George Cherry

George Cherry

It with great sadness that we have heard of the death of George Cherry, who was instrumental in the development of WWR – particularly around the southern area of the UK.

George died in October 2023 aged 90. Earlier in his life he was a serious athlete, playing rugby for Leicester Tigers first team and was also a competitive swimmer, he was also key to the sporting development of many in canoeing.

George’s involvement in canoeing stemmed from his role as a sports lecturer at Hatfield Polytechnic. Around 1969 a group of students were using the poly swimming pool to practice. George learned to paddle in order to develop the sport at the college; the polytechnic canoe club was born. A few years later on a European trip George met Mike Jones. Following up that encounter he contacted Mike again in order to provide the finishing touches to the project he was working on. He did not hear back from Mike, however, Jones miraculously appeared at the inaugural meeting of that project, Herts Canoe Club. By the end of the ‘70s George had coached and developed several younger Hertford based paddlers into British WWR youth team athletes at this time George was also the WWR youth team manager. George remained club coach at Hertford for many years and coached more athletes to both youth and senior British WWR team levels notably Fiona Mitchell, Ross Pearton, Andrew Curtis and Nick Gatland. In parallel with his voluntary role with Herts Canoe Club he mentored, coached and grew students at Hatfield Polytechnic [now the University of Hertfordshire] Canoe Club.


George dreamt up the Ouse Handicap race. Starting just below Duck Mill Weir [now the Etienne Stott White Water Arena] in Bedford the race headed downstream along the Great Ouse before turning left and over a small weir into the New Cut a narrow tree lined backstream. At the end of the cut competitors turned right to portage back onto the main channel to return to Duck Mill. The race was open to all types of canoe and kayak, flatwater racing craft, WWRs slalom boats etc. Competitors were set of on a handicap basis dependent on the type of boat, age and gender of paddler. The first back to Duck Mill was the winner. George devised and re[de]vised the handicap system.

In the 1970s it was not particularly unusual for canoeists to build their own boats. George designed and built several white water racers, including the Tornado a project developed in collaboration with the locally based manufacturer Avoncraft.

After his involvement with the youth team, George continued to take paddlers on trips abroad, for example to Sort in the Spanish Pyrenees for the slalom and WWRs held on the Noguera Pallaresa. Its fitting testament to George that paddlers from those trips were still in contact with him thirty plus years later.

Although a keen motorist [George loved motorcycling and also built a number of kit cars] George wasn’t the best at motor maintenance. On one occasion his car broke down on the way to a Dee WWR, George instructed one of his passengers to stand by the A5 with part of his luggage and paddling kit and try and hitch a life from passing motorist. Another canoeist’s car picked up the silhouette of a waving paddle stopped and one of George’s passengers was squeezed into the back of a Lotus Elan for the 50 or so miles to Llangollen.

George retired from the University of Hertfordshire at the end of the 1990s and moved to Dorset where he joined and Poole Harbour Canoe Club.

Rest in Peace George