Monday, 20 September 2021

Unbeaten hockey team reunited after 45 years

LOOK ever so carefully and you’ll spot the similarities between these two pictures.

LOOK ever so carefully and you’ll spot the similarities between these two pictures.

The unbeaten Gillotts School under 14 girls’ hockey team of 1971 held a reunion on Saturday at the Little Angel pub in Henley, 45 years after they played together.

They travelled from across the UK, and even as far as South Africa, to catch up with one another.

The day was organised by Hilary Betts and her former team mate Yvonne Norris after they found each other on Facebook 18 months ago.

Mrs Betts, who left Henley in 1972 and now lives in Sandy, Bedfordshire, said: “I think the thing that struck us most is that we all remember a really unique spirit in the team. It sounds a bit cheesy but we all had this bond. It was as if 45 years hadn’t happened.”

There were only a couple of the original team missing from the squad of 1971. Susan Thatcher couldn’t be traced, Liz West didn’t reply to her invitation and Caroline Phipps was unable to get back in time from New York.

Mrs Betts said the highlight of the reunion was to welcome their former PE teacher, and England women’s hockey team member, Linda Molyneux (née Gunstone). She explained: “She was an inspiration to us, and we felt privileged to have the opportunity to thank her personally 45 years down the line.

“It also gives us the chance to reflect on how lucky we were to have such a gifted role model in our lives at that crucial stage in our development.” Mrs Molyneux began her teaching career at Gillotts in 1967, and left in 1972.

She began playing for Oxford Etceteras, then played at county level for Oxfordshire, then regionally for the South of England, progressing to the England ‘B’ team.

At the pinnacle of her hockey career she joined the England women’s hockey touring team receiving a full cap in 1971.

Mrs Betts said: “We, her former pupils, well remember screaming ourselves hoarse that year at Wembley, proudly cheering Linda and the England team on against Scotland.”

She said that the ladies were hoping to meet up again next year, adding: “I think there’s something very wonderful about Henley and we all felt very emotional.

“We had a real reconnection with the town when we came back. It was a real homecoming.”

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