Marjorie Annie Pollard was born on 3 August and baptised on 1 September 1899 at St Andrew’s Church, Rugby, Warwickshire, the youngest child of Ann Elizabeth and James Rowland Pollard, a railway engine driver of 7 Chester Street, Rugby. By 1905 the family had moved to Peterborough and in 1911 eleven-year-old Marjorie was living at 3 Nene View (adjacent to the Great Eastern Station, Peterborough) with her parents and seventeen-year-old brother, Phineas, a clerk/typist for the railway wagon works.
Marjorie joined the school in 1910, when it was still at Park Lane, moved to the new building in Cobden Avenue when it opened the following year, and left school to become a teacher in 1917. She was an International hockey player, scoring a record 13 goals by one player in one match in 1927, and the first female BBC sport commentator; her first commentary was in 1935, on a men’s cricket match. On the outbreak of war in 1939, Marjorie was living in St Ives, Huntingdonshire, and working as a journalist. In 1965 she was awarded the O.B.E. for Services to Sport, in particular Hockey.
Marjorie was a devotee of many sports, and also a keen amateur cine film maker. She settled in the village of Bampton, Oxfordshire and shortly before her death in 1985 left her collection of hockey memorabilia and cine films to The Hockey Museum.
In 2020, a blue plaque was installed in her honour by Peterborough Civic Society at the Lincoln Gate Sheltered Housing development, which was built on the site of the school.
Marjorie’s older sister, Dora, also attended the school from 1905 until 1910, and was head girl in her final year. By 1911 she had left home and was an elementary school teacher in Ipswich, Suffolk. Dora was clearly also a good hockey player as in 1930 she was still playing hockey and was secretary of the Southend Hockey Club.
Marjorie features in several issues of the school magazine, Chronicle. The first issue in our archive is dated 1921, when the magazine reported:
Not many schools are able to claim an International Hockey player as an Old Girl, and we are all very proud of Marjorie Pollard… we think ourselves fortunate in having been able to watch her when she captained the Old Girls’ team against the School at the end of the Easter Term, and the present girls felt it an honour, although a formidable one, to play against her.
The picture below, again from the 1921 issue, shows the Old Girls’ team at the top, team captains in the middle, and the school team at the bottom. In the top photograph of the Old Girls’ team, Marjorie is in the middle of the front row, and she is on the left in the middle photograph of the team captains.
The First Eleven school hockey team, which is probably the team against which the Old Girls played, included the following members (as reported in Chronicle):
Olive Cockle, goal: Reliable and steady goalkeeper.
Margery Hibling, left back: Generally good; clears well.
Ena Middleton, right back: Captain.
Kitty Rowledge, left half: Good; tries hard.
Sheila Hall, right half: Promising, but does not always hit hard enough.
Rhoda Meade, centre half: Very good; backs up her forwards well.
Nora Hughes, right wing: Plays well and is a good wing.
May Lowe, right inner: Keeps up well with the forwards, but does not shoot hard enough.
Lilian Lowe, centre forward: Very good and quick; shoots hard.
Evelyn Adams, left inner: Promising; works hard and passes well, but is too slow.
Ida Brown, left wing: Plays well in a difficult position; is fast and centres well.
The Chronicle school hockey report concludes:
It is a point of great interest and pride to the School that one of the Old Girls, a late Captain of the [Peterborough] Hockey Club, after having played first for Peterborough, and then for Northamptonshire, has been chosen as an International. The whole School joins in hearty and admiring congratulations to Marjorie Pollard on her great achievement.
The 1921 Chronicle included news of Old Girls, written by Marjorie Pollard, with a report of the hockey match against the school team:
We played the Present Girls at the end of the Easter term, and after a most exciting match we won 6-0.
The team was:
Goal, A. Mount; backs, M. Beanes and M. Tucker; half-backs, E. Calcutt, R. Lee and D.Ward; forwards, O. Watson, C. Bennett, M. Pollard, H. Pullan, M. Cook.
The day was very hot; I think the spectators were by far the most comfortable, but it was very enjoyable… the school team played splendidly.
Five years later, the 1926 issue of Chronicle reports:
The following extracts from The Daily Mail of March 11th and April 9th, 1926, will interest the contemporaries of Marjorie Pollard, who was the school hockey captain 1915-1917:
“WOMAN’S HOCKEY RECORD – In scoring 13 goals for England v. Wales in the women’s hockey international, Miss M. Pollard easily eclipsed the previous international feminine record of nine goals by one player made by Miss K E Lidderdale, who is now Mrs A V Bridge, for England against Ireland in 1920.
Mrs Bridge followed up that feat by getting six goals against Scotland, but Miss Pollard should have no difficulty in passing that aggregate of 15 goals in two internationals in one season. She learned the game at Peterborough County School, and made the first of, so far, eleven international appearances in 1921.”
And, writing of the all-England women’s hockey team which played Berlin on Easter Monday:
“Miss Pollard, the English centre forward, once again covered herself with glory, scoring all the eight goals by which the English women won. Though persistently marked by the German centre half and other opponents, she time after time worked her way down the field, shook off the crowd of pursuers, and finished with a shot that gave the goalkeeper no chance.”
In the Old Girls’ News section of the 1926 Chronicle, it is reported that MARJORIE POLLARD has given up teaching and has taken on the work of organizing and developing the Women’s Sports Department for Messrs. Spalding Bros. in London.
The Chronicle for 1938 advised that MARJORIE POLLARD has a Government appointment as Organiser of Team Games for Women in connection with the Physical Fitness Campaign.
Marjorie was one of the Old Girls who attended the school’s Diamond Jubilee Dinner at the Angel Hotel on 18th September 1954. She also presented the prizes at Speech Day that year:
Miss Pollard recalled the first days at the Girls Secondary School in Park Road when it had seemed to her, as a new girl, “very heaven.” On her second day she had played hockey, as she continued to do until her last day at school in 1917, in the dark days of war. She expressed her gratitude for the seven years in between, which had been a preparation for life, and when, she was convinced, her philosophy of life had been formed. Miss Pollard remembered well the consequences of ragging in the cloakroom – then sacred to silence and good manners. Having been brought before the headmistress, she was given a piece of advice which had often proved valuable in [later] years: “If you can’t be kind, be quiet.” Miss Pollard reminded her audience that games must be kept in their proper place and used primarily for fun and entertainment. This was a lesson she had learned from a wise grandmother, who on learning that her granddaughter had scored a vital goal for her LV Form in a match against the VI, asked her with deflating scorn “And what’s the good of a goal when you’ve scored it?”
Yet another valuable lesson had been brought home to Miss Pollard by a remark on one of her school reports – those sheets of paper which seemed cold in one’s hand but proved to be dynamite at home! The art mistress had written a significant comment on her pupil’s work: “Effective, but not thorough.” It was such reminders that brought one back to earth and made one consider the future more seriously. Miss Pollard remembered vividly a forthright question being put to her as she neared the end of her school days by Miss Hough – “What are you going to do?” This question still faced girls now at school, and the speaker reminded her audience that one of the great needs of the welfare state was that people should be willing and keen to do a job of work in a voluntary capacity for, Miss Pollard reminded us, happiness was a by-product of doing a service for others.
In addition, Marjorie wrote an article for the 1954 Chronicle about her memories of school between 1910 and 1917:
FORTY YEARS AGO
The invitation to be at the Fiftieth Anniversary Speech Day coincided with several long car journeys, so I was able to let my mind (when it was not too concerned with immediate matters) go foraging about in the past, and I must say that I enjoyed it. What really surprised me was the clarity and vividness of my school recollections. I glowed at some of the things I liked to remember: I blushed with shame at a good many incidents I now regret; but, and this I fully realised and recognised for the first time in my life, school and what it stood for, had pretty well given my philosophy of life.
It is easy to be smug, sentimental or even silly about one’s school days. And it would be humbug and hypocrisy on my part to pretend that I enjoyed everything that happened to me during those seven years. There were days and weeks when I was irked, frustrated, bored, and obviously unbearable, especially, as I see it now, when I was having, and trying to avoid, the main and lasting lessons of my life. (Education is that which remains when you have forgotten all that you have learned).
Memory is very kind and lets us ponder on those things which flatter us; so on the whole, I look back – over the forty years – with pleasure, keen enjoyment and genuine gratitude.
Earning my living by the written and spoken word, I have every reason to be grateful, and especially to Miss Wragge. Now to me, there has only been one Head Mistress, and it is certainly Miss Wragge. I had the most wholesome, complete and awe-inspiring respect for her, her personality and her tremendous ability. I have never given, or had demanded of me, such utter respect elsewhere.
I remember well, one whole summer term, with the bees in the limes in Lincoln Road, and the astringent smell of tar coming into the class-room (Form IIIc, was it?) a series of lessons in English. Before each lesson began, a scout was posted at the door. We scraped back our hair, tied up our shoelaces, put on as intelligent a look as we could simulate, and awaited the cry “She’s coming.” The scout then swept open the door and lowered her eyes as, dressed in flowing purple, Miss Wragge swept in – a magnificent procession of one. For that whole term we learned to say our vowels and the speak – to this day I can go over the “aee-iee-oee” – and for that I am grateful and always shall be. The things I remember about Miss Wragge would fill a book, but space being what it is, that must suffice.
So to Miss Hough. I should sometimes like to know what Miss Hough thought of me. Did she sometimes turn away to laugh when being searchingly severe? Anyway, mathematics was not with me either a strong subject or a desirable one. I tried various underhand and disreputable methods of achieving the required results. I played a losing battle: the more I twisted and turned, the longer grew that list of corrections. But I treasure especially one among many remarks made to me by Miss Hough. As usual I had fabricated and was hoping to get by. The hour of reckoning had come and I was preparing, as we should say today, “to take it.” Looking over her glasses, holding my miserable pieces of paper as if they were infected, she said, “Your memory may serve you for your jokes, Marjorie Pollard, but your imagination will not do for your facts.” I have turned that over in my mind many times since then. I have laughed about it, but I have profited by it, too.
School, as I remember it, stood for absolute punctuality, quiet (“noise is no good: good makes no noise”), courtesy, enthusiasm, kindness, hard work, service, and a most healthy respect for those in authority – or else! Looking at that list, I suppose it is not surprising that it contains all the qualities I admire most. Forty years is a good slice of life. I’ve enjoyed my slice, and for that enjoyment and set of standards I should like to thank my school.
In 1965, the Chronicle reported:
We would like to congratulate Miss Marjorie Pollard, Mrs Stedman and Mrs Packer on their awards in the New Year’s Honours List. There cannot be many girls’ schools in this country where three ex-pupils have been honoured at the same time.
In the New Year’s Honours List in January 1965 the OBE was awarded to Miss Marjorie Pollard. This eminent Old Girl, who began her career in hockey as goal-keeper in the school team, played hockey for England over fifty times, mostly as Captain of the England Women’s hockey team. She also captained the England Women’s Cricket team, played tennis for Northamptonshire, golf for Hertfordshire and, at one time equalled the women’s world record for the 100 yards. She now writes and broadcasts, mainly about hockey.