Keith Marsden 1943-2023

Keith Marsden with Ralph Street (SLOW) at a Junior Start Programme weekend in 2006
Keith Marsden with Ralph Street (SLOW) at a Junior Start Programme weekend in 2006
Credit: Nick Barrable

We were saddened to learn that Keith Marsden passed away earlier in the year. 

What follows is a tribute to Keith that first appeared in Compass Sport, and we are privileged to be able to reproduce it here. It was Keith’s wish that orienteering continues to be a sport that constantly enables junior talent development and would have liked donations being made in his honour to go to the Orienteering Foundation, to continue their invaluable support for our junior orienteers. If you would like to make a donation to the Orienteering Foundation in memory of Keith, you can donate here (which will take you to our page on the Charities Aid Foundation website). If you are happy to do so, please also drop an email to Andrew Evans at email hidden; JavaScript is required so we know the donation is in Keith's memory and we can take that into account in using it to help fund junior orienteering development projects.

Keith Marsden HH M80 25th December 1943 – 29th April 2023

There can’t be many orienteers under the age of about 50 who won’t have come across Keith at some point during their teenage orienteering career, either directly through his own coaching of Happy Herts juniors, South-East Junior Squad and at Lagganlia, or through one of the many initiatives and institutions that Keith developed. Keith touched the lives of many orienteers over the years, including former and current British squad members, a small army of coaching talent, and a body of orienteers who are just simply better orienteers thanks to Keith’s efforts. Keith was especially proud of having coached almost all members of the British team that competed at the World Champs in 2015. He delighted in watching the progress of everyone as they reached for their own goals.

Keith was born the son of a Joiner in Chesterfield and succeeded in passing the 11+ which enabled him to attend Chesterfield Grammar School. From there he went to The University of Liverpool where he met Susan Prowting, whom he married in 1967. For the majority of his working life, he worked for Hoskyns Group, starting as a computer programmer. Hoskyns evolved, through a series of acquisitions and sales, to become Cap Gemini, by which time Keith had worked his way up to senior management consultant with a large team reporting to him.

His children Jon and Ian came along in the 1970’s but it was not until around 1982 that the family was introduced to orienteering by Susan’s brother, Jim Prowting. Seeing this as a sport the whole family could do together, they joined HH and rapidly became part of the scene. Over the decades, Keith and Susan competed in thousands of events all around the world, and rarely missed a major event in the UK.

It will be Keith’s work behind the scenes, rather than successes in the forest, that will be his legacy. He passionately believed in ensuring the sport was in the right shape to deliver for the whole community, and held numerous local, regional and national roles to promote the development and professionalisation of the sport, including: HH Equipment Officer; SEOA Secretary; North London SI Consortium Chairman; BOF Coaching Committee Chairman; and Orienteering Foundation Board Member.

Keith is best known as a coach: As HH Training Officer; lead coach of the South East Junior Squad for 30 years, and Head Coach for the BOF Lagganlia tour for 12 years. Even when he retired from day-to-day coaching, he continued to advocate the coaching that was available within the sport. He was instrumental in developing the 1st4Sport Coaching qualifications, setting up the Junior Regional Orienteering Squad (JROS) structure, and providing the continuity of funding, through the Orienteering Foundation, that was needed to support the programme of junior training tours when BOF stopped organising them. Indeed, he was very proud of the work the Orienteering Foundation and JROS do to develop orienteering talent, despite the challenging funding situation.

Keith was diagnosed with terminal Prostate Cancer in 2019, but he continued with his orienteering endeavours until his health started to rapidly deteriorate in early 2023. He was able to witness all of his grandchildren competing at orienteering events, including celebrating the first M10 British Champion of the family.

Keith Marsden HH at the BKO Concorde Chase 2007 on Burghfield Common in a Lagganlia top
Keith Marsden HH at the BKO Concorde Chase 2007 on Burghfield Common in a Lagganlia top
Credit: Mark Cheesman
Last updated: Mon 30 Oct 2023