- Twickenham treat is dream come true
- A lifetime’s ambition comes to fruition
Photo: RFU Archive
Lifetime ambitions don’t usually take nearly 50 years to be fulfilled, but when they do the waiting makes the thrill so much more intense.
That’s the view of Barbara Elliott, who realised her dream last week when she walked the pristine Twickenham turf in the company of Head Groundsman Keith Kent.
“I can’t tell you what a thrill it was. I can’t put it into words – you’ll have to think of something,” she said. “It was just absolutely wonderful. Everything I had ever hoped for, although only my dad ever knew about my Twickenham secret.
“It was something I’ve held in my heart all my life, thinking ‘it’s not going to happen – even getting to Twickenham for a game will be a no-no, never mind getting there and going on the field. When Baildon got to the Junior Vase final last year I was so envious of the players actually getting on to the grass.”
Dad was Dennis Hugill, groundsman at Baildon RUFC’s Jenny Lane headquarters in West Yorkshire, and it was his passion for the job that was carried through to his daughter. In spades.
“My dad would take me to the ground and as soon as I was able to walk I was given a job. When I was four years old he gave me the job of putting out the flags in their slots,” she said. “By the time I was 10 I was marking out the pitch, with Dad supplying a few words of encouragement to keep straight!
“So I’ve been marking out the pitch for about 48 years. Then when Dad died 20 years ago I was left on my own to look after everything that Dad did, which included looking after the changing rooms and all the other jobs that go with that aspect of any rugby club.
“I’ve been there forever, working with an absolutely wonderful set of people. Without their support I couldn’t function and might not have taken on the job, but they agreed at the outset that they would collectively become ‘my dad’ and they’ve looked after me so well ever since.”
Needless to say, the chemistry between a son and daughter of the soil added generously to Barbara’s Twickenham treat.
“It was like meeting a long lost friend,” she said. “He was just so easy to get on with. I think that when you have a shared enthusiasm and understanding for what you are doing, him at his level and me at mine, talking about the job is easy and interesting.
“He might have loads of equipment and I have a fork and a line-marking machine, but we have a shared ambition to make our pitch the best it can be with the resources we have.”
While the Twickenham visit stemmed from the club’s appreciation of her contribution and Director of Rugby Dave Duxbury approaching Keith Kent for a meeting, this was not the only accolade to come her way this season.
She recently collected the ‘Value the Volunteer’ Award for the West & Aire Wharfe District of the Yorkshire RFU from John Bentley at a Leeds Carnegie match and was also a guest of the RFU at the Barbarians game at Twickenham, when she was able to view the playing surface with a newly-informed awareness of why it looks so perfect.