Obituary: Ethel Jack (née Philip), university administrator and amateur golfer

Born: 3 January, 1939, in Edinburgh. Died: 23 May, 2012, in North Berwick, aged 73

Ethel Jack was born in Edinburgh, the younger daughter of George and Ethel Philip of Portobello. After her education at St Margaret’s School, she worked for the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and then went on to the University of Edinburgh as an administrative assistant.

Professor Bob Ladd of the Linguistics Department recalls: “Ethel was a memorable presence in the D, where she worked for more than 30 years. Even in an era when ‘department secretaries’ were generally understood to be the ones who knew most about how the university really operated, she stood out. Everyone who worked or studied in Linguistics then has stories.

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“A former head of department tells of the time he forgot to write down a visit from the Dean in the diary, and Ethel sent the Dean packing.

Another colleague remembers when she was formally elected to the Linguistics Association of Great Britain so that she could help the association’s honorary treasurer keep the books. Several of us recall her skill at finding just the right Scots expression when someone (especially senior academics) needed to be taken down a notch or two.

“None of her colleagues from those days will ever forget her – and nor, we are sure, will the countless students whose names she infallibly remembered, together with their problems, successes, and complicated life situations. She had a truly remarkable gift for establishing human connections.”

But it is as a golfer that Ethel will be best remembered.

When the Second World War ended, Portobello’s nine-hole course re-opened. All the young boys in seven-year-old Ethel’s gang started to play golf, and she realised she would be left on her own, so she decided to become a golfer too. With the encouragement of her father, she was given lessons, worked hard on her game and went on to be a “reasonable golfer” (her words).

Her young friends joined Duddingston, but Ethel, being a girl, was excluded from that male enclave. In what was to become a characteristic solution for Ethel, she “got on her bike” and joined Prestonfield on the other side of Holyrood Park.

Her bond with Prestonfield was to continue all her days. She was ladies’ club champion 18 times, ladies’ club captain and latterly an honorary vice president, still taking a regular interest in the club long after she had left Edinburgh for East Lothian.

Ethel became more than a “reasonable golfer”. She played in her first British girls’ championship at Woodhall Spa in 1953, and first played for Scotland in 1955 when she was picked for a girls’ Home International match at Beaconsfield alongside Connie Lugton and Marjorie Ferguson.

They became life-long friends, and encouraged Ethel to join Gullane Ladies’ Golf Club in 1957.

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She played for Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) girls against a British boys’ team; against France in an Under 21 GB&I team; for Scotland at adult level in 1962-64 and then later as a senior in the Scottish veterans’ ladies team.

She was a stalwart of the Midlothian County Team, winning the county championship five times between 1959 and 1990. Ethel relished the county matches, and enjoyed playing with foursomes partners, Fiona Verth, Joan Marshall, Mary Norval and latterly Joan’s daughter Karen.

But it was in golf administration that Ethel excelled.

Captain of Midlothian County in her early thirties, she went on to be secretary of Scottish girls’ golf in the days when there was a separate committee, and later served on the executive council of the Scottish Ladies’ Golf Association (SLGA), becoming chairman from 1979 to 1981. During her term of office Scotland hosted the European ladies’ team championships at Turnberry, and Ethel ran the show. The SLGA made her a vice president in her early forties as an acknowledgement of the work she had put in.

A born leader and organiser, Ethel was a handicap advisor and scratch score assessor for Scotland. Even when the SLGA adopted the United States Golf Association Scratch Score method, a perfect time to step down, Ethel continued to lead the East Lothian team in their re-assessment task.

Ethel was captain of numerous teams and clubs, including Prestonfield, Longniddry, Gullane Ladies’, Midlothian County and Scottish Vets. She captained the Scottish junior team to victory in their first European Team Championship, after begging money from the Scottish Sports Council and persuading Marks & Spencer to provide the team uniforms.

Ethel became president of Midlothian county in 1993 and the Scottish Veteran Ladies’ Golfing Association in 1995. Probably her proudest achievement was to take on the presidency of the Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association from 2007 to 2010.

Ethel’s sense of fun was infectious. She could not suppress it at times, and her outbursts always cracked the ice on any occasion where the proceedings were getting just a little too staid and boring. A well-known and much-enjoyed after-dinner speaker, her wit was renowned, and her repartee even more so.

In 1967 Ethel married Philip Jack at St Philip’s Church, Joppa. Philip was a gentle, loving and caring man, and they enjoyed lots of laughter, jokes and shared friendships.

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They both enjoyed socialising and occasionally spending time together, either in the garden or better still on the golf course at Longniddry or Gullane. Sadly Philip’s latter years were spent in a wheelchair, under the devoted care of Ethel, who did practically everything for him while still working and golfing.

Ethel had some very strong friendships. She was a member of the Dirty Dozen and the Heather Nomads. The Saturday four-ball of Ethel, Connie Lugton, Belinda Murphy and Margaret Allen is legendary in Gullane circles. Connie died in 2003, and Belinda moved away, but the Saturday game still continues, with a core of about a dozen committed to playing, summer and winter.

Ethel was pre-deceased by her husband, Philip over ten years ago, and leaves behind her sister Doris, her nieces Catriona and Suzy, and nephew Graeme.