Dave Sparks 16.11.46 – 24.05.22 Honorary Life Member of POTOC

It is with great sadness that we report the death of our friend and fellow orienteer Dave Sparks on 24 May 2022.  He had been seriously ill in hospital for 12 weeks following a severe stroke.

Dave and family joined POTOC in early 1981, encouraged by his wife Alex to have a go at this ‘new’ sport which had been taken up enthusiastically by a number of work colleagues at ICL Kidsgrove.  For much of the 1981-2 season he was the Leading Novice in the Club League (but pipped at the post by a young Katherine Smith, daughter of POTOC’s Roger Smith).  Dave quickly became a very supportive club member and by January 1982 he was a committee member acting as POTOC’s Events Coordinator.  Dave was always an accurate navigator but never got to combine this with running speed.  Nonetheless he was a willing member of POTOC’s Staffordshire Way Relay team in September 1983.

Dave’s concern for detail led him into organising, planning and controlling, which he seemed to enjoy more than competing.  He organised a POTOC Club Event at Spring Pool Wood, Keele in November 1982 and attended a Controller’s Conference as early as Feb/Mar 1983.  He became very knowledgeable about Orienteering Rules and Guidelines for controllers, planners and organisers and put this to good use in the many events in which he was involved as an official.  Unfortunately we have scanty records of which events these were.  They included POTOC events at Weston Heath in April 1984 (Organiser), Bathpool Park Night Event October 94 (Controller) and others mentioned below by various POTOC members whose memories are serving them better than ours!  Dave was still planning as recently as June 2015 at Florence and Longton Parks.  Bob Brandon of WMOA hints at the extent of Dave’s controlling activities:

Bob Brandon (WMOA Controllers’ Co-ordinator):  Shocked to hear of Dave's passing, a long-standing hard-working member of the O community.  No doubt had a good send off.  All I have is a list of controllers - no detail of events officiated at.  In Dave’s case that would be 'lots'.

Mark Rowe:  My memory of Dave is of how conscientious and diligent he was in acting as both mentor and controller for myself when planning my very first orienteering events, one at Downs Banks and one at Bathpool Park.  On both occasions he was very patient but thorough in his approach and I learned a lot of valuable lessons.  I was sure I'd got all the controls in the correct place at Downs Banks but he spotted one during his pre-event checking where I'd carelessly marked it one path junction along from the correct location.  I couldn't believe it, but that memory of needing to double and triple check control sites has stayed with me ever since.  Many orienteers over the years owe a debt of gratitude to Dave for ensuring that events were completely on point.  He will be missed for his enormous contribution amongst the orienteering community.

Andrew Rowe:  Dave was an invaluable member of POTOC as its first webmaster, and was always helpful to me in putting up the prepared POTOC club league promptly and without fuss on the website.  He was also a great help to Mark and myself when we were novice planners of events in times past too with plenty of sound advice and suggestions.  [Ed. Dave set up the website in late 1998 on his UNIX-based server at home, using expertise gained in his work as software engineer at ICL/Fujitsu.  Typically, it was very well defended against malicious attacks!]

Geoff Hollins:  Very sorry to hear about Dave's death.  Dave planned the first Parkhall event which I organised and the first Leek Training area event, where he did a brilliant job on what is a very difficult area for planners.  He cut the number of controls right down so you really had to think about how to navigate the long distances between controls over what is difficult terrain underfoot.  His attention to detail was immaculate.

Henry Morgan:  .… unfortunately I have disposed of the Controller's information that I had.  I do remember that he did control at least once for WRE and I think twice at least for WCH.  He was initially the organiser for British Sprint Champs at Keele in 2014.  We both went to a few meetings at the University in early 2013 to persuade them to give us permission.  He eventually backed out when BOF office wanted to take more control.  Brenda was prepared to battle with the office, so became organiser.  Dave did help a lot in the setting up and on the day. I think we all appreciated his work with the website, his pictures taken at events, his help at the start for the Staffs Schools Orienteering Champs

Lil and Dave Bales:  When we first joined POTOC and took the brave step to plan our first courses and events, Dave was always there to point out, often at length, all the mistakes we had made.  We particularly remember an event we planned at Ramshaw Rocks (possibly our first) which we thought we’d done quite well.  Then along came Dave!  He paced out a bearing to our control 1 to prove that it was in the wrong depression.  He then ticked us off for describing a later control as a boulder which happened to be a boulder inside a small pit!  No wonder Dave was such an excellent controller. We still chuckle about it today.  We may have walked away a little deflated but it certainly helped us hone our planning skills for subsequent events!


Dave’s positive contribution to orienteering and to POTOC and, as a controller, to the WMOA shines through in the foregoing comments.  He did not enjoy all of the tasks of event organiser.  It was probably the detailed technical aspects of Planning and Controlling which appealed to him most and which he was best at.  Also, he was ideally suited to setting up the POTOC website, maintaining it from early 1999 until the current website replaced it in 2018.  This was a great contribution to the club.

It was good to see so many orienteering friends at his funeral on June 16, and afterwards at the White Lion.  We will all miss him.  Our sympathies go to Alex, sons Philip and Ian, and all the family.

Austin & Barbara Farr



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