Mary Pilch: First woman to be president of Norfolk County Cricket Club

Mary Pilch, the first woman president of Norfolk County Cricket Club

Mary Pilch, the first woman president of Norfolk County Cricket Club - Credit: submitted

Mary Pilch, died aged 97

A keen golfer and member of a leading sporting family in the county, Mary Pilch, who has died aged 97, was the first president of Norfolk County Cricket Club.

She remains the first and only woman to serve as president since the club was established in 1827 when she was elected for a two-year term in 1981. It was a role that she thoroughly enjoyed although sadly, her husband, George, who had died two years earlier in September 1979, had been the club's original choice.

She threw herself into the role, inspiring players and officials alike, and even travelled on the team coach to away matches.

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Her husband, who had rapidly expanded the family's long-established Norwich sports' equipment business in the post-war years, played off scratch at the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club at Brancaster. Later she was lady captain at the club, which was one of her favourites. A member of Eaton Golf Club, which was near her former home, she continued playing golf until she was 90 although she had progressively reduced the number of holes played over the years.

In 1936, she came to Norfolk as organiser and teacher of the Norwich Centre of Women's League of Health and Beauty to teach for the first time in the county. The Bagot Stack system of exercises to music, devised by Prunella Stack, was designed especially for women, and she took regular classes at Cromer, Sheringham, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Norwich.

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Born in February 1916 in Bristol and an only child, after her father's death, she was sent as a mixed boarder to Sidcot Co-Educational School, Somerset. At the Bagot Stack Health School, London, she gained the League's Teacher's Diploma after two years' study.

She was married at Norwich Cathedral on September 9, 1939 – six days after the outbreak of the second world war. As the League's activities were reduced during the war, she became youth organiser for the Peterborough education committee.

After the war, she resumed evening classes in Norwich as the movement expanded. Later, she became a Marriage Guidance Councillor for 21 years.

She combined her enthusiasm for sport, especially golf, with a love of travel. Shortly after the war, before starting a family, she had enjoyed holidays mountaineering with her husband in Austria and Switzerland.

In later years, she expanded her horizons further, travelling to remote countries including Namibia, Borneo, Vietnam and even Antarctica, into her nineties. Her 90th birthday was celebrated in the Panama Canal on another expedition. Another favourite was cruise holidays, especially with smaller groups where there was an adventurous element.

A lively conversationalist, who was always good company, she enjoyed good health although she had become more frail of late. Her evident enjoyment of the company of old and young alike was a further spark to her life.

She leaves son, David and daughter, Marny, and grandchildren Jeremy and Lucy.

A funeral service will take place at Earlham Crematorium on Monday, June 3 at 3.45pm.

Michael Pollitt

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