When Lesley asked me how I would feel about speaking at her funeral, just 5 weeks ago, I was struck not for the first time in recent weeks by her courage, forthrightness and her remarkable need to be organised and organising. In typical Lesley style she was leaving nothing to chance! At the time I vowed to do as good a job as I could and that I would do it in enough time to share my thoughts with her. Sadly I did not get the chance. It goes without saying that she faced her illness with courage dignity and strength that often defied belief. But I shall not dwell on that as that was only a few weeks out of an incredibly full and successful life.
In thinking about her I tried to remember the first time I met her. Strangely I cannot put a time on it. She just seems to have been around Scottish rowing. For me she was a presence – everywhere. On the bank umpiring, in the next lane beating me, at the bar buying beer and more recently in the boat helping me to win some of those elusive Masters medals. Perhaps most satisfying – even more that the masters medals- were the nights spent putting the world to rights, dissecting the latest blockbuster film or novel and criticising the male of the species, which we did at great length.. During that time I had plenty of opportunity to marvel at the woman. I have never known anyone quite so driven, organised, Ivan has already said that her weekends were planned with military precision. If the military put even a fraction of the planning into their missions we could all feel a lot safer! As well as that though’ a number of other themes come to mind-
Hashing: Lesley was a hasher before she was a rower. Hashing is a social running club. Sometimes described as a Running club with a drinking problem and othertimes as a Drinking Club with a Running problem. Lesley who was known as Rigsby (because she owned a flat which she rented to fellow hashers), was a stalwart of The New Town Hash House Harriers where she held various posts of the mismanagement for several years.
The motorbike: A keen biker, with matching leathers, she was never happier than arriving at her destination in record time, having beaten the speed cameras! It is fortunate for all that she never managed to work out how to carry her oars to Strathclyde Park on the pillion. It should also be recorded that she spent a very happy afternoon on the River Thames at Henley , in-between umpiring duties at Women’s Henley one year in earnest discussion with fellow motor bike enthusiast, and launch driver at the time, Matthew Pinsent. Were we jealous…..
Her forthright manner: She didn’t mince her words and she didn’t suffer fools gladly.
Anyone who has been on the sharp end of her tongue will remember it well. The rest of us can breath a sigh of relief. The good news was that once said and off her chest, that was it.
The allotment: and the selection of organic – not vegetarian- produce
Food: An excellent cook, she abandoned veggyism many years ago. Her fruit compotes are legendary.
Drink: Lesley was legendary for her industrial strength g&ts, and her love of real ale, champagne….and the finer wines, which would be tested out during holidays in France . I am sure everyone gathered here today has their own memories of joining Lesley in her pursuit of good food and fine wine, whether it be at formal dinners, garden parties, barbecues or impromptu celebrations.
Approaching motherhood, Lesley took a major role in the organising of the 1996 World Rowing Championships, staged at Strathclyde Park . With just one week before giving birth to Ewan she was responsible for the end of regatta parties – no mean task at any time. She didn’t in fact make it to these events, which were great successes, as she was at the time packing her bag to go to Simpsons.
As a Mother Lesley was tremendously proud of Ewan and I was privileged enough to attend his nativity play at Christmas time and see her pride at first hand. In order to spend more time and be with Ewan at his mini rugby exploits Lesley put herself through the SRU’s coaching course to enable her to be involved. This kept her busy on Sunday mornings .
In the run up to the various Master’s regattas – in which she played a lead role in co-ordinating and organising everyone, I dreaded opening e-mails from Lesley. What did I owe her money for now that I did not realise that I would need? Endless spreadsheets with crew permutations followed by endless spreadsheets with individual debts… In many ways it is a pity that Bill Gates was so quick off the mark. If he hadn’t invented the Excel spreadsheet I have no doubt Lesley would have – before breakfast, after going to the gym while the rest of us were still sleeping!
When thinking about Lesley there are a great many adjectives and superlatives that spring to mind, but perhaps the one that most aptly sums her up for me is
Friend: According to the Oxford English dictionary, a friend is someone with whom one enjoys mutual affection and regard.
I feel proud and honoured to have had her as a friend and to have been considered one of hers.
As I started my rowing career she was a formidable presence, and there she will remain – She is no longer with us in body but that incredible force is still around
Next – Obituary from Scottish Rower