Tributes for SA hockey’s former captain, selector and ‘gracious lady’

2019-06-11 15:00
Shelagh Bowness (left) with her friend, the late Audrey Laidlaw, who was the former captain of the national hockey team. PHOTO: GHS

Shelagh Bowness (left) with her friend, the late Audrey Laidlaw, who was the former captain of the national hockey team. PHOTO: GHS

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Pietermaritzburg-born  former South African hockey team captain, Audrey Laidlaw, died at the weekend.

Laidlaw (88) died at a local hospital on Saturday. The date for her funeral has not been decided.

According to her lifelong friend and former hockey team-mate, Shelagh Bowness, Laidlaw had never fully recovered from a hip replacement procedure done in June last year, and although she remained fiercely determined, she unfortunately lost much of her independence after the procedure.

Laidlaw attended Scottsville Primary and Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School.

As a schoolgirl, Bowness said, Laidlaw displayed an amazing natural hockey talent.

After matriculating, Laidlaw represented Pietermaritzburg and the Natal Women’s teams. She captained these teams from 1957 until she retired.

In her early twenties she was an automatic selection to the national team, and represented South Africa in 1953, 1954, 1956, 1959, and 1963. In 1959 and 1965 Laidlaw’s leadership skills were recognised and she was named as captain of the South African women’s hockey team.

She announced her retirement at the end of the 1965 season, at the pinnacle of her success, as she had just led South Africa to a famous 3-1 victory over England. That match was played in front of 65 000 spectators at the Wembley football stadium in London. Bowness said this was indeed the highlight of Laidlaw’s career.

Laidlaw was also a provincial and national selector from 1965 until 1975. In 1970 she held the position of manager of the SA women’s team.

Laidlaw, widow of Stan, is survived by three children, who are currently overseas.

Bowness said Laidlaw was not only an excellent hockey player, but she was also respected as a great human being and was popular both on and off the field.

“She was admired, for her outstanding achievements and excellent qualities, by all who knew her.

“Her sense of fun and her humour, at all times, were unrivalled. She was a beautiful and loving friend. We were privileged to have her in our lives, and as her friends and members of the hockey fraternity, we join together to mourn the loss of a great friend. Rest in peace, Auds,” said Bowness.

Another friend, Janet Edwards, sent her condolences to Laidlaw’s family. She said Laidlaw will be sorely missed at their monthly lunches.

“I always called her ‘Oh Gracious Lady’ because of the lovely person she is,” said Edwards.

Charmaine Koekemoer, from Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School, said the school was proud of all Laidlaw’s achievements and honoured by the mentoring role she played in the local and national hockey fraternity.

“She was an incredible woman who was dedicated to the cause. She was also one of the most amazing mentors. A true lady, always well-dressed and well-kept,” said Koekemoer.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  hockey
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