Jolly hockey sticks!
Every issue, Yours writer Marion Clarke will be reliving the best bits of our lives. This fortnight is all about team spirit – or not!
If I tell you that when I see a ball hurtling towards me my instinct is to duck rather than catch it, you will know which side I am on in the great divide between those who loved games lessons and those who hated them. Lynne Mansell knows just what I mean. “I loved hockey and wasn’t a bad player – until my friend Anne was hit by a hockey ball. She was knocked out for two hours and although she recovered, she had a very large lump on her forehead. After that, as soon as the ball came towards me I would run away.” Maybe more of us would have enjoyed games if we lived in a warmer climate. It rankled that we had to brave the elements clad only in our gym kit. Margaret Rymer remembers playing netball when there was snow on the ground. “Our PE teacher wore a thick duffel coat, woolly hat, sheepskin gloves and fur-lined boots while we were expected to run about with blue legs and arms in an Aertex vest and a pair of navyblue bloomers.” Josephine Orren and her team mates rebelled when they were forced to play hockey on a frozen pitch. “Our gym mistress wore a coat over her games kit. When it started to snow she said that running about would keep us warm. We downed sticks and marched back to the changing room!” I confess to being one of those girls who never actually left the changing rooms if possible, but Barb Wiltshire found a much more ingenious hiding place. “I was the smallest girl in the school – the hurdles were bigger than me and I was supposed to jump over them! On Sports Day, a few friends and I used to lie on the shelves in the store cupboard and shut the door so we wouldn’t have to go.” Sue Rowley also found an original way of playing truant. “When I was at school in the Sixties, we were sent out on crosscountry runs. As the route went past my house it was just too much of a temptation to pop in for a cup of coffee. My friends, including the deputy headmaster’s daughter, used to come, too. We’d keep an eye on the time and run back to school in time for the end of the lesson.” Instead of stopping for coffee, Pat Davies used to munch on a hedgerow snack of blackberries and hazelnuts on
‘We were expected to run about with blue legs and arms…’
cross-country runs. However, things didn’t go so well on the athletics field when she attempted putting the shot. “I’d never done it before so I was surprised at how heavy it was. I really didn’t want to do it, but at the teacher’s insistence (‘Put that shot, girl!’) I obligingly ‘put’ it – right on her foot. You might say she was hopping mad!” At Beryl Bland’s school, the hockey balls were always pristinely white and it fell to her to keep them that way. “What a soul-destroying job it was and how messy I got trying to hold the ball in one hand while wielding a paint brush with the other hand. Dexterity was needed to transfer the wet, slippery balls on to the wooden stand CKS! where they were left to dry.” Bren Morris had mixed feelings about games lessons. While she loved tennis, badminton, netball and swimming, she hated volleyball because it hurt her hands and cross-country running because she got dirty. And when it came to hockey, she clearly lacked the true urge to win. “I was always left back. Goal attack was a big girl called Eileen Rickard – she was a demon with a stick. If she came towards me, I used to step aside and show her the goal, much to the PE teacher’s chagrin.” Scary big girls wielding hockey sticks never fazed Voila Guppy who represented her school at athletics, tennis and hockey – but hockey was her favourite. “When I took the scholarship, aged 11, all I wanted to do was pass the exam so that I could go to grammar school and play hockey. Within two years I was playing in the school team and was selected to represent Devon in the Junior Ladies (under 18) group.” These days, she still loves to watch all sport on TV. Tracey Holmes feels equally nostalgic about games lessons. “Sport in school gave me some of my best memories. I absolutely loved hockey – even now the sight of a freshly mowed pitch in September makes my heart ache, but unfortunately my legs ache more!” For Carolyn West, it’s the sound of a whistle that brings back vivid memories of sports days, hockey and netball. She sighs: “Oh, to have the energy of those schooldays now and to hear once again the penetrating sound of the games teacher’s whistle as she insisted we ‘try harder’, ‘run faster’ and ‘pick your feet up’!” Ellen Marshall went to an all-girls school. “I hated netball because I was too short! My best friend was tall and could get the ball in the net every time. “What we loved most was playing tennis, because it was next to the boys’ school tennis court so we would whack the ball in that direction and then have to make an excuse to go and fetch it. The boys did the same. Much more fun!”
‘We loved tennis… it was next to the boys’ school court’
Marion as a young girl