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Welsh Ladies’ 1973 Tour of the West Indies

By Phil Bailey.

On Friday 20th July 1973 the Welsh Ladies’ tour party assembled at London Airport to embark on a tour of the West Indies.

This tour was not reported well in the National Press but archive material survives because members of the party were given a ‘diary’ to record the memories. Importantly, the diary reflected not only the numerous games played and itinerary, but also what it was really like to be on a hockey tour in the 1970’s: the social activities completed and some very humorous banter about different players on the tour.

The start to the tour did not go too smoothly with Ann Bough telling Ceri O’Donnell, tour manager, that she would be the first to arrive at the airport, but instead nearly delayed the flight by being over an hour late; additionally Lynda Owen was missing, presumed shopping, when the party boarded the aircraft bound for New York. During the flight several the players were given the opportunity to visit the cockpit and first-class lounge.

From New York the squad transferred to Jamaica where Ceri O’Donnell nearly caused an international incident when the needle of the detector at customs nearly went off the scale. However, all was resolved as it was discovered to be the slate and metal gifts Ceri was carrying for the tour.

In 1973 there was no acclimatisation. The first game of the tour was to be played v St Andrews, Jamaica at 3.30pm the day after arrival, and all 15 players had the opportunity to play. Wales won 5-0, with Shirley Ellis scoring two goals and Helen Jones, Margaret Morgan and Lynda Owen with one each.

There were three legs to the West Indies tour, with Wales playing Test Matches v three Island teams: Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Other games were played against local sides whilst visiting the three islands.

The tour provided a tiring itinerary with a total of thirteen games played between arriving on 21st July and the final game on 13th August.

Wales performed well during the tour playing 13 games, winning 10 and drawing 3. Overall, they scored 50 goals and only conceded 3. The top scorer on tour was Shirley Ellis with 17 goals.

Although Wales were unbeaten it is little wonder that the last three games against Trinidad and Tobago were drawn. There were tired legs after so many games in so many days in the West Indian heat, combined with a lively social calendar organised by their hosts.

Games were played on some of the iconic West Indian Test cricket grounds: Sabina Park, Jamaica; Kensington Oval, Barbados and Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad.

Throughout the tour the Welsh team were shown great hospitality, by the hockey associations and Welsh societies on the islands.

A variety of social activities took place including the Welsh Ladies’ singing ‘for their supper’, meeting political dignitaries, trips to various beauty spots on the islands and dancing the night away.

One momentous playing event occurred at the Combined X1 game in Jamaica, which was Iris Davies’ 50th game for Wales - this was celebrated in Jamaican style at ‘The Pub’, Skyline Hotel, Kingston. Due the Iris’ singing on the evening she was known as ‘Daisy’ [the song she sang] for the rest of the tour.

The tourists returned home on Thursday 16 August. It is clear from reading the diary that the 1973 tour was an enjoyable experience for the Welsh ladies and great team spirit existed. The tour was typical of the time: a gruelling schedule of games combined with great social activities, banter and relationships with their hosts.

Tour Party: Ann Bough, Barbara Corne, Iris Davies, Anne Ellis, Shirley Ellis, Sue Jackson, Helen Jones, Pam Jones, Marilyn Morgan, Margaret Morgan, Lynda Owen, Margaret Rainbow, Margaret Snook.

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