beloved Auchterhouse, but perhaps all of that for another day.
For now, we must say Farewell to Ron. The suddenness of his passing has shocked us all. There was much still to do – only days before his death he was saying how finally his ‘stumps’ had become strong enough to allow the use of his new blades and how he was looking forward to some serious training. More fundraising efforts, promotion of the Organ Donor scheme were, amongst other things, all part of his plans. But this was not to be, and we can now only look back and marvel at who he was and all he achieved, especially since his kidney transplant.
Our memories of him will fade with the passage of time – but not yet! Let us keep that memory alive for a wee while. Let us remember him as he told us we were ‘doing great’ as we struggled up a muddy hill, or down the back straight into the wind. Ron would still want us to do our best, so to all people who compete for Dundee Hawkhill, the next time you line up on that start line, remember Ron and make that special effort – just for him.
R Oliver / A Birse.