History Page 2/2

Passionate members, outstanding players, enthusiastic visitors...

The club has been managed and run by generations of passionate and dedicated volunteers.  Because of their endeavours many outstanding players have come to "the Cowichan" as the club and its tournaments became affectionately known. Before the Great War, Ossie Ryall, probably Canada's greatest player, played here. Between the two world wars, two members, Frank Kingston and Norman Corfield, achieved national prominence. Following World War II manyoutstanding American players came here who achieved US national ranking; among them Bradshaw Harrison, Doris Popple, Tom Gorman, Dodo (Bundy) Cheney, Sam Lee and Emery Neale. Many top flight Canadians played the Cowichan such as Phil Person, Paul Willey, Jean Bardsley and Ron Sidaway. 

Learn a little more about some of the people who over the years contributed to the club's success.

GEORGE TREFFRY CORFIELD (1856 - 1928)

George Corfield arrived in the Cowichan Valley from the West Indies in 1883 with his wife and three young sons. He established a general store and post office and also managed many of the Cowichan Flats’ farms including the one where the club was originally located. In 1906, needing more space, the club accepted his offer of the use of his land and moved to a new and its current location. Two more sons were subsequently added to the family, with four of them becoming top-flight players. One of them, Norman, surpassed his siblings by becoming a nationally ranked player. Mr. Corfield continued to be a true benefactor of the game and the club throughout his life. When he died, his will stipulated that the club could use the property in perpetuity, on one condition - “so long as the club shall exist” and that lawn tennis continues to be played - an unusual arrangement, but one that has ensured the club is still here today.

ROBERT WILLIAM SERVICE (1874 - 1958) - The Bard of the Yukon

Robert Service, world-famous for his ballads of the North, arrived in Canada in 1896. He worked his way west and ended up working for a year as a farmhand in Chemainus. He returned to the area in 1899 after a stint of hoboing through the American SW and was hired as the store clerk at Corfield’s General Store on the bank of the Koksilah River. He was an active tennis playing member of the club and a popular fixture at Mrs. Corfield’s Saturday tennis teas.

Charles H. Gibbons, editor of the Victoria Daily Colonist at the time, recalls how he coaxed Service to submit some of his verse for publication. “It was my good fortune to make G. T. Corfield’s store my headquarters one happy week-end when the trout were leaping. . . . Service had shamefacedly confessed that to beguile the dead monotony of his days, he amused himself by writing verse stuff. Said stuff he produced for inspection, under pressure. "Give me this, Bob, for the Sunday paper," I said to him. "Oh, it isn’t worth printing in a newspaper," he demurred. His objections were overborne and "The Christmas Card" duly appeared in the "Colonist"—the first work from Service’s pen that was ever printed. In “Lyrics of a Lowbrow”, Service wrote a three verse poem called “Fallen Leaves”. Conjecture is that he was referring to one of the mammoth maples that stand sentinel in our grounds.

MRS. G. G. (EDITH) SHARE (1882 - 1969)

Edie was a member of the club for 82 years. The daughter of Mr. Frederick Maitland-Dougall, one of the three founders of the club, she was five when the club was formed. Edie lived in the family home close to the club almost all her life. She was a longtime benefactor and patroness and honorary vice-chairman for the last 30 years of her life. She entertained extensively and, in her later years, took the place of honour behind the silver tea service at special club events. As a young woman, Robert Service was often on her guest list and her famous “pig book”, which she started when she was 14 years old, included a contribution by the famous poet. She was easily recognised in town with her penchant for yellow and green dresses, her wide brimmed and floppy hats, and her large paste beads, brooches and bracelets and her distinctive, tinkling laughter. The garden and grounds of her home were beautiful, she was known to love gardening and maintained them herself until shortly before she died. She was beloved by all who knew her, including her native neighbours down on the Cowichan Flats.

For the 75th Anniversary party Mrs G.G. (Edie) Share arrived at the club wearing her usual large hat, in a vintage car. She sat at the tea table, presiding over the silver tea urn. With her great charm and ready wit she had an endless supply of humorous anecdotes and with a downward flick of her lacy hanky after each story she would laughingly add ”don’t you love it”.

Two stories she enjoyed telling: “On a very hot day, she and her partner, while playing tennis, unbuttoned the top button of their blouses” and once “got into trouble for showing a little too much ankle”.  Photographs of her still grace our clubhouse.

KAY WILSON (1920 - 2008)

Kay Wilson was a top junior player, capturing a record four successive U18 National titles between 1934 and 1937. She went on to win national titles in women's doubles and singles in 1939 and doubles again in 1940. Her remarkable career included leading the University of Toronto to four consecutive Canadian University championships in both singles and doubles. Kay had a true passion for the game. She not only loved to play, but she loved to introduce others to the game, assist those who didn't know how to play, and volunteered countless hours to the sport. The club was privileged to have her as a member. She continued to play well into her 80’s. In 2002, Kay received the Distinguished Service Award from Tennis Canada for her contributions and lifetime achievements.

SENATOR DON WILNER (1926 - 2012)

Don started playing in the “International” in 1955. He has played every year since then and even had his hotel reservation made for this years tournament. He would have been 86. But playing in his 58th consecutive tournament was not to be, as he died on March 27th at his home in Trout Lake, Washington. His wife Marjorie said he died with a tennis ball in his hand and he was buried in his tennis whites. Don was a graduate of Harvard Law School and a State Senator of Oregon. His practice focused on labor, civil rights, and environmental issues. Tennis played a large part in his life; he not only played at Cowichan, but was nationally ranked in men’s singles and doubles in the US. We will miss him and his annual request that we find him a “decent” player to partner with.

LAURA BAPTY WILLIAMS and DAVID RICARDO WILLIAMS QC

David was a keen historian, a gifted storyteller, and devoted to the preservation of the club’s traditions. He took pleasure in researching and writing the history of the club, which became one of the documentsburied in the cairn “time capsule” at the front entrance to the club. As an eminent lawyer, the club benefitted from his legal expertise as it negotiated real-estate transactions and the formation of the 2nd Century Fund. One of Laura’s biggest challenges was expanding the Centenary celebrations, spearheaded by David, to include a “bang-up” one day festival that marked the 125th year of the arrival of HMS Hecate to Cowichan Bay with the first 100 settlers. Laura and David’s involvement in the club was a full family affair. Every Sunday afternoon during the winter of 1961 - 1962 when the new clubhouse was under construction, even the kids were packed off to do their bit.

SPENCER KERN

Many members who have participated in the International Tournament will remember Spencer. He drove up each year from San Francisco and camped or lived in his old Cadillac. He was a devout Christian man, a character of note and a devotee of the club. He kept coming even when it was becoming physically difficult for him to play. He had been missed for several years, but we did not know of Spencer’s passing until the spring of 2011, when the club received a letter from his estate. Most of his considerable wealth was left to his church, but the club had a special place in his life which was exhibited in a generous bequest of $5,000.

JEFFREY HUNTER and BEV COOPER 

In 1956, membership was down to a dozen playing members. The clubhouse and grounds were in a terrible state of repair and no-one wanted to take on the job of club president. Enter Jeff Hunter with his boundless energy, enthusiasm, passion and get-it-done attitude. Less than a decade later, under his stewardship and that of other like-minded members, the club had a new pavilion, better courts and burgeoning membership. Jeff also nurtured the club’s relationship with the Pacific Northwest Tennis Association, was instrumental in the creation of the International Division and 2nd Century Fund and part of the group that worked so hard to rebuild after the 2006 -2007 flood. Jeff

During her tenure as President, Bev was responsible for master-minding the real estate transaction that secured the extensive parking area the club now has use of in perpetuity.

The International Club

During the 1950’s, visiting players to the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club, who fell in love with the ambiance of this charming little club, realized the need to support it. Survival of grass courts in the face of changing times, not the least of which was pressure to convert to asphalt surfaces, necessitated a new helping group. Thus, the International Division was born.

Past International Division president, Jeffrey Hunter, has been a local member and dedicated advocate for more than forty years. Membership fees to join the International are as low as $25.00 or as high as one can happily contribute. Hunter says, "The social camaraderie is, for some, of equal importance to the matches. Many who attend the Grass Court Championships each July think of it as a return to their favorite adult summer camp."

Current International Division President, Dr. Michael Taylor, also encourages Americans, Canadians and overseas players, whether they are members or not, to join the International Club, and support this treasure of a club. Where else can you play in a grass court tournament with such history?

When the SCLTC celebrated 100 years of operation in 1987, a Trust was set up called the Second Century Fund; to give the Club added financial security. The income from this trust is paid to the Club every year. The capital which has increased substantially, remains as a reserve to be used only if required to ensure the Club’s survival. From the beginning, the primary source of funds building the capital in this Trust has been the International Division of the SCLTC. Donations may be mailed to SCLTC - International Division, Box 717, Duncan, BC, V9L 3Y1, Canada.