Wellingborough table tennis stalwart who dedicated 70 years to sport dies

Ken Marchant receiving his award from the Duke of Edinburgh. NNL-181207-151130005
Ken Marchant receiving his award from the Duke of Edinburgh. NNL-181207-151130005

A Wellingborough man who dedicated 72 years to Northamptonshire’s table tennis scene has died at the age of 94.

Ken Marchant, Northamptonshire’s long-serving county chairman, died on July 1 just short of his 95th birthday.

Ken became a member of the Wellingborough & District League committee in 1946 and had been chairman since 2004.

In 1967 he helped to reform the dormant Northants County Association and served ever since, becoming chairman in 1988.

He also became a national councillor in 1967 and received a Silver Salver in 1992 after 25 years’ service.

He resigned in 2013 after 46 years, making him the longest ever serving councillor.

Ken also qualified as a coach and progressed to become the first Level 4 coach in Northamptonshire.

He became a member of the National Coaching Committee and was appointed regional coaching advisor for the East/South East regions covering 12 counties, later becoming regional coaching chairman.

In 1982 Ken’s achievements in coaching were recognised nationally when he was made a vice president of the ETTA (English Table Tennis Association).

In 1999 Ken received the prestigious Torch Trophy Trust award for his outstanding voluntary service to the ETTA.

The letter outlining why he received the award said: “It is undoubtedly due to the selfless dedication of people such as yourself that young people in this country have the opportunity to develop their own talents and, in many instances, produce the champions of tomorrow.

“All of us in sport have much to thank you for.”

Ken received the award from the Duke of Edinburgh.

Since then Ken has been awarded honorary life membership of the Northamptonshire County Table Tennis Association for his outstanding contribution to the county.

In recent years, despite being in his 90s, Ken has continued to be active and at the centre of all aspects of Northamptonshire table tennis, seeking sponsorship, arranging tournaments and particularly encouraging and creating opportunities for the young.

Table Tennis England Chairman Sandra Deaton said: “We’re very sad to lose a dedicated volunteer who served the sport for so many years and who was held in high esteem not just in Northamptonshire but in the wider table tennis family. “Our thoughts are with his family.”

Outside of table tennis Ken was called up for army service with the 5th Northants Regiment in WW2 fighting in North Africa, Sicily and at the battle of Monte Cassino.

He was twice seriously wounded being pulled out of a collapsed building alive and receiving serious leg wounds caused by a German machine gunner.

His legs were in a very bad shape for which many operations were required.

After the war Ken worked for the Gas Company for 25 years followed by a similar period at Whitworths, both in administration.

Ken’s sporting interests then centred on local football and table tennis.

He was honorary secretary of Wellingborough Victoria Football Club, formed out of a Bible Class at Victoria Congregational Church, from 1949 to 1977 of which the last 18 years was combined with the position of treasurer.

The funeral will take place at the United Reformed Church, High St, Wellingborough, on Monday, July 23, at 11.30am.