Tributes to outstanding sportsman

James Atherton, 25, a former King Edward and Queen Mary School pupil who was killed in a crash in the New Forest.
James Atherton, 25, a former King Edward and Queen Mary School pupil who was killed in a crash in the New Forest.

HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a former deputy head boy at a Fylde school, who died after a tragic cycling accident.

James Atherton, 25, a former student at King Edward VII and Queen Mary School, Clifton Drive South, St Annes, was hit by a car while cycling in the New Forest, Hampshire.

Mr Atherton, of Headroomgate Road, St Annes, was airlifted to hospital after the incident on Sunday morning, but lost his fight for life on Monday.

An outstanding sportsman and student, Mr Atherton had captained the school’s cricket first team and been vice-captain of the rugby team, as well as completing a number of international sports tours.

He was studying for a PHD in medicine at the University of Southampton.

Friends and former teachers paid an emotional tribute to the student, describing him as a “trustworthy, compassionate and fun-loving friend” and “immensely likeable”.

Ashley Hothersall, KEQMS head girl when Mr Atherton was deputy head, said: “It was a complete privilege to have known James.

“He was a trustworthy, compassionate, and fun-loving friend.

“A strong and determined sportsman, he was also an intelligent, creative and insightful classmate, not to mention a handsome and enviable young man.

“I could go on and on, and fill pages and pages with only positive words to say about James.

“He was an absolute pleasure to be around, and we should all consider ourselves truly lucky to have known him.

“This sorrow will take a lifetime to heal.”

Julian Wilde, Mr Atherton’s first headteacher at King Edward and Queen Mary School, said that he was a huge asset to the school.

“James was an immensely likeable young man from a delightful and supportive family. He had a distinguished career at the school and was universally popular with students of all ages and with the staff.

“He joined the newly amalgamated King Edward and Queen Mary School as part of the first mixed intake in 1999 and quickly endeared himself to his year group because of his friendly and sunny personality and his sporting abilities.

“I think he was one of the most athletic young sportsmen I have met and he led his peers by example, as both a batsman and bowler at cricket and a spring-heeled line out jumper at rugby.

“All of us recognised that ‘Athers’ had a streak of the daredevil in him, especially when he was mountain biking, and everyone will remember too his sometimes irreverent sense of fun.

“In the past few days I have had very many messages from former staff and students, all utterly shocked and distressed that his life has been cut so short.”

Judith Cooper, who heads AKS Lytham, said: “James was an outstanding young man and a great ambassador for KEQMS.

“He was fully involved in all aspects of school life, was a popular student and was highly respected by staff and students.

“Our thoughts go out to his parents and brother Charles at this tragic time.”

Mr Atherton’s father, Dr Martin Atherton, is a doctor at Park Road Medical Practice, based in the St Annes Health Centre on Durham Avenue.

In Hampshire, Mr Atherton was a member of the Portsmouth-based VC St Raphael cycling club and also rode for his university’s cycling club and had previously competed with Southampton Triathlon Club.

He had been awarded a sports bursary by Southampton University in 2010/11 for long course triathlon, and on the university’s sporting pages he described his greatest achievement as coming 5th in the European long course triathlon championships.

In a profile page recognising his achievements at the university, Mr Atherton, in an example of his attitude to sport and life, described his heroes as Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Henry Shackleton, adding that the polar expedition explorers set the “limits to endurance performance at the beginning of the Twentieth Century and have not been approached since”.