Hi Tennis History lovers,
Another fascinating year with a few historical dots joined together.
In the first book ever written about the sport, “Lawn Tennis in Australasia” by the Referee aka Robert Kidston he partially tells of John O’Hara Wood’s story relating to the first tennis games being played in Australia, frustratingly without going in to any detail. John James O’Hara Wood was the father of Australian Tennis Champions Arthur and Pat. We discovered this year that he grew up in Queensland and attended the Brisbane Grammar School. Around this time, in 1876, a new headmaster named Reginald Roe, arrived from England complete with a new lawn tennis set which was quickly adopted as a school activity and with other influential adults by the end of the year the Brisbane Lawn Tennis Club was formed. Consequently, we now believe we can close the loop on the story mentioned in Kidston’s book.
Delving into the Brisbane Grammar School for the above story was not the only lead we had to follow. In the early 1890′s another ex student was reported in Scottish literature playing for Edinburgh University and achieving some pretty good results.
This was Arthur B Carvosso who was a student at Brisbane Grammar from 1876 to 1881 which corresponds with the new tennis set arriving. After completing his BA in Sydney he returned to the school as a science teacher from 1884 to 1888. He decided to further he career by becoming a doctor and so headed for Edinburgh University to gain this qualification. Newspaper articles show that he was regarded as an excellent player prior to leaving and when attending EU quickly adopted tennis as his main pursuit joining the University Team and the famous Whiteside TC. In his first year 1890 he was in the University second team but by 1891 had been promoted to the front rank.
Courtesy Brisbane Grammar School
An article by a former Brisbane Grammar student recollecting the early tennis days
Daily Mercury 22nd June 1937
Courtesy of the Wimbledon Museum this original Wingfield set with the red box supports the Reginald Roe, Brisbane Grammar news article above.
In a stellar year, Arthur entered and won the Open Singles of the Scottish Tennis Championships (but lost in the Challenge round against the defending champion), followed by the South of Scotland Championships a feat he repeated in 1892 along with the North of Scotland championships and Universities of Edinburgh championships.
As such, we cannot record any earlier “major” tournament win overseas by an Australian. Dr. Wilberforce Eaves was only just commencing his tournament journey and played his first Wimbledon in 1892 and was probably the most prominent Australian expat during this era. Carvosso, was reported to have a very strong forehand and deadly overhead smash.
In 1893, Arthur was a team member of the successful Whiteside TC in the all of England inter-club championships played in London which was a highly regarded event containing many of the top rank players.
Having qualified, Arthur returned to Australia in 1894 and was an active community doctor and parent on the Brisbane Grammar School Old Boys Association committee for many years.
As an historian half the fun is locating information and in this case we contacted Brisbane Grammar School, who kindly supplied the photo and some excellent pics came from a very rare book called Apsects of Scottish Lawn Tennis in which a mention of an Australian was made in the text accompanying the team photo. Edinburgh University had little information and the Wimbledon Museum as able to find some valuable snippets. The most significant project was to find some Carvosso relatives here in Australia. With such a distinctive name within a couple of phone calls I found a granddaughter who put me in touch with other family members. The hope to find old trophies and photos was dashed when we learnt that many of the silver trophies were melted to produce a silver tray in return for a debt arising from Arthur attending Edinburgh.
Luckily however we did receive this fantastic photo of the only surviving 1891 trophy, courtesy of the Carvosso family.
Also from Queensland came another interesting story.
This arose due to the discovery of a 1930′s slotted shaft tennis racquet called the Bluebird and the name E.T.Rowe who was a prominent South Australian Champion tennis player. Perhaps the racquet had an Oliver connection?
Newspaper searches relating to slotted shaft racquets revealed that this new design was invented by a Queenslander Hector Donald Adams and patented here in Australia in 1933/1934 patent number 12215/33.
The model in Rowe’s possession is likely to have been a production model made in Queensland because in 1935 Spalding Australia and then worldwide adopted the patent for its up-market range of slotted shaft racquets.
Bluebird design at top with Spalding production models including the patent.
Another nice uncovering this year was this mid 1930′s Spalding retail store display stand used to hold 5 racquets
At the start of the year Tennis Heritage Australia (Victoria) was invited to place a small display in the hugely popular MCC Sports Museum during the Australian Open. Hopefully we can develop an arrangement with the MCC to place a much larger display which can be promoted to the Australian Open visitors who park their cars nearby and stroll past.
On a recent overseas grand tour it was a delight to catch up with the Wimbledon Museum, Manfred Schotten, Chris and Sue Elks, Robert Holland, Siegfried Kuebler, Urs Peter Inderbitzen and others with a love of tennis.
Needless to say I saw some wonderful pieces of history that I doubt exist in Australia at all.
Catching up with the Wimbledon Museum team pre the 2016 tournament. Thanks for the hospitality and tour.
Great to meet Siegfried Kuebler from Kuebler Rackets and also author of our collecting bible, the BOOK OF TENNIS RACKETS. We have been emailing information to and fro for over 10 years so to meet Sigi in person was great.
A more modern oddity with wrap around stringing, the ESTUSA American Pro AMERPRO model
Some early French DARSONVALS…. this was the firm owned by a famous coach of the 1920′s musketeers
A really scarce Flick A Book by Australian Pat O’Hara Wood circa 1930′s