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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1934

Tennis at V.U.C

page 63

Tennis at V.U.C

"Somewhere in France, 1917.
. . . my heart would be warmed by a sight of the College Tennis
Courts and its surroundings. . . . The sight would bring back youth to this old hand."

—Extract from letter from R. St. J. Beere.

The early history of the Tennis Club is not to be dealt with lightly. In the years which saw the end of one century and the birth of another, there was considerable feeling displayed as to whether the Club existed in its own right or whether it had to bow an obedient knee to the Students' Society. The first committee was set up by the Students' Society and consisted of Misses Greenfield, Fleming and Ross, and Messrs. Smyth (Secretary and Treasurer), Thomson, Logan and Richmond. The Club had played for a season on the Parliamentary courts before its independence was settled. In its second season it took an active part in organising matches with various other Clubs in the City and finished up first equal in this series.

The writer of the Tennis notes in the first issue of The Spike (1902) wrote as follows:". . . This historian has been unable to ascertain that any of its members have attained fame through the practice of moral characters acquired on its Parliamentary court. A list of such persons would have been a fit and proper ending for this notice, and it is with sincere regret that the writer is compelled to close without it." It is indeed a pity that there was no such list, for we know now that many of those early members have won positions of honour and respect in this country. One notes with some interest a reference to J. C. Burns who, in 1902, was the Club's best player and its late Secretary. We shall have occasion to mention this name later.

In 1900 a tennis match against Canterbury College was arranged. It was then that the idea of an inter-University tournament was first mooted. Our team on that historic occasion consisted of Misses Greenfield and Ross, and Messrs. H. P. Richmond, J. C. Burns and F. P. Wilson. Two years later Tournament was a reality. You will read about it elsewhere, so this section will be confined as far as possible to tennis. Suffice it to say that Athletics, Debating and Tennis were the only sections. There were three "strings' in each of the tennis events, while there was then no rule restricting any one player to two events. Our team consisted of Mrs. C. V. Longton, Misses Van Staveren, F. G. Roberts, M. C. Ross, E. F. Wedde and A. W. Griffiths; Messrs. F. P. Wilson, R. St. J. Beere, H. P. Richmond, J. Graham, F. A. de la Mare and A. J. Will. These were the days of Anthony Wilding, so that it was not to be expected that our team would win. Nevertheless Mrs. Longton achieved the honour of winning the first University Ladies' Singles Championship and with Miss Van Staveren the Ladies' Doubles.

For the next two seasons we played second fiddle at Tournament, the only title collected being the Ladies' Singles by Miss A. M. Batham in 1904. In 1903 the Club received a handsome trophy in the shape of the Professors' Challenge Shield. Professor von Zedlitz was our President in those days and P. W. (now Professor) Robertson, our Treasurer. 1905 was a big year for the Club, for the Tennis Cup was wrested from Canterbury. It was Miss Batham's triumph. In those days the Cup was decided on the number of events won. Miss Batham won both her doubles with the aid of Miss Van Staveren and R. St. J. Beere respectively, and, after reaching the Singles final, defaulted to her doubles partner for some reason not stated. It was in this year also that the work of excavating courts on the present site began. The special committee appointed for this purpose consisted of F. P. Wilson, F. A. de la Mare and R. St. J. Beere, who availed themselves of the services of H. Sladden as Surveyor. On the 9th Septem-ber, 1905, the first sod was turned by a very old digger, the late Rt. Hon. R. J. Seddon. His efforts were furthered by thirty-two amateur navvies, professors and students alike joining in the work. Saturday after Saturday, for two seasons, R. St. J. Beere, the tireless Secretary of the sub-com page 64 mittee, organised an ever dwindling band. By the time sufficient had been done to make room for three courts the following "veterans" remained: R. St. J. Beere, G. F. Dixon, A. E. Dobbie, S. Eichelbaum, W. Gillanders, W. C. Hewitt, F. A. de la Mare and B. C. Smith. The work for the fourth court was continued by two non-tennis players, Dixon and Gillanders, in 1906 and completed by Dixon alone in 1907. In all humility we pay homage to such self-sacrifice.

It was in 1905 that we first heard of our newly elected patron, Mr. S. Eichelbaum, who then filled the position of Treasurer of the Club. In the 1906 Tournament we clinched our victory of the previous year by winning four events and reaching the final of the fifth. In this year the men representatives had been reduced to two for each evenc. The ladies remained as before, on the ground that it was not desired to reduce the number of the fair sex at Tournament. G. S. Prouse won the Men's Singles, F. A. de la Mare figured in both doubles with R. St. J. Beere and Miss F. G. Roberts respectively, while the last named won the Ladies' Singles. We were then playing three teams in the competitions inaugurated a short time before by the W.P.L.T.A. On the 3rd November, 1906, the three new courts were opened by our President, Professor Easterfield. The Club was flourishing, its membership of 80 making it the largest in the College. In the next year we continued our winning way at Tournament by winning all five events. Miss J. Scott won the Ladies' Singles, and both her doubles with Miss M. Cox and G. S. Prouse respectively; G. S. Prouse won his singles and the other doubles with G. V. Bogle. It was a victory which was to be looked back at ever more longingly as the years went by, for strictly speaking, it was our last.

In the next year Miss Scott retained the Singles and with Miss K. Mcintosh, the Ladies' Doubles. At that time we had six teams in the Inter-Club competitions, but sad to relate they collected the wooden spoon in every case. The sarcastic comments in The Spike of October, 1908, suggest that the Club was "going through a period of depression." By 1909 the membership had dropped to 40. Miss Reeve won the Ladies' Singles at Tournament. S. Eichelbaum was one of our representatives that year. Miss Reeve retained the Singles title next year and she and G. M. Cleghorn won the Combined Doubles. In 1911 we won the Ladies' Doubles with Mrs. A. H. Bogle and Miss I. Tennent. In 1912, for the second time in the Club's history, we won no titles at Tournament. These were the palmy days of L. S. Jennings (C.U.C.), who fittingly ended his fifth year of an unbeaten record by being the shining light of a team which won all five events. However, there was a silver lining, for the Club won an Inter-Club competition for the first time. It never rains but it pours. The "Shield" and the "Cup" divisions—i.e., the two top grades—were both won. We retained the Shield the following season. Apart from this the years immediately preceding the war have little worthy of note. The War naturally affected the Club in various obvious ways. It is interesting to note that matches were arranged with teams from Trentham Camp. At the end of the war period the bank behind No. 4 court was concreted, while a pathway outside the courts was erected. It was then also that the question of removing the pine trees near No. 1 court was discussed as a practical problem. Another matter which exercised the committees of those days was Sunday tennis, which was not to be allowed until some time later.

1919 saw the resumption of Tournament. Miss Walden and C. F. Atmore secured the Combined Doubles. This victory showed prospect of becoming a legend when Miss M. Tracy won the Ladies' Singles in 1924. In 1922 H. N. Burns, now Hon. Secretary of the N.Z.L.T.A., joined the Committee and played in the Men's Doubles at Tournament. "Hec." is a nephew of J. C. Burns, mentioned earlier. "Hec." and Russell Young both represented the Wellington Province in that season. In 1923 Professor F. P. Wilson was elected President and Russell Young, Hon. Secretary.

Young represented us at Tournament from 1923-25 but strangely enough had won no titles when he left us to go to Cambridge where he immediately secured his Tennis Blue and began his winning way. In 1925 Prof. Wilson became patron and H. N. Burns, Hon. Secretary. By this time the ideas of R. M. Campbell had borne fruit in a Students' Association which collected all fees and took all clubs under its wing.

The Tournament of 1926 provides us with a link with the present for in that year R. McL. Ferkins was our first string in each of thrie events. "Rollie" is still with us and although now in the page 65 first flight of New Zealand players remains modest and unselfish. His luck in Tournaments has been little better than Russell Young's, his only victory in five years being the Men's Doubles with G. N. Goldie in 1928. A. C. Stedman (A.U.C.) was the star in this year, as in others. 1927 saw another link with the present in the person of C. S. Plank, who joined the Committee. Charlie was ever a worker and one whom difficulties never dismay—he has done his full share for this College in many ways, perhaps without due recognition—but the Tennis Club has been his special charge and its members have always realised his worth. In 1928 he became Secretary and in 1932 Chairman, which position he now holds. His place as Secretary was filled by D. M. Burns, who came into office bound to uphold the family tradition as represented by his elder brother "Hec." and their uncle, J. C. Burns.

But we are anticipating a little. We must return to 1929 when C. M. Malfroy won the Singles by defeating A. C. Stedman. "Cam" was good but before long he left us for Cambridge where he won both singles and doubles championships not only in the "Freshmen's" but also in the University Championships and his full blue This was only the forerunner to an illustrious career of tennis in competition with the world's best players. During 1930 we won the Senior B Inter-Club competition. In that year our present President, Mr. R. J. Nankervis, became Treasurer. The experience of College affairs gained there no doubt served him in good stead when he became Treasurer of the Students' Association, from which position he attained the Presidency.

1932 was a big year in our history. Once again after a lapse of twenty-five years our name appeared on the Tennis Cup. It is true that we tied with Canterbury—but we were not dissatisfied. Our team consisted of Misses J. Anderson, M. Briggs, V. Dyer, M. H. Line and L. C. Longmore, and Messrs. J. B. Black, R. McL. Ferkins, W. B. Gosnell, J. J. McCarthy and G. S. Simpson. Misses Line and Longmore won the Ladies' Doubles title. For some time past the Cup had been decided by awarding a point for each match (not final) won.

On the 28th November, Mr. R. A. Wright opened our new courts. It was a proud day for the committee, and, in particular, for J. L. MacDuff and C. S. Plank, who had overcome many obstacles, including the difficult one of finance. This is perhaps the best place to record a fact which is only too obvious throughout the history of the Club, but which lack of space had prevented us from mentioning from time to time. We refer to the generosity of the College Council in giving substantial financial support to all major works undertaken by the Club. Included among the large number present were Mr. Justice Fair and Mr. G. F. Dixon, both of whom had been present at the original opening twenty-five years before. Selfishly enough we cherished hopes of securing the Tennis Cup all for ourselves in 1933. But the team we sent to Auckland was not so strong, for Ferkins was no longer eligible and we had to acknowledge defeat. Once again our greatest success came in the Ladies' Doubles, the final of which was played later in Wellington between Misses Line and Longmore, the title holders, and our second string, Misses T. R. Gill and S. S. Phillipps, who succumbed only after a long and dour struggle. We took comfort in the winning of the Spalding Cup, newly awarded for competition in the ladies' second division Inter-Club competition. Our team, consisting of Misses M. H. Line, L. C. Longmore, T. R. Gill and M. Briggs, went through without being defeated.

This sketch is now concluded. It only remains to ask the forgiveness of students of years gone by if matters of importance have not been included. Considerations of space provide the excuse. The events of the season just concluded will be found elsewhere in this issue.

—E. G. Budge.