Many in the bowls community will probably have come across George Ridgeon who lives in the Gloucester area but who travels across the UK to bowl and has done so for many years. He knew Margaret Maughan for many years and here he offers his own very personal tribute to her.
I first became aware of Margaret’s name in my nine months in Stoke Mandeville spinal unit 26/11/81 – 13/8/82 and once up with trips down to Sports Centre and bowls club bar! Learning more during my first wheelchair games September 1984 after the Paralympics were held at Stoke Mandeville due to troubles in America? Expecting a giant of a lady having heard so much and winning the first gold medal in first recognized Paralympics in Rome 1960 but finding she was a demure lady, easy to talk to and not aloof like some of the others. I was still a novice in the early years of the formation of the BWBA Margaret was there and was secretary for many years playing against her, as a team member, even remember an enjoyable pair’s game. The most memorable game winning by one shot on the last end during the British sports Association for the disabled bowls tournament at Thornbury where most of the English BWBA members were knocked out of the first round going on to win the plate competition which got me my first selection for the home countries in Scotland 1991. Margaret was great ambassador for wheelchair sport a leading member in the formation of the Stoke paraplegic athletic club, I would say the first goddess of wheelchair sport! My last memorable meeting with the launch of the Sir Ludwig Guttmann statue before the London Olympics at the Guttmann Sports Centre, in the many speeches Margaret’s name was mentioned saying “her gold medal was so important it was in the British Museum”, I shouted “is Margaret in the British Museum as well” I was pleased many laughing. It was perhaps an Erie coincidence I was watching a program on Italian scooters showing thousands turning up at the 1960 Rome Olympics. I called up Margaret’s Facebook email saying I was thinking of her to find many get well Margaret messages on her Facebook also adding one, I believe this was the day she died RIP Margaret Maugham a guiding light for wheelchair sport.
my first national wheelchair games was September 1984 due to the cancellation of the American Paralympics, I believe due to discrepancy in money having gone missing, so hurriedly organized in June at Stoke Mandeville. It was somewhat of a rush as life was coming together as I just returned from the Manx Grand Prix the week before bringing a person to help me who had in the Isle of Man.
I have entered under the flag of Stoke Mandeville with Harry chief physiotherapist as team manager who advised me to enter as many sports as possible. Classification was first, when I first heard the name Margaret Maugham, reminding me I had heard the name in my nine months in the spinal unit. Whichever sport I was checking out Margaret’s name seem to float around with a few others holding records in the sport. I was expecting to see a giant of a lady but saw a demure person you could speak to. I didn’t have a great deal of time to meet people having to sort out troubles with most of my sports, I had to make a table for rifle shooting, only allowed to play tetra bowls which was very disappointing, I was banned from wearing a union flag sweatshirt in table tennis, complained about because I was singing in the rain when doing archery as it was raining! These 2 sports plus 100 yard dash which took me four minutes were the first sports to go. Whatever sport shooting, shot-put, club, discuss and swimming, Margaret’s name was mentioned finding she was one of the main movers of SPAC the Stoke paraplegic athletic club. I couldn’t wait until the next game but sadly bowls was outside as the carpet was still being laid. So 1986 when I first played indoor bowls seeing Margaret in the bowls club as she now playing the sport finding out Margaret was the first paraplegic to win a gold medal in the first recognized paraplegic games in Rome 1960.
So from then on until the trouble started for indoor bowling meeting Margaret in training sessions friendly games even paired up for training weekends and competitions. Most memorable game was at Thornbury indoor bowling club in a BSAD, British sports Association for the disabled, where most BWBA members lost in the first round, meeting in the plate competition only beating Margaret on the last and by one shot. Margaret became secretary of the BWBA I found out over the years Margaret was a great ambassador for wheelchair sport.
Although bowls has taken somewhat of a backward step in the world wheelchair sport with the strong the BWBA committee and names like Margaret now has a strong place in the in the world of able-bodied bowls where wheelchair bowler compete as equals with the specially adapted buggies. Besides seeing Margaret when she had a spell in Stoke causing havoc in the ladies ward, we meet again at the launch of the Ludwig Guttmann statue for the London Paralympics, having a photo with and many of the guests including Margaret. In the speeches Margaret’s name was mentioned saying her gold medal was in the British Museum as many of you may know me being me I shouted out “is Margaret also in the British Museum” which I am pleased caused general laughter amongst the guests. As our patron David Rhys Jones said after the opening of the Paralympics Margaret Maugham a bowls player lit the Olympic flame.