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Edna Edith Mercer (formerly Poole, nee Huntley)

The following biography was written by Kathryn Clover after interviewing Edna some years ago.

In the autumn of 1911, Edna Edith Huntley was born on 17th September and was the second child of Walter and Ada Huntley. The family lived in the Old Swan district of Liverpool. Edna grew up there with her older sister, Gladys, who was to be 1 year old on the 18th September 1911 which is extraordinary because that made them the same age for just one day of each year. Their relationship was a very close and happy one.

In 1915 when Edna had turned 4 and Gladys 5, it was time for Gladys to join Kindergarten School for mornings only. On her first day Edna waited outside all morning for Gladys to come out. The Headmistress, Miss Smith, saw her waiting alone and invited her to join the school. Even though she was rather young her parents agreed and so she started the next day and was able to be with her sister. She spent three enjoyable years at the school and loved learning new skills each day and made many friends to laugh and play with. Miss Smith was a lovely woman who cared for Edna as she was so much younger than the others in her class.

In 1918 when Edna was 8 years old, she and her sister started at the Liverpool College, Fairfield, which was quite far from their home and this meant they had to take a tram to school. The school was co-educational and Edna enjoyed her time there. She was voted to be Form Captain and made every effort to maintain a united class and to act conscientiously during that time. Physical Education was an important subject in the school curriculum. At the end of each school day Edna brought her friends to a nearby field where they would play lacrosse together and they all enjoyed this very much.

In 1920 Edna's mother had a baby boy on 19th September who was named Wally. Edna was delighted to have a little brother and cherished every minute she had with him, seeing him grow up so rapidly.

In 1921 Edna and Gladys joined the Calder High School in Calderstones, which was near enough for them to ride their bicycles. It was a new school for girls, which had large, beautiful grounds. Adjacent to the school was Quarry Bank School, which had a dividing wall between the two, and two of the Beatles were educated there! Calder High School was a brilliant school for physical education, which taught all seasonal sports. She adored all of the sports and never wanted to leave because her fellow pupils seemed to be as enthusiastic as she was. This made excellent times when it came to the sports lessons. Edna and her sister stayed there until 1929 when they were 18 and 17 respectively. This ended their school days.

Edna had to finish some important exams when her family had to move to London because of the amalgamation of the "Margarine Union". A close friend let her stay with her family. Edna did not miss her family too much because she and her friend had lots of fun. As soon as her exams were over, Edna joined her family in London.

Edna's uncle George came to stay with the family and encouraged her to "follow her dream". George knew that she excelled at sports and wished dearly to train and maybe follow a career in that department. Edna took George's advice and immediately joined Chelsea College of Physical Education.

She enjoyed every day that she spent there because she was doing what she loved the most. Edna found that to get through the hard sports sessions she needed always to remember her aim and her love of what she was doing. Her three years rushed by, and before Edna knew it she was 20 and it was time to leave. Edna came out of the College as enthused as ever and desperate to get to the top.

Edna's tennis was really the lead in her athletic life now and she was thrilled to get the perfect teaching job at Babington House in Eltham which she started on her 21st birthday in 1932. It was a private school and most of the other teachers were also fresh from college. She spent two years there and had a close relationship with the pupils.

At Babington House School Edna played a huge amount of lacrosse and again her gift was spotted by coaches. She was chosen to play for Kent, but was not released by the school to do this due to her commitments there. Another opportunity was lost to her.

In 1934 Edna left Babington House and joined a staff training college in Cheshire called Port Sunlight, where she eventually played cricket for Cheshire and was Cheshire County Cricket Captain. This was outstanding, and she was finally asked to play cricket for the North, but this she declined. She adored learning so training to teach was probably the best route for her. At the time she used to squeeze in extra clubs, such as the tennis club in Crosby, which she travelled to by train. A special junior tennis tournament was played annually and Edna would long for this friendly but competitive environment. This is when Edna realised that tennis was the sport in which she wanted to excel.

Her teacher training had come to an end and Edna joined Dorking County School (co-ed Grammar School) in 1936 and stayed there for two years. Whilst there she played cricket against Guildford County School and had tennis included in the curriculum. On leaving Edna presented a tennis trophy to the school.

In 1938 Edna married William Poole whom she had met whilst at Chelsea College of Physical Education. In 1941, William went off to the war. In 1946 they divorced.

Edna was extremely blessed in teaching various ages. Whilst living in Cheltenham she taught at a small school (the Rotunda School) for three mornings a week, gym, tennis and hockey and enjoyed her time there. During the afternoons for two hours she taught at the Cheltenham Ladies College lacrosse, hockey or tennis depending on the season. Fridays was given to lecturing 18-21 years old students in physical education at a Roman Catholic Training College that had evacuated from Birmingham to Woodchester Park, Stroud, because of the war. Rounders and netball were included and teaching practice was taken in the Stroud schools. The nuns (whose dress was conservative!) and students took a Board of Education exam which allowed them, as part of the Teaching Certificate, to teach in primary schools. As it was wartime Edna had to travel to Stroud by bus - walk 5 miles to Woodchester Park - teach all day - then walk the 5 miles back to Stroud for the bus. Later Edna had an Austin 7 two-seater which made life much easier and meant easy transport for her dog!

During the war Edna was on ARP duty - night duty looking for bombs. She managed to find lots of British soldiers to play tennis with, but felt that when the Americans came things changed for the worse. Rationing was in full force and the soldiers gave Edna extra food and coupons in return for her help. Apart from the bombs, all was quiet!

When the war was over the teaching appointments ceased and Edna did a year's modern dance training in Manchester and was then a student herself, taught by Rudolph Laban and Lisa Ullman the specialists at that time in modern dance.

In 1947 Edna played tennis for Gloucestershire and competed at Roehampton gaining a place at Wimbledon where she played in seasons 1947 and 1948. She played doubles and lost, and singles and won, and Dunlop offered her a sponsorship using their racquet.

On 10th August 1949, Edna married John Mercer. Their first son, Peter, was born on 19th October 1950, and eighteen months later Edna played at Wimbledon for the last time (1952). It was about this time that Edna decided to teach tennis rather than compete at such a high level. Jay was born on 8th November 1953 and David on 6th April 1957. These three boys completed her family.

The family moved to Wonersh when Peter was 5 years old (4th April 1956). Peter and Jay went to Sunday School at the local church, St John the Baptist, Wonersh. Almost exactly a year to the day of their move to Wonersh, David was born.

On arrival in Wonersh Edna's career as a tennis coach began by friends suggesting she took their children off their hands by tennis coaching in the holidays - not quite her idea for the reason for coaching. This resulted in Edna having to take the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) courses and, eventually, becoming a Professional Tennis Coach in 1966. On Edna's 50th birthday (17th September 1961) she went back to church and it was her husband John who drove both her and her sister Gladys there. (John had no wish to join them but was happy to be their chauffeur!)

It was suggested to Edna during a holiday with family and friends that she contact Miss Bryce, the then Headmistress of Guildford High School, and suggest that she (Edna) should start tennis coaching there. In the summers of 1964 and '65 Edna started Summer School Coaching and became the High School part-time PE teacher in the autumn of 1966. Edna stayed there or 17 years both coaching tennis and teaching swimming.

On 11th February 1985 Edna's husband John died. The three boys were a great support to their mother but it was her Christian faith that shone through and which gave her such inner peace. Edna's faith continued as strong as ever and she rarely missed an opportunity to speak of 'her' God. She even started and ran a Widows' Christian Bible Study Group in her home for many years, encouraging others in her position to look to God for strength.

At the age of 80 (1991) Edna decided it was time to hang up her professional tennis racquets and just play for pleasure. Edna could be seen on the tennis courts most weeks making up the "Famous Foursome". Gradually she was slowing down!

Edna has enjoyed a full life. She finally learned to pace herself and not do too much and, hopefully, remind herself that she was no longer 20 years old.

Edna believed that each day of her life she had been blessed and cared for by the Lord. She could look back and know that each step of the way the Lord had been with her in good times and in bad, and praised Him for that. Edna felt the immense joy of what it is to be a committed part of the Christian faith, and, how often special happenings had been clearly shown to her because she knew that God is within each one of us wherever we go."

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