While many have turned the page to basketball and hockey now that summer sports such as softball are done for the year, at least one local softball team’s story deserves to be told, even if the calendar has changed from summer, fall to winter.
While the economy may have fluctuated from the economic boom of the roaring 1920s to the Great Depression of the 1930s, one team, the River Hebert Lady Shamrocks’ softball team, remained a constant source of pride and success. In times of economic hardship, communities often turn to sports as source of pride and accomplishment, something River Hebert District High school’s curling and table tennis teams have done against much larger urban schools as a means of offsetting the psychological effects of ongoing school renovation delays.
During the 1930s, a time when rural communities such as River Hebert and Joggins attempted to offset the worst effects of economic depression through coal mining, the Lady Shamrocks began to carve out their own niche in Cumberland County’s rich sport heritage by winning multiple County and provincial titles.
In 1935, Mrs. W.E. Stirling presented the Lady Shamrocks with the Cumberland County Softball League championship trophy. The Shamrocks would go on to have their name engraved on this trophy, which is displayed at the Days Gone By at Heritage Models during the tourist season, in 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1940.
The crowning moment for the Lady Shamrocks came in 1936, the year they won the 1936 Nova Scotia Women's Softball Championship in Truro, Nova Scotia.
Members of the 1936 Lady Shamrocks’ championship softball team included Dena Burke, Jennie Burke, Kate Burke, Yvonne Burke, Pearl Carde, Agnes Gates, Minnie Kaye, Lottie MacArthur, Marjorie Melanson, Dorothy Rae, Jessie Rae, Catherine ‘Blondie’ Skinner, Jeannette Skinner, Neta White, Martha Wolfe and Geneva Wood. The Shamrocks were coached by Cecil Burke and Fred Johnstone.
The Shamrocks’ last surviving player, centre fielder Jessie Rae, passed away in 2011 at age 92. A softball that sits inside the W.E. Stirling trophy at Days Gone By states that Rae was the last member of the Shamrocks in River Hebert. Two years before, teammate Jennie McNeil (nee Burke) passed away, at age 92. Their deaths mark the end of the Lady Shamrocks’ living legacy of local sports excellence.