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The borough loses a true icon: Eileen Gray CBE, 1920-2015

Eileen Gray (far left) competing in Copenhagen in 1946 as part of the first ever Women's British Cycling Team
Eileen Gray (far left) competing in Copenhagen in 1946 as part of the first ever Women's British Cycling Team

Eileen Gray CBE passed away on Wednesday 20 May 2015. A former Mayor of Kingston and a champion of women’s cycling, Eileen was one of the borough’s most distinguished residents.

The current Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Roy Arora, said:

“Eileen was an extraordinary person and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her.  She moved to Kingston just after the war when her husband got a job working for Kingston Council. In 1946 she was part of the first ever Women's British Cycling Team which competed in (and won) an international competition in Copenhagen. That was the beginning of her tireless journey of getting women’s cycling on the sporting map.”

It’s been an incredible journey, spanning many decades, during which time Eileen was made President of the British Cycling Federation, awarded an MBE and a CBE and appointed Vice Chair of the British Olympic Committee.

In 2012, aged 92, she was an Olympic Torchbearer. Somehow, she also found time to be present at 16 Olympic Games, become a prominent women’s freemason and represent the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames as Mayor.

She was featured in Kingston’s Souvenir Guide for the London 2012 Olympics. In an interview for that publication she recalled how the cycling track at Herne Hill Velodrome, used for the 1948 London Olympics, was not exactly in peak condition: “Airmen had used the track during the war to race their trucks, so it was in a really bad way.” Eileen was one of many to roll up her sleeves and help to get the track fit for competition.

The Mayor concluded:

“I didn't know her personally, but I know that Eileen was very modest about her achievements. She will be greatly missed.”

Mayor of Kingston upon Thames Councillor Roy Arora

Eileen Gray key facts:

  • 1920 – born in Bermondsey
  • 1946 – competed in the first British International Women's Cycling Team
  • 1948 to 2004 – attended every Olympic Games
  • 1973 to 1986 – President of the British Cycling Federation
  • 1978 – awarded MBE
  • 1984 – instrumental in securing women's cycling at Los Angeles Olympic Games
  • 1988 – appointed Vice Chair of the British Olympic Committee
  • 1990 to 1991 – Mayor of Kingston upon Thames
  • 1997 – awarded CBE
  • 2012 – London 2012 Olympic Games Torchbearer