Mother and son who made their mark on community die within days of each other

Date: Tuesday 16th January 2018

A KESWICK mother and son, who both made their mark on the community in which they lived, have died within days of one another.

The death of Tony Thompson, aged 59, who had been suffering from motor neurone disease (MND), was preceded just a week earlier by that of his mother, Evelyn Thompson.

Former teacher and paragliding pilot Tony hit the headlines in November when he took to the skies one last time in a tandem paraglide from Clough Head.

Tony’s family moved to Portinscale when he was aged four, having been regular visitors as Evelyn’s parents ran the Hawse End Hotel, then Derwent Lodge, Portinscale.

By the mid-1960s, Evelyn and husband Alan bought Derwent Lodge and land off her parents to run it as a hotel.

Tony and his sisters, Nicky and Tania, had a tremendous childhood, growing up by Derwentwater and enjoying all the outdoor activities it had to offer with the family.

By 1973, the family had formed Derwentwater Boat Club and built a clubhouse to run dingy racing, canoeing, cruiser moorings and a windsurfing school on the lake, as well as hosting social functions, regattas and holiday lets.

Tony developed his love for the water as well as enjoying the social side of the boat club — in particular his love for darts.

He mastered canoeing, windsurfing and sailing and started instructing at a very young age. He excelled at many water sports, in particular windsurfing, and in 1980 became the first person to windsurf from England to the Isle of Man, raising funds for charity.

He was an excellent sailor — the boats got larger and faster and the blasts around the Irish Sea became wars of attrition. During the 1980s, he sailed and won many yacht races, including the Three Peaks race from Barmouth, Wales, to Fort William, Scotland; the Five Kingdoms Challenge, which started in Maryport taking in ports in Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales and Ireland; and a number of Round the Isle of Man races.

Tony devoted his life to helping others enjoy the outdoors. He moved into teaching for greater job security for his family, and was a secondary school teacher in Cumbria for 32 years before the onset of MND meant he had to retire early in 2016. His main roles were at Ehenside and Cockermouth schools, as well as teaching evening classes at Keswick School.

Tony met his wife, Julie, at Keswick School sixth form, and they married in 1980. They had three children — Vikki, Sarah and Emily.

When the girls were fully grown, he took to the skies. He took up paragliding in 2003, and this became his new passion. He continued to help others enjoy the outdoors and accompanied World Challenge expedition youngsters up Kilimanjaro and across India, and led school ski trips.

He was chairman of Keswick Darts League before his illness meant he could no longer play.

Tony had a tremendous sense of adventure, love for the outdoors and zest for life. He was kind, compassionate, caring, fun, and had a great sense of humour.

He spent his final year enjoying everything he was able to before he was unable to move, including a Caribbean cruise, gyrocopter flight, glider flight and a charity paraglide off a Lake District peak in a special adapted buggy for disabled people.

He campaigned to raise awareness of MND and raise funds to support vital research. His fund-raising activities for the Motor Neurone Disease Association totalled almost £7,000 before he sadly lost his fight against the disease.

Tony is survived by wife Julie; daughters Vikki, Sarah and Emily; father Alan; sisters Nicky and Tania; and six grandchildren.

Evelyn Thompspn, known as Eve, spent part of her childhood in Germany where she was educated at King Alfred School (KAS), Plön, which was a British Forces Educational Service school. There she met future husband, Nelson (Alan) Thompson.

On leaving school, Eve went to college in Glasgow and completed a secretarial course before returning to Germany to work at the British Embassy in Bonn. In 1956 she came back to the UK with her parents who had bought Hawse End, and Alan regularly visited while serving in the RAF. Eve and Alan married in 1956.

In 1963, after moving house 25 times in her lifetime, Eve decided it was time for the family to take a chance and settle back in the Lakes to give her children the best opportunities and escape the lonely and uncertain lifestyle of being a serviceman’s wife.

They bought Derwent Lodge from Eve’s parents and ran it as a small hotel. While there, with the help of a few local sailing enthusiasts, they worked very hard at weekends and in their spare time to help clear the adjoining field and find the edge of the old marine garden that had formed part of Derwent Lodge some years previously.

Soon after they built and moved to Lakeside Villa where they continued to expand on the idea of sailing. Dinghy racing meetings started to take off, and by 1970 the concept of Derwentwater Boat Club had been laid out.

In 1973 the boat club was completed. It was a major achievement, with 400 members, 65 moorings and 40 dinghies on site, Eve had been pivotal to making it happen.

In 1985, once their children were grown up, Eve and Alan sold Derwentwater Boat Club, and Eve went on to work for the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and then NatCen, undertaking national social research projects which took her the length and breadth of the UK.

She was a kind, generous, fun, gregarious, astute, bright and conscientious person who loved life, spending time out in the fresh air, and would often be seen out walking Tania’s two Labradors in Penrith.

Eve leaves her husband, Alan; daughters Nicky and Tania; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.