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BEM for Alderney woman behind tennis club and pool project

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A FORMER headmistress who spearheaded the campaign to get Alderney’s tennis club built and who has also spent 20 years trying to establish a swimming pool for the island has been recognised.

(Picture by Emma Pinch, 21677874)

Rosemary James, 89, has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to sport and the community in Alderney.

Mrs James has coached tennis to the island’s children for 29 years, taking them away to tournaments at least once a year.

Despite being told her sporting days were over when she sustained a serious injury to her arm when a car ran into her at a church fete a couple of years ago, she rallied back and still coaches year-round.

In 1977, she was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for her services to the National Health Service, in particular young men’s mental health.

She came to Alderney in 1969 with her husband, Philip, with whom she founded a private preparatory school in Surrey.

Her colourful former life saw her obliged to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Mrs James said she was thrilled to be informed she was to receive the honour.

‘I was quite bowled over. I did wonder why it was me in the tennis club because we’ve got a lot of lovely coaches – I think the attitude was I’ve been the longest-running one,’ she said.

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‘I am very grateful to have been acknowledged by this community, Her Majesty the Queen, her representative, the Lt-Governor of Guernsey, and our President.

‘It was the desire of both my husband Philip and myself to commit the last of many chapters of an amazing life together to the children of Alderney – a community and an island we both loved.’

She wanted to acknowledge particularly the parents of the children she has coached.

‘They are a wonderful bunch of children here and the parents are really supportive too. It’s so important that they get together in sport.

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‘People forget the benefits of doing these things. We’ve got a whole bunch of children who have won scholarships to top schools in England with their tennis.’

What’s next for the indefatigable Rosemary?

‘I’d like to get that swimming pool finished,’ she said. ‘We’ll get there – I think we’re on the final lap.’

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