book evolved from a club story.
What started out, over seven years ago, as a series
of articles on the clubs and people associated with tennis in the
Sligo area later expanded, in two stages.
Firstly, by including the northwest and then, by including the whole
In 3 volumes, with over 1800 pages, this
hard back A4, limited edition, contains 42 chapters and sub
chapters, over 3000 photographs and illustrations and is probably
the most comprehensive book ever written on any nations tennis
story of Irish tennis is an extensive one and has resulted in the
production of a three volume book. The reader is encouraged to delve beyond the photographs and
the personalities of immediate interest and to enjoy learning more
about the game that has been played by so many over the decades
and in so many different circumstances.
The history is
a social as well as a sporting one.
Tennis is now one of the most international sports.
Originally played on grass, the playing surfaces vary
considerably throughout the world.
Clay, tarmacadam, wood, concrete, cow dung and artificial
grass are among the varients found.
was introduced to Ireland shortly after the
patenting and sale of lawn tennis sets by Major Walter Clopton
Wingfield in 1874. He
called the game ‘sphairistike’ from the Greek word for ball
game. The game spread
quickly wherever there was an English influence.
However, it is now known that ‘real tennis’ was being
played by the end of the 12th century in Europe and
in Ireland in 1609 or earlier.
golden era of Irish tennis was the 19th century. Lena Rice, Joshua Pim, Harold Mahony and
Willoughby Hamilton were all Irish and Wimbledon singles champions.
In 1889 Louisa Martin won the first of nine singles titles in Dublin.
Tennis historians will know that William Renshaw
(twin of Ernest) was probably the best player in the 1880s,
winning three Irish and seven Wimbledon singles titles. In 1890 Hamilton became the first of four Irish winners in
the men’s singles at Wimbledon beating Willie Renshaw in what
was his eighth final, and the only one he was to lose.
An English player and writer noted that it was more difficult to
win the Irish Championships than Wimbledon.
moves on and the ‘Golden Era’ of Irish tennis has passed. Seeing what has been achieved in the past should give us the
energy and enthusiasm to achieve our dreams.
This book documents the efforts of individuals and teams, the key
administrators, coaches and referees who have all kept the game of
lawn tennis alive and well in Ireland for over 130 years.
the Australian, French and US Championships are the four ‘Grand Slam’
events in the sport of tennis, a term first used by American
journalist John Kiernan in 1933, while describing Australian Jack
Crawford’s attempt that year to add the US Open title to the other
three Opens. He was
foiled in a five-set match by Fred Perry of England.
The Grand Slam has been achieved by Don Budge (USA 1938),
twice Irish Open champion Maureen
Connolly (USA 1953), Rod Laver (Australia 1962
and 1969), Margaret Smith Court (Australia in 1970) and Steffi
Graf (Germany 1988). Graf also added the Olympic title making her the only winner
of the Golden Grand Slam.
first Wimbledon was held in 1877, followed a few weeks later by
the first Open championships in Ireland, not in Dublin but at the
Limerick Lawn Tennis Club.
has had a number of Wimbledon Champions.
Less known is the fact that one Mable Cahill
from Ballyraggett, Co. Kilkenny, won the singles, doubles and
mixed titles at the US Open in 1891 and 1892, she being the first
player ever to win three titles in a single year at any of the
four ‘Grand Slam’ events.
In 1890 all three Wimbledon titles were won by Irish
players, Lena Rice from New Inn, Co. Tipperary and Willoughby
Hamilton winning the singles and the combination of Joshua Pim and Frank Stoker
the top pairing in the world
at the time, the
is a feature of Irish sport that we have produced many sportsmen
and women who were talented in many sports. Included are
Henry Read, George McVeagh, Tony O'Reilly, Geraldine Barniville
and Mary Dinan.
In the 1983 book
'The Guinness Book of
Tennis Facts and Feats' we find James Cecil Parke
(Clones, Co. Monaghan), the best ‘all-rounder’ in lawn tennis
(his female equivalent being Lottie Dodd).
Parke’s exploits also included, chess, cricket, athletics,
golf and rugby.
won 8 Irish singles championships, reached the Wimbledon
semi-final (singles) twice, the doubles All-Comer’s final three
times and was mixed doubles champion twice.
However, it was in the Davis Cup that he made world headlines.
He was on the Great Britain team that wrested the Cup from the
Australasians in Melbourne in 1912. They had maintained a
firm grip on the cup from 1907 to 1911. Parke won both his singles but his win over the great
Norman Brookes ('the Wizard') stood out.
The media summarised his part in the Cup victory, ‘
Ireland with a little help from England win the Davis Cup’.
He again won his two singles in 1913 but unfortunately the
home team lost the other three matches.
has always been a social game.
The tennis club often being the sole social centre in small
marriages started with their first steps at the tennis
‘dance’, ‘hop’ or ‘disco’.
Today, availability of tennis for the young has increased dramatically,
with children as young as six taking their first steps into a game
for life. 'Parks Tennis'
plays an important role here. Veterans
tennis has also grown dramatically. At
one time it was parents who introduced the game to the rest of the
family, now many grandparents are actively involved.
There is a small chapter dealing with the progress of the
game in secondary schools and universities.
Schools and Parks tennis continue to play an important role in promoting
the sport among the young.
man is active so too are scribes'.
small chapter deals with a range of writings, from the longest
poem ever written on the sport of tennis (in 1877 at Monkstown
LTC) to lines penned by Percy French a keen player and on
to more recent entertaining stories.
These include the
words of Sir Basil Goulding, Terry Wogan and Pat Boran.
Co Cavan LTC c.1895,
Percy French is on the right of the photo
Clubs of Ireland form a significant chapter in Volume I. It
was not possible to detail the history of every club.
Readily available club histories were the basis for many
entries here. What
was difficult to identify were details on clubs that no longer
Ireland became the modern title for the national organisation
in 1990. It was
previously called the Irish Lawn Tennis Association (ILTA)
when founded in 1908.
Dublin Lawn Tennis Council (DLTC) predates the ILTA
by six years. The
DLTC organises probably the biggest tennis leagues in any country
catering for both summer and winter graded leagues for junior,
senior and veteran players. Similar
leagus are run by the the Belfast and District council.
Harry Maunsell (Glenageary
ILTA Secretary 1920-1948
Not to be forgotten are the many voluntary committee
members on the national organisation, as well as provincial
councils/branches and those promoting the sport within their own
clubs. Tennis Ireland
now has a salaried staff dealing
with much of the workload.
2 has two distinct elements, the competitions and the people.
It was impossible to track down all the results one would
like to include, however, some important tables have been prepared
including Senior Interprovincial results, the South, East, West
and Ulster Championships, the County Dublin and the Irish
Irish Open is a key championship that attracted the best players
in the world for many decades.
Since the professional (‘Open’) era kick-started at the
end of the 1960s it has been difficult to attract the best players
to Ireland, finance being the major obstacle. However, it and many other tournaments dating back to the
1880s have survived.
of over 1,100 people are included in the book.
Some are brief. Much
research has enabled details on long-forgotten heroes to be
published in a way I hope brings them to life again.
Volume 3 starts with a few small apparently random,
include modes of transport, changes in fashions, equipment and
costs which have been dramatic in a century and a quarter of Irish
the players and people of the North-West are dealt with in chapter
8. As already
mentioned the book commenced its life in this region and much of
the original script has been retained. Practical and loyalty factors lead to this approach.
than have an overly lengthy introduction to 'The History of Irish
Tennis' this web site concisely introduces all elements of the
If the reader can learn more about the sport and its past
through this book, then, like the writer, he or she can
consolidate their passion for tennis, or begin to love the game in
a wholly different manner. If
this is achieved then it will have been worth the effort.
Printed by Turner's Printing Co Ltd,
Earl Street, Longford, Ireland.
Original sketches by Stephanie Paxton (Sligo), the late Des
O'Brien (Kenilworth, Fitzwilliam, Cardiff Castle & Dyvours
LTCs) & John Tormey (St Mel's & Shankill LTCs).
Jacket designs by Tom Higgins & Noel Strange.
Tom Higgins, Sligo Tennis Club, Ireland.
Copyright ©the author.