In 1900, tournaments are advertised in Glenageary (2 lawns) and Athlone (3 lawns)
In 1901, the first North of Ireland Championship is played at Belfast, and a tournament at Mullingar is also covered.
In 1902, England played Ireland at Wimbledon, winning by 5 matches to 3. The Irish team was: C. Corbally, R.N. Roper, J.R. Murphy and S.G. Butson. This could be the first croquet international match!
The South of Ireland Championship was played on 9 lawns at Fosdyke, Cork (on the cricket ground), but there were also tournaments on “Second-size lawns” (24yd by 30yd) at Rushbrooke, and later also at Muskerry, Youghal, Mallow and Lismore, and on 2 full-size lawns at Tullamore. The Irish Gold Medals were played for the first time (at Fitzwilliam).
In 1904, Rushbrooke could muster 10 lawns for their tournament (normally 3). The Secretary’s name was Mrs W. Conner of Cooleen, Rushbrooke (any relation, Nan?). The Championship of Connaught was played at Galway, and won by Miss Coote. The Championship of Co. Galway was played at Athenry, and a later account of this club mentions 12 lawns! Corbally was dominant, winning the Irish Championship as well as the Athlone, Westmeath and Tullamore tournaments.
In 1907, the Cork tournament was played on 11 lawns at Mardyke (an A.W. Dobbyn competed in this!)
There are complaints of lawn damage caused by players practising the jump stroke for Golf Croquet, so clearly this was not banned until later (Golf Croquet or Croquet Golf, was invented in England in about 1895). Fitzwilliam held a “Horse Show Week” meeting (end of August in those days: Bank Holiday?). Prizes were a medal plus a £5 voucher for the Jeweller’s.
1908 sees a mention of Malahide (sec., T.L. Plunkett, Portmarnock House), and much complaining about the condition of the Fitzwilliam courts at Wilton Place for the Irish Championship.
In 1909, Carrickmines appears on the scene, and the first report is worth quoting at length:
The first croquet tournament in this new club proved very successful, and before detailing the play and results, it might be of interest to glance at the history of the club. Dublin has long felt the need of a good croquet club, where some of the courts would always be kept for croquet, and 18 months ago Miss Barrett – whose name is so well known in the croquet world – announced her intention of starting a club at Carrickmines, a beautiful little country spot, only twenty minutes by train from town. The project was received with enthusiasm, and the preparation of lawns and the erection of a clubhouse was started forthwith, and it is eminently satisfactory that the competitors one and all announced their pleasure at the beauty of the rural scenery on the one hand, and the efforts of civilisation in the shape of good croquet lawns on the other.”
Leslie O’Callaghan beat W.F. Pim to win the first Croquet Championship of Co. Dublin.
Note that the handicap singles was commonly divided into two classes at this time (in this event, between handicaps 8 and 9). It was not supposed that the handicap could level the ‘minus’ players and the ‘rabbits’.
It appears that there were seven lawns at Carrickmines at this time, and that two more were built on the highest terrace during 1911. Use was also made of Captain Wilson’s private lawn at Carrickmines House – only a couple of hundred yards off, after all.
At Rushbrooke, Mrs Plant, Miss Mitchell, Mrs Murrogh, Miss Harrington and Mr fforde distinguished themselves. Fashion seems to have occupied nearly as much time as croquet, and the reporter facetiously advises ladies to send a sample of their dress material to the ball manufacturers, to ensure a perfect match!
The indefatigable S.A.W. Waters, Secretary of the Irish branch of the Croquet Association, mooted an All-Ireland Croquet Club, which was duly started, and attempted this year to make a home for it at Lansdowne Road, but insufficient funds were raised to secure the lease, and the Club set up instead at Kenilworth Square in 1910, where they played at least two meetings, the Irish Championship, and the Stonebrook Cups meeting, which was a full-scale tournament. These cups were subsequently ‘permanently loaned’ to Carrickmines, and are still competed for. In 1912, the Waters Cup and the East of Ireland Championship were also played at Kenilworth Square, which was the headquarters of Irish Croquet until about 1920. A photograph of competitors in an event here, the ladies resplendent in their furs, and surrounding some kind of punch-bowl affair which was obviously the prize, was in the possession of Carrickmines but has unfortunately been destroyed. Carrickmines still has the famous ‘boundary ball guillotine’, presented “to the Irish Associates of the Croquet Association by the Viscount Doneraile” in 1909.
At the 1910 Championship of Co. Dublin, two trophies, the Tullow Cup (Championship plate) and the Visitors’ Cup (extra handicap singles draw) are mentioned, but they no longer survive.
In 1922, I find my first reference to the Championship of Ireland being played at Carrickmines, but at this point my researches were interrupted (by the bar opening), and much information yet remains to be gleaned from these valuable journals, as well as from local enquiries.
Report put together by Simon Williams