13 Aug 2022

Trip Through Time: A history of the Dundalk Tennis Club

Looking back at Dundalk's past, with former Democrat editor Peter Kavanagh

Trip Through Time: A history of the Dundalk Tennis Club

During the past week I overheard an acquaintance asking a man of a slightly younger generation than myself if he thought the summers of long ago had been warmer than they are at present?

The reply puzzled me a little as the person who asked the question seemed to be in little doubt that they were, which seemed to be at odds with the 'global warming' theory that seems to be supported by the evidence of records since the beginning of the century.

My own belief is that the weather in the month of June around Dundalk has varied wildly over most of the past hundred years.

I can remember many wet and miserable Junes, and yet I can also recall many mid-summers that were warm and sunny.

I remember my mother telling me the year I was born, in the thirties, was one of the warmest on record in Dundalk since the beginning of the last century. I originally doubted her but, when I looked up the local records, I discovered that she was correct!

It truth is, I believe, that most older people tend to remember the best ones and forget the bad memories! One of the things that young people seem to believe is that the best weather in these parts always seems to start when the State examinations begin?

Now that those exams are, mostly, completed, I wish them well and that the good weather will continue so that they can best enjoy their holiday break!

Which all got me to thinking about what I could remember best about the beginning of schools holidays away back over seventy years ago.

Of course, I remember all the usual activities of cycling, swimming and even mountain climbing but, strangely, my most abiding memory was one of playing tennis.

Not that I was ever much good at that sport but it was one of the few outdoor sports that I most enjoyed.

Perhaps, it was just that I recalled the company that I met so long ago but because, while it was still a bit elitist, it was not the worst in this respect in Dundalk of those times - and it certainly was not the most expensive to play.

Just recently an old friend of mine told me that their father and mother had first met while playing tennis at the old tennis courts at the back of the 'Milestone' at Lisdoo.

Certainly, romances did blossom at the many tennis clubs that have come and gone in Dundalk of the last century!

Memories of tennis were also revived by a question I was asked recently about the origins of the tennis club along the Rampart Stream at the back of the St. Joseph's Monastery.

I had been a member of this club back in the 1940s but not for very long and most of my tennis was played with friends on the old hard courts in the St. Mary's College Grounds.

The question, however, did spark a memory that I had read something about this club in an old Tempest's Annual and, sure enough, after a bit of rummaging, I did come across an interesting article in 1936 edition which, re-reading surprised me a little!

This article was written anonomiously but I strongly suspect written by the publisher, Harry Tempest, whom I have always found to be a very reliable source.

The club was known in the 1930s as the Dundalk Lawn Tennis Club but something that surprised me was that it stated --- 'Lawn Tennis in Dundalk has a long history before and since the time since a club played on courts in the Athletic Grounds'.

Now, I had not known about that club which the article states was 'under the very capable secretaryship of T.G. Thorpe'. I had not come across that name before it made me wonder if he was a member of the Young Ireland Company that had purchased the Athletic Grounds from a James Collins, whom I believe was a Clanbrassil Street butcher in 1904?

The article goes on to say that the Lawn Tennis Club came into existence in 1913 when the present grounds, 'then in the occupancy of the Distillary' was leased to P.V. Carolan and P.L. Macardle as Trustees. 'Draining, netting and pailing, to say nothing of a pavilion (a railway carriage transported with great labour to its proper position) were a heavy drain on funds'.

This article also gives a clue to the state of the weather in these parts just before the outbreak of the Great War in Europe when it states - 'The newly laid turf was saved from irreparable injury from the excessively hot and dry April and May of 1914 by Mr. Macardle's device of piping Messers McAdorey's exhaust water over the Rampart River to the courts!
The courts were opened with tea on June 13th (1914).'

I am aware from my own experience that the present badminton hall was erected by the club in the mid-1960s, when the club changed its name to the Dundalk Tennis and Badminton Club. A squash court was added later and I see now that the word 'Squash' has been included in the name.

I do not know when the old grass courts were replaced by the present hard courts but think that a couple of grass courts were retained for a number of years.

Back fifty years ago another badminton club called 'Oriel B.C', that had played their home games in the old Market Houses until it was demolished in the mid-sixties, shared the courts in the hall, on a renting basis.

A third Dundalk badminton club 'Brookville' that had been formed by workers in the old G.NR. (I) Works still used the Railway Hall off the Ardee Road and there were many other badminton clubs in rural districts around the Town.

Another big development for the Rampart Tennis Club about fifty years ago was the acquiring of extra ground from the Redemptorist Fathers and the moving of their high stone wall back several feet.

I note that the present club is running a very successful 'Tennis Academy', and am confident that the young players of today will more than fulfill the dreams of the men and women who put a great effort into founding the club over a century ago!

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