Former national hockey player and administrator Floris “Florrie” Kelshall passed away earlier this week, aged 104. Well loved and respected, her career included receiving a national award and being inducted into the country’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Today, the Express pays tribute to her through one of our own—former Express journalist and Women’s Hockey Association president Angela Pidduck, who wrote the following biography of her long-standing friend in 2001.
Floris Jessica Kelshall, an optometrist by profession, has been recognised at the highest level in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for her contribution to the administration/development of women’s hockey.
On August 31, 1983, Florrie (as she is known) was presented with a National Award - the Humming Bird Medal Silver Medal - for Sport (Hockey Player/Administrator) by the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
On June 10, 1985, she was inducted into the West Indian Tobacco Sports Hall of Fame for the administration of hockey. Florrie’s dedication to hockey has also resulted in her being made the first Honorary Life Member of the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Hockey Association in 1963; the first female Honorary Life Member of the Trinidad and Tobago (Men’s) Hockey Federation; and an Honorary Life Member of Ventures Hockey Club of which she has been a member for 62 years, from 1940 to the present time, and was president for 17 years from 1965 to 1982 in addition to having served Ventures as secretary, treasurer and vice-president.
Florrie, who will be 86 years old on January 3, 2002, is still a keen bridge player, a game she started playing in 1973, and has represented Trinidad and Tobago on the Ladies Team in 1979, 1980 and 1981 at the Central America & Caribbean Games.
In 1984, at age 68, Florrie took part in a veterans swim race. And as late as 1997, at age 81 1/2, Florrie won the 2nd prize in the Women On The Move 5K Classic in the 70 and over age group.
And although it was in field hockey that Florrie devoted many years to the development of the sport through her administrative ability, she has represented Trinidad and Tobago on one occasion in Badminton, which she started at school in Chester, England in the late 1930’s. She continued to play from 1940 when she returned to the Caribbean and was very successful in local competitions. She was a member of the Committee of Management of the St Ann’s Badminton Club and served as vice-president in 1955. At that time there was no national body.
A tennis player also from 1940, she won many tournaments but never represented the country as there was a choice at that level between hockey and tennis. But she served on the St James Tennis Club’s management committee for many years.
Florrie was one of two women appointed a member of the Inaugural Stadium Committee in 1956, when the stadium which exists today was being planned.
But it was in hockey that Florrie Kelshall excelled. A game she started while at school in Chester and played for the second eleven at Manchester University, where she also threw the javelin and discus for Victoria Hall.
Her career as a hockey administrator started in 1944 as secretary of the Northern Ladies Hockey League, the body then responsible for running hockey in this country. She continued in the administration of the sport and after ten years as secretary/treasurer and vice-president of the Association, became the first female president from 1955 to 1962, during which time she was also treasurer of the Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board of Control for eight years and vice-president for two years.
In 1946, she was solely responsible for the start of the Intercolonial Competition for women between Guyana (then British Guiana) and Trinidad and Tobago when she invited the Guyanese to send a national team to compete against a Trinidad and Tobago national team without consulting her executive committee, only seeking their permission after an affirmative reply was received from the Guyanese.
She played at inner right on that first national team and represented the country three times (1946 and 1947, and in 1953 as player/manager).
It was Florrie who pressed for the inclusion of Jamaica in the Intercolonial Tournaments, which had begun in 1946, a risky undertaking which she made a reality without financial help from the government. And in 1963, as president, Florrie was in full support of her then secretary in initiating the move to take women’s hockey into the International arena and was manager of the first team to take part in the International Women’s Hockey Federation Tournament in Baltimore that year.
Among Florrie’s many proud sporting moments was her selection as President of the Ladies’ Hockey Association to read the farewell address to His Excellency the Governor, Sir Hubert Rance, at a banquet organised by Trinidad sportsmen on March 4, 1955, to mark Sir Hubert’s departure from the then colony.
In her “supposed” retirement, this indomitable woman continues to play bridge and as a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Horticultural Society, runs the society’s weekly Flower Market; and in this, the season of goodwill, acts as Santa Claus when asked.
—Written by Angela Pidduck in December, 2001 for submission by the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee for submission to the International Olympic Committee.