Published on October 19th, 2019 | by nioa-sec


Colin Henderson MBE, 1949-2019

His many friends in the orienteering community will be greatly saddened to learn of the death of Colin Henderson. In the early autumn of 2017, just after winning the veteran score class in the Mourne Mountain Marathon and being beaten into second place at the Northern Ireland Orienteering Championships by the tiny margin of just 19 seconds, Colin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He wanted everyone to be aware of the symptoms of unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain and jaundice. His high level of fitness permitted major surgery followed by treatment and by the beginning of summer 2018 Colin had regained an active lifestyle, which he enjoyed for a full year. This culminated with a mammoth cycle ride along the coast of Northern Ireland at the end of June in less than three days, to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer Action. Sadly feeling unwell shortly afterwards, he was diagnosed with secondary cancers, which claimed his life on Friday 18 October 2019.

Colin was a founding member of the Northern Ireland Orienteering Association and Lagan Valley Orienteers. Once described by an English orienteer trying to recall his name as “that guy who does everything over there”, Colin ably fulfilled many roles. He was a fiercely competitive orienteer, representing Ireland at many Home Internationals, a talented planner, exacting controller, capable organiser and co-ordinator, encouraging coach and latterly a budding mapper. He served on committees and held the role of Chairman and then Hon Secretary of NIOA for an extended period.

Colin made an early career switch from industry to education, because he wanted to make a difference for the next generation growing up in the divided society of Northern Ireland. Many individuals will confirm that he did. This led him into outdoor education and the Youth Service and strong links developed with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for which he was Deputy Secretary for Northern Ireland and an assessor for many expeditions and for which he was honoured with a MBE in 2013.

His outdoor interests extended well beyond orienteering to include cycling, hill walking, environmental concerns, canoeing, pickleball and even surfing. However his regular greeting “How are you and how is the family” revealed that he was a family man at heart. He deeply loved his wife Joan and daughters Jenny and Clare and their families. He delighted in their exploits and interests and they in his. He will be sorely missed by this close family circle, to whom the orienteering community extend deepest sympathies.

Colin’s funeral will take place at 2pm on Wednesday 23 October at Roselawn Crematorium, 127 Ballygowan Rd,  Belfast BT5 7TZ. Colin’s family request to wear purple if possible to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer.

About the Author

Stephen Gilmore is the Hon Secretary of NI Orienteering.

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