Laurence Brophy obituary

Other lives: Community worker and fundraiser in South Wales who ran ultra-marathons in the Sahara and Atacama deserts in his late 70s

Laurie Brophy, my daughter-in-law’s father, who has died aged 90 from oesophageal cancer, was deeply involved in his local community in Pencoed, near Bridgend, south Wales, inspiring others with his voluntary work and fundraising for the homeless charity Llamau and the children’s disability charity Y Bont.

His first major fundraising exploit came on a very hot day in 1997, running the London Marathon in a fur badger suit in aid of badger protection. Two years later, he ran his first ultra-marathon, the Marathon des Sables, a brutal six-day 156-mile race across the Sahara, the oldest competitor at 67. He did several more ultra-marathons, his last aged 79, in the Atacama desert.

Born in Battersea, south-west London, Laurence was the son of Mabel (nee Thomas), a housemaid, and John Brophy, a stonemason. He was educated at King Edward grammar school, Birmingham, and joined the insurance industry, but after the death of his sister Patricia in 1962 left to travel around Europe. He settled in Italy for a while before returning to study Italian at Cardiff University, graduating in the early 1960s, and train as a teacher.

At university he met Ruth Jones, an Italian and German teacher, and, after they married in 1969, they settled in Pencoed, where Laurie taught French and Italian at the local comprehensive school for nine years, working as a supply teacher for nine further years before retiring.

In an active retirement, Laurie was involved in badger protection, often sleeping out in woodlands to protect setts from baiting, as well as litter picking and other community activities. He was a founder member of the Bridgend Astronomical Society and a member of the Green party, for which he stood at the 2015 election. He spent a lot of time helping in local primary schools, taking the children running, nature-watching and fossil-hunting.

Laurie was a kind man with great humility. He was an adventurer, living a life full of challenges with limited resources.

On his last ultra-marathon he was hospitalised with a kidney problem, so was not allowed to enter again. Unhappy about being told he was too old to race, he went to Chile the following year to attempt the distance solo. He then began his journeys by foot and bike closer to home, giving himself an annual fundraising challenge.

He walked the length of Offa’s Dyke and the Taff Trail and cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise funds for Llamau, at 88 the oldest person to complete this journey. He often slept on the roadside during this challenge to raise awareness of homelessness. Aged 89, his final adventure was to cycle and climb the three Welsh peaks, Pen y Fan, Cadair Idris and Snowdon. He did not know at the time that he had cancer, but he completed the challenge with the support of fellow climbers.

Ruth survives him, as do their daughters, Katy and Sam, and five grandchildren, Raven, Noah, Seth, Felix and Joni.


John Dunford

The GuardianTramp

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