Obituary - Beryl Furlong

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Beryl Furlong

Beryl Audrey Furlong

University of Liverpool & Chair and President of WIVAB and Chair of the UAU.

Born November 1933

Died December 2016

 

Beryl Furlong passed away recently at the age of 83. Her name will not be known to many in student sport today but she was a hugely significant female leader within student sport in the 1970s and 1980s.

Beryl was born in November 1933 and was the only child of parents Cecil Arthur Furlong and Gladys Edna Maud Furlong of Essex. She was part of a dwindling generation, who were born in a time when the dark clouds of war were gathering across Europe. Their childhoods would be marked by these events, they would enter the world of work in the post war era and carry with them, throughout their lives, values and qualities of hard work and respect for others.

She attended St Marys Convent School, Romford for a short period in 1938 before moving to Bury Lawn in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire until 1942 when she then progressed to Salisbury Road Junior School in Gidea Park, Essex. Her secondary education was completed in County High School for Girls in Brentwood where through her hard work and determination to succeed she gained many School Certificates.

It was at Brentwood County High School for Girls that Beryl was taught in the Sixth Form by Doreen Giller who became a hugely positive influence on Beryl and encouraged her to follow her dreams of teaching sport.  Beryl then went on to study for her Teacher’s Certificate at The University of London Institute of Education (Dartford College) and graduated in 1955.

Beryl was always interested in sports. She would be the first to admit that she was not “the best” but found great enjoyment playing team games. During her school and college days Beryl was an avid sportswoman, representing her school in hockey, netball, gymnastics, swimming, athletics, rounders, cricket, dancing and tennis.  During college Beryl made representations in mixed hockey, netball, rounders, swimming, tennis, trampoline, and skiing.  Her love of sports continued throughout her life and she was an adopted supporter of Liverpool Football Club, her “home” team being Colchester! 

Beryl’s first teaching post was at St Monica’s School in Clacton where she stayed from 1955 until 1959 when she was appointed to take charge of the newly opened PE Department at Ingatestone School in Essex.  It is a testament to Beryl that when she decided to move on in 1962, the Headmaster, Mr Moss said of her “no-one has done more to raise the morale and tone of this newly established school, and it is with great regret that I see her leave” (sic). Beryl then moved up to Cheshire to take the post of Senior Lecturer in Physical Education at Cheshire County Training College at Crewe. 

Beryl’s final appointment was to the Department of Physical Education (Movement Science and Physical Education from 1987)  at the University of Liverpool in the late 1960s. Here, Beryl taught oral History of Physical Education and was responsible for the annual admission of new students, was mentor for postgraduate students and was responsible for work-based learning modules which were extremely popular with year three students. In fact, this type of “hands on” approach to learning is now lauded as an excellent way to give students and young people experience of working environments. Indeed, many of Beryl’s work-based learning students obtained work positions as a direct result of this module. Towards the latter part of her career she also created and maintained for some time educational links with colleagues in Magdeburg University at a time when East Germany was initially still in existence.

In an often male-dominated profession Beryl would become a key officer of the Women’s Inter Varsity Athletic Board (WIVAB) which ran women’s university sport for over 50 years (1923-1979). She held the positions of Chair and President of WIVAB at the same time. When that became part of the Universities Athletic Union (UAU) in 1979, she went on to become the first female Chair of the UAU. She held this post between 1983 and 1986 and was a member of the early sector working parties that met to lay the groundwork for the single student body that came about after her time in 1994.

Beryl authored “The History of the University of Liverpool Athletic Union” to commemorate its Centenary in 1984.  This is an impressive record of the development of how sport at Liverpool grew from its early days and its influence on the national development of student sport.

My first summer conference was at Brunel in July 1986. I was an incoming sabbatical at Warwick University and Beryl was just completing her three year term as the first female Chair of the (UAU). The end of conference dinner gave Beryl a rousing send-off which was touching, memorable and well earned. Fifteen months later I became a colleague when I joined the staff of the University of Liverpool where Beryl had been lecturing for nearly 20 years. Beryl retained a strong connection with university sport through her links with the Western Division of the UAU,  a number of  University of Liverpool's sports clubs and the AU at Liverpool.

Beryl retired from Liverpool in the early 2000s. She attended the annual AU Dinner for a few more years and the AU made Beryl a Life Vice-President to honour her service to student sport. In 2008 a new award was named in her honour: the Female Club President of the Year. It will continue in her honour and perpetuate the work of a woman who was a significant leader within university sport for over a quarter of a century.

Beryl was a very special lady. She was an extremely loyal friend who cared about people. She loved being around young people and had a particular way of both befriending and teaching them. Whatever she did, whatever special knack she had to do it, one thing is certain – it worked for so many people.

It was a pleasure and honour to have known her and to have worked with her for over ten years.

 

Stuart A Wade

Sports Development Manager

University of Liverpool