My friend and neighbour Jane Nockolds, who has died of cancer aged 61, was an international hockey umpire whose role as national development manager with England Hockey had a lasting impact on the direction of umpiring in the sport.
Jane was born in Chudleigh, South Devon, to Mary (nee Berry), a seamstress for Burberry, and Barry Nockolds, a breeder of prize-winning Jersey cattle. Growing up with her brother, Anthony, on a farm, she developed an enduring love of country life. She won a scholarship to Ingsdon convent school in Newton Abbot. Her extrovert nature was well suited to her first job, in telesales at the ice-cream company Lyons Maid.
In her teens she became interested in hockey, playing midfield for Teignmouth Ladies and county level for Devon indoor hockey. As a competitive and somewhat belligerent player, she sometimes took her banter with umpires too far, and she was sent on an umpires’ training course with the aim of giving her a better understanding of the rules of the sport. This was a success, but also led to a characteristic response of “I could do that”, and to kickstarting her umpiring career.
Jane rose quickly through the tiers of umpiring, becoming a world panel umpire officiating at the highest level at tournaments in the UK and Europe, from the 2001 Champions Trophy in the Netherlands to the European Women’s Nations Championship in Germany in 2011. Two highlights were her appointments as an International Hockey Federation umpires manager at the 2008 Bejing Olympics and the 2010 World Cup in Argentina.
Jane established the England Hockey young umpire initiative, mentoring, nurturing and inspiring young people to have a passion and desire to be part of an umpiring/volunteering team. She helped pioneer the introduction of technology into the game, including the use of umpires’ radios during matches. In 2007 she authored a book, A Guide to Umpiring Hockey, which ran into eight editions and remains highly regarded in the sport.
She returned to Devon and set up home on Dartmoor with her wife, Sarah Faithfull, a landscape architect, whom she married in 2015, and their two dogs. At the time of her diagnosis with secondary breast cancer in 2019 she had just started a job managing a garden centre, a new challenge with a new team and a different passion.
Jane was a warm, witty and wise friend, and a great storyteller. Her kindness, friendship, strength and dignity will be missed.
She is survived by Sarah, and by a nephew, David, and niece, Sarah.