Another in Marlborough.News’ occasional series of profiles about people and their roles in the life of the Marlborough Area – taking our cue from the book published for the Millennium: MARLBOROUGH PEOPLE
Thwack, scuffle, cheers… Saturday mornings at the Preshute tennis courts are alive with children bashing balls, running through drills and having a good time. Most of this activity is largely due to Hilda Moore, Chair of Marlborough Tennis Club and its Head Coach.
She has been passing on her tennis passion to youngsters since 2002 and the numbers in coaching programmes have grown from 10 to 120 or more.
Hilda, 57 and hailing from Glasgow, says she was heavily influenced by her parents, who played leading roles in their local church. “My Dad was a church elder and treasurer and helped run the church. He always said it’s important to get involved in community activities and was a member of the Rotary Club, curling and golf clubs. Much of our social life came through the church. We were a happy family.”
“I joined the tennis club in Marlborough when it was at a low ebb and committee members had been struggling to develop it for years. I’ve been a tennis nut since I was 12 and I wanted my own children to learn, which is partly why I trained as a coach, sought out other coaches and developed the programmes.”
If the most important quality for a coach is enthusiasm, it is also the ability to measure out the hard work according to players’ needs. The Friday morning women’s group for example, has evolved into a bunch of friends who enjoy a natter over the nets as much as hitting the balls. Hilda recognises this dynamic and joins in the fun.
With the ability to empathise with every missed ball, poor serve and general fumble, she makes you feel she is genuinely on your side.
Hilda took a degree in Technology and Business Studies at the University of Strathclyde and then went to work at Motorola as a graduate trainee, moving into marketing microprocessors.
In 1989 she moved to Swindon for what was meant to be a six month posting in human resources, focussed on relocating staff around the country. She met her husband David, an engineer at the firm, married him in 1991 and moved to Marlborough in 1992. Daughter Fiona was born in 1994, followed two years later by son Robert.
With a lilting Scottish accent, kindly face and short grey hair, she projects a no-nonsense exterior that belies an emotional side: “Hiding my emotions is a Scottish thing.”
Yet touching on her interests opens a floodgate of deeply held convictions. She was desperate for Scotland to stay part of Great Britain in the Scottish Independence Referendum, and is very disappointed that Britain has voted to leave the EU – “The referendum has been so divisive.”
She left Motorola in 2001 and trained to become a qualified tennis coach: “I think there is a frustrated teacher in me as I enjoy working with kids – and helping them to achieve brings great satisfaction.”
She was once a Brown Owl for a Brownie group in Glasgow and helped run Sunday School in Marlborough.
Hilda is no newcomer to fundraising for tennis clubs. At university she became chair of the development committee for her local Titwood Tennis Club and now finds herself helping to develop Marlborough Tennis Club.
Marlborough has six adult teams in the Swindon and District Tennis League and close links with Ramsbury Tennis Club, Marlborough Leisure Centre and local schools. Despite this, at present the club rents courts from Marlborough College at Preshute, and relies on part-time coaches.
The new plans – for which they have planning permission – are for six all-weather tennis courts with floodlighting and a small pavilion on land leased from Marlborough Golf Club. They want to employ a full-time head coach plus assistants.
The committee is currently waiting for costings for the groundworks. Hilda believes the courts will be open for play next year.
The development will change the face of the club, she says, with pay and play sessions for the townsfolk, tennis groups for all, including disabled people, programmes run jointly with the golf club and a lively social scene: “There is no reason why we can’t have a really vibrant club.”
Life changed again for Hilda in 2012 when she and David, after much nail-biting and deliberation, took up a franchise for in-toto Kitchens, a kitchen design studio for bespoke kitchens in Swindon’s Old Town. David’s background in engineering design and project management, with solid backup from Hilda, has helped make the outlet a success.
“It was an established business with a good reputation. We liked the products, inherited a great team of fitters and since then have won the Neff Excellence Award for Best Regional Master Partner and in-toto Customer Service Award.
“We work in the heart of people’s homes – in their kitchens – so you have to believe you are improving it for them.”
Apart from working full-time she spends a lot of time flying to opposite ends of the country to visit her 91-year-old Mum in Glasgow and daughter Fiona at Southampton University. For now Rob at least is local as he finishes his A levels.
That said, she still retains her passion for tennis and goes down to the courts on Saturday mornings: “We’ve got this great Davis Cup Legacy programme going on at the moment. Instead of targeting elite kids, it focuses on those who have never played tennis and provides free coaching and a racquet. It’s very exciting.”
“We also have the Great British Tennis Weekend coming up in July where we open the club up for anyone to come along and play or have coaching – all for free.”