The Standard Life Squashers were a group of Scottish-based Lady players who toured initially in Canada then Ireland and UK for seven years from their inception in 1980.
The concept was initiated by Irene Cowper, with the initial trip visiting Canada, followed by Ireland, then a number of venues in UK. For the first two years, the team was composed of seasoned Senior Internationals, but the remaining tours were for Juniors. All the tour reports were compiled by Irene.
We’ll start with a slideshow showing the team members in each year, then provide a description of each tour. Click on any of the images to enable a full screen slideshow.
1980 – The first tour – Ontario
Irene Cowper has her name writ large over the foundation of this splendid touring group, but the editor has thus far been unable to determine the nature of the original contact. Safe to say, it was a good one, at a time when Standard Life were riding high in the Life Assurance business, and were also keen to promote squash, particularly for talented juniors after the first couple of trips. We’ll publish a paragraph for each year, with supporting text from Standard View, the house magazine at the time.
The touring party comprised Irene, Rosie Fraser, Brenda Carmichael, Anne Bauermeister, Ann Smith, Ray Gregg (now Lynch), and Irene Muir-Miller (now Cowper). They played as a team in the East of Scotland Men’s league, and were (or were near to) the best Lady players in Scotland at the time.
Leaving Edinburgh on 19th January, 1980, the tour commenced in Toronto, with leisure time at the Niagara Falls, and team practice, followed by a six hour drive to Ottawa, to play a match and in a tournament. The next event was in London Ontario, a mere two hours away, then back to Toronto to play a variety of matches, and be hosted in receptions. They are also reported to have attended an ice hockey match, the Toronto Maple Leafs versus Chicago, but despite these distractions, it is clear from the report that by the time the boarded the plane home, they were all exhausted, but as Irene says “..we think we have helped a great deal in making squash better known in Canada, especially under the auspices of Standard Life”. To read the full report in Standard Life magazine, click here.
1980 November tour to Cork
It looks as though the 1981 tour was brought forward to the end of November 1980. The team was the same as the earlier Canada trip, namely Ann Smith (Captaining the side), Brenda Carmichael, Irene Muir-Miller (later Cowper), Rae Gregg (now Lynch), Rosalind (Rosie) Fraser and Ann Bauermeister. Sadly, no printable photographs exist of the tour, but there are a number of press cuttings from the Irish Independent and the Cork Examiner which provide a good account of the proceedings. On 18th November, The ‘Examiner’ stated “The Scottish team, who are sponsored for a four figure sum (by Standard Life), will add a touch of glamour to the Championships in Cork”. A Fife regional newspaper reported on the 21st “Thornton girl Ray Gregg, a member of the Standard Life Squashers, is currently training hard to take part in the 3rd Murphy Munster Open Championships in Cork”. The Examiner had a photo of the Ladies in training mode in a gym, and reported that they were to play representative teams from Dublin and Cork in the two nights before the Cork Tournament. The ‘Irish Press’ of 27th November reported that the “Irish girls are squashed”, referring to the Squashers 6-0 win over a Squash Ireland selection at Leopardstown, doing so without losing a game – seems a bit unfair…
1982 – English Midlands
The 1982 squad featured six new faces – Shirley Brown, Audrey Cumberford, Joyce Leach, Audrey Dow, Ann Leishman and Jennifer James. No fewer than nine squash venues were visited, along with social visits and even a date with Macbeth at Stratford-upon-Avon.
The squash venues were Wigan, Chester, Edgbaston Priory in Birmingham, Knole & Dorridge in Solihull, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Sutton Colfield, Cofton Hills Worcestershire, and Nova ladies. A full report of the tour is available. We note from the accompanying photograph that squash rackets are now allowed to be carried on as cabin baggage. One ESC touring member recently fell foul of the existing ban on rackets on planes
One concerning feature which your Editor encountered while compiling this article was the extent of the wastage of squash clubs – only four of the nine quoted appear to exist forty years after this tour
1983 – The English South Coast
The 1983 Tour covered Fareham in Hampshire, Winchester, Bournemouth and Poole in Dorset, including the three day Festival Squash tournament in the last destination. The tournament was composed of 24 teams from Britain and Europe, all Men with the solitary exception of the Squashers, who went on to give a good account of themselves. Read a full report of the tour.
1984 – The North of England
The 1984 Tour took in York, Manchester, Bradford, Sheffield, and two Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Clubs, Northumberland and Kingston, with a total of eight matches being played. The team had a commendable record, winning three, drawing two, and losing three, two of which were to Men’s teams in Newcastle. But it wasn’t all squash – they went to Manchester United FC where they met the players including Captain Brian Robson, and Manager Ron Atkinson. Read a full report of the tour.
1985 – The South of England and South Wales
The 1985 Tour encompassed Winchester, Reading, Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, Birmingham, Leicester and Coventry. Another impressive set of results – Won 4, drew 2 lost 2, all against County standard sides. The football habit was repeated, this time at Coventry City FC where the girls made a half-time appearance in front of 10,000 supporters! Read a full report of the tour.
1986 – the Squashers are challenged
The photo shown here was taken at Edinburgh Sports Club sometime in 1986, and shows a nine-a-side match between a Standard Life select Men’s team, and the Squashers, played at ESC. Colin Robertson, third from the right in the front row was spotted by the Editor, and revealed the origin of the contest.
A very senior Standard Life staff member, who knew Colin (and the Editor), asked for the match to be arranged. Little more is known about the contest, including the outcome, and a few faces have still to be identified despite the best efforts thus far from a good selection of squash aficionados and some of the team members, including the Ladies. Needless to say, there is a good representation of Squashers of different ages, and the men represent a number of different Squash Clubs. Colin did reveal that he lost 3-1, tiring after a good start, so perhaps the result was shrouded in the mists of time because the much younger Ladies prevailed! Hopefully more information about the match will emerge in due course… Click on the image for a larger version
1987 – The English Midlands Challenge
Irene Cowper once again managed the Squashers, on what was to be their last tour. The squad, Captained by Joyce Leach, also contained Louise Thomson, Elaine Thomson, Gillian Munro, Lynn Wyllie, Julie Nicol and Louise Philip.
Matches were played at the Birmingham Centre for Squash and Health, Notts County Cricket Club mixed select, Squash Leicester mixed select, Richmond Leisure Centre in Stoke (where we played the ladies county team) and the Maple Squash Club in Oldham. The overall result was Played 5, won 2, drew 2, Lost 1 – a good outcome considering the level of the opponents.
But it wasn’t all hard work: the team participated in a media and celebrity coaching sessions in both Birmingham and Stoke, and some players took time out to visit Alton Towers, where they apparently spent most of their day upside-down.
In her report, Irene once again praises the level of support in many aspects provided by Standard Life.
Input from other 1980 Tour members
Ray Lynch reports: I have spoken to Brenda Carmichael re the Squashers. Apparently Irene Cowper was in contact with someone from Standard Life and it started from that – they had offices in Toronto and so our tour was set up. While there we played three warm up friendly matches in Ottawa, Toronto and London Ontario. We then played in the North American individual championships in Oakville, followed by three team matches in Toronto against Canadian Select teams. To finish the tour we played in the Ontario Open championships. I do not have any results! Standard Life were superb hosts for the whole trip and I think for them it was a successful PR venture as well as being a great competitive trip for us.