Tuesday, June 18, 2024

A night of emotion and club service at Ashford’s 100th anniversary

The Hockey Paper’s editor attends one Middlesex club’s 100th anniversary celebrations

She is the first person you usually see at events – be it club, internationals, Euros or World Cups – and was the last to receive a special lifetime achievement award at Ashford HC’s centenary bash earlier this month. In between, Welsh wonder woman Lynne Morgan has lived a hockey life to the full, travelled the globe and been a club servant for five decades.

The Hockey Paper was Lynne’s guest at an emotional 100th anniversary club dinner and awards night at the Runnymede on Thames Hotel, Egham, a function which went ahead at the third time of asking. Tears and the drink flowed as Ashford recognised both its players of the season as well as the past. Tales of yesteryear tours flowed in equal measure.

A former club president until last year, Morgan is winding down her club commitments, but not before she fronted a centenary committee, less her knowing about a surprise award after 50 years of service. Gluten free, the septuagenarian says, has also extended her playing career at the club.

Lynne was an employee at BP for 40 years and travelled the world in her role as a senior advisor in health protection before being handed a “golden handshake” by the oil and gas supermajor. Since then she has been an ever-present at hockey matches and functions.

I was most certainly an infiltrator on Lynne’s table, surrounded by eight women who have played at Ashford and held roles in hockey spanning eight decades.  

Ashford’s women’s 1s celebrate

Shirley Winson was a “dashing right winger in her day”, instigated five women’s teams at Ashford in the 60s – the first club in southern England to achieve the feat – and made a rallying quick-fire speech on awards night.

Then there was Sandra Marlow, a 73-year-old former local nursery worker and still going strong in county hockey circles. “When I gave up it was about making sure people still played the game,” she told me.

Sandra, who played for Sunbury Hockey Club, has worked as junior admin queen at the Middlesex and South Hockey county associations over the decades, and played for the Shadows XI social side back in the day.

She has run multiple County Championships, sending out hundreds of letters to budding triallists, including 12-year-olds Alex Danson-Bennett and Maddie Hinch, who were to later pay recognition to Sandra at a recent England Hockey awards.

As a dedicated volunteer, she is aware of how the sport may lose many like her with the game’s regional restructure. Sandra has just seemed to adapt with ease to the change, although admitted that it was down to having found a ‘Google guru’ who could formulate forms and spreadsheets, where other regions may have struggled.

Men’s player Dan Hakl was afforded the biggest cheer of the night for his two end-of-season awards, including one for his all-round commitment to the club, coaching colts, a women’s side and even umpiring.

As the festivities got into full swing, I met women’s section coach Jackie Parsons, who joined in 1999 and is regarded as one of the best players to wear an Ashford shirt. Jackie’s husband had also passed away three years ago and her eyes lit up as she spoke of a club which had produced lifelong friends, godparents and had proved an invaluable support network.

This was a night where I heard stories of past members like Alan Watkinson, the former PE teacher who discovered Mo Farah, and tales of tours like the Berlin trip in the 1970s were retold with relish, coming 50 years after the club was formed in 1919. ‘What a sporty little place Ashford is,” the Middlesex Chronicle reporter wrote a year later. “I hear a hockey club has now been formed, and its members appear to be enjoying themselves….’ 

One hundred years on, the same was being felt at the bar, in the photo booth and on the dancefloor, thanks largely to this exceedingly well run and committed club.

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