As a photographer with an interest in our local visual history, I sometimes come across old original photographs that provide a snapshot of our districts fading past. Sometimes I find these old images intriguing. Despite a print being badly faded and worn, a high resolution scan can often reveal the detail still embedded in the original print. Not long ago I was shown an old, local, faded photograph that was worth exploring. Someone must have cared about the history of this photograph at one time because they highlighted the fading date in black ink.
On March 10, 1910 the Oolong Tennis Club celebrated the opening of their brand new court by having a group photograph taken. The court was officially opened by Colonel Granville de Laune Ryrie. This was a big event for the little locality of Oolong, just outside of Yass, and the photograph shows an amazing array of well known local families. Tennis was very popular around the region and courts were often established on private properties. Some of these old courts have been maintained and are still in use today.
Colonel Ryrie, standing far right in uniform, was a decorated Boer war veteran who at the time was running for NSW Parliament and looking for votes. He was also well known and highly respected around the Gunning district and travelled all the way from his family property in Michelago for the opening.
There is much to like about this faded and somewhat forgotten image. The body language and determination on the faces of the young men holding their racquets. The covered ladies pavilion providing a bit of comfort and shelter for the beautifully dressed women. The photographer from Gunning, E Fisher, did a great job in producing this wonderful photograph. The style of hand writing on the print was achieved by Fisher writing on the glass plate negative with a steady hand and a tiny brush dipped in opaque liquid. This was done so he could make multiple copies without the need to write on each print.
At the very time this photograph was taken there was a bit of tennis rivalry between the Oolong club and the neighboring Dalton Anchors. Several weeks after the Oolong court was declared open, the Goulburn Penny Post reported on the strenuous nature of country tennis. It appears the opposing teams were very competitive and the exhaustion of playing to win eventually led to a bit of a melt down. On May 28, 1910 the Oolong Tennis Club declared their players were taking a breath of fresh air and will not appear before the public for a while.
Colonel Ryrie missed out on being elected in 1910. But a few years later this amazing man went on to Gallipoli, was promoted to General and took part in the charge of the Lighthorse at Beersheba. In 1923 he was invited to officially open the Gunning District War Memorial.
Nothing else is known about the Oolong Tennis Club or what became of it, except for the fact that it once existed.