On Saturday 14th April MAABC lost one of its most valued and popular members when Ken Williams died just before his 80th birthday.

Ken became part of MAABC when it moved to the current boathouse 20 years ago. At the time Ken was a member of Horseferry Rowing Club, the previous owners, and the sale allowed Horseferry members to use the facilities alongside MAABC. However, after a short period Ken became a full member of MAABC.

Ken took up rowing about 60 years ago when he joined Horseferry Rowing Club, a club he remained with for the next 40 years apart from 2 years at Furnival rowing in a successful Junior/Senior 8.

Ken was passionate about and committed to rowing which led to his wife Val and his 2 children Russ and Zoe all becoming rowers and achieving success at a high level.

During his time as a member of MAABC Ken competed regularly at the highest level winning at World Masters as well as in many events in the UK. He was an excellent sculler and most of his success was when sculling as a Master in his single, and in doubles and quads, sometimes in composites with members of other clubs including Tideway Scullers, Quintin, Putney Town and Peterborough.

Ken’s last success on the water was in his single at Maidenhead 4 years ago at Masters ‘I’ (75 to 80 years) when he beat a sculler rowing at Masters ‘H’. His last competitive success was in the National Ergo Championships at the Excel Centre 4 years ago when he won at Masters ‘I’ – Ken was happy to admit this meant competing against just one other but as anybody who has done a 2k Ergo knows, doing the event aged 75 plus deserves a medal!

Ken did a huge amount for the Club giving much of his time to supporting others and the general running of the Club. He was an excellent coach and for several years helped women members who were not part of the Senior Women’s Squad become competent rowers and scullers. Several of our current very successful women’s Masters group have fond memories of Ken as he was the person who took them to the level where they could compete and win.

Off the water Ken was a long-term Committee member and separately took on the role of Safety Adviser, something he took very seriously, where he brought about a number of changes to keep club members safe. He produced policies and procedures still in place today and adopted a ‘hands-on’ approach that would see him doing things like numbering launches, checking safety equipment in launches and checking buoyancy of club life jackets.

Outside of the Club Ken supported rowing as an umpire, a role he enjoyed and one he was sad to stop when he had to stand down at the age of 70. He exercised integrity and strength of character as an umpire. This was clearly demonstrated when he umpired a race in a home regatta involving an MAABC men’s 8 not long after he became part of the Club: during the race there was an infringement by the MAABC crew and Ken disqualified them. It was strongly disputed by the crew but after reviewing his decision Ken let the disqualification stand. Unsurprisingly for MAABC, over following weeks Ken was subjected to some light-hearted banter in the bar but those involved had accepted the decision and respected Ken for what he had done – in spite of the pressures of home regatta, own club.

Ken made a significant commitment to the Women’s Eights Head of the River where for a number of years he was Chief Marshal, an extremely important role. During Ken’s time, the popularity of the race increased to where it became the largest rowing event anywhere for female rowers with around 3000 competitors taking part. Ken played an important part in ensuring the smooth running and credibility of the event which is one reason it has become so popular. The current Women’s Eights Head committee recognise what Ken did and those who worked with him describe Ken as a ‘lovely man’ to work with.

As a person Ken was a cheery individual with a great sense of humour. He would take time to talk to you and would go around the club occasionally singing, not the greatest voice but 10/10 for effort and something he clearly enjoyed. He was good company and had a very positive impact on the atmosphere at the Club. He will be missed by us all especially those who knew him for a number of years and thought of him as a good friend.

Keith Mahony – MAABC Vice President and Ken’s friend.