Anyone For Tennis?

Competitors in a junior tennis competition, Brisbane, 1940s. John Oxley Library, Image No. 7708-0001-0136, GL-12 George Jackman Photograph Albums.

With the Brisbane International in full swing, in a steamy Brisbane summer, it is timely to highlight some of the tennis related material held in the John Oxley Library.  The collections include photographs, cutting books, records of tennis clubs and associations, and published works about the history of tennis in Queensland.

Reginald Heber Roe, appointed headmaster of the Brisbane Grammar School in 1876, is credited with introducing tennis to Queensland.  He brought from England a set of tennis equipment and set up a gravel court in the school grounds.

Tennis Court of the Brisbane Boys’ Grammar School, ca. 1919. John Oxley Library, APA-4 Wilson Family Photograph Album, Accession 6136, Image No. APA-004-0001-0017.

The sport grew in popularity with many residences featuring private tennis courts, clubs being established throughout the state, and public courts appearing in many suburbs and towns.  Brisbane’s first international tournament, between Australia and the United States, took place at Milton during November 1932.

The photographs below show the scope of our tennis-related photographs.

Tennis party at Gairloch House in the Herbert River District, 1880-1890. John Oxley Library, Negative No. 10269.

“Rocket” Rod Laver, the boy from Rockhampton, in action, ca. 1950s. John Oxley Library, Negative No. 79012.

South Side School tennis team, Gympie, 1941, winners of the King Cup as part of the Gympie and District Primary School Sports Association tennis competition. John Oxley Library, Negative No. 34777.

Queensland tennis great, Roy Emerson (2nd from right) with American tennis players Maureen Brinker and Carole Graebner at a tobacco sporting event promotion, ca. 1950s.  Source: Tablelands Regional Library Service, mar00022.

Another gem from the collection is the Saville Hodge Sheard Cutting Book which includes tennis related clippings from various Queensland  newspapers and publications from 1903 till the 1930s.  S.H. Sheard was a highly regarded tennis player, however it was as a tennis administrator that he made his greatest contribution to the sport.  He was the foundation president of the Suburban Lawn Tennis Association almost continuously from 1914 to 1936 and foundation president of the Queensland Hard Court Tennis Association from 1927 to 1931. Sheard was instrumental in converting a swamp at Milton, Brisbane, into a ten court playing area.  The courts were named Sheard Park in his honour in 1936.

Accession 29708, Saville Hodge Sheard Cutting Book.

Accession 29708, Saville Hodge Sheard Cutting Book 1903-1936.

In recognition of the popularity of tennis in Brisbane the City Council has recently established Brisbane’s Tennis Trail which highlights the city’s tennis attractions, paying homage to local, national and international tennis greats.  The online version of the trail includes a photo gallery and an online map with descriptions of the various points of interest arranged by suburb.

Highlights include Frew Park at Milton which features the Roy Emerson Tennis Centre and the Stefan Racquet, Pat Rafter Park at Carseldine, and the Caskey Monument in Toowong Cemetery erected in 1902 as a tribute to Lieutenant Lachlan Caskey who was killed during the Boer War and buried in South Africa.  The monument features crossed tennis racquets and cricket bats in acknowledgement of Lieutenant Caskey’s sporting interest and is also the first known Boer War monument built in Queensland.

Caskey Monument, Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane. Source: Shirley and Trevor McIvor, Queensland War Memorial Register.

Lieutenant Lachlan John Caskey of the 5th Queensland Contingent, South African War. “Queenslander”, 16 March 1901, p. 514. John Oxley Library, Negative No. 108539.

As the tennis season continues to delight spectators throughout Australia it is interesting to remember the foundations of the sport and the pioneers, administrators and players, who worked so hard to establish the sport in Queensland.

Lynn Meyers, Specialist Librarian, Queensland Memory