County Dublin Championships
EARLY YEARS (1882 -1908)
The Championships originated in Lucan in 1882. Lasting for just one year, the only event played was the Men’s Handicap Singles. The event was not held again until 1887 when it moved to Lansdowne Road and started in earnest. It was played at the back of the rugby grounds, now the Aviva Stadium, for eight years, 1887-1894 inclusive.
Willoughby Hamilton, first County Dublin Championships Singles Champion (1887). He was also the first Irishman to win Wimbledon Singles in 1890. His grandnephew, Hugh Hamilton was Carrickmines Club Secretary and the Tournament Referee in the 1950’s.
Joshua Pim, three-time County Dublin Champion, 1888, 1889 & 1890 and two-time Wimbledon Champion. He also won the Wimbledon Doubles with Frank Stoker on two occasions.
Pim won his first of three Co Dublin Championships under the pseudonym of his friend “J. Stokes”, a practice used in those times when competitors did not want their whereabouts disclosed in the press. He was among the first in Ireland to own a motor car!
Lena Rice from Tipperary
Lena Rice from Tipperary won the Ladies Singles titles in 1890 at both Wimbledon and the County Dublin Championships. She was finalist to Louisa Martin in the Irish Championships in Fitzwilliam also that year. Lena was unusual insofar as she had not the privileged background of her contemporaries. There appears to be no record of her competing after 1890 and she died from tuberculosis at 41 years of age.
The tournament was abandoned in 1894 due to poor entries. Interest in tennis was waning and the tournament was not played again until 1908.
THE BEGINNING AT CARRICKMINES
The tournament was revived and relocated to Carrickmines in 1908. It has been held there ever since on the famous grass courts.
Carrickmines was the perfect location. A new Clubhouse was acquired by the club through William Martin Murphy. It was originally built for the Great Exhibition in Herbert Park a year earlier. Murphy was the Exhibition organiser and dispensed all the exhibition assets. He was the most successful businessman of his time and Jim Larkin’s main adversary in the 1913 “Great Lockout”, the strike that paralysed Dublin and caused so much unrest and hardship. William Martin Murphy was the grandfather of T.V. Murphy, Carrickmines President 1961-1963 and great grandfather of Sonja Buckley, President 1983-84. Both Sonja and her father served on the County Dublin Championships Tournament Committee for many years.
Carrickmines was easily accessible by train on the old Harcourt Street line which had opened in 1854 and stopped outside the club. The line was named after the Harcourt family. In 1642, Sir Simon Harcourt was killed by rebels at Carrickmines Castle, a stone’s throw from the club. A brutal retribution followed for the locals. Over three hundred were brutally massacred. Two mass graves were discovered with all the Castle inhabitants. This included the skeletal remains of many women and children. The archaeological significance of the Castle site (accidently discovered) delayed considerably the construction of the M50 motorway.
Carrickmines Castle excavation site, and Carrickmines C & LTC in the top right.
The Harcourt Street train line was closed in 1958 and the club purchased the site. However, a Compulsory Purchase Order was subsequently placed on the site for the LUAS tram network that opened in 2004.
The first Tournament Committee in Carrickmines consisted of J.F. Stokes (Referee), Marcella Barrett (Tournament Secretary) and the Club owner William Wilson. Also on the Committee were County Dublin and Wimbledon Champions Willoughby Hamilton, Joshua Pim and Frank Stoker. Frank was a relation of Bram Stoker, the creator of ‘Dracula’, and father to Norma, who also won the Championships in the 1920s. Together, they were instrumental in restarting the Championships in Carrickmines in 1908. Hamilton and Pim remained on the Committee until 1914 when the Tournament was suspended due to the outbreak of World War 1.
J.F. Stokes (the Referee) won the Irish Championship Doubles at Fitzwilliam a remarkable seven times including four times with J.C. Parke. Parke was a regular visitor to Carrickmines playing with Stokes and would almost certainly have won the tournament had it not been suspended during the war years. As a volunteer, Parke was wounded twice, at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.
Many competitors were killed during the war. The Carrickmines Club owner William Wilson had three sons killed in action. His only remaining son, Captain Hugh Wilson was released from service on compassionate grounds and would take over the running of the club a few years later. Manliffe Goodbody, the Champion in 1893, was killed as a passenger aboard the “the SS Sussex”. The ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in the English Channel.
Val Miley from Foxrock was the first Men’s Singles Champion when the Championships recommenced in Carrickmines in 1908. He won it again in 1910. His brother Jack was the Club Champion at the same time and together they won the doubles. Simon F. Scroope served on the Club Committee and was Men’s Champion in 1909 and 1911. In the 1911 final S.F. Scroope beat Val Miley. Both lived locally and were the prominent Irish players of the time. It was a tough long final, 9/7, 2/6, 7/5, 10/12, 6/3. The Ladies final was one sided. Mrs Barry defeated Mrs Kiely 6/0 6/0.
The Tournament Secretary Marcella Barrett’s niece was Ruth Durlacher. She reached the Ladies final in 1908. Ruth lived locally and presented a Perpetual Cup to the Club in 1908 that is still competed for today. She won the Ladies Doubles at Wimbledon in 1899, probably with Louisa “Mollie” Martin, though records are inconclusive. Ruth had an unlucky run in tournament singles. She was runner-up at Wimbledon in the All-Comers Singles final 1899, five times runner-up in the Irish Championships in Fitzwilliam and lost her only singles final in Carrickmines in 1908 to Miss Beecher.
In 1902, Ruth lost to Louisa “Mollie” Martin in the Irish Championships final. Louisa was related to the Carrickmines Honorary Secretary in the 1990’s, Clive Martin. Louisa won the Irish Championships an incredible nine times and was perhaps the outstanding player of her day. She defeated Lena Rice (Ireland’s only Ladies Wimbledon Singles Champion) in the Irish Championships final of 1890, the same year Lena won Wimbledon and the County Dublin Championships.
She lost in the Wimbledon final in 1898 and played in Carrickmines in one of her last tournaments in 1912, losing in the final to Mrs Norton Barry in three sets.
Louisa “Mollie” Martin