As you walk along the Carlow Road past Chanterlands, Oaklawns, and the other housing estates it is difficult to visualise that just a few years ago the entire area was given over to fields. The only visible reminder of that time is a single yew tree growing on the footpath near the entrance to Oaklawns. It once stood in the front garden of Mrs. Flood's house, which with Mrs. Anthony's house on the same road were once the only dwellings between the railway crossing gates and Coneyboro. Some short distance away and in the area now given over to the Chanterlands housing estate I can recall the site of the Tennis Club now long gone. One of my earliest memories is as a very young lad in the company of other young fellows on our hands and knees looking for weeds on the smooth green sward of one of the Club's Tennis Courts. The Caretaker at that time was Mattie Brennan, of fond memory. I never played tennis on those same courts and could not recall the name of the club until last week when the Minute Book of Geraldine Tennis Club came into my possession.
The inaugural meeting of the club was held in the Urban Council room in the Town Hall on Tuesday the 8th of May, 1934. The first Committee was headed by Fr. Maurice Browne C.C. who was later to become Parish Priest in Ballymore Eustace. He was brother of Cardinal Browne O.P. but is perhaps best remembered as the author of those fine books "The Big Sycamore" and "In Monavello". The first Chairman was Joseph Hickey while Brother Dolan of the local Christian Brothers School was Vice-Chairman. James Tierney was Treasurer and joint Secretaries were Edward Dooley and Philip Gunne. The first Captain of the club was Tommy Mulhall, better known in those days as a County and Provincial footballer. William Keyes was Vice-Captain while the Committee included P.J. O'Neill, John Harvey, William Mahon, Frank Bramley, Joseph Carbery, Michael Mannin and John Dooley.
The Ladies Committee comprised Ms. K. Carolan, Ms. Cullen, Ms. M. Kelly, Ms. P. Bradley, Ms. E. Flinter, Ms. K. May, Ms. Browne, Ms. R. Dooley, Ms. O'Brien, Ms. Hickey, Ms. J. Horgan, Ms. K. Candy, Ms. Molly Lawler and Ms. May Lawler.
On the proposal of Joe May the Club was named "Geraldine Tennis Club" and the meeting also agreed to fix the annual subscription at 12/6. It is interesting to note that 60 years before the emergence of equality legislation those in attendance at the inaugural meeting voted down a Motion that women be charged 2/6 less than men for their annual subscription.
The grounds used by the Club were leased from Mr. Bodley and the tennis courts were officially opened on Thursday the 24th of May, 1934. Early rules established by the club included limitation of sets to not more than eleven games and prohibiting singles play while members were waiting for games. Interestingly enough at an early date the club had more than six courts - as of January of 1936 it was agreed to reduce the number of courts to five or six. The first groundsman employed by the club was John Mitchell.
In September 1934 the Club decided to run practice dances on Thursday evenings every week and an all night dance on September 26th. An all night dance required a band to be booked to play from 9.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m. As to the nature and purpose of a practice dance I cannot say but I would welcome hearing from anyone who might have attended them. Incidentally the admission charge for an all night dance was four shillings (20p) which included government tax and supper.
In 1935 the club purchased a galvanised hut from the Barrow Drainage Board and this was used as the Clubhouse. You can see the Clubhouse in a photograph of social club players taken in the 1940's which is presently on exhibition in the Museum Room in the Town Hall. In October 1936 the club changed it's name to South Kildare Tennis Club and affiliated with the Irish Lawn Tennis Union. By now the committee included Ger Moriarty, Liam Ryan, M.G. Nolan and Paddy Dooley. On the 18th of November, 1941 a special meeting of the Tennis Club was called to consider the possible purchase of the legion hall in St. John's Lane. It was agreed to proceed and the purchase was made for £213.3.5 inclusive of all costs. Thereafter, the story of the South Kildare Tennis Club is that of the Social Club and I will turn to that story at a later date.