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Ronnie Foster (or Ron as he was known to his family and friends) was a wheelchair basketball player who competed in the Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Summer Games. In 1960 he won silver in the wheelchair basketball Men's Tournament Class A when Great Britain lost to the USA, and bronze in the table tennis Men's Doubles B.

Ronnie (right) with Paddy Moran (left)

Early life

Born in Hazel Grove, Greater Manchester, and described as a keen Manchester City supporter, Ron completed his apprenticeship as an electrician before going on to do his National Service when he was 21. While posted to Benghazi, Libya, he was returning from playing football when a freak accident caused him to be thrown from the lorry he was travelling in, breaking his back. 

While he was at Stoke Mandeville hospital, Ron met Paddy Moran who was in the next bed and he became a lifelong friend and fellow Paralympian. 

Paddy Moran and Ronnie

It is suggested that Dr Guttmann was an influential figure in the lives of both Ron and Paddy, as he wasn’t receptive to the idea of patients lying around and feeling sorry for themselves. During their time at the hospital they were encouraged to be self-sufficient, one example is the insistence that they got dressed by themselves, clothes were left on the bed, and they were left to work it out for themselves. It was at Stoke Mandeville that both started playing basketball. 

Inspired by Dr Guttmann, throughout their lives they would always give something a go.

Both Ron and Paddy are remembered as frequent visitors to the local pubs.

When it was time for them to be discharged neither was able to return home, because Ron's parents lived in a small cottage and Paddy could not return to Ireland. They both took the option of moving to the Lyme Green settlement near Macclesfield, Cheshire, which had been established in 1946 to provide treatment, rehabilitation and purpose-built accommodation for paraplegic ex-servicemen injured during World War II.

Every time they went to Stoke Mandeville for a check-up, Dr Guttmann always checked in on them, highlighting his commitment to his patients. 

Recollections

Life with a disability was not always easy for Ron, Pat Foster, his wife, recalls that on a trip to Torquay both he and Paddy Moran were refused service in a pub because of their disability, something which would be unheard of today. 

It is also recalled that they spoke of having to dismantle their wheelchairs to travel by air and rebuild them at the destination, on one occasion even the pilot helped in reconstructing the wheelchairs.

Life as a Paralympic athlete

It is reported that, in addition to his medal events in wheelchair basketball and table tennis at the Rome 1960 Paralympic Summer Games, Ron competed in athletics. However, none of the available records show which events he competed in.

Ron also competed at the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games, winning a second medal for wheelchair basketball.

Achievements and awards

Paralympic Games

At the Rome 1960 Paralympic Games, Ron, along with teammates Paddy Moran, Dave Platten, Bill Shiel, John McBride, George Swindlehurst, Dick Thompson and Ron Lawson won silver in the Basketball Men’s Tournament A. He also won bronze in the Table Tennis, Men's Doubles B with Dudley Phillips.

The Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games saw Ron and teammates George Swindlehurst, Paddy Moran, Bill Shiel, Brian Bennett, Joe Slattery, Neil MacDonald, Dick Thompson, Brian Dickinson and Frank Gilbertson win silver again in the Wheelchair Basketball Men’s Tournament A.

 

Other sporting events

Ron was a wheelchair basketball substitute at the 1958 International Stoke Mandeville Games and represented England at the First Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Perth, Australia, in 1962.

Interviews

A short video with Glyn Jones about his friends Ron and Paddy Moran and their sporting accomplishments.

Oral history interview about Ron & Paddy Moran

Interview by Dr Rosemary Hall, 28th October 2021

Memories of Ron and Paddy by their wives Pat and Mary and friend Glyn Jones. They met when they had beds next to each other on the ward at Stoke Mandeville hospital and were soon encouraged to take part in the sports on offer, including table tennis, javelin and wheelchair basketball. They went on to compete in the early Stoke Mandeville Games and won numerous medals throughout the 1960s at four Paralympic Games and seven Commonwealth Paraplegic Games. Listen to the interview below or download the transcript. You can read Paddy Moran's story here.

References

  • I. S. Brittain, From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A history of the Summer Paralympic Games, Champaign, Illinois, Common Ground Publishing, 2012
  • https://db.ipc-services.org/sdms/hira/web/competition/code/PG1964/sport/WB
  • https://paralympicanorak.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/the-first-commonwealth-paraplegic-games-perth-australia-1962/