BY his own admission, Philip Boyle was never much of a badminton player – but few would argue that his service is anything other than outstanding.

For 43 years, the unassuming former teacher has run Hummersknott Badminton Club in Darlington. Except it is much, much more than a mere badminton club.

Badminton may be the sport that’s played by club members from Hummersknott Academy, where Philip taught science between 1974 and 2010. But the value of the club goes much deeper than the enjoyment derived from hitting a small, strange-looking, feathered missile over a net.

In 1996, an inaugural club trip was arranged to Paris and, since then, 41 countries have been visited by members. Naturally, the globe-trotting has always featured games of badminton against foreign opposition but, far more importantly, it’s been about personal development, confidence-building and being good ambassadors for Darlington.

By happy coincidence, 41 also happens to be the number of Hummersknott teams that have reached national finals over the years.
Last week, it was a pleasure to hear about the club’s history and achievements when I attended the latest presentation evening as ambassador for Darlington Building Society, which has provided generous financial support in recent years.

The occasion coincided with the 50th anniversary year of Hummersknott School, which began life as Darlington High School for Girls. 
Philip, who was made an MBE for services to education in 2011, recalled how fundraising in the early days relied heavily on the proceeds from the school tuck shop. Officials quickly cottoned on to the fact that if a packet of crisps was returned to the manufacturers for being under-weight, a whole box would be despatched by way of compensation. Boxing clever, many consignments of free crisps ended up boosting the badminton club’s coffers.

“Sometimes, you have to do strange things to raise a bit of money,” explained Philip, left.

The club continues to pride itself on raising money to pay for running costs and foreign trips, with bag-packing sessions at local branches of Sainsbury’s proving to be a nice little earner. More than £7,000 has also been donated to Sport Relief over the past six years.

At the end of this year’s presentation evening, Dame Dela Smith, Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham, summed it up by saying: “For a small club to do so much, and to take young people to so many different places, is inspirational. You are amazing ambassadors and a real credit to Darlington.”

The fact that so many adult past members made their way back to the school from various parts of the country for the celebration evening shows the esteem in which the club is held.

And although he doesn’t like the limelight, there’s no doubt that all of them know the debt they owe to the remarkable Philip Boyle. He may not be a star on court – but, by God, he’s played a blinder off it.

  • THE latest fundraising event for Hummersknott Academy takes place at 7pm on October 13 with a concert by popular folk band Fourum, featuring former Hummersknott headteacher Allen Millar, ex-head of business studies Jim Jack, another former Hummersknott teacher, Sandy Still, and former primary school teacher Rod Hall.  Tickets cost £8 (£5 for concessions) and are available from For more information, go to or