Very sad news, Eileen Pitman passed away. Eileen was a stalwart of Sussex Fencing for as long as anyone can remember, possibly 60 years, including nearly half a century as a member of the committee. Fencer, coach, organiser, county secretary and SE Region committee member. Her contribution to fencing was recognised in 2006 with the award of an MBE in the New Years Honours List.
Eileen was a successful fencer, winning the Womens Championship 3 times, 1962, 63 and 64 and also competing Internationally. In addition to organising hundreds of local competitions, she started the Portslade Junior International, which later became the Sussex Open. She was an inspiration to young fencers, coaching youngsters who went on to be successful fencers.
I would just like to share with you a paragraph from a letter that Eileen wrote to me in 1994, thanking me for refereeing at the Portslade Junior International that illustrates the time, effort and dedication that Eileen put into the Sport:
“ I am sorry that I couldn’t write to you immediately after the competition, but I have been up to my ears this week, first arranging a junior squad training,which we had today, then a sabre session for next Saturday and an epee and foil session for the following week. As it means getting the venues and then notifying everyone, you can imagine why I have been so busy. On top of that I attended a sports conference yesterday and there is another one on Tuesday and finally, I had to send out the press reports for the competition.“
Brian Causton Chairman
Jim Whelan Secretary
Eileen was my first fencing coach and so is responsible for my earliest memories of fencing. She taught me to love technique and footwork, and more importantly, how to focus… Any time I’d lift my mask to wipe my face or fiddle with my hair she’d say ‘stop fussing’, encouraging me to ignore the distraction. This served me very well in later years when trying to fence with sweat in my eyes or the pressure of an important competition. Her no-nonsense but encouraging coaching style was perfect! Eileen inspired me to not only choose fencing for my athletic career of 17 years 1990-2007 but also to make coaching my profession, starting my own club in 2002. My goal is now to inspire others the way she did me.
Eileen had endless enthusiasm and energy for fencing, making her a true advocate for the sport. My heart goes out to her family, especially Justin and Dominic, both of whom I had the privilege of fencing ‘back in the day’.