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Melvyn Pignon 02Melvyn Pignon who has died at the age of 86 was possibly the best known woman hockey player of her generation. She first played at Kidderminster High School in Worcestershire and went on to train as a PE teacher at Lady Mabel College of Physical Education, beginning her teaching career at the Joseph Leckie Comprehensive school in Walsall and playing club hockey for Kidderminster LHC and county hockey for Worcestershire. She was first selected in the Midlands reserve team in 1954 and the same year was chosen to be a member of the England team to tour South Africa. She was a fixture in the Midlands team from 1955 and was again a member of an England touring team to Australia in 1956 to participate in the IFWHA tournament. Marjorie Pollard reported in Hockey Field that “M Hickey did extraordinarily well and was consistently good under all conditions and was a constant source of worry to opposing defences.” In those days it was, “Not the winning but the taking part”, and Melvyn later confessed to being rather frustrated that although England won all their matches there was no winner of the Tournament declared and no medals or trophy awarded.

Her full England International career began in 1957, winning the first of her 62 caps when she was selected to play on the left wing at Wembley against Ireland. She held her place for the next ten years and was extremely proud to be Captain in 1966 and 1967. She was a lively, enthusiastic and intelligent player and captain, liked and respected by all who played with her. She was described as a player who thrilled thousands at her many appearances, particularly at the annual Wembley Internationals, and was a personality who never failed to raise hopes and put life and real excitement into any game in which she played. Many schoolgirls who attended the Wembley matches were inspired by her play and dozens of them wrote to her to tell her so.

Melvyn Pignon 03Melvyn as England Captain leading the team out at Wembley to play Ireland in 1967. England won 7-1.

It was a surprise to many when she was not selected to play at Wembley in March 1968, having captained England earlier that season. It was later learned that, having fallen in love with a married man and been named in his divorce case, she was dropped by the selectors and never played for England again. The man in question, Laurie Pignon the well-known and much loved tennis writer, was the love of her life and she of his, and they were very happily married for more than forty years until his death in 2012.

Melvyn moved south in the late ‘50s to teach at Ashford Grammar School and lived on a houseboat ‘Vernette’ on the Thames at Taggs Island, Hampton. She joined Wimbledon Ladies HC, for whom she was the star player until her retirement from the active field of play in 1968. Her energy and enthusiasm were not lost to the club however and she became only the fourth President in Wimbledon’s more than 80 years of existence, a post she held for 21 years. She was extremely proud of being President of the women’s club with the longest continuous history in the world and was delighted to oversee Wimbledon Ladies joining the Wimbledon Club in 1985, thus ensuring the club’s long term future. She was very involved with the WLHC Centenary celebrations in 1989 and one of her proudest moments was to escort two of her three predecessors as President to cut the centenary cake.

Melvyn was a prolific writer and in 1962 wrote a book Hockey for Women, a highly regarded publication for many years and a very useful tool for many a PE teacher. She wrote frequent articles and reports for Hockey Field magazine and compiled publications for the All England Women’s Hockey Association (AEWHA), the women’s hockey governing body of the time, and she also produced and directed a coaching film. She was an accomplished speaker, giving many an entertaining speech as England Captain and at events Melvyn Pignon 05she was invited to attend.

She was accomplished in other sports too and was a member of The All England Tennis Club where she played tennis to a good standard and was also a trophy winning Real Tennis player.

Sadly, in 2010, she was diagnosed with dementia and earlier this year left her beloved cottage in which she shared so many happy years with Laurie to go into a home, where she died on 4 September. She will be remembered with much love and affection by those who were fortunate enough to play or work with her, none of whom will be surprised to learn that she has left instructions for her funeral.

The funeral will be held on Thursday 29 September at St Mary’s Church, Sunbury at 1pm and afterwards at The Magpie Hotel. If you plan to attend please can you let This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. know.

The Hockey Museum were given Melvyn’s extensive archive collection last year by her step-daughter, Suzanne Brooks. It is a fascinating collection of press cuttings, photos, reports and personal memorabilia. If anyone would like to know more about Melvyn, please contact the author of this article, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..pdf

Cathy Harris's obituary to Melvyn Pignon appeared in The Times on Saturday 17 September. You can download it as a PDF by clicking the icon to the right.

Judy Smith, THM Librarian and former President of Wimbledon Ladies HC, 9 September 2016


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