Eileen marked her 110th birthday in October and was the country’s oldest living Test cricketer. She was a right-arm seamer and made seven appearances for England either side of the Second World War after making her Test debut against Australia in 1937.
During her remarkable life she was also seconded to MI6 during the war, played golf until the age of 98 and did yoga and drove her yellow Mini car well into her 100s.
St George’s Parish Priest, Fr Sean Connolly, said: “Eileen was a remarkable person, utterly full of joy and life. Shortly after I came to the parish, I was informed just before Mass that one of the parishioners had just turned 103. Not knowing everyone by name at that stage, when I looked out into the congregation to see who it might be, I couldn’t see anyone I thought might be that age. At the end of Mass we sang Eileen happy birthday and I was shocked to find a sprightly lady looking in her mid-70s smiling and waving at everyone.
“Eileen used to speed into the car park in her beloved yellow Mini. She loved driving and the independence it gave her. When, a couple of years ago, she was finally advised to give it up, I thought she might be up for a fight. All she did was shrug and say, ‘Well, I had a good innings!’
“Eileen was extraordinarily gracious and I can’t ever remember hearing her complain, even when in the last 18 months she suffered from strokes. During the covid-lockdown in 2020 she suffered a fairly major stroke and was in hospital for some time, with no-one being allowed to visit her. When finally she came home, she was as cheerful as ever and only grateful for the medical attention she had received.
“That particular stroke left her jumbling up her words, meaning that conversations could become quite hilarious. Eileen, quite deaf by this point, spent the time lip-reading or simply guessing what you were trying to say, and you had to decipher a completely random set of words that came out of her mouth. Bizarrely, conversation was still possible and Eileen as always was good company. She was always delighted to see people and always herself a delight. She was a wonderful part of our parish for many years and we will miss her.”
Fellow St George’s parishioner, Philip Mason, said: “Our family has known Eileen for a number of years, and it was my privilege to take Eileen to Mass each week, usually at Our Lady’s on St William’s Way. It was always a joyful experience as Eileen was always upbeat about everybody and everything. I never knew what she would say next as we drove along.
“One of the funniest experiences we had as a family with Eileen, was at a party in our garden in 2015,to celebrate our son’s wedding. We invited Eileen who enjoyed the whole afternoon sipping her glasses of red wine. When it was time to leave some of our family asked Eileen if she would like to be accompanied home. Eileen replied in her most commanding voice, ‘Do you think I don’t know where I live’. We all fell about laughing, but it just showed how independent Eileen was even at 104 years of age.”
Clare Connor, England Cricket Board’s managing director of women’s cricket, said: “Our sport owes so much to its pioneers and Eileen was one of them. I am deeply sad to be saying goodbye to her today.”
Pictured above is Eileen Ash ringing the bell to start play in the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup Final at Lord’s. Picture by Clare Skinner/MCC.