December 6 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Those who have lived long enough to receive a birthday message from the Queen don’t normally excel at yoga – but Eileen Ash isn’t your average centenarian.
The 101-year-old, from Norwich, has lived through two world wars, played Test cricket for England and worked for MI6, so a few yoga stretches are a breeze.
“I always go to yoga on Tuesday mornings,” said Eileen, who also still manages to tend her garden, drive a yellow mini and read without glasses.
“I started yoga when I was playing golf and a friend of mine suggested it. I went and fell in love with it. It didn’t improve my golf though.”
Eileen, who now plays bowls, didn’t give up her golf clubs until she was 98. But it was on the cricket pitch that she tasted her greatest sporting successes.
“I was about five years old when I was given my first cricket set,” she said. “I wanted to take everything to bed with me – the stumps and the bat.
“When I first started, I used to play for my father’s team because I was quite a good fielder. If they were one short, I’d play. It was super.”
Eileen played for Middlesex and made her debut for the England Ladies team at The Oval in 1937.
“I was in the civil service at the time,” she said. “They gave you days off if you played for England or your county. I thought it was a jolly good way of getting a couple of days off!”
Eileen’s finest performance came during a tour of Australia in 1948. Playing at Ballarat, in Victoria, the talented bowler took five wickets for just 10 runs, before smashing a century with the bat.
As well as an international cricket career, Eileen also managed to fit in 11 years of work for MI6, although she remains tight-lipped about that. She prefers to talk about sport – remaining a keen cricket fan and an honorary life member of the MCC. “I just love sport,” she said. “I’d still be playing golf if I could, but my knees are beginning to wear out.” Eileen is not a grandmother who shies away from modern life. She has Sky television, a mobile phone and, for Christmas, she wants an iPad. Her active life has meant she is extraordinarily fit for a 101-year-old – but she is also very modest.
“I’m very lucky to have the health,” she said. “If you’re in good health you can do anything. I think they should teach yoga in schools, it would be excellent. I don’t understand people who just give in. I think everybody can do something. There’s no such word as ‘can’t’. You can always try.” Typically, Eileen sums up her determined outlook on life in cricketing terms. “If you fall down then you pick yourself up and carry on,” she says. “If you’re out as a batsman, there’s always next time.”