A REUNION that was a long time coming took place in Tamworth in August of a group of hockey players, some of whom hadn’t clapped eyes on each other in 60 years.
The guest of honour, Daph McKenzie (nee Follington), unfortunately was unable to attend due to ill health, but she asked the girls to continue their lunch date without her.
Tory Lynch met Daph when she came to Tamworth from Inverell, and while she wanted to play hockey with her friend, Thel Ferguson (nee Pullman), this wasn’t possible as Tory wasn’t a Tamworth High School Old Girl.
That’s when Daph stepped up and formed the Greys and they played together until Tory left in 1951 to get married.
“We were pretty good, too. Some of us represented Tamworth in Sydney at Country Week,” Tory said.
Playing hockey in the post-war years wasn’t always an easy feat, either, as Tory recalls.
“We lived 15 miles out of town and as we didn’t have a car, I used to come in on a mail car, then stay overnight and ride my bike home the next day,” Tory said.
“We played on the oval – No. 3 where the velodrome is now. They were pretty burry in those days, rough and ready, but it was just a few years after the war finished so you couldn’t expect much. We were just glad of a field to play on. The men played on No. 2 Oval. That was better fields, but they had no sheds, toilets or anything there at that stage.”
Tory said it was a shame Daph was in hospital and couldn’t get to the luncheon, but a few of the girls went up and visited her afterwards and shared some of the memorabilia they’d brought along.
“She’s now out of hospital and feeling quite good, considering. Now she’s back at home, hopefully we’ll get to take her out next week if we can,” Tory said.
DAPH Follington and her sister Thelma loved to play hockey in their teens, and now in her 80s, while Daph McKenzie no longer plays, she still has family connections with the sport.
Daph was the reason the “girls” got together in Tamworth for a reunion – almost 60 years since they first clicked sticks.
The Greys, the team Daph formed, ended up bigger than Ben Hur, with three different teams in three differents shades of Grey – the Greys Reds, Greys Greens and Greys Yellows – with each team wearing different coloured shirts. They formed under the Tamworth Women’s Hockey Association, no longer in existence as the men and women have the one association now.
“The annual October long weekend carnival was a serious competition back in those days,” Daph said.
“Then it just became a fun thing, with people dressing up and not really taking it seriously. When we played in the October carnival, everyone played hard to win.”
Her hockey playing days ceased when she married Colin McKenzie and she became a homemaker and mother of four boys, which kept her more than occupied.
Malcolm, Ian, Graeme and Andrew are all married with children and live in Tamworth, with Ian, a PE teacher at McCarthy, and Graeme, the only two now playing Daph’s childhood sport of choice.
“Back when we played, the girls didn’t continue on if they left to get married; they looked after their families, but these days they take the children down and bring them up in the hockey family,” Daph said.
Although it’s more than 60 years since their hockey days, the girls’ friendship has endured.
“I will be 87 this year and I’m still able to take an interest in what’s happening, which I’m grateful for, but my legs won’t play (hockey) any more,” she said.
EDITH Hayman, or as most people now know her, Biddy Mathews, loved her hockey as a youngster, but her dad wasn’t quite so keen.
“I played until my father bought me a tennis racquet ‘so I’d give up that dreadful sport’. He thought it was rough,” Biddy said.
“When I first left school I played with the Old Girls and a lot of those girls at the luncheon were in the Greys.
“Myself and June Thompson and Norma Seymour formed a team called the Royals. We kept that going for a couple of years. Eventually marriages and things started to happen so the Royals folded and I joined the Greys.
“Beryl Griffiths started off the Olympians. How about that? All those years later my daughter ended up an Olympian! Beryl was the most famous among our hockey players.
“The Olympians were the first team to represent NSW at Country Week – and we did very well – and it was quite an experience. Daph McKenzie and her sister Thelma were great hockey players – stalwarts.
“We used to go to Inverell, Moree, Barraba, all round the district – and sometimes in an open blitz wagon. It was an old army vehicle Mr Griffiths owned. Ken used to drive and we’d all pile into the back with blankets and away we’d go. We had the loveliest time.”
Another recollection from Biddy’s hockey days was the annual October long weekend carnival when visitors would come from other towns and the city.
“We’d take our visitors out to Duri Hall and they’d spend half their time looking for the harbour. We made our own fun in those days.”
Biddy married and had three children – Paul, an award-winning photographer, Stephen, an accountant, and Gail, who had an electrical business and now works with Terry Burke in his stock and station agency. Just like their nan in her youth, all the grandkids are very athletic, with hockey and water polo their preferred sports.
ALTHOUGH Beryl Griffiths was the first female hockey player from Tamworth to represent NSW, she didn’t pick up a hockey stick to play competitively until she was 18.
She’d played at school, but as the oldest girl in a large family, it was Beryl’s job to help her mother look after the little ones.
“I was 18 before I got back into it when my uncle gave me a hockey stick,” Beryl said.
“We used to play at school and the women from the army camp along Manilla Rd would play us of a Wednesday afternoon.”
Being part of that NSW team to beat the previously unstoppable Western Australia in Hobart in the Australian championships was a big thrill for Beryl.
Then in 1956 she started a team called the Olympians, as there was no female hockey team in the 1956 Olympics – so they became “the Tamworth Olympians.”
Beryl was a dressmaker for 10 years and worked at Cornish’s as a cashier before doing a bookkeeping correspondence course. She worked for a number of businesses before retiring.
Sport has always been part of Beryl’s life. She was the West Tamworth Tennis Club champion in 1950 and spent 40 years on the golfcourse, most of that time in A grade. She won the silver LGU medal and went to Sydney for the play-offs, and represented NSW at Country Week for about 16 years with hockey.
She only gave up golf three years ago when her legs decided they’d had enough.
EADITH Marshall played hockey throughout high school and was often chosen to represent the school at interschool sports.
“We played Saturday afternoons at the oval and used to play against the boys at high school,” Eadith said.
“As ‘fleet as a deer’ they called me. I was fast, so I played on the wing or as centre half.”
During the war years Eadith was a radio copywriter at 2TM when Mr Higginbotham discovered her “made for radio” voice.
Announcer John Whitmore was going away to war and Mr Hig was looking for a temporary announcer and told Eadith: “you’re the mug!”
From 1939 to 1951 Eadith Marshall was the voice of radio as president of the 2TM Women’s Radio Club.
Branches were formed in Barraba, Gunnedah, Manilla, Quirindi, Tamworth, Uralla, Walcha, Willow Tree, Werris Creek and Kootingal, raising money for numerous charities.
“We especially put a lot of money into establishing school libraries,” Eadith said.
In April 1951 she married 2TM engineer John Geddes and they had four daughters –Rhonda, Robyn, Marguerite and Jan Maree.
The family enjoyed many waterskiing holidays at Nelson Bay over the years where Eadith could indulge her love of swimming and surfing.
John and Eadith moved to Orange and then to Gunnedah, where John started his radio TV and electrical business.
She was invited to join the 2MO board of directors and became chairman of the board – and she still loves her radio.
“I follow 2MO. I’d hate to miss anything that’s going on in town,” she said.