The Tennis Tournament

The Tennis Tournament: a lay of modern Dublin

(Lord “What-you-may-call-eh?”)

The great Fitzwilliam Tennis Club
Have met in high conclave,
The Browns and Jones and Robinsons,
The beautiful and brave.
Now hold they seldom council,
McConkey in the chair,
In order to determine when
They’ll hold their tournament again,
In green Fitzwilliam Square.

There be thirty bold committee men,
With bows of green and gold,
Who ever in Fitzwilliam Square
Have made it their peculiar care
To keep it mown and rolled.
Morning and eve the thirty
Guarding those courts are see,
Traced out aright in lines of white
With Elvery’s machine.

Gay were the College Races,
The Landsdowne Sports were gay;
But the great Fitzwilliam Tournament
Is now our whitest day.
O’er all the lofty hoardings
And walls which own his sway,
J. Dillon fills with flaming bills
Anent the coming fray.

J. Dillon and his myrmidons
Have worked like one o’clock,
And soon, I ween, are posters seen,
In Booterstown – the Rock –
In Glenageary’s wild ravens,
By Dalkey’s lovely bay,
Till ere the morn the bills adorn –
The sea girt walls of Bray.

This week the only converse is
Of ball, and bat, and net,
And men hold monster meetings
To determine what’s a “let”
The shopmen, too, have caught the craze,
And people rush to buy
The “Back-hand-volley” bonnet,
Or the “Duece and vantage” tie.

But now our haughty challenge
Has reached the Renshaws’ home,
Swift, swift the great twin bretheren
Came speeding o’er the foam.
And Lawford and Mulholland
Have crossed the self-same night,
And marched across the town to where,
All in the great Fitzwilliam Square,
Was fought the glorious fight.

Oh! brightly shone the sun upon
The twenty-first of May,
What time the mighty Renshaw rushed,
All eager to the frey.
To meet him came the Richardson,
A Chesire champion he –
From the green steeps where Mersey leaps
To join the Irish Sea.

It is not mine to chronicle
The details of the strife,
How Renshaw hit the ball a whack,
And Chester sent it flying back
Ere men could mutter “knife.”
You’ll find it in “The Freeman,”
Or in the “Irish Times,”
How Renshaw won the final set
And gallant Richardson was ‘bet’
(Beaten’s the proper word and yet –
A poet must have rhymes).

Sempronius Attratinus –
(His other name was Brown),
Is in the great Fitzwilliam Club
A star of some renown.
A man of mighty muscle,
A man of iron nerve,
And, when it happens to come off,
A very deadly serve.

But never had he met before,
A foe so cool and stern,
And never had he stood against
The Renshaw’s swift return;
Back on the line he drives him,
And Dublin with dismay
Sees the stout knight in whom they trust
At length recumbent in the dust
And Renshaw wins the day.

But meanwhile in the “doubles”
Great deeds of arms were wrought,
Where Gould and Macnamara
And the great Sir Victor fought.
Sir Victor of the long white coat –
And heather mixture hose,
The couts know well
The “long, stern swell,”
Who wears such stricking clothes.

From far and near the champions fly,
Undaunted men are they,
To beard the Lion Lawford,
To break the Renshaw’s sway.
They come from lands far distant,
From countries far away –
Rives arrives from Newport,
And a Coote from Castlerea.
J. Dwight, the small Bostonian,
Whose ardour never fades,
Garmendier the beautiful –
And loved of southern maids.

The gallant M. J. Carpendale,
The Monkstown men prefer;
The Garveys raise the standard high,
Of Parsonstown – (or Birr).

As sinks the stricken chimney,
When wind-blasts blow from far,
As falls the money market,
When rumour speaks of War;
So sinks, so falls, the Renshaw,
Beneath the giant stroke
Of him who first was seen to burst
The great twin brethren’s yoke.

And now when poles are planted,
And stretched the tennis nets;
When maids are missing volleys,
And men are serving lets,
With awe and admiration,
Still is the story told,
How Lawford won the champion cup
And belt of shining gold.

From “Lays of Ancient Hens”

Prose, Poems & Parodies of Percy French, 1980, Helicon Limited, Dublin.


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The 15th Percy French Festival

French Awakenings

19th, 20th, 21st July 2023

At Castlecoote House

Honorary President of the Festival, the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins.

Informed Social & Cultural Discussion of Ireland Today.

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The Percy French Festival 2023 acknowledges the major support of Excel Industries, Dublin; Whyte’s; CastleAcre; C&F Quadrant Ltd; Davies Group; Hidden Ireland.

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