In September 2023, Dunblane Sports Club celebrated its centenary. Thanks to the records of the Dunblane Burgh held here at the archives, we can trace how the club was formed and how tennis was established in Dunblane.
In September 1921, Dunblane Town Council first discussed if it would be possible to create a new golf course, putting greens and tennis courts within Kippenross or on the lands of Barbush. In December 1921, Councillor Alexander Barty and Provost Blair head to Kippenross to meet with Colonel Stirling of Kippendavie Estate.
They argue that the formation of a new golf course and new tennis courts within Kippenross would be of great welfare for the town and appeal to those who are visiting the area. Colonel Stirling expresses his approval of such a scheme and states that ‘he would do all he could for the benefit of the Burgh’. At this point, Colonel Stirling is much more interested in establishing a golf course than tennis courts.
Tennis courts were still heavily on the Town Council’s agenda and in December 1922 a Tennis Committee was formed. Alexander Barty was the Convener of this Committee. They agree to write back to Colonel Stirling and ask about land for the courts.
On 29th March 1923, a letter was received from Kippendavie Estate indicating that Colonel Stirling was prepared to consider granting a piece of land for tennis courts near Kippenross North Lodge. The ground was marked off and Mr George Davidson, a local architect, was instructed to provide a sketch for four tennis courts and latterly a pavilion. All the proposals put forward so far had been agreed by the Town Council. The only people left to consult were the public.
A meeting takes place in the Victoria Hall on 2nd April 1923. The following motion was moved, seconded and unanimously approved:
‘That this meeting the ratepayers of the Burgh of Dunblane express cordial approval of the proposal of the Town Council to lay down Hard Tennis courts for public use, request them to proceed with the same at the earliest possible date and agree to give the scheme their heartiest support’.
After the approval, the Committee asked the public to join with them in promoting the scheme and raising funds to meet the cost of the proposed work. It was estimated that the cost would be around £1000-1200. A tender was accepted from Mr John R. Strutt, a golf course contractor from Paisley, for £535. The work was for four courts, new fencing and net posts. The proposed pavilion was put on hold. The courts were red ash and brick dust which was sourced from the Alloa Coal Company and from suppliers in Glasgow. Whenever the courts needed more brick dust and ash, supplies would arrive via the railway and be taken up to the court.
The first two courts are planned to open on 11th July 1923, just six weeks after accepting the tender. Before the opening, the Town Council established the rates for playing and rules for the courts. For residents, the rate of charge is:
£1 (30/-) for season; 10/- (15/-) one month; 7/- (10/6) two weeks; 4/- (6/-) one week; and 1/- (1/6) part day.
Under 16s were half price but they were not allowed to play on weekdays after 5.30pm and on Saturdays after 1pm.
The grand opening of the first two courts takes place on 11th July at 3.30pm. Colonel Stirling of Kippendavie was asked to attend the event but couldn’t make it. Mrs Grace Donaldson of Kilbryde Castle opened the courts in his absence.
There was no charge for admission and several leading Scottish players would play some exhibition games. The players were given a memento of a small silver tea spoon with the crest of Dunblane on it as a thanks.
The new courts were well used by the public in first couple of weeks and the completion of courts 3 and 4 took place shortly afterwards.
Although tennis was now being played in Dunblane, it still didn’t have an official tennis club. It’s important to remember that currently everything is being organised by the Town Council and their Tennis Committee who are maintaining the courts.
In August 1923 Alexander Barty, who has been at the forefront of the Town Council Tennis Committee, gathers 40 subscribers of the tennis courts and holds a meeting in the Churches’ Club in Dunblane. They agree to form a club with a Committee of three men and three women. Charles Millar was appointed the Secretary.
The club still had no authority of how the courts were run and maintained, but Dunblane Tennis Club had been officially formed. The club arranged the first ever official tennis tournament to be held in Dunblane shortly afterwards.
The proposed pavilion was delayed until 1924 and fund raising was required to help push this through. Thanks to the Ladies Committee of the tennis club, they organised whist drives, jumble sales, garden parties, golfing gala and even a fancy dress cycle parade run in conjunction with Dunblane Rovers F.C. A total of £357 was raised by October 1923 and considerably more by 1924.
In May 1924, the pavilion was ready to open. This was by all accounts, the true opening of the tennis courts.
The opening was meant to be a big event but unfortunately it suffered from a downpour. For those that attended, however, they heard rousing speeches by Alexander Barty and Eliza Chick; and watched exhibition matches from East of Scotland players.
Great thanks was extended to Eliza Chick who had arranged the majority of the fund raising. Extra thanks was given to Alexander Barty as he was the one who brought the scheme before the public, secured their approval and ensured the Town Council back it as a municipal undertaking.