Chris Cowley – a tribute

This is a photograph of Chris Cowley.This page is dedicated to the memory of a remarkable lady who served Staveley Womens Hockey Club for well over 40 years and taught many of us at school.

Chris Cowley passed away on Wednesday 29th September 2010 after losing her battle with cancer.   It was a credit to Mrs Cowley and her passion for the game, that St Mary’s hockey teams were always so successful. She encouraged dozens of girls to go and play for Staveley Womens Hockey Club, thereby helping the club to thrive.  For many years Staveley ran three teams, and many of the players in those teams were there because of her.

Above all she was the nicest person you could ever hope to know and will be sorely missed.

Personal tributes

Thank you for all the encouragement and inspiration you gave my three girls. They would not be the hockey players they are today without you.  Bev Calderbank

It sounds pretty daft but i always remember the day Chris took me to the stores at school and got me padded up for the first time when I was 12, I wouldn’t have become a goal keeper or managed to go to Derbyshire or play for Staveley if it wasn’t for Chris and her support/training… in addition her introducing me back in to the club 3 years ago after a longgggg time away her words were this is my little star from school, something i’ll always remember her  saying aswell as ‘Oh Beckyyyy…’ in that voice she used to do…if I was ever naughty/ cheeky at school lol. She will truly be missed and irreplaceable as a person and within the club.  Becky Taylor

Mrs Cowley

You were such an inspiration to us all, I would not be the hockey player I am today if it wasn’t for you. You will be dearly missed and never forgotten.

May you Rest In Peace,  love Sarah Calderbank

You introduced me to hockey and showed me just how interesting sport and teaching could be. I would have not been the person I am today without you! You became my school mother and best of all my friend! Life won’t be the same without our little chats about everything! You will never be forgotten! Charlie xxx

You were an amazing character and made hockey a memorable one. I will never forget the support you gave us through all our tournaments and the creme eggs you gave us in return for how we played. You were one inspirational character who I will never forget. You were kind, caring and a true legend! Thank you for introducing me to hockey at school and really getting me into Staveley. I will never forget “chinny toe” or “stretch out for inner thigh!” You were the best p.e. teacher St Mary’s have ever had and ever will have. Thank you for everything you did for me at school and at Staveley, you will be in my heart forever. Love Rachel C xx

Mrs Cowley,

She will always be Mrs Cowley to me. Even though, for years she always reminded me that I was no longer at school and could call her Chris now! That was never going to happen… I respect her too much.

I certainly owe Mrs Cowley a lot of petrol money! She always picked me up on a Wednesday night from Walton shops to take me hockey training. Mrs C was always on time! I was always late! As I clambered into her car she would say “come on Andrea!” and then we would both just laugh. Then off we would go around Chesterfield to pick up Charlotte and Karena. She always believed in, supported and encouraged us – like we were her own kids. There aren’t many teachers who would give up so much time for their pupils.

Since leaving school Mrs Cowley has continued to support me and my family.

I am now a teacher and I still play hockey. Now there is only ONE person who inspired me to do that!

Mrs Cowley… I’ll miss you so much, love always from Andrea. xxxx

I can’t wait for Saturdays to come because playing hockey is the highlight of my week. I have one person to thank for having hockey in my life- Mrs Cowley. She introduced me and many many other girls to hockey when we started St Mary’s. More importantly, she made sure we kept playing and became the best we could be.

She often braved the cold or rain to come and watch Staveley play and I hope it made her happy to see so many past and present St Mary’s girls playing. At school her commitment to us went above and beyond her duties as a teacher. It always makes me smile when I remember that whenever she passed by the dinner line, she was always looking out for all the hockey girls. She would work her way along the line, reminding people about matches, checking that we’d be at practice or just saying ‘hello’. At one point I went through a phase where my commitment to hockey was wavering a little, but she would track me down, tell me to stop being silly, and made sure I  was on the coach to the next game. I couldn’t bear to let her down, and I never stopped playing. I’m so grateful that she never gave up on me.

I don’t think I ever saw her being anything other than enthusiastic and cheerful at school. Remaining keen and jovial in the face of 25 moaning girls who really didn’t play hockey on a freezing cold morning and maybe only 5 that really wanted to play, can’t have been easy. We often cajoled her in to bending the rules and letting us keep our tights and v-necks on for PE, but she didn’t really mind- as long as we got out there and played some hockey. She’d then tell us all to stop being like ‘St Trinians!‘ (hacking) or ‘Bees round a honey pot!’ (crowding round the ball).

She was always so genuinely happy to see us achieving things whether it be scoring a goal, winning a match or making the county team. She always cared about how we were doing in life in general. Whenever I saw her after leaving school, she was always genuinely interested to know what I was up too which I found so touching. We once chatted for almost an hour whilst I was supposed to be working at a summer job. She exuded kindness and warmth and I whenever I picture her, I see her with a huge beaming smile.

Mrs Cowley, you made a real difference, your legacy will live on and I’m sure I’ll think of you every time I play a game of hockey.  Mary Wainwright

You got me into hockey after i was adamant I was going to stick with football, persuading me to play in goal! After about a year, I gave in and agreed only if I could play out! I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am to you! I think the fact that I still play hockey now and how much I love it just shows how much I thank you!! You will always be a legend to St Mary’s school and no one will ever forget you, especially the hockey girls!

Remembering all the times I was late for classes because I had seen you in the precinct and you had stopped to talk to me about a variety of sporting events that I should attend or whether I could umpire a hockey match, it will always make me smile! Walking into the classroom saying ‘sorry I’m late Mrs Cowley was talking to me’ it was always the best excuse because they knew what you were like!

I can’t begin to explain how much I am going to miss you!! You looked after me at school, in a way like my ‘school mum’! thank you and I will miss you!  Rest in peace xxx  Ruth Elliot

I would just like to say about Mrs Cowley that she was such an inspiration to me, without her I probably wouldn’t have played hockey at the level I did. She encouraged my sister to join Staveley who then encouraged me. She always pushed me to do more and for that I will always be so grateful. She showed me not to care about what others think of you, when people used to ask me why I was playing hockey on freezing cold evenings and saturday mornings I would say “Because I love it” and thats what Mrs Cowley said. She was so passionate about hockey, she still continued to pass that onto to young people even when she had retired from teaching at St Marys. I saw players grow in both confidence and skill but most importantly in their desire to play hockey all because of Mrs Cowley. A truly amazing woman to know.  Hannah Sharpe

Mrs Cowley never taught me as I went to Brookfield but I really wish she had.  Her enthusiasm and passion for hockey was contagious and she passed this onto everyone she came into contact with.  There are not many people who love their job and you could definitely tell she did.

There was always a friendly rivalry at tournaments/matches between Brookfield and St Marys. We used to win in friendlies and sometimes they won at tournaments. The friendly little banter she used to have with us before we started schools matches used to make me smile.  I remember scoring a goal passed them and her saying, “Why didn’t you do that on Saturday!”, when Staveley had taken a rather big defeat, or on other occasions, “You played well today!”   She once told me she wished I was at St Marys and played in her school team which was really special for me to hear her say that because they had lots of good players there and I really respected her views.

The things I will always remember about her is her lovely smile every time she saw you, especially if she hadn’t seen you in a while, and her kindness always wanting to know what you were doing and valuing you as a person.

I was lucky to have met such a lovely special lady.

I will always remember you!  Thank you Mrs Cowley for being YOU!!!!!!!! X  Grace Colley

Mrs Cowley, you were an absolute legend and I definitely would not be the hockey player I am today without you. You were always so happy and supportive and did a lot for me. I saw you as my ‘school mum’ and will always hold you close to my heart. St Marys would not have been the same without you and you will be sorely missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing you. I continue to play hockey in memory of you and I will miss you lots xx Emma Bartram

I first met Chris 20 years ago when I arrived at St Mary’s as a newly qualified teacher. Within days she had discovered I was a hockey player and before I knew it she had me running a fledgling boys hockey club at school and playing for Staveley myself. There was no resisting her energy and enthusiasm! Even when I took a prolonged break from hockey to have my family I could rely on the regular enquiries as to when I was returning to hockey. She always told me what a good player I was but Chris only ever remembered the good stuff and made everyone believe in themselves so that they had the confidence to give it a go. Last season she was still coming down to help us out at mini hockey, on hand with all her experience and still with that unbounded energy.

Chris was a genuinely kind and caring lady who wanted everyone to share in her own love of hockey. Thanks to Chris I now look forward to our weekly game – with my daughter Hannah too – another player who flourished under Chris’ care. I will miss Chris’ lovely smile and never ending chatter so much.

God bless you Chris. All my love. Maggie xxx

I met Chris Cowley (Andrew) as she was then 43 years ago when I joined Staveley Works Hockey Club. She had already been playing for the Club for at least a year then. We played on the Works’ Sports Ground at Barrow Hill on the grass in the days when it was 2.30pm bully off.She played left half for the 1st team and and when I played the half back line was often the 3 Chris’s. She also played for Sheffield League County team.We played many games for Staveley. One memory I have (apologies Catherine) is playing at Tupton on the red gra, Catherine was a toddler on the sidelines and decided that playing next to a drain would be fun. Without any ado Chris walked over picked her up by the reins and “plonked “her away from the drain saying, “Oh, Catherine” in that voice we know so well! She often asked me to umpire School tournaments because she preferred to coach and would rather not umpire!

Latterly she helped to coach the young players at Staveley. When she came talking at the start of a session we would say “Chris, we need to get started”, but it made no difference – she kept on chatting; or she would say “Do you mind if I leave early because Manchester United are on television?”

How could I say, “No.”

During all those years she has encouraged young players to come and play for Staveley, always concerned that we were not asking them to play for a women’s team at too young an age. If we were short she would know which players to ask at short notice.

If it hadn’t been for Chris we wouldn’t have had so many young players come and play for the Club and contribute so much to the club. Many are not at Staveley now but are playing for clubs in other parts of the country – a real and lasting tribute to her skills and enthusiasm.

I shall miss her as a very good friend, never short of something to say and always with a smile on her face.

She is now re-united with her best friend at hockey, Chris Walters, looking down on us all to make sure we carry on the good work she had been doing.

We miss you hugely Chris. There’s a big hole that will be hard to fill.  xx  Chris Dennis

Mrs Cowley, The most warm hearted, generous, competitive, honest wonderful woman I ever had the pleasure to know. I first met ‘Miss’ as I still refer to her, when I was about 4ft nothing at St Mary’s and she soon collared me into playing for the hockey team from Year 7 onwards. She was very quick to tell me that hockey was a far better sport than Netball and that I should concentrate on my hockey. I’m not sure what Sandy Ellis would have said to that lol.

She would go out of her way every Wednesday and come and fetch me from the Woodside, drive and fetch Karena, Andrea in her little red Metro. She would take cheek from me although was never afraid to tell me she thought I was very silly asking to be dropped off at my boyfriends.

We didn’t have much money, my mum couldn’t afford a hockey stick for me. Miss wanted me to go for trials for Derbyshire and I felt embarrassed as a lot of girls from other schools all owned their own swanky sticks, Miss soon sorted that out, she siphoned me a Grays stick from the school store cupboard for me to borrow, I never told anyone but I was made up.

She pushed me hard & the result was that I played for Derbyshire for 3 or 4 years. She also went on to take me for Midlands trials which again I was successful in.

Today when people asked you what your achievements were at school, I can honestly say that I always tell them I played for Staveley, Derbyshire & The Midlands. If it hadn’t been for her that would never have happened. She pushed me in all sports though, particularly running, rounders, athletics. She was like a 2nd mum to me.

I don’t think I knew what being competitive meant until I met her! ‘Come on! she would shout ‘You can beat these’

Favourite things I will always remember her for……..telling her you couldn’t do P.E because you felt ill always always always her reply ‘You’ll be alright get changed,’ The time she tried to get my friend Liz to cut her long fringe in order for her to be able to see the ball better in a hockey tournament at Repton, the time I was in the inter school cross country & I was 11, I got trampled by all the other kids and my face was covered in mud. All she could say was ‘Go on catch up you’ll be alright’ The last time I saw her not long back when she was evidently so proud of her children and her grandson.

I truly am heartbroken. Do you remember the advert on about a year ago? it was all random famous celebrities saying the name of a person & then a subject at school and at the end of the advert you realise they are all talking about the teacher that made a difference to their life. Well she made a difference to my life. The thing is I don’t think she ever realised how many people’s lives she did actually touch.

If I was on that advert I’ve always said it my line would have been MRS COWLEY…….P.E.

One in a million x x x Charlotte Connelly (Née Bailey)

Chris Cowley was simply the best. She got the most out of ‘Her Girls’  and was a huge influence in my daughter’s life. For that I will be eternally grateful.

She will NEVER be forgotten.

God Bless

XX Kate Bartram (Emma Bartram’s Mum)

Mrs Cowley… I remember the days when I was a little nipper at Springwell School. Linz & I would always look forward to playing St Marys, mainly because it was going to be a good game and a bit of a test for us. We played so called tournaments for our area, but most of the time it would just be Springwell V St Marys because everybody else knew they didn’t stand a chance. I remember you always coming up to our team and telling us to keep the ball down, then our teacher was like first shot wedge it!! After I left school and carried on playing for Staveley, you always asked how I was, how work was going and how Linz was getting on at uni. You were genuinely interested and that was lovely.

Sleep well, Love Lauren Walton

Both our daughters have played hockey at St Mary’s and for Staveley Hockey Club and we firmly believe that their participation in not only hockey, but sport in general, has shaped who they are today. They are both determined, tenacious and committed people who are able to consider and support the feelings of others. Chris Cowley coaxed, encouraged and inspired both our daughters and many other young people to take part in sport in any way they could. Her legacy lives on through them, she will be truly missed by us all.  Alison and Robert Sharpe

In my very first P.E lesson at St Mary’s I remember Mrs Cowley coming up to me and persuading me to come to hockey practice after school, and for that I cannot thank her enough. Hockey became a huge part of my life both in and outside school and gave me the confidence and determination that has helped me become the person I am today. Mrs Cowley was the most generous, warm-hearted and enthusiastic person I have ever met and would never let anything stand in the way of a hockey match, I distinctly remember our team playing in severe hail stone after being told by Mrs Cowley that “it’s only a bit of rain girls”! Even after I left St Mary’s she always had the time to talk and ask how I was getting on and whether I was still playing hockey or table tennis. She has not only been a great inspiration to me but has also made a tremendous impact on my sister and many of the friends I have gained through school and Staveley Hockey and for that I am sincerely grateful. Mrs Cowley was a truly amazing woman and she will never ever be forgotten.  Emma Sharpe

Chris Andrew was my best friend at Netherthorpe Grammar School in the 1950’s.  We both enjoyed sport especially hockey and played for the school and Staveley Works, Chris was always a much better player than me! Although I moved away from Derbyshire, Chris and I were still connected by her marriage. I saw Chris in November 2009 never once thinking it would be the last time.  We were at the Theatre in Chesterfield and she sat next to us.  She was the same as ever chatty and friendly it was as though it had been the day before when we last met.

I have read the tributes to Chris on this website and I can only endorse what a special person she was, she will be sorely missed.

“Say not in grief she is no more, but in joy she was”.  Rita Ashmore (Née Simpson) 

Want to contribute and share your messages and memories about Chris? Please email


2 thoughts on “Chris Cowley – a tribute

  1. Annette Bell

    I was devastated when I discovered from your website of the death of Chris Cowley. She was my PE teacher at Violet Markham School until I left in 1974 and I have very fond memories of her. She was a brilliant teacher and always got the best out of her hockey teams at school. Everybody wanted to play in her 1st 11side and perform the best for her and the school. She got me interested in the game and encouraged many of us to join the newly formed Chesterfield Ladies Hockey Club. We had many a tough game against her much loved Staveley Ladies Hockey Club. Even though I retired from the game after having my children Chris continued playing the game and whenever I bumped into her at school competitions I was always surprised that she was still playing. My thoughts are with her family and I regret that I was unable to pay my respects to her.
    She will be sadly missed by all who knew and respected her. Rest in peace,Chris.
    Annette Bell nee Bagshaw

  2. Julie Williamson nee Hobster

    Brilliant ,inspirational teacher! Julie Hobster-left wing,alongside Angela Keep,Leslie Letherday and others.We were a formidable team!Don’t think we ever lost a match !!Julie Williamson nee Hobster.

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