BACK in 1960, a young couple slipped quietly on to the Isle of Wight.

There was no glare of publicity and no-one knew anything about David and Jenny Ball.

In fact, David had arrived from Birmingham to take a job at County Hall.

Sixty years on, it is well worth celebrating their contribution to Island sport.

David has enjoyed rugby success and he made such a contribution to our achievements in hosting the Inter Island Games, with so much selfless work.

Jenny has become a phenomenal swimmer in a sport she didn’t take up until she was age 50.

Isle of Wight County Press: David and Jenny Ball.David and Jenny Ball.

Up until then, she couldn’t even swim out of her depth.

She overcame that by swimming out to a friend’s boat just off Totland beach — all for a cup of tea. That brew changed her life forever.

Personally, I got to know them very soon after they arrived here.

At that time, I was playing cricket for Northwood seconds, alongside the Calloway brothers — Slim Morris, Joe Marshall and Graham Rashley.

Isle of Wight County Press: David Ball, with ball, was an important part of the 1968-69 Isle of Wight RFU team.David Ball, with ball, was an important part of the 1968-69 Isle of Wight RFU team.

David proved a very capable swing bowler, with an unusual action. It paid dividends and he went on to take hundreds of wickets for the club and skippered the seconds.

He also willingly (he may say otherwise) took on the important role of being the secretary of Northwood Cricket Club.

What makes a successful and happy cricket club? The unsung heroes are always the tea ladies, who give up their free time to regularly feed around 30 people.

Jenny was one of those invaluable volunteers.

It was just as well David married a nurse. With him being injury prone, it proved a shrewd choice.

Isle of Wight County Press: David Ball with track legend Seb Coe on an open top bus on Ryde Esplanade.David Ball with track legend Seb Coe on an open top bus on Ryde Esplanade.

What did Jenny have to contend with? He broke his nose six times, had 11 stitches in a lip injury and also broke his shoulder blade and two ribs.

On another occasion, he chose an unusual location to have ten teeth removed — and there was not a dentist in sight. It just took the boot of a Portchester RFC player.

David once told me an equally painful story.

“I was playing in a local derby against the Hurricanes and I split my forehead,” David said.

“When I arrived in the hospital waiting room, the other people were horrified when my blood stained figure came in through the door.

Isle of Wight County Press: Jenny Ball after winning 3,000m gold at the European Masters Open Water Championships in Slovenia.Jenny Ball after winning 3,000m gold at the European Masters Open Water Championships in Slovenia.

“Apparently, I kept saying there was 20 minutes left in the match and could I go back.”

Rugby players are notorious for getting up to mischief — particularly on tour.

During a match in Jersey, David suffered a serious nose injury, which was strapped up for the return home.

Some of his team mates tipped off custom officials that it was really a watch he was smuggling through.

They were not amused and put him through the X-ray machine, only to find it was a stitch-up — in more ways than one.

Isle of Wight County Press: Jenny Ball.Jenny Ball.

How unlucky can you get? When a local prison officer joined David in a scrum against Esso, he decided to get the retaliation in first and aimed a punch at an opponent.

The opposing player suddenly moved and guess who took the blow fully in the face.

I think nurse Ball was on duty again later that night.

David played for the Isle of Wight RFC from 1961 until 1983.

He did skipper them to historic victories over local giants Havant and Winchester.

True to form, two years after retiring, he went back for a special reunion game and had to be sewed together by Ian Poplett.

Isle of Wight County Press: David Ball.David Ball.

When David became coach at Ventnor RFC, they had been the butt of local jokes for several years.

He helped to quickly wipe the smiles off the faces of rival Island clubs.

October 18, 1997, was a milestone for the newly inspired team. They lost to Romsey, but decided they could still win the league if they could win every match — and they duly did.

In the return match, local south coast fans thought the papers had got the score back to front. It really was Ventnor 81 Romsey 7.

Apparently, some spies from the ‘Wootton club’, as they were dubbed, were impressed, but never said so officially.

They won the Hampshire Division 2 title with a huge points tally of 690 — an average of 43 per game.

They thrashed Portsmouth Nomads 114-0. They completed a double by winning the Hampshire Plate.

In that epic period, they beat both the Island and the Hurricanes.

David went on to organise coaching courses and manage the Hampshire under-21s. In doing so, he then became his wife’s number one supporter!

On the day we met for afternoon tea, Jenny had already swam in the Ryde indoor pool and the nearby sea.

Incidentally, she has completed the Ryde to Southsea swim on six occasions. The first being she was 60.

Jenny’s swimming career just goes on and on.

As recently as 2018, she won gold in the European Masters 3,000m, collected seven medals in the National Championships, grabbed another seven golds in a regional competition and came first in the 75 and over class in London’s iconic Serpentine Swim.

Before she took up competitive swimming, Jenny had been a voluntary lifeguard.

Although her family think she is still a little crazy, her grandchildren still love to swim with grandma when they visit the Island.

For her age, Jenny is remarkably fit. Even when carrying her shopping up Newport’s St Johns Road.

Jenny’s love for her sport has taken her all around the world, from Sheffield to Lanzarote.

Closer to home, she became the first female winner of the ‘oldest finisher’ trophy in the Sandown to Shanklin swim.

She loves her work as a swimming instructor and her students are all simply amazed when they discover her age.

For so many, Jenny has been an inspiration.

Being the modest woman she is, Jenny is rather humbled by this acclaim.

Over the years she has won over 400 medals but, in reality, is just grateful to still be swimming.

She does admit to love a challenge and she has achieved so many of those.

In between their love of sport, they also both played badminton for Newport,

David and Jenny have raised four sons and now enjoy the delights of nine grandchildren.

What were their greatest moments for each other?

“I felt so proud when I saw David ride in an open top bus along Ryde seafront with Seb Coe. He’d done such a wonderful job as the director of the Island’s Inter-Island Games,” said Jenny.

David, a former head of sport for the Isle of Wight Council, told me: “I was so thrilled when Jenny finished so high up in a world class field, in an open water, 3km race in Budapest.”

They simply are a dream couple who have given so much to the Island’s sporting scene.