Testimony for Douglas Short (Dougie) and Gordon Thomson from Windscale Squash Club, both gentlemen and squash characters who played and loved our great game.
Dougie Short “the Gentleman of Squash”
Dougie Short, a former scholar of Keswick School who went on to become a well respected school teacher in West Cumbria passed away just prior to Christmas after a brave and courageous fight against cancer.
Dougie’s Cumbrian squash career started at the “Ranch” Moss Bay Workington home of the Steelworks Squash Club. Dougie was a regular in the clubs County League Men’s A team playing alongside numerous club champions from the area including Hudson Irving, Sean Jenkinson, Alan Barwise, Glenn Studholme and Paul Davies. He was later joined by Gavin Scott, Paul Messenger and Paul Armstrong in a team which relocated to Windscale’s Falcon club on the demise of the steel industry and the closure of the Ranch.
Doug came from the “Golden Era of Squash” in the 70’s and 80’s and was regarded as a gentleman both on and off court by all he played. He was clever and deceptive player, his movement around court was always a joy to watch.
Off court Dougie enjoyed the social aspects of the game as much the competition on court. For one end of season Steels fixture at Cockermouth a taxi was summoned to avoid driving so all could enjoy post game refreshments courtesy of the home team. Leaving a number of hours later Vince Toddhunter and his Cockermouth team mates were left with a much larger bill than they had budgeted for but a great night was had by all! On another occasion following victory in a fixture at the Ranch post match celebrations at the Waverley Hotel ended around the same time as the “Dawn Chorus” just after 5:00am with all rolling merrily home.
Following the arrival of Dougie and the Steels players at Windscale he established the clubs first shop selling anything squash from balls and grips to rackets, court shoes and clothing to anyone who crossed the threshold. It quickly became known as “Shorty’s Emporium”. If not on court Dougie would be found behind his stringing machine with the Daily Telegraph either checking shares and investments or giving it his best shot at the large cryptic crossword. If Dougie established you did not want to make a purchase you were quickly drawn into solving 8 down and 23 across!
Dougie’s squash talent did not go unrecognised with numerous outings for Cumbria in the Senior age group teams playing with the likes of Ron Bell and Trevor Musson to name a few. In addition he represented a Windscale Select on numerous occasions in fixtures against the British Army playing at venues such as Sandhurst, Catterick and Leyburn with Dougie giving the best the British Military could offer a run for their money. Dougie and the Steelworks boys would even do the odd overnight to the North East to play for Ged Gilroy’s Primrose team from Jarrow in the Northumbria league. If it involved a game of squash distance was no object!
Dougie just loved being involved in and around the game; he was unofficial coach to the Windscale ladies teams (brave man) and a key part in the organisation of numerous exhibition events at the club including the many bi-annual visits of the South African Knights. The Knights will again visit Windscale January 2019, how much Dougie would have loved to have been there and involved! Squash introduced Dougie to cycling; he was known to participate in the lads annual bike ride to the Stork Inn at Rowrah. On one occasion Doug along with John Drake and Ian Richardson returned to Whitehaven well after midnight, between the 3 bikes they could only muster 2 lights, with one riding on the front of the peloton with a fading white light and another on the back with a flickering red light, it was almost legal!
Some of Dougie’s greatest enjoyment came from attending the major tournaments to watch the world finest squash talent. The British Nationals, British Open and the World’s, he saw them all. The last such outing was to the World Championships in Manchester December 2017. Here with his great friends Dave “Nifty” Hetherington, Jimmy, Devoy, Tut Irving and Ian Thornborrow “Thorny” along with a half dozen more Dougie enjoyed a festival of Squash served up by the world’s current elite. He avidly followed every rally from the first serve to the final winning drop. Following the finals on Sunday evening the weekend was capped off with what many describe as the finest Indian meal they had ever tasted and cocktails to finish, it brought this memorable squash weekend to a fitting close, there was no one there who had enjoyed it more than Doug Short.
Dougie will be greatly missed by all involved in the game past and present both at Windscale and through the wider county scene and beyond. Doug was a true gentleman; it was always a privilege to be in his company especially on the squash court. Dougie will be missed but never ever forgotten.
Gordon Thompson “that Nice Man”
Gordon was an individual whose squash career never extended far beyond the doors of Windscale Squash Club but he brightened the lives of so many of our junior and senior player and was held in high regard by all our members, staff and the wider Falcon social club community. Gordon was a former British Railways employee who established his own successful small business. He became the Chairman of Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners during the 90’s and was instrumental in changing Whitehaven from a declining commercial port to the current thriving fishing and leisure marina it is today. When asked once at the International Boat Show on the Sun Seeker stand what he currently owned he replied “I own a harbour” to which he was then treated as royalty!
Gordon only took the game up when most are contemplating retirement and played socially for over 30 years playing on two or three occasions each week. Gordon who was an octogenarian played his final game in October last year being bitterly disappointed at missing the November Doubles comp Gordon died after a short illness just before New Year’s Eve.
Gordon’s favourite competition was the club’s annual fund raising Doubles Comp where he would with his playing partner Mark Fox give the many other more accomplished pairings a good run for their money. They never won that competition but they ensured they enjoyed the squash, the banter and refreshments.
Also a regular in the clubs Summer Team comp Gordon won the “Player of the Competition” for his commitment, encouragement of other and as most who nominated him said a “ being a thoroughly all round nice person” to be around.
Gordon and wife Kathy supported our club in many ways; his business was a sponsor of our ladies teams for many years, they donated prizes for numerous competitions and would always provide the whisky for the 10p at the bottle at our various charity events.
Gordon along with Doug Short was one of the regulars on the numerous trips run from Windscales to the many national and international competitions over recent years, he enjoyed just being around the game of squash and like minded people.
Gordon always made a point of attending the clubs AGM to ensure the staff and committee were thanked each year for the excellent running of the club. He also ensured that the minutes and balance sheet were accurate once correctly pointing out a 1p discrepancy, not bad in a six figure balance sheet!
Gordon who was never short of a smile and a few words of wisdom for all whose path he crossed was another true gentleman. He will leave a great void in our club from the juniors to our senior players and staff, rest peacefully sir!
Rest peacefully gentleman it was an honour and privilege to have you both as members of Windscale Squash Club, you are gone but will never be forgotten.
Tom Armstrong, chair of Cumbria Squash and Racketball, issued this statement:
It is with much sadness that I report to you the deaths of two Cumbria squash colleagues, both were members of Windscale Squash Club – unfortunately I have been doing this a lot over the last few years.
Dougie died just before Christmas after a brave and courageous fight against cancer over many years.
Gordon died after a short illness just before New Year`s Eve
Both were great supporters of our sport and very well-liked and respected “gentlemen” in the club and across the county.
I knew both of them, but mainly Dougie when he was a member of Steelworks Squash Club and Derwent Squash Club – when we were team mates – and during his time of involvement in the county scene.
Both will be sadly missed by all who were involved with them in any way
On behalf of Cumbria Squash & Racketball I give condolences to their families, squash colleagues and other friends.