Due West

Due West Interviews Alan Vyse

In 2004, Due West interviewed Alan Vyse, who had just become the new president of the SAGE orienteering club. Many of you will have had the pleasure of working with Alan over the years, and enjoying the fine maps and competitions he has contributed to. Alan is still very active, and his ‘back story’ is still an entertaining narrative. DW therefore thought it was time to highlight that story once more, particularly for the new generation of orienteers who are now making the trek to the grasslands and forests of the Central Interior – Alan’s ‘stomping ground’. We asked Alan to update that original record, and here it is, for your reading enjoyment.

ALAN VYSE – 15 years on……

DW: Alan, give us a brief biography.
AV: I was born in the NE of England and somehow found myself taking forestry at Aberdeen University, graduating in 1964. I came to Canada immediately after graduation. I arrived, clueless, with $30 but without my rubber boots (they weighed too much and I couldn’t afford the excess baggage fee … I still have this image of abandoned boots weeping silently in a dusty airport corner).
I arrived in Canada in the midst of Beatlemania and the great flag debate. Since my hair was shaggy, my nose was beaky, and I talked with a funny English accent, I was a clearly a close Beatle relative according to certain impressionable Canadian girls. Naturally, I was too dumb to take advantage of this. I wasn’t a Beatle, I told them. The Beatles came from Liverpool and I was a more superior Geordie [Editor’s note: Geordie is a nickname for a person from the Tyneside area of North East England] This must have put the girls off, because they disappeared, never to be seen again. The flag debate, however, went on and on.
I completed a second degree at Toronto in Forestry Economics and then worked in forestry research for the Canadian Forestry Service in Victoria and for the BC Forest Service in Williams Lake and Kamloops. I retired in 2003, and for some years continued my silvicultural research work under an emeritus appointment with the now disappeared Forest Service Research Branch and an adjunct appointment at the University College of the Cariboo, now known as Thompson Rivers University.
Frances and I met at Aberdeen in a popular student bar called the Blue Lamp. To my amazement she drank whisky and Crabbie’s Green Ginger. She could also high jump 4’6” using the scissors technique. I was impressed with the long legs and her Nerve. Anyone who drinks whisky with green ginger wine in Scotland has to have Nerve. Since I could pay for the drinks she followed me to Toronto in 1965 and we got married there. Fifty-four years later we have two kids and three grandchildren ….. and all because of Whisky and green ginger wine.
DW: How and when did you start orienteering?
AV: Am I allowed three answers to this question? I began orienteering in the “modern” sense in the summer of 1986. A running friend told me about an event being held on the Kamloops Joyce Gulch map. I won the open class, beating my friend by an hour, and I thought I was bloody marvellous. But my very first competition was at Blair Atholl in Scotland in 1963. I ran in the 2nd Scottish O Championships on a 1 inch to 1 mile map. I had no idea what I was looking for within the circles on the map but I found 6 of 9 controls in 2 hours and finished second …. of three. The third person may still be out there on the fog-bound moors.
However, I really began O in Boy Scouts. At the annual summer camps we competed in patrols, and one of our tasks was to hike around set courses marked on a 1 inch ordnance survey map. I found I could read maps better than most of my peers and so our patrol always did well. This made up for the fact that my camp cooking was nothing to write home about. In fact my mother would have been horrified. So I didn’t write.
DW: What do you like about orienteering?
AV: This one is easy: reading the maps and running the woods. What a great combination!
DW: What kind of physical training do you do? Alone or with someone else/group?
AV: Nothing serious but I loved the Blue Lake camp with those zany Alberta folks.
DW: What is your favourite kind of terrain?
AV: I can tell you my least favourite terrain … all those damn granite boulders and rocks amidst the fog of 3m-high wattle bushes at Kooyoora State Park in Australia. Roughly translated, Kooyoora means the land of many, many granite boulders that are very, very hard to find.
DW: Why do you think that you are successful in orienteering?
AV: I’m not sure I am successful in a competitive sense. But I’m successful in that I enjoy myself every time I go out on a map (with the exception of Kooyoora State Park, of course!)
DW: What are your plans for the club in your first year as President?
AV: Since I didn’t run for election on a platform, and my election expenses were zero, I’m still contemplating the answer to this one. Get through the season without losing anyone? Our biggest problem in the club is avoiding burn-out. I think I’ll be good at that. We’ll also have fun figuring out how to use the SI system in club events and getting a new map started. We’ll also try to get O back on the Summer Games program for Kamloops in 2006.
DW: Do you have any longer term goals for SAGE? If so, what are they?
AV: I’d really like to see O grow in the Kamloops area, especially among young people. We need more people to help put on events for one thing. But I’m a realist. I believe we have to do a good job of presenting O to the potential audience, but do this within our volunteer resources. And then we have to stop worrying – life is too short. If the demographics and social trends are with us, great …. if not, too bad.

And fifteen years later…………..

DW: So, what happened to Sage in the last 15 years?
AV: Sadly, O has been in decline in Kamloops and I’m not entirely sure why. We have tried to attract new members and hold the old, but there has been a slump in interest. Offsetting this, O has seen a huge increase in Salmon Arm, largely due to the influence of Brian and Abbi May, and also in Revelstoke, thanks to Bart Jarmula. There has even been a very modest revival in the Okanagan thanks to the success of the Okanagan Adventure Running Tournament, and the three intrepid juniors attending UBCO … Alexander, David and Rachel.
Thankfully, I passed the reins of Presidency to Jacquie Bonn a few years ago and now just keep my beady eyes on the books.
DW: A few last words?
AV: I’m still keen on O, competing when I can and volunteering for events is fun, but both get a little harder every year. I’m less optimistic about the future of O in Kamloops than I was. It ain’t easy being a minor sport in today’s world.