MARGARET Leighton, a former Yorkshire and England hockey player who as a physical education teacher inspired a generation of sportsmen and women, has died aged 85.
Her entire life was devoted to playing, teaching or encouraging sport, beginning with early influence at home as her mother captained her school hockey team in 1925, and then being successful in her own right from her schooldays until well into her 80s.
Her Yorkshire hockey career began when she joined Wakefield Women’s Hockey club in the 1959/60 season, and went on to captain the first team for several years.
She was a traditional fullback, especially during the years when with her sister Jean playing centre-forward, between them they created and scored a phenomenal number of goals.
She was instrumental in encouraging the former Great Britain captain Maggie Souyave to develop her skills at the club which led to her selection her country in the1980s.
Eventually Mrs Leighton was selected to play for Yorkshire, adding to her Kent cap achieved earlier in her career, and played for England B before starting her family with husband Geoffrey whom she married in 1952.
As head of physical education at Wakefield Girls High School, she was closely involved in schoolgirl hockey in Yorkshire having exceptional coaching ability, enthusiasm and leadership.
She was a registered coach, at county, club and schoolgirl level, and was also a county and North selector and president of West Yorkshire Schoolgirls.
For 10 years, she was president of Wakefield Women’s Club including a year when her husband was president of the Wakefield Men’s Club. Her association with the club continued throughout her life as watched her son and grandsons play there.
She was born Margaret Bowles, the second of five children of John and Mary Bowles of Goole. Her father ran the family business Branson Bowles, once described as an early department store, with shops in Goole, Selby, Leeds and Scunthorpe, and from the early 1960’s until her retirement in 1973, her mother was Goole’s Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths.
She was educated at Goole Grammar School where she was successful academically and at sport, being Head Girl and Victrix Ludorum. In 1946 she was awarded the County Mayor Scholarship in Physical Education and went to the Bergman Osterberg Physical Training College in Dartford, then the country’s premier physical education college, where she excelled as the top student of her intake year.
After qualifying as a teacher she enjoyed a successful career inspiring and motivating the next generation of sportswomen and men at schools in Bath, Swindon, and Stamford before returning to Yorkshire, and the Wakefield area in particular, in 1959 to teach at Thornes House School, Wakefield Girls High School and Manygates Middle School.
Her many sporting accolades and achievements also extended to other sports. She was a keen tennis player, winning the Ladies championship for a number of years at both College Grove, Wakefield, and Walton Tennis Club where she played with her mother, who was also an outstanding player.
She was one of the first members of Wakefield Squash Club at College Grove when it was opened in the late 60s.
Golf became another sporting interest later in life being lady secretary of Woodthorpe Golf Club, and she was still striving to improve her game and regularly winning well into her 80s.
When she reached retirement age, she followed in her mother’s footsteps and played bridge, developing her game to a high standard at both Sandal and Ossett Bridge Clubs.
She has been remembered as a kind, formidable woman with an inspiringly positive attitude and a zest for life which shone through in everything that she did.
She encouraged not only pupils and those she coached at schools and clubs, but also her own family many of whom have played sport at county or representative level. One of them, her grandson Robert became a physical education teacher at Kettlethorpe High School, Wakefield.
She is survived by Geoffrey her husband of 62 years, children Janet, Peter and Philip, four grandchildren, and her brother Eric. She was predeceased by her brother Vernon and sisters Jean and Vera.