Siobhan McBennett, February 2010
It would not be possible to celebrate Clarissa's life without talking about cricket. As a player, Clarissa played cricket in each of her nine decades and as a Coach and Administrator was at the forefront of the development and progress of women's cricket for the last 60 years. It is appropriate that we are here to honour Clarissa.
Not only was she Warden of Trinity Hall, in the 1940's, she also played cricket in Dartry. Clarissa's interest in cricket started much earlier. Her father, Charles D. Crawford had been elected to play for Ireland but declined because he was just married. He later told Clarissa that it was the greatest regret of his life.
She also played Lacrosse for Ireland and holds the distinction of being the only woman to ever to captain an Ireland side at any sport in Lansdowne Road She founded Dublin University Women's team in 1946 and was the backbone of the club until she retired at 80.
She played, coached, drove, umpired, scored, made teas, went on tour. Rachel Hardiman reminded me that Trinity would have all too often been short a player if she hadn't kitted up and gone out to play at an age where she might reasonably have been expected to be allowed to laze in a deckchair on the sidelines.
Although the Leinster Women's Cricket Union was formed in 1938, women's cricket had all but petered out by 1970 but when it was reactivated in 1976, Clarissa was there with a range of experience and administration skills she gladly shared to guide women's cricket forward.
The massive leaps forward the game has taken in the last 30 years could never have happened without the commitment, vision and passion shown by Clarissa. She was the one who fought hard for the introduction of the then 40 over (now 50 over) competition the Pilkington Plate.
I think the big thing about the Pilkington Plate was that it gave a solid grounding to the longer matches that were absolutely crucial to any pretensions Ireland might have to competing on the world stage. So it wasn't just a generous donation of another prize to compete for, but a typically Clarissa-like tactic to bring on and develop the game.
One of the advantages of playing with Dublin University was that she could also play club cricket which she did mostly with Phoenix. She played and coached there throughout the 90's. Before she retired she also played with an enthusiastic and sociable Irish Times team.
In 1979, she and Bob Whiteside started the first schools cricket for girls. She actively coached and encouraged girls to join clubs when the school holidays came. She went to all the finals, presented cups and medals, adjudicated players of the match (or Girl of the game as she called it). She told them they were great - in fact she told us all we were great. It was her way of encouragement - you wanted to believe her and you wanted her to believe it too!
She recognised the importance of promoting girls cricket in schools and acted as Girls match secretary when there was a lack of interest in the schools - just to ensure that it did continue. A few years ago Katherine Crampton (now teaching and involved in schools cricket) told me that she remembered Clarissa coming along to matches presenting prizes and making speeches. She regrets that there aren't many spectators now as she felt it was such an important part of the cricket experience for young players.
Not satisfied with promoting girls cricket in Leinster, Clarissa also made a huge effort in promoting girls cricket in her beloved Ulster. She sought to make sure that Ulster, so easily seen as distant, was an integral part of cricketing Ireland when it came to forming the women's national union.
With the late Wesley Ferris, she encouraged schools cricket and donated the Crawford Cup (named in memory of her father) for the schools girls cup competition. She always went out of her way to spot new talent to ensure that no Ulster player was overlooked when Irish cricket was firmly established.
When we talked about the Irish Squad, her first two questions were always the same - 'how's Lennie getting on?' and 'what about the Shillington child?'.
The Irish Women's Cricket Union was formed in 1982. She was actively involved in various guises throughout its existence until the merger with Cricket Ireland in 2000. It was she who persuaded Noel Mahony to act as the first Coach to the Irish Women's Team, she who led the team on its first major overseas tour to the West Indies as President, she who laid down the challenge to compete in our first World Cup in Australia.
She was one of the North Leinster Delegates on the Irish Women's Cricket Union Executive Committee for many years and she served as a Selector. Her contribution cannot be measured. In our low-income times we billeted players from visiting teams in our homes. She happily provided accommodation and transport for many overseas players.
In a message posted on Facebook this week, ex-Captain of Australia, Belinda Clarke said Clarissa was a legend that goes way beyond Irish shores. I wonder what Clarissa would think about Facebook?
She also recognised the importance of keeping people involved. It was her idea to produce the Friends of the Irish Women's Cricket Union Newsletter. Clarissa, Marie Coffey and I would meet twice yearly in Rita Kenny's house for supper and stuff and address envelopes to their network of friends, raising funds for women's cricket. It was a steady income stream in lean times.
She also ferried her friends to matches throughout the summer - the granny wagon would appear at all matches -old cricket friends Rita, Isolda, Marie driven by Clarissa.
When Judy Cohen started the Veteran's Inter-Pro matches, Clarissa encouraged her, to keep us “older” cricketers involved. She herself played and put the rest of us to shame!
She fostered many competitions through generous sponsorship of competition trophies: Ulster Girls' Schools' Cup, Leinster Bowling Cup, Leinster Most Improved Player, the 'Clarissa Cup' for Under 13 Girls and our most prestigous competition the Pilkington Plate Trophy.
She led the way as President of both Irish Women's Cricket Union and the Leinster Women's Cricket Union - what a role model! I am so pleased now about the acknowledgements that were made along the way. The Leinster Women's Cricket Union hosted a party in 1994 to mark her 70th birthday and to say thank you for all she had done - (we must have foolishly thought she was going to retire).
In 2006, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the formation of Dublin University Women's Cricket Club and had the picture you see here wall-mounted in the Pavilion at Trinity. In 2006, the Leinster Cricket Union honoured her by induction to their Hall of Fame, the only woman to be so-honoured and most recently in 2007 she received the International Cricket Council's Lifetime Service Award for the Europe Region at a grand ceremony at Lord's.
We talked a couple of weeks ago about her very brave decision to decline treatment. She said: “It's not bad really and anyway I'm not grumbling about an innings of 86”.
It's hard to think of her as gone, isn't it? She was a brave person, a talented sportswoman, a leader, a role-model, a friend, an extraordinary person. She has left us all a strong and vibrant legacy.