I’d do it all again, but better! by Margaret Ellis (Pickerell) 1950-57

I could run like the wind as a small child. In primary school I competed for Abbots Langley in the Watford & District meets. When I got to HHGS the top scorers in the Junior, Intermediate, and Senior divisions won little trophies that are still buried deep in my locker. Imagine my delight to be offered the use of a pair of spikes, belonging to another Halsey House member, to use on my first Sports Day in 1951.

In 1953, '54, '55, '56, '57 I represented Hertfordshire at the All-England Schools Athletics Championships, the first three years in 100 yards, making the final in 1955, and then in the 880 yards, getting the Gold Medal in 1957 to cap off a school career that also included hockey and netball. On Sports Day 1957 I competed in the Southern Counties 440 yards and came in 3rd, prior to jumping in my coach’s car and racing back to HHGS to carry on competing for my House! I also played hockey on that infamous sloping pitch and joined the First XI in the 4th Form. We were a winning team from then on, even when we played in Germany in 1957.  

On leaving HHGS I went on to PE College in Eastbourne. During that time I had the good fortune to be coached first of all by a gentleman from Watford Harriers who would drive down every month to help me and then by Tony Traill, a nationally-ranked coach who was living in Brighton at that time. Under his guidance I won the National Championships (WAAA) 440 yards in 1959 and won my Great Britain & Northern Ireland international vest and competed in Russia and Finland that year. Unfortunately I had a serious ankle injury during that winter which put a stop to all activities for several months. When teaching started, being newly-married, it was impossible to begin again. I started to play hockey with the Old Hempsteadians and even made the county team, but pregnancy prevented any more of “that nonsense!”

Just before leaving in 1965 to go to the United States with my husband, hammer-thrower Mike Ellis, I played hockey for the Old Hempsteadians again and “just had fun!”

I failed to mention that all this running, etc., did not help my academic studies. I was not a good student, my mind was outside the classroom! Only later, in my 30s, did I realise that I was not as dumb as I thought I was. I went back to college at the University of Illinois and then to a small college in Nova Scotia. I had to start again but with none of the distractions of youth and I was very successful! I look at the young student athletes in the USA, and those who are now professional, and wonder what would have happened to me had I been born 40 years later! Oh well! At least there was no access to drugs, etc., though we were encouraged to take protein supplements!

Now I have an artificial hip and ankle and my lower back is a constant problem. Apart from that I’d do it all again, but better!


Sporting Achievements

“This Sporting Life” by Brian Woolcott 1948-55

Brian, now approaching 80 years of age and still playing, a lesson to us all!

After a successful sporting life at Hemel Hempstead Grammar School from 1948 to 1955 I continued with sport afterwards and was fortunate enough to enjoy hockey and athletics at County level. Joining the Royal Air Force I was able to continue and during the Air Ministry Championships at the White City in 1956/7 won gold in High Jump, 440 yards, and 4 x 110 yards relay. As it happens, that same White City track was redeveloped as BBC TV Headquarters and is now just another block of flats. Just imagine running through what is now someones living room!

English Masters Hockey (Over 60 years) began at a Golden Oldies Tournament in Holland for Over 40s in 1993 when my scratch team came up against a Dutch Over 60 team who played regularly together. Since our English team was on average nearly 60 years old but had actually won the tournament we discussed the possibility of forming the first England Masters Over 60 squad to play regularly. That Autumn a meeting was arranged and I became one of three effective founder members of England LX (Over 60) Hockey. The Spring of 1994, having scoured the country for senior players still breathing, England LX entered its entire squad of 13 players for the Lille Masters Tournament in France . . . and we won.

1995 saw the first Masters World Cup in Utrecht and sporting full England colours for the first time we earned a place in the final against either Holland or Germany. At that time national feelings between those two countries were intense to say the least and the match was brutal, sometimes damaging. When Germany emerged as winners in the semi-final the final between England and Germany was eagerly anticipated by a record crowd of Dutchmen who were fiercely Anglo-partisan. We won 4-1 and memorably one of those goals was mine. Not the first, not the best, but one which counted just the same.

England LX grew steadily and in 1999 I was appointed England Captain and asked to form a squad to play in the Australian Championships for the Hockey Ashes which we brought home, somewhat triumphantly, and have won them more often than not ever since.

In 2001 I returned to Athletics, having nursed an ambition to experience the new super flexible poles, and won gold in the Pole Vault at The British Veterans Federation Athletics Championships at Thames Valley Harriers near Marlow, in the 60-65 years age group.

2002 saw my election to England LX Masters Association as Chairman, a post I enjoyed for five years. Since then I have played for England Masters Over 60, Over 65, Over 70, and Over 75, winning gold in almost all World Cup and European Championships held across the world, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand to mention but a few. I have one regret, in that England Hockey ruled out the awarding of "Caps" in National Masters Hockey and although commemorative medals have been awarded it would have been very satisfying to see 27 England Caps nestling in my shrine of Hockey Memorabilia. Sadly, this Spring at the age of 79, I missed out on an England place for the first time, so perhaps, but only perhaps, the writing is on the wall. We shall see!


Brian, as a young man, taking the high jump and the pole vault in his stride

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