“Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time for………….”
The Minutes of a Committee meeting of the Club, held on 26th October 1948 noted that “HRH The Duke of Edinburgh had accepted an invitation to become an Honorary Member of the Club.” The newly married Prince Philip could not have had much time for Squash (Prince Charles was born in 1948), and we do not have a record of whether he actually ever played for the Jesters. I know however that he is one of the most avid readers of my Annual Reports. He was a keen Squash player in the Royal Navy, and it could be that he will telephone and let me know if he played for us, so that I may fill a gap in our records……..
But to come back to my preface. Prince Philip, the busy Patron of over 800 organisations, but especially fond of the Jesters, came to our Annual Dinner on March 22nd this year (at his own request!) at the age of 95. He bounded up the staircase of the RAC to meet first the Committee, before moving on to the Dinner (held in the Mountbatten Room; very appropriately for Philip Mountbatten as he was before his marriage). Having met him several times I can tell you that he is sharp, witty and genuinely interested in those he meets. At the Dinner, and to his great delight, we made him Jester of the Year and presented him with the Jester Trophy. In his letter of thanks afterwards he said that he had had a most enjoyable evening.
Prince Philip is also absurdly fit. A few weeks after the Annual Dinner he was carriage driving competitively at Windsor, only days before his 96th birthday. Growing old is not for him. He is far too busy and involved in doing those things he loves.
We have the privilege of nominating two Jesters to attend one of Her Majesty’s Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace biannually. Out of 8000 or so guests, Prince Philip always asks to meet our Representatives in private, in the Palace, for a chat just before the Garden Party starts. Stephen Finch and Henry Prideaux, with their partners, attended this year and report having had a delightful chat with the Prince about Squash, and about the Palace Squash Court. The seeds may have been sown by them for a Jesters Squash match against the Royal Household on the Palace Squash Court next year.
We are incredibly lucky to have Prince Philip as our Patron, as a valued member, and as a great friend of the Jesters Club. On behalf of all the members of the Jesters Club, worldwide, I salute you Sir!
The Jesters Club is flourishing and in great part it is due to those who put in so much hard and unpaid work for us. We have over 220 fixtures each year in all of our Games. Those fixtures all have to be arranged by our Games Representatives and then managed on the day by our volunteer managers. All this information is passed, in July each year, to Paul Lubbock who pulls it all together, sets it out, and sends it off to our excellent Printer, David Orange. Moss Glover, the indefatigable Keeper of our Database, then supplies all your membership details to David who turns it all into the invaluable annual handbook you now have in front of you. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the hard work you do for the Club.
Finally a mention of our Golf Day. When your active sporting days are drawing to a close there is always golf. Although not a Jester Game we have held a Golf Day at Huntercombe for nearly 25 years. Great Squash names from the past, like Mike Corby and Stuart Courtney, join the rest of us for a day of great fun and conviviality. This year was no exception and after a wonderful day’s golf, Robert Muir walked off with the top prize, followed by Mike Corby in second place. Sarah Jempson, wife of well known Jester, Jonathan Jempson, won the Ladies Prize. Next year we play on June 5th, so put the date in your diaries now.
I now give you the excellent Games Reports on the 2016/2017 season from the UK Game Representatives, and some most interesting Reports from the Overseas Chairmen.
Paul Robbins reports for UK Squash. I sit down to write this report on a warm overcast London day with an additional spring in my step after watching the British & Irish Lions rugby team secure a famous win against the All Blacks of New Zealand in the pouring rain in Wellington. This monsoon reminded me much more of an English winter and of the impending Squash season to come. No doubt many of our members are deep into their summer training routines, some at altitude with blood counts and CO2 levels being closely monitored. Others are understandably staying closer to sea level where summer training can take a different approach as can the content of fluid that should be consumed for rehydration!
The 2016/2017 season was a notable one for the Jesters with many highlights along the way. In September, a team of 6 Squash players and accompanying partners left British shores to tour South Africa. The tour landed in Cape Town on the 7th September and moved from the Western Cape along the garden route stopping at Gansbaai, Knysna and St Francis Bay before travelling on to Durban, Pietermaritzburg and finally Johannesburg.
Charles Fuente did an excellent job of captaining the tour. I was only in attendance but can attest to the fantastic experience that we were all fortunate enough to have. As well as some very competitive squash, the tourists made many new friends and saw a fantastic country. Our thanks must go out to Garth van Rensburg and all the regional representatives who put so much effort into ensuring that the tour was a success. We all continue to be hugely grateful.
In September 2017, the British Jesters are welcoming the Canadian Jesters for their UK tour. The Canadian Jesters have a packed itinerary whereby they are hosted in London, Sussex, Hayling Island, Oxford, Cambridge, Berkshire, Plymouth and Ireland. The committee would like to thank all the Jesters who have been involved in the planning of this tour in what we hope will be a great experience for our Canadian counterparts.
The 2017 annual dinner was another stand-out highlight of the year with our Patron, HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in attendance. It was fantastic to be in the presence of the newly crowned Jester of the Year, as well as seeing so many Jesters from around the country in what was a memorable night at the Royal Automobile Club.
After the success of the two new Ladies’ fixtures at Oxford and Cambridge Universities last year we have seen an increase in Lady Jester membership and look forward to another two excellent games of squash in the same fixtures this year. There is capacity for more Ladies’ fixtures so do please let Henry Prideaux know if you need assistance in initiating new ones.
We have also seen a resurgence of games in the Midlands under David Fairbairn and with new fixtures being included in the Bristol area it is exciting that Jesters Squash is being played in so many parts of the country.
A mention must also go to Jon Gliddon, the newly appointed Chairman of England Squash Masters who captained the England over 45s to victory in the home nations in what I am told was a very competitive and enjoyable tournament.
We continue to grow the fixture list and thanks to Henry Prideaux’s excellent work we have 90 matches scheduled for the coming season. Included in these fixtures are 15 new matches as well as new tours to Guernsey and Hong Kong. As ever, we are keen to build on this so if potential match managers can continue to make yourselves known if there is a new or existing fixture that you are keen to manage we would be grateful. Newly elected candidates would be most welcome to take on the running of some long-standing fixtures to inject new life into them.
It is also a useful reminder to all our candidates to play their 3 games to qualify for election, and for those who have played their three matches to send their results in and importantly thereafter to pay the annual sub to become fully elected.
I hope everyone has a fantastic season and I look forward to seeing many of you soon!
Alex Illingworth (and Ronald Pattison) report for Eton Fives. I think it would be hard to say that last season was the most successful in terms of win ratios, but it probably involved more apres-fives than ever. We are both very grateful for your participation in the game and in any off court activities.
The courts at Westminster are at the heart of the Club’s games, and our usage of them continues to grow. Indeed we are increasing again the number of matches there for the coming year. To our minds this constitutes progress, but it should not be at the expense of other centres. Accordingly we continue to invite suggestions for new games outside London.
In particular we are keen to continue to support the marvellous new Cambridge courts. Nick Preston has been instrumental in building this venue up and we hope in particular that Jesters will support either or both of our Cambridge fixtures venues on Sept 9th and Nov 4th this year. The former provides an opportunity to show the touring Canadian Jesters our fine game, and importantly is an opportunity to mix and drink with fellow Jesters from different codes.
Finally a word of thanks. We both continue to enjoy running Eton Fives for our amazing Club, but cannot do it without your support. Jesters Eton Fives is designed to be enjoyed and I hope that we are delivering that enjoyment. We have room for more players of all standards in our teams so, as ever, please do not hesitate to apply to play in matches.
Charlie Brooks reports for Rugby Fives. This season marked the end of an epic Jesters era as Team Akerman (Frank and Harry) organised their final Edinburgh Tour in January. Once again, it was a resounding success. Over the nearly 30 years that Frank has masterminded the tour (with Harry only a couple of years less), he has cajoled hundreds of Jesters and overseen many hundreds of matches against a variety of Scottish Schools, Universities and Clubs, carrying the RF torch north of the border year after year. Never has a Jester returned with fresh legs and never have they failed to champion our sport and the Club. This year’s tour also resulted in the election of the first Lady Rugby Fives Jester (Shinan Zhang), hopefully the first of many!
This leaves some big shoes to fill! In taking on this gargantuan task, I have no doubt that Ben Hale and Dave Butler will rise to the challenge and continue this great Jesters tradition. They have both been on many an Edinburgh Tour already and have promised to beat Frank’s record of organising 27 tours themselves.
In the Strawson, a highly entertaining match with many close games featuring a blend of new Jesters and seasoned campaigners resulted, by a miraculous turn of events, in a draw. With only one point separating the sides going into the final game, the Jesters managed a thrilling 16-15 win to tie the match at 86-86.
As ever a huge thanks to all those playing in and organising our fixtures. Our match managers, as always, have done a great job in encouraging more players onto the courts. Please do get in touch if you would like to play or would like to organise a new fixture – volunteers are always welcome!
I would like to thank all the match managers who worked tirelessly to put together pairs to play in the various fixtures this season. Serve up!
Alastair Gourlay reports for Rackets. The 2016/2017 Jesters Racketeers started with the perennial match against the T&RA at the Strawson evening in October. The Strawson being the benchmark fixture which allows all players to move from first to second gear in the season and the match where the greater good of the game come together to slug it out (in Jesterly fashion) at The Queen’s Club. With it being 15/14 to the Jesters in the fifth game for the first pairs it couldn’t have been better arranged and was a delightful game to watch before the players and gallery retired for the Strawson Dinner. Matches were played throughout the season against schoolboys, old boy clubs and school masters throughout the country, from Bristol to London.
But the leading news for Jesters Rackets in the 2016/2017 season was the continued dominance of Jester, Lea Van der Zwalmen in the Ladies game. The 2017 Ladies World Championship was held at Wellington College where 8 ladies entered to fight for the right to challenge Lea for the coveted World title. Being the reigning champion, Lea had to watch from the side-lines as the Ladies were split into two groups of four with the winners of each group playing each other in a play-off for the right to challenge the current champion.
Georgie Willis took that honour after beating, Jester Isabelle Duncan in the play-off. In the challenge match, Lea continued to show her dominance and talent in the ladies game and won easily 3-0 against Georgie to again be crowned the Ladies World Rackets Champion. A wonderful achievement!
Further matches were played throughout the season, nationally and internationally, with James Coyne winning the Canadian Amateur Singles championship and New York based Jester, Jonathan Larken winning the Canadian Amateur doubles championship at the Montreal Club. Whereas nationallyAlexTitchener-Barrett went for his 9th UK Amateur Rackets singles title but was sadly beaten in the final. A valiant effort by Alex, but I am sure he will return next season.
I would like to thank all the match managers who worked tirelessly to put together teams to play in the various fixtures.
Serve up and and Play for the 2017/2018 season!
Adam Dolman reports for Tennis. It was as ever a busy season for The Jesters Club’s Real Tennis contingent with almost 30 matches held at courts across the country, from Jesmond Dene to The Hyde at Bridport.
I’m also pleased to report that we had another influx of new Lady candidates and members to bolster our ever-increasing numbers. We’re delighted to welcome the likes of Jess Garside, Alex Brodie, Rachel Heslop, Sophie Danreuther, Clare Bucknell, Evelyn Fleming and Isabel Candy to the fold. I must thank Sheila Macintosh for her tireless work in introducing new Lady to the Jesters Club.
Our season got underway with the annual Frank Strawson Memorial Match (The Jesters v The T&RA) held at The Queen’s Club in October. It was a great evening of Tennis, followed by a marvellous dinner in the President’s Room and I’m pretty sure the match was a draw (as usual). Our thanks go out to Queen’s for yet again hosting and putting up with us for another year.
Reports from Jesmond Dene were as spirited as always as Simon Sanders made his annual trip south to Newcastle for this wonderful fixture. Thankfully now with so many Jesmond Jesters, we were able to field a good side but not strong enough to take on the elite of the north as the Jesters came away with a harrowing 6-1 defeat. Simon is now worried that he may be replaced, as he was quoted as saying, “Premier League managers have lost their jobs for less severe losses than 1-6, so a lot depends on 2018!”
There were matches against the LRTA at Hardwick, Hyde TC organised with precision by Jamie Turner and the annual fixture against the MCC, under the guidance of Brian Sharp (his 105th year as match manager so my records tell me).
John Burnett did a fantastic job organising a very jolly weekend for what is now known as the Jock Burnet Cambridge Weekend. Not only was Tennis on offer but Fives, Squash, Rackets and plenty of food and wine.
2017 saw school fixtures against Canford and Radley and a new fixture at Wellington, managed by Chris Kurkjian, who deserves a special mention for juggling match management with the arrival of twins. No mean feat!
Queen’s then kindly played host to an array of fixtures against the OEs, Queen’s itself, the AELTC and the Hurlingham Pigeons. Thank you to Simon Mansfield and Astrid Drayson for their continued hard work and support.
Very sadly we are still struggling to find a match manager for the Moreton Morrell fixture. However, I’m delighted to announce that Tony and Fiona Harrison have very kindly agreed to take over the Leamington match, so we’re thrilled to see that back on the calendar.
For the coming season please continue to support all match managers by applying early to participate and ensure strong Jesters’ representation at all our fixtures.
Padel Tennis. At a Jesters Committee Meeting in March 2017 this year it was agreed that the Club would arrange some trial Padel Tennis fixtures for the forthcoming season. As a result Tim Edwards was invited to join the committee, specifically to look after Padel Tennis. All Jesters and Candidates who would like to take part in these trial Fixtures (which are listed in the Handbook along with all our other Game Fixtures) please contact Tim and offer to play in one or more of his Padel Tennis matches. At the end of the season the committee will decide whether formally to adopt Padel Tennis as a Jester Game.
Peter Dunne (President of the United States Jesters) reports for the United States. This past year has been a busy and successful one for the U.S. branch of the Jesters Club. In September, we had 150 U.S. Jesters and their spouses convene in New York City for our Annual Weekend. This year’s event was expertly Chaired by Liam Culman and Lex Miron and they were ably assisted by their local New York organizing committee of over 20 fellow Jesters. We were treated to the racquet games we love and support, golf and a number of exquisite social events. All of this at some of New York’s finest venues. This coming October, we will do it all over again in sunny Los Angeles under the leadership of Bob Mosier, John Dewis and Alan Fox.
In addition, we recently welcomed 20 new candidates for membership of our Club. Our newest potential Jesters represent every region of the United States as well as the games we support. This class is the second which includes Ladies. Our initial Lady candidates have been extremely well received over the past year and we look forward to all of our Lady members playing a larger role in the years to come. Bob Burton continues to successfully lead our membership efforts with the assistance of our Membership Committee.
One of our primary missions as a Club remains to support the games of squash, racquets and court tennis within the United States. This past year, we underwrote five collegiate squash singles events throughout the country. We were the title sponsor of the college doubles championships. We financially supported the U.S. Open in racquets held in Detroit and we sponsored the National League in court tennis. We look forward to offering a similar level of support to all of these games during the upcoming season.
Things were a bit quiet on the touring front for us this past year. However we are sending a team of 6 Jesters to Australia in November for a court tennis tour led by captain Eric Pearson. The U.S. Jesters have not sent a team to Australia in some time and this should be a remarkable experience for these fortunate enough to take advantage of this unique opportunity. We are also making preparations for our 2018 tour to South Africa. Our team of six will be captained by Alex Dean of San Francisco.
This past year has been a very enjoyable and successful one. We look forward to welcoming our newest members at our Annual Weekend in Los Angeles in October. At that event, I will be passing on my duties as President to Bob Mosier, my current Vice President. Despite stepping down, I will remain an active and engaged Jester for many years to come. It has been my privilege and honor to serve as President of the U.S. Jesters. Play Up!!
Jon LeHeup (Chairman of the Canadian Jesters) reports for Canada. I am pleased to report that this past year has been a very successful one for our Club. Our membership is as follows, across our regions-:
British Columbia: 86 active members and 5 retired.
Prairies: 64 active members and 4 retired.
Ontario: 157 active members.
Quebec: 57 active members and 7 retired.
Atlantic: 29 active members.
Overseas: 2 active members.
We received the South African touring side in September. As usual they sent a high spirited group who visited Halifax and Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Their exploits were posted on Facebook as they crossed the country.
The Ontario/Quebec Jesters University League grew to twenty-two men’s and women’s teams. You can keep abreast of what is happening in Ontario by going to http://ontariojestersclub.com/junior-development/jesters-university-squash-league-ontario-and-quebec We hope that this very successful and popular league will serve as a template for a similar league in western Canada.
The 2016 Lapham-Grant matches were hosted in New York City last April. Captain Norm Crook of Burlington led a strong Canadian side to the Big Apple with the men winning the Lapham Cup (singles), Grant Trophy (doubles) and Lawrence-Wilkins Trophy (+65). The United States won the Crawford Cup for women.
Our British Columbia annual events included the Jesters Doubles Tournament held in February, the June Doubles Calcutta and Golf Day followed by a casual dinner. The BC club also supports junior squash through sponsorship of two major junior tournaments and continues to raise funds for the 2020 Fund for junior squash.
The Prairies Jesters in Calgary hosted the University matches in March, for players in western Canada.
Garth Van Rensburg (Chairman of the South African Jesters) reports for South Africa. The Jesters Club is alive and well down on the Southern tip of Africa, given our extraordinary political shenanigans. The club continues to play a full program of matches against schools, universities and sporting clubs over the various regions. In September last year we sent a team across for a most successful tour to our friends in Canada and by all accounts, the hospitality rose to new levels. At the same time we played host to a very strong and youthful British team. The team highlighted the need for a youth initiative within the Jester group in our country. Their touring dates coincided with the World Masters Championships in Johannesburg. I am proud to say that, although not a Jester initiative, the tournament committee led by Chris and Jean Grainger, were all local Jesters. This just puts into perspective the role that our movement plays in giving back to Squash. During October we organised the 8th South African Jesters U 23 series with tournaments in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg. The tournament fills a problematic gap that has been identified for school leavers who are lost to the game after leaving school. On the advice of our National Champion, Steven Coppinger, the entry age was lowered to 14 years old, in order to follow the Egyptian strategy of blooding players at an early age. This year we had 262 entries and I must extend a big thank you to our Jester volunteers around the country. In line with our youth initiative, the Johannesburg chapter has linked up with the coaching and mentoring of the Egoli squash program. This organisation was formed by Jester Glenn Lazarus some years back and works with children in the inner city and townships. Their results have been phenomenal, and their ranks are now beginning to be a dominant force in South African junior squash. On a sombre note, many of those whom have visited us on Jester tours will recall being hosted by Erik Brotherton at his Knysna Hollow hotel. Sadly the hotel has been destroyed by the devastating fire raging in the Southern Cape area.
All the best to you all for a great sporting year!
Jonathan Buckley (Australian Representative) reports for Australia. The annual match with the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club was held in August. Twenty or so Jesters, RMTC members and their partners gathered in Richmond, playing and supporting six competitive matches. It was pleasing to welcome a number of RMTC members, who were addressed by this correspondent on some of the Jesters history and our approach to the game. A supper of poached salmon followed by bread and butter pudding with RMTC Rutherglen muscat, ensured a happy evening which continued into the late hours.
We now have Australian Jesters in Melbourne, Ballarat, Hobart, Romsey and Sydney. A tennis, golf and cultural trip to Tasmania was planned in the year, but had to be deferred and we look forward to a fixture at Ballarat next year.
The Australian Real Tennis Jesters have fond memories of a tour to the USA a few years ago. We are looking forward to reciprocating American hospitality this year. In November, the US Jesters will tour Australia, around the time of the Melbourne Cup Racing Carnival. Tennis in Melbourne, Ballarat and Hobart is planned, plus golf at Melbourne’s sandbelt courses and lawn tennis at Kooyong.
The Australian Real Tennis Jesters section reports no deaths this year. We intend to nominate more new members in 2017, to spread the activity of the branch across Australia.
The Hon. Secretary has been informed during the year of the sad loss of the following UK and Overseas Jesters:
Prof. David Arnold (1982), Jerry Cooper (1984), John Hoad (1985), Nigel J Kempner (1987), Robert Montgomerie (1961),
Martin Pedler (1978), Hugh Pigott (1953), Simon Stevens (1991), J M Tyrrell (1964).