“Oh, he’s been the very model of a modern……Jesters secretary

WS Gilbert may have been referring to the Major General in Pirates of Penzance but he might equally have been referring to Michael Rowan who served as an exemplary honorary secretary to your club for the last 21 years before his retirement last autumn. Michael throughout that period has not only kept us on the straight and narrow but much more than that has gently guided us into the 21st­century whilst maintaining the ethos and standards of our club and its founder. Throughout his period of office, Michael, as you would expect from a true Oxford man, has been a veritable polymath. He has punctiliously run our committee meetings, written the most entertaining and brilliant annual reports, upheld our rules and procedures (but with a Jesterly flexibility where required!), has run our annual golf day at Huntercombe, has, with Selvy, entertained numerous visiting touring teams, has played in and run various real tennis fixtures (the match against the Ladies was a particular favourite of his), has liaised with and assisted our overseas branches and has faithfully kept in contact with all our members particularly our older members with whom we might otherwise have lost touch. All in all, he is a very hard act to follow and we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. In true Jesterly spirit, Michael has not wished us to celebrate his achievement in the way he deserved but you will be pleased to hear that he continues to run our golf day. I doubt that his successor Paul Lubbock will have the same command of “matters vegetable, animal and mineral” or know what is the meaning of “mamelon” or “ravelin” but Paul has accepted the challenge cheerfully and with an enthusiasm for technology (in stark contrast to your hapless scribe!).

As you will see from below, sadly many old friends both here and abroad are no longer with us but happily the club continues to flourish, with new members aplenty and with more members participating in matches and club events than ever before. From those early beginnings in December 1928, we now, approaching our 90th birthday, boast over 220 matches a season between our various sports here in the UK, evidence, I believe, that we remain a successful playing club with a splendid mixture of youth and experience throughout our ranks. If not all our results find their way into the records, our founder, Jock, would not have minded as, for him, the object of the club was not to notch up rows of successes but rather to promote a feeling of friendship and good sportsmanship amongst members and opponents alike. Jock never wanted the Jesters to be important (nor hopefully has it become so); he merely intended that we should play our games” in a spirit not unworthy of the name of the club”. It is a fitting tribute to him that, in these days of professionalism, the club continues to be as relevant and influential today as it was in those early years. In his view “membership is a badge of sportsmanship to be worn lightly but with pride and honour”.

Whenever a touring side is visiting, we kick off their tour with one of our traditional weekends at Cambridge and this we did when the Canadians were here last September. Full details of their tour are annexed to the Canadian report; suffice to say that they were excellent and indefatigable tourists and a very good time was had by all! These Cambridge weekends, where we stay in college, are great mixed occasions; there are sports galore for those who can manage it, eating and drinking in some style (at which everyone seems quite talented) and even some culture and history (through the good offices of the venerable Chrimes). The next one is in September 2019 (6 to 8 September) when we will be welcoming the Australian real tennis Jesters so do please put the date in your diary and come ( with our Australian friends playing, the standard of tennis in the weekend tournament will be even higher than it normally is!).

The traditional start to our season is the annual Strawson Memorial evening where all our sports play matches against their national associations and Queens is full to bursting thereafter for the ensuing excellent dinner. This annual jamboree this year is on Tuesday 9 October so do please book early, as last year we could not fit everyone in. Our AGM takes place at Queens at the same time; all are welcome and democracy rules at it ( this is your chance to air any concerns or grievances you have) but to date the attraction of playing sport and/or drinking the wine on offer seems to ensure that the meeting seldom lasts for more than a few minutes.

The Royal Automobile Club has very kindly hosted our annual dinner and committee meetings for countless years; we are fortunate indeed to be able to count it as our spiritual home. It houses our various trophies together now with the splendid portrait of our patron by Alex Chamberlin. It also hosts the annual Jesters squash tournament (which effectively replaced the Amateur Championships many years ago); this continues to be run by our eternally young octogenarian Peter Chalk (who is not allowed to retire from this role, as he does it so well). This was as well supported as ever across the age groups and Steve Richardson is to be congratulated yet again on winning the trophy; he is an example to us all!

Our annual dinner took place in early March and was the usual full house; our guest speaker was Lord Archer who entertained us to a most amusing and charming speech. He may live in a house called Writers Bloc but certainly does not have that affliction when speaking!

The details of last season are set out below in the reports from our various games representatives and you will note that these include one from Tim Edwards in respect of Padel tennis. Historically the club’s official sports have been limited to “games in courts with walls” and, as it qualifies on this count and after some due consideration by the committee, Padel has now been added to our fixture list as a Jesters sport in the UK. There are also included the reports from our overseas branches (so splendid and fulsome was the Canadian report that, on the grounds of space, we have had to remove from it their excellent UK tour report in the hope that it may be at accessed separately by a link).

Paul Robbins reports for UK Squash.With the nation gripped by football fever, I sit down to right this report on a sweltering London evening, Wimbledon is on the television, England are in a quarter final of a football World Cup and London is being attacked by a swarm of flying ants.

As I look back on my musings from last year I am reminded that in September the UK Jesters welcomed the Canadian tourists to British shores for a 16­day tour that involved visits to London, Cambridge, Sussex, Hampshire, Oxford, Berkshire and finally Dublin. The Canadians brought a crack team of middle aged men and glamorous wives and partners for an action-packed trip around the British Isles. There were too many highlights to list but playing tennis on the courts of the All England Club was noted as particularly special as was meeting the many Jesters that attended the Cambridge weekend. Special thanks must go to all the Jesters who put so much time and effort into organising the tour in what I know is a completely unique experience.

By the time this report goes to print the northern Jesters will have embarked on their mini tour to Hong Kong; we wish them well in what should be a fantastic trip.

The 2017/18 season also saw the Jesters play a squash match against the royal household at Buckingham Palace in what was a wonderful experience for all involved. As well as the experience of playing on the Royal court, the team were privileged enough to be given a short tour of the Palace and entertained by our hosts in one of the Palaces formal lounges. I know that all that were in attendance reflected on how fortunate they were to be a part of such a special event.

In other news, congratulations to Jon Gliddon and Jamie Shewbrook for completing the 6 day, 156 mile Marathon des Sables ultra­marathon in the Sahara Desert, running through endless dunes, rocky jebels and white­hot salt plains all in 50 degree heat. They clearly breed Jesters tough in the West Country, we are all intrigued to see what the next challenge is for them both!

Alex Illingworth (and Ronald Pattison) report for Eton Fives.I cannot claim to have a totally accurate record of games played but I can certainly attest to many occasions when the Jesters were triumphant. It must be said though that from time to time having 4 jesters on court did aid our ability to ‘win’.

I think over the years we have developed a more nuanced approach to what constitutes success, with our basis firmly in the enjoyment camp. I hope we continued to deliver that brand of fives. Myself and Ronald Pattison have taken much pleasure from the whole season, seeing a number of new players contribute significantly and a strong contribution from our female contingent.

The number of games continues to creep up and I encourage anyone who would like to play or organise or suggest new ideas to be in touch. One solid piece of progress this year has been a firmer footing at Cambridge. Traditionally we have struggled to raise sides at that wonderful venue, but with the ambition and tenacity of Nick Preston I think we are once and for all getting there.

Finally a big thank you to Ronald for again steering us through the season successfully and to you all for helping make it fun. That is, after all, what matters.

Charlie Brooks reports for Rugby Fives. Once again, we’ve come to the end of a very enjoyable year in the Rugby Fives world. This was thanks to a mixture of close matches, a diverse age range and a Jesterly spirit, which have all become commonplace in the RF season. The Strawson match, led nobly once again by Dick Warner, encapsulated this perfectly it contained the now­ obligatory mixture of youth and experience to produce another very tight result, with a great dinner afterwards. It seems that every match report I received this season followed this pattern.

You will remember that last season’s was the final ‘Akerman’ Edinburgh Tour, so this year was to be something of an unknown… Would there be a dip in numbers, a reduction in cajoling, fewer matches? Not a chance another season, another hugely successful Edinburgh tour! David Butler and Ben Hale skilfully stepped up to the mark and quelled all nervousness. The schools, universities and clubs were all treated to the customary Jesterliness throughout. Most impressively, they managed to attract a record touring party (38) and continued the increase in the number of female players.

As ever, a huge thanks to all those playing in and organising our fixtures. Our match managers as always have done a great job at encouraging more players onto the courts and we are growing our members better than ever. Please do get in touch if you would like to play or would like to organise a new fixture (inspired by the resounding success of Butler and Hale) – volunteers are always welcome!

Alastair Gourlay reports for Rackets. The 2017/2018 season kicked off with the annual Strawson versus T&RA held at the Queens Club, organised by Simon Kverndal. The match saw two pairs battle it out, with Jamie Giddins and Nick Hopcroft (1st Pairs) and James Blackburn and James Bingham (2nd Pairs) representing the Jesters. The 1st pairs narrowly won beating Nick James and Rory Giddins. Continuing throughout the season many more matches were played throughout against schoolboys, old boy clubs and school masters ranging from Bristol to Haileybury, including a first at Cheltenham College where Mike Henman and James Blackburn took on the all­female pair of Rose Jones and India Deakin. The Jesters racketeers welcomes this pairing and although they lost 15­9, 15­8 we hope that more female fixtures can be added to the calendar.

Other highlights in the season were Jester Leah Van Der Zwalmen retaining her British Open Singles title and Jesters candidate, Tom Billings challenge for the world singles title against James Stout in New York and the Queens Club. Although unsuccessful in knocking Stout off his perch this time, he will in the up­coming season have a shot at dethroning him and his American Jester partner, Jonathon Larken in the world doubles having won right with his partner to challenge. We would like to wish him the best for this crunch match. Additional highlights were James Coyne and his partner Alex Duncliff­Vines winning the British Amateur Doubles championship against Jesters, Nick James and Mike Bailey.

I would like to thank all the match managers who worked tirelessly to put together teams to play in the various fixtures, but in particular Bruce Burnett who has been on a recruitment drive throughout various schools and we look forward to welcoming his recruits.

Serve up and Play for the 2018/2019 season!

Adam Dolman reports for Tennis. The men and ladies of The Jesters Club’s real tennis section have enjoyed another season representing the club over almost 30 matches at courts countrywide.

The season kicked off in style as usual with the inaugural Brigands Peripatetic Handicap Doubles weekend at Hardwick, effortlessly organised as ever by Malcolm Thorp. Thanks to Fred Satow for yet again getting a pair together to represent the Jesters. I’m not sure who won it in the end but a fun weekend was had by all.

After the Frank Strawson Memorial Evening and annual match against the LRTA at Hardwick, our attention turned to Bridport. Jamie Turner, who continues to do a sterling job in raising at least one side (perhaps two!) for the Jesters fixture against the Hyde TC, deserves huge praise and thanks for all his help and hard work over the years.

November saw the return of the oldest fixture (and match manager) in the book as the Jesters travelled to the MCC for yet another helping of Brian Sharp induced mayhem. And shortly after, John Burnett once again did a fantastic job organising the Jock Burnett Cambridge Weekend for us all. I must thank also give a special shout out to Ben Grose, who after years unerringly wrangling the troops for the match against Hatfield, has handed the mantle on to Minty Oldham going forward. Thank you Ben for all your diligent support over the years.

As ever, may thanks to Simon Sanders up at Jesmond Dene and Corin Jenkins over at MURTC for your never-ending support, along with the Queens Club, who kindly play host to an array of fixtures. We’re also indebted to the Harrisons for resurrecting the Leamington match (and travelling all the way down from Newcastle to organise the fixture!) and I’m thrilled to announce the return of the Moreton match, under the watchful eye of new recruit Chris Kroeger and the Oxford match, thanks to Fred Satow. Great to have those fixtures back up and running.

The biggest thank you though this year goes out to Peter Flood. Peter has tirelessly served the Jesters over many years, organising matches against the Army and Newmarket religiously and, to my knowledge, has never failed to get a side together over all these years. It is with great sadness (although I’m sure some relief too) that he has handed both these fixtures over to the Tomalins. Thank you Peter for everything you’ve done for the Jesters.

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.

Tim Edwards reports for Padel. This year was a ‘trial’ period for padel tennis as a Jesters sport and there were around 15 matches played, both official and more ‘spontaneous’ fixtures as new clubs and courts seem to be opening every month. The Frank Strawson Memorial match took place at The Harbour Club against British Padel and resulted in a tied match and all the matches were fun and very sociable with many Jesters keen to play and increase their knowledge of the sport. The fixture at Prested Hall allowed a combined real tennis and padel match and there are more of these type of matches planned for next year, both with real tennis and also squash in Guernsey and Edinburgh. The increased popularity of padel together with the very enjoyable Jesters fixtures and the suitability of the sport has meant that the Committee voted recently to admit padel tennis as a new Jesters sport in the UK.

Robert Mosier (President of the United States Jesters) reports for the United States. The U.S. branch of the Jesters remains a very active and engaged group. Currently we have approximately 481 members including nine members living outside of the United States. This past month, we elected a class of thirteen new members representing all regions within the United States. The class included one new woman member bringing the total of women members to twelve. A majority of the newly elected Jesters came to us through the squash world however there is a slight uptick with more racquets and court tennis players becoming Jesters.

The geographic diversity of our branch continues to expand. While we still count New York City and Philadelphia as our two largest contingents, this year’s additions came from San Francisco, CA, Denver, CO, St. Louis, MO, Chicago, IL, Richmond, VA, Charleston, NC, Charlottesville, VA, Washington DC, Newport, RI, and Colorado Springs, CO.

James Zug, Jr. is our U.S. Representative and continues to act as our trusted advisor. In addition to our Executive Committee (listed in the Jesters handbook), we have assembled a Review Committee consisting of ten formidable Jester members (many past Jester Presidents and others in leadership positions within the larger racquets community) to review and update our processes for (a) membership selection, (b) our governing bylaws and (c) our mission statement. The bylaws were last updated in 1975. Proposed amendments will be submitted to the entire U.S. membership for approval, a process that will culminate during our annual weekend in St. Louis, Missouri in late September 2018.

In other advances, we anticipate having a new website up and running this summer. It is expected that the website will allow members to sign up for events like the annual weekend, pay dues and purchase haberdashery, in addition to containing membership data on each Jester. We now have racquet oriented bios on approximately half of our membership and these will be posted on the web with restricted access to the U.S. membership.

The U.S Jesters Club has also just published volume 3 of the U.S. Jesters Magazine that is distributed to our entire membership. The magazine has added clarity purpose to our mission and activities.

The U.S. branch of the Jesters Club also continues its active support and underwriting of the games we love. Under David Adam’s leadership, the U.S. Jesters coordinated with U.S. Squash to host six intercollegiate non­varsity squash round robin tournaments throughout the United States for approximately thirty colleges and universities. We have identified this as an area in which we can have a very positive impact. The U.S. Jesters are also the title sponsor for the squash collegiate doubles championships and have been so for the past six years. In addition, we help underwrite the U.S. Open in racquets and the National League in court tennis. We are committed to looking at the possibility of establishing a 501(c) (3) organization (tax exempt) for the purpose of attracting donor tax deductible donation to add further financial support to our racquet games.

The highlight of our calendar continues to be the Annual Weekend. This past year (2017), it was held in Los Angeles. About 80 Jesters and their spouses convened for three days of social events, culture outings, golf and of course the games we all love and support. This year, the Annual Weekend will be held in St. Louis September 26 – 30. The venues and Jesterly camaraderie is expected to be first rate.

We had a real tennis tour visit to Australia for six Jesters and their significant others. This has been described in some detail in a 6,000 word report in volume 3 of the U.S. Jesters Magazine.

This September, a U.S. squash group will tour South Africa for a three week adventure.

All in all, the U.S. Jesters chapter in the U.S. is alive and well with a full agenda that denotes progress.

Jon LeHeup (Chairman of the Canadian Jesters) reports for Canada. I am pleased to report that this past year has been a successful one for our Club. It included a tour to the UK & Ireland about which more can be read on the main Jesters website.

The Ontario/Quebec Jesters University continues to grow. You can keep abreast of what is happening by going to­development/jesters­university­squash­league­ontario­and­quebec

The 2017 Lapham­Grant matches were hosted in Calgary in April 2017. Captain Rob Birrell and his committee are to be commended for putting on a first class event.

Our British Columbia annual events included the Jesters Doubles Tournament held in February, the June Doubles Calcutta and Golf Day followed by an informal dinner plus the formal Christmas dinner and the Fall and Spring meetings. The BC club also supports junior squash in the province through direct financial sponsorship of two major junior tournaments, having a representative on the provincial Junior Development Committee and liaising with Squash BC on development opportunities. We were a major sponsor for the 2017 Canadian National Junior Tournament held in West Vancouver. We also continue to raise money for the 2020 Fund, which supports provincial junior development programs, by donating the proceeds from the Jesters Doubles Tournament and the Doubles Calcutta events.

The Prairies Jesters in Calgary hosted the University matches in March, for players in western Canada.

The Ontario Jesters AGM plus a doubles event with16 teams and a Christmas luncheon were held at the Cricket Club and was a great success. The Barry Grant “Jester of the Year” award went to Jamie Nicholls, Executive Director at Squash Ontario, who has enhanced the partnership in our sponsored development programs. Working with Alex Carter and Jeff Deverill to manage the exceptional growth of the University League, he has coordinated more effective value for our junior program support.

The Quebec Jesters (in both the Montreal and Gatineau/Ouatouais regions) continued their primary mission of supporting junior and university squash during the 2017­2018 season. Local Jesters also contributed time and effort in coaching Quebec’s promising young players, organizing tournaments and other events, and encouraging the participation of young Quebec players in local and national tournaments.

The Atlantic region hosted the Atlantic Junior Jesters Squash camp in July 2017 at the six­court Moncton Squash facility with juniors from around the region participating along with top squash coaching, mingled in with summer beach experiences.

Receiving tours in 2019 from the UK and in 2020 from South Africa are on our radar.

Garth Van Rensburg (Chairman of the South African Jesters) reports for South Africa. The Jester movement on the Southern tip of South Africa is doing well in 2018. Our eight regions are in good hands and busy with their match programs as the year develops. The Fixture program has been busy with matches against schools, universities and sociable clubs. Most rewarding has been the Gauteng regions ongoing involvement with the Egoli Junior Development program which is run by Jester Glen Lazarus. The local Jester group has been instrumental from inception in giving assistance with mentorship, coaching and sponsorship and it has been a delight to watch many of these young players from disadvantaged backgrounds, not only develop, but also to the current scenario where their squad is beginning to dominate both Gauteng and national junior squash. The SA Jester’s National Uner­23 series (an idea that we stole from our Canadian cousins some years back) is almost completed with the Eastern Cape, Natal and Gauteng legs played and awaiting the Cape Town chapter to hold the final tournament. The idea is to select a 6­person representative squad to do an internal tour of South Africa in the second half of 2018 and gain experience playing against senior provincial teams.

Jonathan Buckley (Australian Representative) reports for Australia. In late 2017, twenty new Jesters were elected to the Australian ranks, of which eight play in Hobart and three are our first Australian female Jesters.

A highlight of the year was the US tour of Australia in November 2017, held at an iconic time in Melbourne. The tour covered Melbourne and Hobart and, in addition to the tennis, there was hardly a spare moment. Lunch by the rails at the Melbourne Cup, Oaks Day cocktails at the Melbourne Club, vineyards in the Yarra Valley and golf at Royal Melbourne, before the Hobart leg took our visitors to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), lawn tennis at Government House and a historical degustation tour of members’ homes around Battery Point. The US team was led by Eric Pearson and Kyle, with Peter Dunne, Ebin Hardie and Mimi, Patrick Miller, Jay Hatcher and Libby, Allen Post and Katie. All are accomplished racket players yet, of the six tourists, only one lives in a state with a real tennis court.

With fresh memories from hosting our new American friends, there is great anticipation for the Australian tour of the UK in September 2019.

During the year matches are planned in Melbourne, Hobart, Ballarat and also a game with the Melbourne Cricket Club real tennis section.

Vale Geoff Hiller. Geoff was a founding member of the Australian Jesters Club branch, the epitome of the Jesters ethos and awarded Cambridge University colours in 1966. He was instrumental in the growth of real tennis in Australia and is missed by his RMTC and Jester friends.

The President has been informed during the year of the sad loss of the following UK and Overseas Jesters:

Gordon Ashby (SA, elected 1998), Duncan Beardmore­Gray (UK, 1949), Dr. Peter S. Bennett (UK, 1980), Bryan Bliss (UK, 1971), Andrew Cowie (UK, 1971), John W. Doyle (UK, 1962), Peter Eagles (SA, 1985), Bill Emmett (SA, 1962), Dr. John B. Evans (UK, 1957), Neville Francois (SA, 1983), Seth French (US, 1987), Tony Baden Fuller (UK, 1959), Dr. Peter Gautier­Smith (UK, 1952), Herbert Gross (US, 1976), Peter Harris (UK, 1955), M.J. Harrison (UK, 1962), John Hentz (US), Geoff Hiller (Aus, 1999), Don Leggat (Canada, 1958), Anthony Mason (UK, 1993), Paul Monaghan (US), John Nelson­Jones (UK, 1957), Rex Pennington (SA, 1948), Charles Perkins (US, 1984), Malcolm Pollard (SA, 1978), Frederick Prince (US, 2000), Mike Rosholt (SA), Norman Rosser (UK, 1952), Gavin Roynon (UK, 1956), Stephen Sayer (UK, 1981), Col. Anthony J. Shaw (UK, 1965), Martin Smith (SA, 2002), David Smout (UK, 1963), The Rt. Hon. Lord Stewartby (UK, 1961), Arthur Sutton (UK, 1962), Richard Waller (SA, 1987), E. Walsh (US, 1992), R.J.L. Williams (UK, 1990), David Williamson (UK), Sir Keith Williamson (UK, 1964), J. Young (US, 1989).

The Jesters Club website is at: (User Name: jester Password: jock)