An Olympic inspiration - champion archer turns 100

IN this exciting Olympic year Britain will be strongly represented in the archery events.

Sixty years ago, in the years before archery was restored to Olympic status, a Harrogate woman who celebrates her 100th birthday next week won fourth place in the world championships in Belgium.

Kathleen Maria Marshall was born on March 1, 1912 and reaches her own century next Thursday when family and friends will gather at the Granby Nursing home to celebrate with this remarkable and much loved lady.

Born in Bedfordshire, Kathleen Maria Ellison was the ninth of 10 children. After training in hotel management, Kate became a governess with a family in Berlin, escaping with the help of her brother, Gerry, to Switzerland at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Kate then worked as a governess in Canada. She has always been inspirational to the young, communicating a huge interest in sport, wildlife and the arts.

Kate was an ambulance driver in the later stages of the war when back in the UK. She then married Fred Birkby and moved to Harrogate. Fred was a pioneer in the manufacture of plastics with factories in Liversedge and Wythenshawe. He had a collection of sports cars and a chauffeur. Kate and Fred enjoyed country pursuits including salmon fishing in Scotland. They featured in a “Look at Life” film about fishing on the River Tweed shown at cinemas nationwide. Those in the know spotted that the fish shown being landed was indeed one caught on a previous day, and a rather stiff one at that.

Left widowed in her 50’s, Kate then involved herself in many charities including the RNLI who awarded her the Silver Medal. She became everyone’s favourite “auntie”, taking a huge interest in children of her friends. Many of us owe our love of the countryside to her enthusiasm and patience.

Married to Harry Marshall in 1970, Kate then had 13 very happy years until he died. They greatly enjoyed visiting his two sons, Chris and Tim, and daughter Sue, who all live overseas.

Kate remained fit and extremely agile until her late 80’s, living on her own until a fall led to her moving into the Granby Nursing home three years ago.

Kate has been content in the excellent care she receives there. She continues to enjoy sport, especially her favourite “rugger”, on the TV.

She amuses the staff with a knowing wink, and only two months ago was able to look at a red kite flying above the field beyond herbedroom window.

In her bird watching days, kites were the rarest of ones she would see.

Henry Rosenvinge