Blogathon: The Glasgow University Tennis Club

Here is the latest Blogathon entry from Rosemary Milne:

As both a History student and keen member of the Glasgow University Tennis Club for four years, I have always been interested in the history and origins of tennis at this university. The club, as I have found during a Club 21 placement at the Glasgow University Archive Services, has a rich and varied history dating back to the late nineteenth century and there have been many outstanding students amongst its alumni.

Tennis is first mentioned in a Minute of the Senate on 31st July 1879 where permission was given to a “proposed club of about 12 students and recent graduates to play in the evenings in the West Quadrangle.” In 1881, when Glasgow University Athletic Club (now known as Glasgow University Sports Association) was created, a sub-committee was formed for each form of ‘Athletic Exercise’. It is probable that tennis was one of the first sports to become one of these sub-committees.

GUAC Handbook 1924-25

GUAC Handbook 1924-25

As the popularity of the sport grew at the university, the pressure to provide adequate court space increased. Consequently, between 1888 and 1914, the Tennis Club changed location four times. However court capacity was not the only problem. In 1898 the University Court made a decision to abolish two of the four tennis courts on university land in order to build a new Botany building. Despite these challenges, membership still reached 73 students in 1910, and in 1914 Westerlands became the new home of the Tennis Club, charging £1-10 shillings for a year’s subscription.

Alongside my research of the early history of the club, I have been fascinated by the stories of individual students who held prominent positions within the Tennis Club. In 1928, Glasgow University Magazine (G.U.M) published the Men’s and Women’s team photographs. The photographs are accompanied by a report on the teams’ overall performance and individual player assessments that point out the players’ strengths and often weaknesses.

Joseph Placid O’Hear, a student from Glasgow, stands out amongst the players. O’Hear played the number one position for the Men’s team and was referred to as: ‘The steadiest player in the club. Good service, and has a very good knowledge of court craft.’. His successful competitive side is demonstrated with a win in the Brodie Cup for Men’s singles in 1928 and winning the mixed doubles the previous year. He was also awarded a prestigious
Blue Award in 1929 for his consistent and outstanding achievement in tennis.

Men's Team Photo 1928-29

Men’s Team Photo 1928-29

Although the position of ‘Team Captain’ did not seem to exist at the time, it appears that O’Hear acted as a figurehead in the Men’s team for he provided ‘good advice all round’ according to G.U.M. O’Hear not only excelled on court but took on the administrative machinery of the Tennis Club as Honorary Secretary in the years 1924-25 and 1925-26, acting alongside the other positions of Match Secretary, Honorary Treasurer and two Committee positions. His Graduation Roll Record shows he graduated in 1929 with a degree in Medicine.

The ability to use the Archive Services to learn how the club has flourished over the years and to share a small part of its history through this blog has been very rewarding. It is exciting to think that future members will be able to use the Archive Services to research the Tennis Club a hundred years from now!

Rosemary Milne
Women’s Club Captain 2012/2013

Sources: R8/5/46/7, R8/5/59/8, R1/4/2, DC71/3/2/1, DC71/3/1/1, DC 71/9



Categories: Archive Services

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