Tributes to Kent squash stalwarts
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
What a desperately sad few weeks, saying farewell to four friends who were heavily involved in squash. All four had strong Kent connections.
Alison Henley, one of the most respected squash administrators in England, died last week after a long-term illness.
Affectionately known in the England Squash office as ‘Duchess’, Alison was the longest serving member of staff prior to her departure in 2016. She gave many years of service to the sport, including relocating from London to Manchester with the governing body.
Alison was instrumental in the day to day activity of the Competitions and Events department. Her legacy is the Inter County Championships, where she was heavily involved with the running of the event for many years and where she had her biggest impact on the squash community.
Keir Worth, England Squash Chief Executive, (also from Kent) commented: “We’re deeply saddened to hear about Alison’s passing. Alison left the organisation earlier this year due to poor health, but this news has come as a shock to us all.
“Alison showed a tremendous dedication to the game and loyalty to the organisation, with such long service. She had a unique ability to connect with people which made her incredibly popular with the squash community. We miss her smile in the office.”
Along with her event management expertise, and her diplomatic skills when dealing with counties who were unable to raise a team for inter-county weekends, Alison was also a fun-loving individual who was the life and soul of every tournament party.
MIKE PLUMMER was a sports journalist who opened up significant editorial space for squash in the London Evening Standard.
At a time when Lambs Club and Cannons Club were at their peak, and enjoying a healthy rivalry in the Premier League, Mike covered the squash scene in some depth.
With regular reports on major tournaments, Mike was keen to project the players as personalities as his squash reports found space alongside the major London football teams.
His coverage of squash led the Standard to sponsor the National Doubles Championship at Cannons Club, which was also home to the Fleet Street League.
Plum lived in Hertfordshire but his family hailed from Dover. We tried our best to set up a tournament with the glass court inside Dover Castle, but a would-be sponsor had a change of heart.
For a brief spell Mike assisted the PSA with media support. However, complaints from jealous freelances every time he published a story of his own in the Standard compelled him to walk away from squash.
Sadly, the Standard has hardly mentioned the game since.
After taking redundancy from the Standard, Plum was a colleague at Express Newspapers until his sudden recent death at the age of 72.
Geoff Leach and Rick Hubbard were good friends in the Maidstone squash scene. Geoff preceded me as number one at The Mote and we enjoyed many great battles down the years. Geoff had a phenomenal ability to fight back from the brink of defeat and always responded to the cries from the gallery of “Go to the well, Geoff” as he clinched some important wins for the club.
Rick was chairman at Maidstone Squash Club during their glory years and was always a pleasure to work with as we rebuilt the old Maidstone Open into a major ranking tournament, attracting some great champions including Nick Matthew (twice), Lee Beachill, Rodney Durbach, Ong Being Hee and John Dale. Rick was a keen doubles player and one of the nicest people I have ever met in the world of squash.
Both were long-term supporters of the game and will be sadly missed.