The Nassau Lawn Tennis Club - 1880 ~ 1973
We are indebted to the “Recollections” of the late Hon. P.W.D. Armbrister for the first known reference to the early days of the Nassau Lawn Tennis Club. From his writings we know that the Club was founded in 1880.
Lady Bancroft (formerly Miss Sybil Burnside) remembers that in the early days games were played at the Manse of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in East Hill Street, where the court was not even of full size. Later on when she joined, play was held at the Police Barracks, where there were two grass courts, until World War I, when those grounds were taken over for the drilling of recruits. The Club was then fortunate in being able to rent two courts at the Colonial Hotel until 1922 (when the hotel burnt down) and a small tool house where a little stove was kept for making tea, and it was then that Miss Effie Adderley took over the organising of afternoon tea, with lady members taking turns in bringing sandwiches and washing up after.
In 1924 Alan Burns (later Sir Alan), then Colonial Secretary of the Colony, was instrumental in forming the present Club. Property was purchased in Market Street from the late Mr. Daniel Moseley for £300 by a Committee of 10 men that had been formed and each gave £10 — Alan Burns, Kenneth Solomon, Edwin Moseley, John Burnside, Herbert Brown, Ormond Curry, Bruce Thompson, Victor Saunders, Kenneth Maclure and James P. Sands. This property provided for a narrow Club Pavilion and two tennis courts, plus a small piece of extra land. Then the late Mr. Charles E. Bethell donated a piece of property to make up the area required for a third court. The same set-up exists today. Mrs. Victor Horan, Mr. Bethell’s daughter, and his son, Mr. C.W. F. Bethell, were made Life Members.
The first Club house was built in 1924 and the building of the courts was supervised by Mr. Robert Burnside (Lady Bancroft’s brother and the club’s first Life Member), and Lady Bancroft, as Secretary of the Club worked very hard, often up at 6 am at the scene of the building, to get the premises going. Other members, including Mr. Kenneth (later Sir Kenneth) Solomon and his wife, put every effort into the project, and then — the big job — of getting it paid for!
At this time Sir Kenneth Solomon was President, with Lady Bancroft Secretary and Treasurer, and shortly thereafter Mr. Archie Higgs took over the Treasurership. Lady Bancroft remembers that the Hon. P.W.D. Armbrister was the first President, followed by Hon. Harcourt Malcolm and then Sir Kenneth.
But in 1929 disaster struck and the Club House was destroyed in a violent hurricane — the roof landing over in the lower gardens of Government House. The courts, of course, were badly damaged. Mr. Audley Boyce, at that time one of our brightest stars on the courts and a civil engineer to boot (and now a Life Member) came to the rescue, advising on drainage and other important matters. Before long order was restored and the game went on. Most enjoyable fundraising events were held — dances at which the club members provided their own orchestra, the men acted as bartenders and the girls as barmaids, complete with aprons.
The various Governors of the Colony were Honorary members and were active and even took part in the tournaments. Also, when H.M. Ships were in port the officers were made welcome as honorary members. All in all, the Club provided one of the main social centres of the Colony’s life in those days, when members happily arrived on bicycles or many crowded into a single car! Parking problems were unknown.
Meantime, improvements took place. Dressing rooms and showers were added to the pavilion, the kitchen brought up to date and much later, court lighting for night play installed.
One thing that might be mentioned is that the Club premises were built before City Water was installed and it was useful that a deep well with good water existed in the northwest corner of the property. Once used to water vegetables and fruit trees it has been the means of keeping tennis courts etc. in good shape.
Long life to the Nassau Lawn Tennis Club.
Contributed by Mrs. V.M. Moss.