Paul was one of the earlier Paralympians, representing Great Britain in wheelchair table tennis at a number of Games in the 1960s and 70s and winning several gold medals.

Early Life

Paul Lyall was born in Writtle, Chelmsford in 1944 and he spent the majority of his childhood living with his mother and grandparents in the East Anglian countryside. Many hours of his childhood were spent working and helping on his grandparent’s farm and subsequently, he formed a strong connection with nature and the outdoors. After leaving school at 15 years, he took up an apprenticeship to become a plumber and decided to buy a motorbike. Sadly, only shortly after, in 1960, he was involved in a motorbike accident and was left paralysed becoming a wheelchair user.

Paul started his 9-month rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and was introduced to new types of sport he hadn't tried before, including wheelchair table tennis. After his rehabilitation time he moved back home for a short period before relocating to Isleworth in London, where he stayed in a hostel for people with spinal injuries called the Duchess of Gloucester House. He soon found a job as an Electrical Inspector, working for the American owned company Arrow Stitches. The company had a large games room and soon after taking up his position there, Paul started spending his lunch hours playing table tennis with non-disabled colleagues.

From there his table tennis career developed rapidly as ex-county player Les Shepherd took an immediate interest in Paul and trained him to compete in the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games. A strong performance at the Stoke Mandeville Games that year led to Paul being chosen to represent Great Britain at the Paralympic Games that year.

Life as a Paralympic athlete

Paul on his return from the Tokyo 1964 Games (3rd from the left) with his table tennis partner Hugh Stewart Mackenzie (1st on the right)

In 1964 at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo he won a gold medal in the Men’s Singles Class B competition, beating the Argentinian, Romero, in the final. He also won bronze in the Men’s Doubles Class B competition alongside his partner Hugh Stewart Mackenzie.

At the 1966 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Kingston, Jamaica, Paul once again won gold in the Men’s Singles Class 2. Partnered by British Para Table Tennis President Philip Lewis MBE, he also won gold in the Men’s Doubles.

Two years later, in 1968, Paul attended his second Paralympic Games in Tel Aviv. He won gold in the Men’s Singles Class B and also won a silver medal in the Men’s Doubles partnered by George Monaghan.

The final Paralympic Games he attended were held in Heidelberg, in 1972. There he won two bronze medals in both the Men’s Singles Class 4 and the Men’s Team Class 4 with Neil McDonald. After this event he retired from national and international table tennis, and although he didn't compete competitively he enjoyed teaching his children and grandchildren.

Retirement as a Paralympic athlete

Working at Arrow Switches Paul met his wife Sally, who he married in April 1966. The couple travelled Europe together and following the closing of the company they worked for, they relocated to Northolt. Paul picked up playing the guitar and together with some friends he formed a group called the ‘Paratones’.

In 1977, their son Nigel Paul Lyall was born and a couple years after, in March 1984, their daughter Victoria Amy Lyall followed. Paul enjoyed gardening and fishing and spending time with his family.

Paul passed away on Christmas Eve 2021 at the age of 77.