Portarlington Croquet Club

A Brief History 1935 – 1984

The Portarlington Croquet Club came into being following a meeting of like-minded ladies in September of 1935.
Mrs. Cornu was asked to chair the meeting at the home of Mrs. Geo. Martin on September 4th, 1935. It was ascertained that a portion of land adjacent to the Bowling Club greens might, on application to the Bowling Club, be made available for a Croquet court. An approach to the Bowling Club was unanimously agreed upon.
Provisional Office Bearers were then elected as follows:
President: Mrs. George Martin
Vice-Presidents: Mrs. G. Davis, Mrs. A.D. Albutt
Secretary / Treasurer: Mrs. O. Cornu
Committee: Mesdames Leslie, Heather, Prendergast, Geo. Wilson, and later in the meeting Mesdames Hunter, Little, and Clark were also elected.

Playing member’s fees were set at 10/- (ten shillings) until the green is in playing order.
This inaugural meeting closed with a vote of thanks to Mrs. Martin for the use of her
home and for the provision of a dainty afternoon tea.
Following this inaugural meeting, the first General meeting of the Club was held on October 12th, 1935. Letters were received from East Geelong and Belmont Croquet Clubs offering advice and help with lessons and any other Croquet matters. At the end of this meeting, the members adjourned to inspect the new Croquet green, expressing surprise and pleasure at the progress made. (It is interesting to note that a period of five weeks had passed from the Inaugural meeting – the Bowling Club had been approached, permission granted and work commenced. No feasibility studies, Engineers reports, bureaucratic red tape, or other Government authority interference to be reckoned with. Oh for the good old days!).

Toward the end of 1935 second-hand hoops and balls were purchased and a Greenkeeper (Mr. Wheadon) was appointed for the sum of 7/6 per week during the playing months. He hoped to give members a fair idea of the condition of the lawn with a view for it to be ready for play in February 1936.

Although it was decided at a meeting in February 1936 to hold the Official Opening over until the next season, at some point between this time and March 1936 an unofficial Opening took place. According to the Minutes…. “Since the last Committee meeting, an informal opening of the Lawn proved quite a success although the green, owing to the dry weather and the little time given to its formation, was far from true. Keen interest and tolerance prevailed. The President, Mrs. Martin made the first hoop and a pleasant afternoon was spent among members and well-wishers, Afternoon tea was dispensed at the Clubhouse to which the Bowlers were invited.” (End of quote.)

During 1936 several men from the Bowling Club and/or husbands of members gave freely of their time and expertise with the making of seats and shelters. The possibility of constructing a second lawn was also considered and the first Annual Meeting in season 1936/37 reported that….”it was most gratifying to the committee to start a new year with “something done”, namely the securing of a lease from Council of a Kiosk and the removal of same to an appropriated position for the use of the Croquet players.” (End of quote.)

At this first A.G.M., the members were unanimous in bestowing a Life Membership on their first President, Mrs. Martin, and expressed the hope “that she would long be spared to play Croquet in Portarlington.”

The Official Opening of the Portarlington Croquet Club took place on Saturday 9th November 1936. Mrs Bossence, Past President of the East Geelong Croquet Club, had the honour of declaring the Green open. It was hoped that the second lawn would be open before the new year. Members of the Bowling Club were thanked for their “splendid help.”

As Croquet was not played during the winter, it was decided to hold monthly social afternoons to continue friendships and fund-raising. These included Card afternoons, small raffles, Trading tables and other activities as decreed by the Hostess of the day.

A ball was held on May 12th 1937 to celebrate the Coronation of King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth. The profit of 10/6/2 was shared with the Bowling Club. An Amusement tax payable to the Government was levied on the tickets sold for this event.

In April of 1938 the first mention of Tournament winners is made as follows:

Club Doubles Championship –
Winners: Mesdames Butcher and Wheadon
Runners-up: Mesdames McLean and J. Albut

Club Singles Championship –
Winner: Mrs. Taylor
Runner-up: Mrs. Butcher

Unfortunately, after the Minutes of a General Meeting in October 1938, all Minutes and other information on the Club, its activities and members has been lost and no further material can be found until the commencement of another Minute book on August 3rd 1959 and so some 21 years of history appears to be lost.

At various times between 1959 and 1984 three further Life Memberships were bestowed on Mrs. K. Wheadon, Miss K. Calhoun and Mrs. H. Wilson.

For many years through the 1960’s and 70’s the Club continued to prosper. Card afternoons, Street stalls and members contributions continued the fund-raising efforts and solvency was not a problem however declining membership and the increasing age of long-standing members put a strain on the Club’s ability to remain viable. The failing state of the Clubhouse and the subsequent cost of repairs caused great concern.

During 1983 and 1984 the Portarlington Croquet Club was very grateful for the assistance given by the Drysdale Croquet Club, but this only delayed the inevitable and so, in July 1984, the President, Mrs. Edna Mattinson closed the Croquet Club.

It is not possible to produce a full list of members over the years but it is believed that Mrs. Topsy Hatton of Portarlington is probably the only surviving member.

Some names of members who spent many years with the Club include:
Mesdames Martin, Cornu, Wheadon, A. Albutt, Ormandy, Hunter, Taylor, L. Ibbotson, V. Ibbotson, D. Gaskin, Connor, Cox, Butcher, Hatton, Coucill, Black, McLauchlan, Vize, Webster, Pratt, Prosser, Corban, Miss Calhoun, Miss Harvey, Mr. and Mrs. F. Merrick, Messrs. Rees, Reid, Cheeseman, Mrs. Galbraith, Mrs. Gemmill.

Some of the Greenkeepers during its life include:
Mr. Wheadon, Mr. Maurie Lee, Mr. Cheeseman and Mr. G. Schreurs.

During it’s almost 50 years of operation the Croquet Club proved a source of pleasure to many and as the fame of Croquet in its various forms continues to prosper, who knows what the future may hold.

Verna M. McLennan

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