Honours Board

Legend of Bowls North Harbour – Jean Ashby

Jean Ashby has achieved legendary status within the wider bowls community not so much for her playing ability, but for her notable contribution both to the centre and nationally as an outstanding umpire and for her expert knowledge of the game’s playing laws.

Jean started bowling in 1967 and quickly became a competent player, winning her share of club titles. But in those years women’s bowls was played mainly midweek and the need to resume fulltime secretarial work reduced her playing opportunities.

Instead she switched to umpiring and soon became one of the country’s best. She has been involved in several national championships, both men’s and women’s, and being internationally qualified has received a number of plum assignments.

In the 1988 world women’s championship at Henderson she marked the singles final between Ireland’s Margaret Johnston and Wales’ Janet Ackland and in 1990 at Pakuranga the women’s gold medal final between Papua Guinea’s Geau Tau and New Zealand’s Millie Khan. This was a celebrated occasion not just in bowls but in all New Zealand sport, for it was played under the shadow of the tragic cot death of Millie’s infant grandchild in the Pakuranga car-park on the morning of the final. Though the tragedy was kept from Millie until after the final, Jean suspects she knew something was amiss because her family watching the final were so subdued.

Jean also served the game as an administrator. She was president of the national women’s association and when it was dis-banded she became an independent board member of Bowls New Zealand. She was fully supportive of the men’s and women’s games merging and believes it has been one of the best things to have happened in bowls in the past 25 years.

This year Jean became a life member of Bowls North Harbour, the centre having in 2019 honoured her with a life-time achievement award. Many other accolades have come her way: life membership of the Mairangi Bay club and Bowls New Zealand and in 2004 the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Jean lost her father when she was aged only nine when he was killed at Monte Cassino during World War II and so has always been grateful her mother encouraged her love of sport. Besides bowls her sporting passions have been wide: softball, tennis, netball, basketball, harriers which saw her run two marathons and she even managed her son’s East Coast Bays soccer team.

Even though in her mid-80s, Jean continues to be an outstanding umpire and her decisions are invariably accepted as being of the utmost accuracy and integrity.