Lancaster man enjoyed a life in sport

Ken Riley.
Ken Riley.

A multi-talented sportsman who won over 300 trophies and was a Junior Wimbledon quarter finalist has died, aged 87.

Ken Riley also set up the Riley and Braithwaite sports shop and played competitive sport well into his 80s.

Ken Riley playing table tennis aged 82.

Ken Riley playing table tennis aged 82.

Even when Ken lost the use of his legs during his final illness, he still played table tennis with visitors to his home while sitting down.

He was born John Kenneth Riley on West Road, Lancaster, in 1928, the only child of Horace and Nettie Riley. The family had a grocer’s in Moor Lane, BR and WH Riley, for 100 years.

Ken went to Dallas Road School and then to the Friends School. He credited his love of sport to his former headmaster ‘Bulldog’ Drummond who always encouraged him.

Ken started playing tennis at 10 on the Giant Axe field and later joined Bowerham Tennis Club. He was later made captain of the Junior Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain and got to the last eight at Junior Wimbledon at 17.

In 1947 he was called up and went in the RAF to Germany, twice winning the RAF tennis championship.

He took a professional coaching course under former BBC tennis commentator Dan Maskell and coached alongside Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade at Gleneagles.

Ken won many senior tennis tournaments including the open mixed doubles tournament at Regent Park, Morecambe with Jean Matthews, daughter of Sir Stanley Matthews. He also coached the famous footballer’s son.

Ken went on to play veterans tennis for Lancashire and had his last game of competitive tennis in Caton aged 64 before a heart attack ended his competitive career.

He won the the Lancaster table tennis tournament on many occasions, took part in the world championships in his age category in Sweden in 2012 and beat soap stars Mark Charnock (Emmerdale’s Marlon Dingle) and Mikey North (Coronation Street’s Gary Windass) in a charity table tennis match in Manchester aged 85.

Ken was also a member of Lancaster Golf Club for over 50 years, played bowls with his wife Pat and loved badminton too.

In the 1960s Ken started a sports shop with Derek Braithwaite in a condemned shop in Stonewell, opposite the post office. They then moved to Market Square and eventually had shops in Marketgate, the university and Euston Road, Morecambe.

After Derek left the business, Ken moved to Church Street for the last six years before he retired.

Ken’s first wife was Sallie Little, who died in the 1990s.

He is survived by Pat who he married in 1997, his stepdaughter Wendy, step grandson Sam and step son-in-law Robert.