It is with great sadness that we report the death of Martin Etchells who sadly passed away on 6 September 2020 at the age of 69 after a long and courageous battle. Martin has been a loyal, reliable servant to athletics and he will be sorely missed. England Athletics and the AAA Board would like to send their thoughts and best wishes to Diane and family.
Martin’s brother Andy and Walter Nicholls have written the obituary below
As a teenager, Martin was a member of Stretford AC, becoming a proficient middle/long-distance and cross-country runner. At university in Coleraine, while studying for his biology degree, he took a sabbatical year as Secretary of the Athletic Union, the first flowering of his lifelong interest in sports administration and promotion.
After moving to London to become the first Manager of the newly-opened Wapping Sports Centre, he joined Ilford AC and was soon invited on to the Club Committee where he served as Honorary Secretary from 1977 to 1982. Running in Ilford’s colours he posted Personal Bests of 51mins 18secs for 10 miles, 73mins 25secs for the half-marathon and 2hrs 54mins 6secs in the inaugural London Marathon (1981). It was at Wapping where he first came across Sportshall Athletics, which he continued to support throughout his life. George Bunner, the inspiration behind Sportshall, has said of him: “He was always a pal and you grabbed hold of him when you needed him. He would take his coat off and get stuck in.” Martin left Wapping to take up the role of Leisure Manager for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, in charge of everything from leisure centres to libraries to parks. After moving to Seaford in Sussex in 1991, he took up the post of Head of Leisure Services with Hastings Borough Council (2001-2010). He took early retirement from HBC but devoted ever more time to voluntary work, not just in athletics but also at Eastbourne District General Hospital where he was a presenter (and Hon Treasurer) for the hospital radio station and a stalwart (with his wife, Diane) of the Friends’ shop.
His move to the south coast led to his immersion in athletics at all levels in the county. He became Sussex AAA Hon Treasurer in 1996, a post he held for many years, and also took on this role for Sussex Schools’ AAA. From 2014-16 he combined his role as Treasurer with that of President of Sussex AAA. In 2010 he became Treasurer of the AAA and continued in this post until ill health forced him to retire at the AGM in March this year.
He became well known as a commentator at national athletic events, including the Special Olympics and Island Games, but always remained willing to help out at children’s events such as Sportshall and the AAA Tom Pink Relays, travelling the length and breadth of the country to do so. He was a Gamesmaker at the 2012 London Olympics, working inside the Olympic Stadium, and also officiated at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He played an important role in the London Mini-Marathon for more than a decade.
In his last few months, despite undergoing treatment for cancer, Martin did much of the preparatory work for The Athletics Museum’s website, which is now up and running. Jane Ainsworth, the AAA Research Associate said: “His support for the project was inspiring and I will do my level best to make sure that the museum reflects all that is good about the sport to which he contributed so much”.
Martin demonstrated his love for the sport of athletics through a lifetime of volunteering: he has been a loyal, reliable servant to athletics and will be sorely missed.
Photo by Reg Hook