Nationalist attitudes to tennis

Published in 20th Century Social Perspectives, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (Mar/Apr 2007), Letters, Letters, Volume 15


—In the Jan./Feb. 2007 issue Patrick Maume, in his letter regardingnationalist attitudes to golf, noted: ‘Arthur Clery, who wrote for D.P. Moran’s Leader under the pen-name “Chanel”, devoted considerablecasuistic energy to arguing that tennis and even rugby might betolerated by Gaels . . .’. Not quite so here in Galway City, it seems,because in my book, Galway Lawn Tennis Club—a history, I noted aConnacht Tribune report of 3 July 1920 under the headline ‘Tennispavilion burned to the ground and courts dug up’, as follows:

‘On the night of Friday or morning of Saturday last, the pavilion ofthe Galway Tennis Club at Salthill was burned to the ground, while sixcourts were dug up, as were the croquet ground and clock golf pitch.Tennis nets and equipment, chairs, and wooden “steps” were piled on theflames and destroyed. It will take close on a thousand pounds torestore the pavilion, and hundreds of pounds have been spent from timeto time upon the courts, which were regarded by experts as amongst thefinest in Ireland, being only surpassed by the famous grounds atWimbledon.’

Strangely, much debate took place on the question of what group wasresponsible for the outrage, but perhaps the later burning of theAthenry Cricket and Tennis Pavilion on 1 July 1921 by local IrishVolunteers there suggests an answer. The remains of Irish VolunteerCaptain Bill Freney, from nearby Derrydonnell, were found in the ashesof the pavilion. In my book I also noted for 1919 in relation to theGalway City (Salthill) Tennis Club:

‘Whole lists of the many winners [of tennis tournaments] were givenfreely, and as well as the many double-barrelled names mentioned, onealso could not fail to note those with military titles. Obviously,during this period known as “The Troubles”, someone did notice!’

It’s of interest to note that a founding member of the club was SirNoel Galway-Holmes, who later became a major general in the BritishArmy and played Davis Cup tennis for Ireland in 1929.
Looking back through time now, one notes with some amazement thatit was suggested in the subsequent Galway Urban Council meeting thatthe burning of the tennis club ‘should be drawn to the attention of theRepublican Police’ for action to be taken! Sanity ruled, however,because, according to the minutes of the club, no such application wasmade by the Galway Lawn Tennis committee.

—Yours etc.,


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