Even if you’re a long time bowler, you’d be forgiven for not knowing who has ever been feted as a Life Member of Bowls New Zealand.
The paucity of appointments is not surprising. The standard is high. And chatting with foundation Life Member, Jean Ashby, it’s very easy to realise why appointments are few and far between.
The gracious and charming octogenarian has been involved with bowls since
“My grandfather and mother had been very keen bowlers,” says Jean, “so it was nothing unusual for me to take the game up as well, even though my husband wasn’t interested.”
“I was introduced to the game pretty young. Mum and Grandpa took me to the bowls at the Empire Games in Auckland in 1950. They were at the old Carlton green, and it was men’s only. I was under strict instructions not to move or talk at all … spectators, and
The bowls environment was much different back then. Women and men belonged to separate club
Jean has no such memories of misogynism. She loved the game. But she soon found she loved umpiring more.
“I won a couple of club titles,” says Jean, “but I wasn’t a
That started a career in voluntary bowls
But Jean thrived on umpiring. “I loved getting around Auckland and the North Island,” recalls Jean. She also umpired bigger and better things – at the Women’s World Bowls Championship in Henderson in 1988 and the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990. Jean became President of the New Zealand Women’s Umpires Association in 1992/1993.
Jean became a go-to person for the Bowls New Zealand – taking up appointments on the Umpires Board, the Judicial Committee, the Academy Board and as an independent Board Director … culminating in life membership in 2002. She was already a life member of Mairangi Bay and the North Harbour Bowls Association. Seemingly Jean had done a lifetime of service for everyone!
More was to come. In 2004, Jean became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM). “My husband hated flying,” laughs Jean, “so we went to the investiture at Government House in Wellington by train.” A tiny roundel on Jean’s lapel commemorates the award for services to bowls.
Jean still loves her bowls. And her netball. And her tennis. And her soccer (she was
It makes you wonder how anyone can love
Ask her yourself. She was there at Carlton Cornwall at the recent Summerset National Singles & Pairs, quietly appreciating the bowling action from the sidelines, but not before umpiring for two days of section play. More than likely you’ll find her around the traps in Auckland, particularly at clubs on the Shore, enjoying the summer season of bowls.
Thanks for all your wonderfulness Jean. We love you!