14 October, 2019
For anyone who enjoyed the excitement of the Athletics World Championships last month or the amazing performance of 15-year-old tennis star Coco Gauff at Wimbledon over the summer, this particular delve into the European Province archives is on the subject of sport and features a selection of games played at SHCJ schools. Images have been collected from photograph albums and files of SHCJ schools in the European Province and beyond.
The summer brought tennis. Celebratory matches were played at special events such as feast days and there was a regular summer fixture between St Leonards and Mayfield to play for the Challenge Cup as well as school and old girls matches. Pictured to the left are the players of a Challenge Cup match on 28 June 1924 when Mayfield won 9 sets to 3. St Leonards were up against a formidable team; that same year also saw an impressive victory for Mayfield School against Mayfield Ladies Club with a score of 13 sets to 2 (Mayfield Annals, June 1924).
The images below all show Mayfield pupils honing their tennis prowess. The Mayfield girl cheering with great expression in the third photograph is Ida Knatchbull who was made captain of the tennis team in 1922 (Mayfield Review, 1922).
During the winter, school teams and visiting old girls battled on the hockey field. The school magazines and house annals record each hockey triumph and defeat with the same detail and enthusiasm as their reports on the tennis. A hockey Challenge Cup match on 7th December 1921, resulted in a draw of three goals on either side. According to the Mayfield annals ‘both sides played very well’, no doubt fortified by the ‘good dinner in the Oak Parlour’ the girls enjoyed beforehand. In 1923, the Mayfield Annals magnanimously acknowledge a ‘great victory’ for St Leonards where they scored six goals to one. The St Leonards Chronicler describes the match taking place on ground which was ‘muddy and very heavy going’. This and other victories were credited to the ‘increased efficiency’ of the St Leonards first eleven as ‘each member of the team had her own ball and devoted two hours a week to individual practice’, resulting in ‘a more formidable team’ (The St Leonards Chronicler, April 1924). The left image is from an album of Mayfield School and shows a game in progress during 1919.
To the right is a very early photo of the St Leonards Hockey team from around 1900. The Interpreter, an early magazine of St Leonards dated December 1900, includes reports of matches with St John’s Ladies College, a goalkeeper’s fate of ‘numbed fingers and a pink nose’ every match after a successful hit across the pitch and an artist’s view of ‘bright and high-spirited girls’ playing on ‘a fine winter’s day’.
Netball was enjoyed by SHCJ pupils far and wide. In a 1959 album of photographs and handwritten entries from pupils of the Convent Primary School, Calabar, one keen netball player describes the smart blue skirts and yellow blouses worn by her team which can be seen striving for the ball in the image to the left. The young writer likes netball since it is ‘a game for sensible people’.
The Juniors of St Leonards started playing netball in the 1924 to 1925 school year. The pupils were said to find the game ‘great fun’. Inspiration from historic battles such as the Wars of the Roses was taken for team names and captain titles (the St Leonards Chronicler 1925).
The photograph on the right is from a small album of Rosemont College which features images of hockey games, tennis courts and sports teams. Here the 1924 netball team are assembled.
The years 1959 – 1960 saw a visit by the Reverend Mother General, Mary Laurentia Dalton, to the African Province as recorded by a photograph album created to celebrate the occasion. In 2005, Brigid Grealy SHCJ recollected helping to organize games and the ‘high standard and national success on the Athletic Field’ held by the Holy Child School, Cape Coast, Ghana. Here we see a proud Reverend Mother surrounded by the student athletes of the same school holding the results of their hard work and talent.
With thanks to Elaine Zajano SHCJ Associate, American Province, for her help to research this article.
 Brigid Grealy ‘Happy Memories of Cape Coast Ghana’ in Teresa Okure The Story of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in Africa 1930 – 2005, Lagos, 2005, P.159.