A woman synonymous with the hockey club

Pauline Jenkins.
Pauline Jenkins.

Pauline Jenkins (nee Matchett), one of a well-known Birches family of 14, has died at the age of 59. She was the second youngest, and the fourth member of the family to pass away.

Mrs Jenkins was married to Michael for 32 years and is survived by sons Gary and Mark. Their home is at Killinchy. The 10 of the original Matchett family surviving are Olive, Willie, Sadie, Elizabeth, Margaret, Emily. Robert, Thomas, Florence and George. She was pre-deceased by David, Richard and Ernest.

Pauline, whose name will always be synonymous with Portadown Hockey Club, was one of five Matchett sisters who helped bring unprecedented glory to the town in the golden era led by the brilliant management of Sammy Jones.

Her superb achievements were chronicled by her best friend Roberta Aiken in a eulogy at the funeral service at Roselawn Crematorium. Roberta also played for Portadown after the two young women met during their days at Queen’s University. With Portadown, Pauline helped gain six all-Ireland titles, five Ulster Shields, eight Ulster Shields (plus one with Queen’s and two university titles in her student days). Those Portadown successes were the precursor of several European tournaments, to Paris, Barcelona, Glasgow, Utrecht and Wasenaar.

Pauline’s career lasted 24 years (22 with Portadown and two with QUB). She was selected to play for Ulster Schools, Ulster, Ireland Reserves, NI Universities, British Universities, and had a GB under-23 trial. She also captained Portadown, with her career stretching from 1969-1993.

Pauline was brought up in the Birches area, a member of the farming family of the late Samuel John and Mary Evelyn Matchett. They used the wide open spaces around their home to hone their skills at various sports, the girls eventually plumping for hockey and the boys for football.

She attended the local primary school and then moved to Portadown College where her hockey mentor was the legendary Sammy Jones, teacher of science and coach supreme.

In the eulogy, Roberta Aiken said that Pauline excelled in sport at Portadown College, particularly on sports day as house captain, and at hockey where the first XI reached the final of the NI Schools Cup.

She emerged from Queen’s with a degree in Social Sciences after which she spent her professional life with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, training at Enniskillen Depot. Most of her service was with the RUC Training Resources at Castlereagh HQ – a nine-to-five job at which she excelled and which allowed her to combine working life with family and hockey, all of which benefitted from her talents, her commitment and her sheer hard work.

Roberta added, “Pauline was described by Sammy Jones as a high-quality player. He deemed her a tenacious tackler, with a wealth of close skills, acute vision and tremendous stamina.” And Roberta insisted that it was a failure on the part of the Irish selectors that she didn’t make the full Irish international team.

She added that Pauline served on the RUC for 25 years, and liaised with the University of Ulster in setting up courses where the policemen and women could enhance their careers with relevant degrees. She was instrumental in setting up the Advanced Police Studies Course and delivered lectures to high-ranking officers in that role.

Such was her esteem within the ranks that the Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan personally presented her with her 25-year service medal in a one-off ceremony.

Pauline, being from a large family, knew too well the value of family life, taking an interest in everything her sons did. Gary is a head chef and Mark a graphic designer.

In her retirement, she tended the garden at their Killinchy home, was a keen Manchester United fan, particularly of George Best, and she was proud to meet and greet Cristiano Ronaldo, ex-Man United and whom she regarded as the modern-day Bestie.

She also enjoyed the gentler pastime of embroidery and cross-stitch, skills which she learned and loved as a child.

Roberta ended by stating that Pauline was proud of Portadown and the achievements on the hockey field - “One of her unfulfilled wishes was to enter a Matchett team in a six-a-side tournament, but circumstances proved it impossible, as one of them was invariably pregnant at the time of the ‘Sixes’!”

The funeral was a sad occasion for the family, especially losing the second-youngest. The service at Roselawn was conducted by the Rev Percy Patterson, a well-respected Church of Ireland Minister from the Portadown-Tandragee area, who now resides in the Upper Newtownards Road area of Belfast.