County Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club Est. 1894
Officers and Gentlemen
In 1894 County Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club was founded. It’s patron was Lord Meath, head of the Brabazon family. It was a most exclusive club and compared favourably with the largest tennis clubs in the Dublin area at the time. It had ten grass courts and a wooden pavilion, (as seen in the photograph below). The Club hosted one of Ireland’s most prestigious tournaments and attracted top National and international players including Joe Hackett, Harry Barnville, Betty Lombard, Cyril Kemp, Jim Fitzgerald, Geraldine Houlihan, Eleanor O’Neill, Stanley Matthews, Mark Cox and Wimbledon referee Alan Mills, an event winner. The membership of CWLTC from its foundation to the late 1950’s, was confined to an elite of landowners, military professionals and wealthy entrepreneurs. Almost all were members of Protestant Churches, mainly Anglican. As the 1950’s progressed, however the affairs of CWLTC began to decline. The Second World War had taken its toll of playing members and numbers had already dropped off by the 50’s. The years which followed were extremely difficult economically and had a catastrophic effect throughout all sections of the Irish population.
Changing of the Guard
By the late 1950’s membership was barely 100 and it was increasingly difficult to collect annual subscriptions. The committee decided they would invite Catholic professionals to apply for membership. At the time the small mainly protestant membership had a certain amount of resentment toward their new members. As more Catholics joined, many of the Protestant Players left and joined Greystones Tennis Club. A new group of members were proposed for election to the Committee at the 1962/3 annual general meeting and most were elected, after which, according to Jim McNieve ‘The keys were handed over’. The sorry state of the club reported in 1963 improved little over the next few years, but in 1968 a group was formed with the objective of achieving another revival. The group included Eamonn O’Higgins, Tom O’Neill, Rory Murphy, Jim McNieve, Jim McAllister (decd), John Doyle, Martin Dempsey (decd), Eddie Power, Gerry Grogan, Peadar Nolan and Dan Murray. At this stage the club had only 6 of the original 10 grass courts remining. The maintenance of 6 grass courts to their previous standard proved a challenge, plus a falling membership, but the committee soldiered on. Martin Dempsey known as ‘Junior’ became the Chairman of the club and threw himself into recruiting former school pals, rugby players and previous juniors to roll up their sleeves and save the ‘Old Club’ . When it came to raising money, holding functions, mowing courts, painting the club ‘Junior’ was the consummate club man and his call was “We must open in time for the tennis season”. Line marking, lobbing trees, raffles, serving beer, everyone was roped in. A summer of craic and endless fun under the popular and jovial Chairman sprang the Club back to life again.
The transition in the early 70’s from the grass surface to hard courts heralded in a new era in the Club’s history. All year round playing facilities led to a steady increase in the membership and has seen CWLTC take its place once again as one of the top clubs on the East Coast. A new clubhouse (see below) was built after the original was destroyed by fire in the early seventies.
The Club Centenary was celebrated in 1994 and six new Omni-Pro courts were installed together with improved floodlighting as phase one of a restructure plan, which culminated with the opening of a new clubhouse in 1999, (as seen in the photograph below).