Doreen Nightingale, ETTA Vice-President and former valued member of staff passed away aged 87 years on October 31 in Eastbourne.

Doreen (pictured above checking Sally Hughes’ bat) came to table tennis relatively late in life when in the 1980s a friend asked her to make up the numbers in a Local League club team in Eastbourne – and so began a long and valued association with the sport.

Doreen described how new friends led to new doors being opened and before long she was part of the team involved with the administration of the Veterans’ Table Tennis Society (VETTS). It was here that Doreen became aware of the ETTA Umpires scheme and thinking it would be a worthwhile role within the sport she was coming to love.

So began Doreen’s officiating journey which started with becoming a County Umpire in 1990, a National Umpire in 1996 and an International Umpire in 2000. The officiating pathway didn’t stop with umpiring as Doreen also became a Tournament Referee in 2003. She was regularly seen at events around England in umpiring and refereeing capacities.

Doreen was one of the three ladies on what is, perhaps, the only all-female top table, at an Exeter Grand Prix with the late Gill Smith and Diane Kirkwood (later Webb). However, the pinnacle of Doreen’s umpiring was when she was selected for the European Championships in March and April 2003 in Courmayer, Italy.

She was also part of the team of umpires at the prestigious Masters, Fairfield Halls, Croydon in 2005 and umpired the match between Alan Cooke and Sweden’s former World Champion Jan-Ove Waldner – in front of television cameras.

Jan-Ove Waldner v Alan Cooke with Doreen Nightingale umpiring

Following her early retirement as a primary school teacher in Eastbourne, Doreen was looking for an outlet for her energies and the opportunity was offered of working for the ETTA in 1991 in the Ranking and Development Department.

Initially, Doreen’s work was split between ranking and development, particularly with the introduction of the Junior League which had acquired a six-year sponsorship with the Woolwich Building Society. However, as the ranking scheme developed it became a full-time job and Doreen was acknowledged as the Ranking Maestro – there didn’t seem any query that Doreen was not able to resolve.

Ranking was moved into the Administration Department to enable Doreen to help in other administrative areas too, becoming secretary on numerous ETTA committees and so assisted the General Secretary, Rob Sinclair, with some of his workload.

Managing the ranking scheme was the role Doreen continued in until 2006 and hers was a familiar face in every edition of Table Tennis News when the ranking lists were printed each issue.

Always willing to help where she was needed, Doreen was an invaluable member of the team on the ETTA Information Desk at Euro ’94 in Birmingham.

At Euro ’94 in Birmingham Doreen Nightingale with Sandra Collins (centre) and Paul Baker

When she retired from the ETTA in 2006 as a full-time member of staff, she nonetheless continued to work part-time for a while and was still involved in officiating at many ETTA events as well as locally, also her involvement with the Eastbourne League and Sussex County continued.

At League level, Doreen was Eastbourne’s Secretary, Umpires Secretary and County Representative. For Sussex County she was Umpires Secretary for 16 years up until 2006 and also a member of the Umpires Committee and a regular face at County meetings.

What had started as a favour to a friend had turned into many years of service and commitment with an invaluable knowledge of many areas of the sport. Doreen was always the first one in the office in Hastings every morning and her work ethic was second to none. She left a huge gap when she, eventually, permanently retired.

However, several former colleagues and Doreen kept in touch and met on a regular basis for lunch right up until the time of her death. She was always interested to know what was happening and kept abreast of developments.

Richard Yule, former ETTA CEO said on Doreen’s semi-retirement in 2006: “Doreen’s contribution to the work of the Association has been immense. A true multi-tasker, her energy, enthusiasm and expertise has touched and improved every important administrative function in the office. I welcome this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation of her outstanding work to date.”

Rob Sinclair, former ETTA General Secretary, added: “Doreen was a committed member of staff who did go beyond what was required of her, she simply got on with the work.

“Her work on the National Ranking Scheme especially was a success including the beginnings of the Membership Scheme. She ably assisted myself in the production of The Directory over many years and generally supported myself in my absence from the Office.”

For her contribution at all levels, Doreen was made an Honorary Life Member of VETTS in 1996, a Vice-President of the ETTA in 2003 and an Honorary Life Member of Sussex County in 2009.

Never one to sit still for long, on her full-time, permanent retirement, Doreen immersed herself in church activities and became fully involved in the work of her local church.

Our condolences to all family and friends with grateful thanks for all Doreen contributed to English table tennis.