Sporting connections of yesteryear

4 May 2015

It may surprise you to know that I have been glued to my tablet these last few days. Hard at work but distracted occasionally by the green baize of the snooker table. It’s the World Snooker Championships and I am quite an avid sports fan at times. Athletics is my main interest although I also watch football, rugby, snooker and triathlon, and many others when they float my boat …. oh, and the annual Oxford/Cambridge boat race!! This year’s championships have been particularly thrilling as Ronnie O’Sullivan was knocked out several rounds ago, so it has been far more open and here I am, not really fussed about who wins but keen for it to go ‘to the wire’ (i.e. the final – 35th – frame)…. which at the time of writing, it looks like it will!

What does this have to do with genealogy, you might ask? Well, in short, not a lot! But it made me return to my roots of the past week – the 1911 census – and look for some sporting references…. however tenuous. ‘Snooker‘ as a keyword returned just one man who, for some unaccountable reason, was said to have been born in ‘Snooker In Stren‘ which would alternatively be referred to as ‘Stoke on Trent‘! Clearly, handwriting was not this particular schoolmaster’s forte! There were a few tennis ball makers, coverers and rappers listed and a couple of tennis groundsman, including 48-year-old Albert Baker who was a ‘cricket and tennis groundsman’ in Hornsey, with twelve children and Frederick André, who was the tennis marker at the Queens Club:


Athletes…. I tried to consider which well-known athletes would have been around in 1911. My knowledge of the last three or four decades of athletics is pretty impressive in the pub quiz stakes. However, take me back another six decades and I couldn’t even think of one! Louis McCann claimed his occupation to be a retired athlete (at aged 58 and a widower), James Moir of Kennington was clearly still performing in the field (or maybe on the track) at the age of 32:


….and at 28, William R. Hartley was an ‘athlete & gymnast’. Initially, I wondered why athletes were more prevalent than snooker/tennis players and other sportsmen/women ? However, I then realised that Samuel Wolstenholme – an English footballer – was recorded as ‘professional athlete’ along with Andrew Daries Jeptha – a professional boxer – and perhaps herein lies the tale. More tomorrow….

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