The Dean Tennis and Squash Club: 1884 – 1994
The Dean Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, (formerly Dean Lawn Tennis Club) which is situated in the heart of Edinburgh was founded in 1884 when six Guarantors acquired the lease of the ground which had been previously uesd as a dump in Dean Park Crescent. The Guarantors were AW Black, JP Bannerman, Dr S Keith, WSC Shaw, W Whyte and WA Wyse. Two courts were originally laid out and at the end of the season in 1888 the Guarantors decided, in view of pending building operations which threatened to put an end to the Club, that a limited liability company be formed which was called the Dean Grounds Association Limited. The site was purchased at a cost of £1,800 and a further two courts were laid out.
At one end of the ground a handsome two-storey building built by Mackenzie & Moncur was erected which provided an ideal gallery for spectators as well as changing rooms and other facilites.
“It was decided at this stage that the Club should be managed by a Committee and that the ground should be leased from the Dean Grounds Association Ltd. This arrangement still exists today…”
It was decided at this stage that the Club should be managed by a Committee and that the ground should be leased from the Dean Grounds Association Ltd. This arrangement still exists to-day. The new Club was officially opened on the 27th April 1889 by Archibald Hewat, Chairman of the Board of Directors. The first Committee and Office-Bearers were elected; the first President was Dr RC Maclagan who held that office for 20 years until his death in 1919. The minimum rent to the Dean Grounds Association was £52 plus any surplus each year. It is interesting to note from a newspaper cutting that balls were supplied by Messrs. Thornton & Co. at a cost of 7/10d per dozen – a far cry from the current price of £13.50 per dozen.
WA Wyse was the first Secretary of the Club and he held this post for no less than 26 years, when he was subsequently elected Vice-president and later President. His interest in the Club was enormous and here is no doubt that the splendid spirit uniting all members at that time was, in no small measure, due to his efforts. The original membership of the club was 70 and rarely did it fall below this figure.
The Club’s activities continued during the winter when the courts were flooded for curling and skating. The Minutes, however, record that in 1193 this practice was stopped, as it was considered too damaging to the condition of the courts. At the outbreak of war in 1914 evening play was introduced for the benefit of Servicemen, and at the end of the war the ordinary membership was increased by a further 60 members who were only allowed to play in the evenings.
AD Flett, CA, was Secretary for a few years after WA Wyse, and after the war Norman Macdonald held the office for four years.
“By the outbreak of the Second World War the membership began to fall drastically…”
In 1925 WR Rainie was appointed Secretary and he held the position until 1938. During this time the financial position of the Club remained exceptionally sound and various large sums were spent on improvements. However, by the outbreak of the Second World War the membership began to fall drastically and it was doubtful whether the Club could continue.
The Committee imposed certain economies and, with the help of the acquisition of block membership from Scottish Command and the introduction of Sunday play, disaster was averted and by 1942, judging by the bank balance shown in the accounts, the position had decidedly improved.
In 1947 Dr Angus Foggie, who later became President of the East of Scotland Lawn Tennis Association, took over as Secretary and it was during his term of office that the most radical changes in the organisation of the club took place. He was responsible for the abolition of evening membership, which had by this time become impracticable, and for the introduction of Junior Membership. He also initiated a system for the allocation of courts whereby on on arrival at the Club members placed their racquets in a rack and when a court became free the member whose racquet was at the front of the rack chose another three members to make up a four. This practice still exists today and is responsible to a considerable degree for the friendly atmosphere amongst members at Dean ensuring that all members have an equal chance of playing. Dr Foggie was also a pioneer of the move to obtain a fifth court on the ground adjoining the existing courts but this scheme was regrettably abandoned through lack of funds at the time. No. 4 Court was converted to all weather in 1981 at a cost of £10,872.
Dr Fogqie succeeded WR Rainnie as Resident of the Club in 1955 and remained President until 1939. Thereafter each President served for a term of three years only, except for RC Ewart who stayed on for an extra year to see through the critical earlier stages of the redevelopment of the CIubhouse and new Squash Courts, retiring in 1975.
Balfour Thomson became Secretary in 1965 and added the post of Treasurer in 1967, a joint office which he still holds. On him fell the main burden of overseeing the whole redevelopment operation from 1971 to 1977, from planning and funding through the actual construction work and final completion. Because the costs proved very much higher than estimated, it was decided to carry out the work using voluntary Club labour and sub-contractors. This proved to be a very time-consuming process, and It was only as a result of the efforts of Balfour Thomson, David Filsell (who headed an enthusiastic and hard-working fund-raising team) Robin Gray the architect and a few other members that the new building was completed after many trials, delays and tribulations. The new Clubhouse with two Squash courts was opened on 23rd September 1977 by Peter Heatly, then Chairman of the Scottish Sports Council, whose Grant totalling nearly £20,000 was the main source of finance for the development. The total cost was £60,000.
“Competitive tennis has played an important part in Dean’s history.”
Competitive tennis has played an important part in Dean’s history. A special highlight came in 1969 when the Ladies First Team led by Chloe Scott, Hilda Nimmo, Jennifer Elder, Alice Simpson, Anne Nisbet and Jean Howie won the East of Scotland League and reached the final of the Scottish Cup, losing narrowly to Newlands 5-4.
Dean has had several notable players as members over the years, including Virginia Wade and John Clifton as Juniors.
Coaching at the Club, especially of Juniors, has played a prominent part in recent years. This has been organised by Jane Thomson assisted by Sally Lamond. As a result Junior membership has increased considerably and the development of the Boys and Girls teams has been a feature in the Club’s activities. The firs notable result of this was the inclusion of Wendy Thomson in the East Junior County team, and later in the Senior East team.
The Squash section has flourished, largely through the efforts of Jerry and Pam Williams; Jerry became the first Squash member to be Club President. Squash teams compete in the East Leagues.
“The Club celebrated its centenary in 1984. Since then the major event has been complete re-laying in 1992 of all four tennis courts and one short court with “Sportfloor”, a sand-filled traditional shale surface and is much more weather resistant.”
The Club celebrated its centenary in 1984. Since then the major event has been complete re-laying in 1992 of all four tennis courts and one short court with “Sportfloor”, a sand-filled traditional shale surface and is much more weather resistant. The work was done by Charles Lawrence & CO at a cost of £60,000. At the same time the Squash courts were upgraded at a cost of £5,000. Again the practical overseeing of all this on behalf of the club was undertaken by Balfour Thomson. The work was paid for from accumulated Club funds of £40,000 and a Grant from the Scottish Sports Council of £25,000. The new courts were officially opened by Alan Grosset, a Member of the Scottish Sports Council and past President of the SLTA, on 9th May 1992, preceded by an Invitation Mixed Doubles tournament in which seven couples from local clubs took part.
The Club continues in a flourishing slate, with 390 members in 1992, including 95 Juniors. The new courts have led to more play and will undoubtedly contribute to the Club’s continuing success. The Club has been particularly fortunate to have had Balfour Thomson running the show as Secretary and Treasurer over so many years (in all 27 to date) – years which have been crucial in the Club’s history. It is largely due to his contribution in so many areas that Dean has come through so well, and we have every reason to anticipate that the second hundred years will be at least as successful as the first.
PDF Scans of the pamphlet “The Dean Lawn Tennis And Squash Club, The First One Hundred Years and more”: