Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’ Alfred Lord Tennyson
Well, it couldn’t be much worse, I hear you say! Nonetheless, although last year was clearly mainly a fallow one in terms of our activities and sports, you will see from the following reports across our games and constituent nations that it did prove possible for some contests and events to take place. With the advantage of being outdoors, some Padel was played both at home and abroad (at Montrose House, Edinburgh, Johannesburg and Philadelphia, inter alia), the British Columbia Jesters managed their annual Jesters handicap doubles tournament just before Covid struck, as did Quebec’s university squash league, the Hong Kong Jesters played some matches against the odds,
the South African Jesters replaced their annual dinner with an outdoor sports day, AGM and braai and Down Under they squeezed in a triangular match at the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club before lockdown and, having been released from their shackles before the rest of us, were on court again both in Ballarat this February and playing another triangular match at RMTC in March (the ensuing duck supper sounding particularly enticing to those of us not yet permitted to attend such events). So, amidst the gloom, some green shoots have been apparent and hope for better things to come abounds. Our fixture list for next season is restored, the annual Strawson-Vaughan evening at Queens is due to take place on 12th October (do please attend if you can) and, for those who are able to travel, why not join the US Jesters in Philadelphia for their annual weekend immediately thereafter!
As you know, as a club we do not in general have many overheads and, in such a barren year as last year, we had next to none. Whereas normally our annual income and expenditure are broadly balanced, this last year we generated a healthy surplus and, as a result, the committee decided to use this to support various worthwhile Jester causes, with particular emphasis on those who may be under privileged or do not otherwise have access to our wonderful games. Members were asked for their proposals as to what causes we should support and a fulsome response was received from many of you. In the event, our chairman Stephen Finch and Nick Brown, with the assistance of the Games Representatives, exercised the judgement of Solomon in deciding what donations should be made to whom and we are very grateful for their efforts. Those benefitting were Squash Squared and Rackets Cubed for Squash, the Dedanist Foundation for Real Tennis, the Queen’s Club Foundation for Rackets, the Eton Fives Charitable Trust for Eton Fives, the Rugby Fives Association for Rugby Fives and the Go Padel Foundation for Padel; it is hoped that our modest contributions can make a small difference and we were only sorry that we were unable to support all of our members’ suggestions.
Sadly, various of the overseas tours have had to be postponed and rearranged but the international committee are working hard to adjust the rota so that, travel restrictions permitting, touring can start again soon.
of Edinburgh. Having become a member in 1948 and our Patron since 1954, he was always a great supporter of our club and its sporting ethos. He delighted all of those present when he attended our annual dinner at the RAC in 2017. Having been warned beforehand that he might not wish to speak and that we should not tire him, he entertained us with a delightful impromptu speech, reminiscing about playing squash in the Navy during and after the war and extolling the beneficial effects (particularly for the young) of playing amateur sport for fun.
He was awarded the Jester of the Year trophy at that dinner (this being the magnificent Cybis porcelain Jester figure donated to us by the US Jesters and housed at the RAC) which he was relieved that he did not have to take home, as he feared he would probably drop it! In true Jester fashion, he stayed on after the dinner to chew the cud with those present (much to the concern of his staff) and said, if necessary, he could easily walk home. It was a privilege to have him as our Patron and he, together with our other deceased members, will be greatly missed.
Millicent Martin (for those of you old enough to recall the TV satirical series TW3) always concluded each programme with the song “that was the week that was, it’s over, let it go”. I think the same could be said for the whole of last year but, for the forthcoming year, we are all determined to prove Lord Tennyson right!
Paul Robbins reports for UK Squash. I sit down to right this report on a wet overcast London day, Novak Djokovic has just won his 20th grand slam title and England have just lost the European Championship football final on penalties, both feel very familiar!
What a year it has been, with no squash being played there is very little fodder to report on. From my minimum interactions with the Jesters squash community this year it seems there is a wide variety of coping mechanisms for “lock down”. Some of the fitter and more committed among us have been jogging, sprinting and ghosting with others of us indulging in a training regime that mostly consists of eating and drinking. I have to admit that I have fallen firmly into the latter camp, I don’t think my heart rate has been above 80bpm since March 2020 so I am looking forward to the new squash season with an equal dose of excitement and trepidation.
Thanks to Henry Prideaux’s excellent work we have in excess of 80 matches scheduled for the coming season. 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 for election and those that have played their 3 matches to send their results in and importantly pay the annual sub to become fully elected.
Hopefully the coming season will see us return to normal and I think that everyone will appreciate their sport a little bit more now. I hope everyone has a fantastic summer and I look forward to seeing many of you soon.
Ronald Pattison and Will Skjøtt report for Eton Fives. Sadly with no matches taking place last season, we took the opportunity to flag up a few notable extracts from Eton Fives Jesters reports from previous years:
1946/7 Seven matches being played as against none a year ago. W.P. Shovelton is now looking after the Club’s interests.
1948/9 The Club “comes of age,” having played its first Rugby Fives match at the end of 1928, and so is due to celebrate its 21st birthday during next season.
1954 P.B.H. May sat on the Committee along with Ramen Subba Row (n.b. still a Jester). J.W.H. May was the Games Rep as P.B.H. May was abroad and the Kinnaird Final was an all Jesters affair. Kittermaster and Moulsdale (also still a Club member) vs. Strickland and Philips (still a Club member).
1955 A new match vs. the Old Stoics.
1956 One match cancelled due to petrol shortage.
1963 The Club donated £100 to the EFA to help the development of a new process for the manufacture of Fives balls. This led to the new process being approved in 1964.
1965 In January an EFA team with support from the Club visited Nigeria. During the tour the Jesters in the team played the first Jesters Eton Fives match in Nigeria at Kano against a local side which was drawn 2-2.
1973 Fives flourishes and evidence of this was the Eton Fives tour to Zuoz in Switzerland which D.J.S. Guilford led last summer.
1975 Rather less good fortune attended the final of the Amateur Championships for the Kinnaird Cup however, which was won by default,
albeit for the eighth time, by members A. Hughes and A.J.G. Campbell. D.C. Firth, one of their opponents and last year’s winner with G.S.
May had a road accident just before the final and broke his ankle.
1978 The Kinnaird Cup was an unfortunate anti-climax: the 1976/7 winners, member D.C. Firth and M.R. Keeling, were forced to retire in the final when Keeling sustained a serious but happily not permanent eye injury. Commiserations are due to Firth: this is the second time in three years that he has been compelled by injury to concede the final.
1982 One year, to do justice to what really happens in the Fives’ world, the writer will insist that this Report is written by a Fives player.
1983 There was an excellent turn-out at last season’s Dinner at the RAC in March (119 in total) and Brian McGivem and Rodney Knight are again to be congratulated on organizing a splendid evening.
1984 The Eton Fives section reports a full season having been enjoyed by all those who participated with the highlight as usual being the Kinnaird Cup at Eton which was won by member Brian Matthews and candidate John Reynolds. Note: Reynolds is now our Eton Fives most senior playing member.
1997 Robin Mason reports: We have had five fixtures at Aldenham, not least because it is a particular pleasure to play against the Heath. The games are always closely fought, but the greatest challenge lies in beating Martin Lindsay to the post-match sandwiches.
2001 We are awaiting the completion this year of the four new courts at Westway which will provide a wonderful easily accessible facility in London.
2003 Anthony Wagg reports: The new courts at Westway are now in operation and Ronald Pattison ….. has set up a very successful turn-up-and-play on Monday evenings at which a number of Jesters will always be found.
2007 Alex Illingworth Reports: I am delighted to report that the Jesters Club has made a grant of £5,000 to the Eton Fives Association to assist them with continued development of the interactive facility on their website, and to assist with the sponsorship of tournaments for the younger age groups.
2010 Alex reports: This last season saw the Jesters sponsor a side to play at an overseas venue. This is a first in my memory of Jesters fixtures. The destination was the increasingly popular Eton Fives court complex at Grillon in Provence, hosted by Nigel Cox. This was an enjoyable and well contested fixture and one which we will now seek to make a regular occurrence. Note: Nigel, a Jester since 1968 has hosted many Eton Fives tours to his courts in Provence since 2006 and many a Jester has taken part.
2013 Alex reports: The new season brings in particular one new significant opportunity that we have been waiting for during our whole playing careers. This is of course the building and completion of the new courts at Cambridge.
2015 Alex and Ronald report: One feature we feel worth mentioning is the growing contribution from Lady Jesters and from Candidates.
Their involvement has done much more than just improve the Club’s diversity of players; it has increased the enjoyment, the appeal and in many cases the quality, of our matches.
2016 A and R report: We are encouraged that this season we are not stopping our season as Spring arrives, but thanks to Will Skjøtt, we participated in the Westway Summer Super League. Thanks to some rather excellent and entertaining play, this format of the game suited the club. So much so that we emerged victors of the competition.
2017 A and R report: In particular we are keen to continue to support the marvelous new Cambridge courts. Nick Preston has been instrumental in building up this venue and we hope in particular that Jesters will support either or both of our Cambridge fixtures venues this year.
2019 A reports: Epitomising the levelling nature of our great game was the man I considered our senior Jester. He was a member of the club for 72 years. The passing of Michael Constantinidi will be rightly mentioned in the corridors of Eton Fives, but let it be said here that his contribution to the game in general, and to our dear Club was immeasurable.
2020 R and Will report: The Strawson-Vaughan Memorial match, always an enjoyable event with the dinner at The Queen’s Club, helped kick off the season. The EF players, having played their match at Westway Sports Centre are put under such pressure to be at dinner on time that we are now usually the first to be seated! Many thanks to Joseph Seelig for providing his usual brilliant match report on the night.
We sincerely hope that Club matches will resume in the forthcoming 2021-2022 season.
Ben Hale reports for Rugby Fives. As with almost everything else the 2020-21 Rugby Fives matches were lost to the pandemic.
However, we are beginning to return to court and have planned a full set of matches for 2021-22. The RFA’s tournament schedule took a similar hit in 2020-21 but with the help of the Jesters’ pandemic grants they will be staging both the missed 2020 and 2021 National Schools tournaments later this summer along with the postponed 2021 British Universities tournament and an expanded North of England Junior Rugby Fives festival.
Elsewhere, it was wonderful to see the downtime used to carry out further refurbishment work on the courts at the Edinburgh Academy, Merchiston, Loretto and Stoke Newington. A further grant from the Jesters will contribute towards the next phase. Here’s to an exciting season ahead!
Alastair Gourlay reports for Rackets. The 2020/2021 rackets season will be forgotten. In fact it will be pretty hard to remember as no matches were actually played. The only thing we will remember, will be “it was the winter of no sport.” But, that is not to say that nothing good or Jesterly has come out of it. For at the end of this dark tunnel a light has shone. With the surplus of subscription fees from our membership, the Rackets arm of the Jesters is delighted to announce that a donation of £2,500 will be made to The Queen’s Club Foundation
to support their Rackets program. This is aimed to supporting individuals and their aspirations via providing grants to help them achieve their full potential. We hope that this donation will create a possible future Men’s and/or Ladies’ World Champion but more importantly broaden our reach to players whom might not know about the Jesters and in doing so encourage them to become Jesters. Onwards to our next season. Play!
Adam Dolman reports for Tennis. As I’m sure none of you need reminding, there was a small obstacle standing in the way of our Real Tennis fixtures this season, which very sadly resulted in all of our matches having to be cancelled, despite great efforts from match managers and clubs alike to try and get games back up and running safely. It’s obviously been a frustrating time for all Real Tennis players and whilst we’ve been able to get back on court in a limited capacity over the last year, I know we’re all thoroughly looking forward to getting back to playing matches, enjoying a glass of wine together in the dedans and listening to Brian Sharp’s musings over a good lunch.
The pandemic and subsequent lack of activities and dinners has however had a positive effect on the clubs finances. And following Nick Brown’s wonderful idea to repurpose the surplus into areas of our sports that need it the most, I’m delighted that the Jesters have been able to give the Dedanist Foundation £5,000. The intention is to implement a series of junior clinics/outreach sessions that the Dedanists’ Foundation can deliver to Real Tennis clubs notably outside of London. The donation will give the Jesters Club Founder Member status, a more significant legacy in support of the Foundation and junior Real Tennis that goes beyond 2020. Fingers crossed for a brighter and busier 2021/22 season.
Tim Edwards reports for Padel. The few matches that were able to be played were extremely enjoyable and competitive. There are now many Jesters playing Padel at the ever increasing number of courts. Weybridge PC fielded the usual strong team which resulted in a very high standard of Padel. The Hurlingham Club kindly hosted the Jesters on their single court, soon to be expanded to three courts. After lockdown ended there was a very enjoyable match at West Hants with a BBQ after.
Many Jesters were kindly entertained whenever possible at the Jesters ‘spiritual home of Padel’, Montrose House and an extremely enjoyable match and delicious lunch was had at Chris Stone’s court near Horsham, a fantastic setting for Padel.
Now with the backing of the LTA there will soon be more than 100 courts around the country and the sport is becoming increasingly popular. Should any Jesters be interested in trying Padel there will be a regular weekly Jesters get-together in Chiswick.
Marshall Pagon (President of the U.S. Jesters) reports for the United States. The U.S. branch is charting a return to normalcy after a fifteen-month hiatus in most club activities necessitated by the pandemic. Needless to say, there is much work to be done and, for many of us, weight to be lost, conditioning to be regained and sedentary habits given up!
We are looking forward to our 2021 Annual Weekend scheduled for October 14th – 17th in Philadelphia. Our focal point will be the magnificent new Arlen Specter US National Squash Center with its 18 singles courts (including two glass exhibition courts), two North American doubles courts (painted blue to offer better contrast for TV viewing) and one international doubles court (a rarity in North America). The weekend will include golf at Pine Valley and Merion Golf, as well as a full day of traditional Jester games (squash, real tennis and rackets) at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, and – for the first time at a US Jesters annual weekend – an afternoon of padel. (A silver
lining of public health restrictions on play of our indoor Jester games over the past year has been that padel has taken the Philadelphia Jesters by storm. There were no padel courts in Philadelphia two years ago; there are three now; and eight more soon to be added) It should be a memorable weekend.
Our other current initiatives include:
- The organization and launch of a US Jesters charitable foundation (the brainchild of Peter Dunne, Addison Lanier and Patrick Miller) to enable our membership a tax deductible means of offering support to all of our Jester games and allied organizations;
- Further development, under Christina Brownell’s leadership, of our involvement in and support of collegiate “club” squash programs as a means to assisting them on the path to full varsity status;
- An effort, spearheaded by Alex Dean and Liam Culman, to significantly expand our US fixtures and tours with the goal of having a fulsome
schedule of local, regional and national Jester events throughout the calendar year;
- The continued expansion of our online presence (maintained by Preston Quick, with the assistance of US Squash, on their Club Locker IT platform) to improve the depth and timeliness of communication with our membership and enable us to increase the variety of haberdashery and other goods and services we may present to them.
Our Membership Committee, under the able stewardship of former Membership Chair (and now Vice President) Bob Burton and current Membership Chair (and former President) Addison Lanier, have approved the admission of sixteen new members, including four women, hailing from eleven states. As a group, they mirror the best characteristics of our membership – junior, collegiate and age group champions in squash and real tennis who are leaders in their communities in supporting our Jester games and in opening the door of opportunity to the
less fortunate through the agency of sport.
In sum, the U.S. Jesters have weathered the pandemic with aplomb, our finances are healthy and we are energized to get securely on the return path to normalcy.
Jon Hungerford (Chairman of the Canadian Jesters) reports for Canada.
British Columbia. As always, the annual Jesters handicap doubles tournament held in February was a great success. All entry proceeds were donated to the Building the Future Endowment Fund. Then, Covid hit hard and like others, we figured out how to socially zoom our way through a Masters Golf tourney pool and the annual Christmas “party”. Allan Brown, our organizer extraordinaire, used the time to chair a Squash BC Growth Initiative Fund. The spend fund helps support squash initiatives throughout the province, as we aim to nurse our way back onto the courts. To date we have raised $250,000 on the way to $300,000 plus. “Bubble” squash was enjoyed by some singles players.
Alberta (Prairies). The leadership baton of the Alberta Jesters has been passed from Laura Letourneau to Kim Watson during 2020. The efforts to sustain and grow squash in Alberta are apparent from the junior level to the many Jester sponsored tournaments. The Jesters are in good hands with their focus, enthusiasm and “eye on the ball”!
Manitoba 2019. saw the creation of Manitoba as a new Jesters Region in Canada. Manitoba has a strong squash contingent and has now initiated twenty strong members to form the nucleus to support and grow squash at all levels in the province. Many kudos go out to Peter Reimer who is spearheading efforts as the first Chair.
Ontario. The largest engine of squash in Canada has been placed on hold for the past year to adhere to Covid protocols. Missing both the competition and the social side of squash, everyone is eager to reopen the clubs and university venues once restrictions are lifted. Perhaps the focus on the 100th Lapham Grant event planned for April 2022 will rejuvenate everyone’s desire to be court fit!
Quebec. As with so many happy pursuits, the activities of the Quebec Jesters were almost entirely curtailed over the last year. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, however, we were able to recognize the successful initiation of a new Quebec university squash league. In February 2020, a first league tournament was held, and teams representing several Quebec universities and CEGEPs participated. We hope to build on this success in the 2021-2022 season, and that this will develop into a sustaining league promoting the development of squash programs at a number of new universities and colleges in the province. In November, the first virtual AGM of the Quebec Jesters took place, with the members showing a surprising level of technological savvy (only a handful of our friends were lost in the virtual wilderness). Toasts were offered wishing all of us a healthy return to the courts as soon as possible.
Atlantic Region. Atlantic Jesters took a pause during this pandemic period and there is no activity to report. The South African tour had to be postponed twice, so the pent-up demand for a great time will be the silver-lining when our South African friends land in Canada. Get Ready!
Garth Van Rensburg (Chairman of the South African Jesters) reports for South Africa. Greetings from Southern Africa. Sadly, and I am sure that we correspond with all the regions, this has been and continues to be a dismal time. When I wrote last year’s report we were in the middle of a severe lockdown. Currently (June), the third wave of Covid is in full swing in South Africa, and another lockdown looms.
Let us hope and pray that we all get through this pandemic safely and back to some normalcy of a good sweat on the court followed by a generous bout of rehydration. We had to cancel all our functions for the second half of 2020, but held a sports day in lieu of the annual dinner. It proved a great success with some 80 Jesters of all ages partaking in Squash, Garden Tennis, Lawn Bowls and Croquet. This was followed by an outdoor AGM and lamb on the spit braai. We look forward to carrying our schedule forward once it is safe to do so.
On a few positive notes. The game of Padel Tennis is gaining traction out here. We now have complexes in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and the Country Club Johannesburg is busy installing three courts. It certainly seems like a game that will keep the older squash players going a bit longer. With few expenses and no incoming tours, it has also meant that the Exchequer is looking a lot more solid than it has for years. Sadly, our outgoing tour to Canada, postponed in 2020, has once again been postponed. We trust that it will finally happen next year.
Jonathan Buckley (Australian Representative) reports for Australia. Saturday 21 March 2020 marked the last match at the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club before COVID-18 lockdown in Victoria Australia. The games involved RMTC, Melbourne Cricket Club’s Real Tennis Section and the Jesters, but restrictions prevented dinner in the MCC Committee Room. No matches in Hobart and Ballarat were possible, nor was the annual fixture with our Sydney Jesters. As I write (June), news of development approval for the Sydney court has arrived, encouraging the prospect of a Jesters fixture in Sydney before too long.
The Jesters travelled to Ballarat in February 2021, for a match with the Wanderers and Ballarat members. It was a fine day in Ballarat and great company, despite the Jesters not bothering the scorers. In March, the Jesters once again joined the RMTC and MCC for a triumvirate match at RMTC. The tennis was sound, with the highlight being Philip Barker and Diane Rennard preparing an extravagant duck supper, followed by bread and butter pudding, reliving memories of old.
We excitedly wait to host the UK tour of Australia, rescheduled to later in 2022 and dependent on Australia escaping its Covid-driven hermit nation existence.
The President has been informed during the year of the sad loss of the following UK and Overseas Jesters:
Dr. Sam Beale (UK Jester, elected 1997), Capt. Mike Bolton (UK, 1955), Richard Boxhall (UK, 1955), Eddie Bryan (Eire, 2002), Dennis Coombs (UK, 1971), Keith Crankshaw (SA, 2005), Robert Dick (UK, 1961), H.R.H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (UK, 1948), Peter Epp (Canada, AB, 1973), Carlo Esposito (Canada, ON, 2013), John A.E. Evans (UK, 1960), Christopher Griffith-Jones (UK, 1993), Stuart Hailstone (SA, 1990), Derek Hayes (SA, 2013), Stephen A. Horn (USA, 1982), Ernie Howard (Canda, ON, 1950), Bruce Jaffary (Canada, BC, 1975), Bert Keene (Canada, ON, 1997), Sven Klusener (SA, 2004), J. Robin Ledwith (USA, 2004), David Male (UK, 1950), Bob Mallac (SA, 2007), Seamus Monahan (Eire, 2002), Richard M. Morgan (UK, 1960), E.T.H. Pease-Watkin (UK, 1950), Martin Pettman
(UK, 1968), Sam Safton (Canada, AB, 1980), D.W.D. ‘Bill’ Shaw (UK, 1952), Bernard Weatherill (UK, 1978).