South Africa Match

Scotland v South Africa

From 1976 to 1979, Scotland and South Africa shared reciprocal challenge matches, the first being a resounding victory in Glasgow, and there being two Tests when the Scots were in South Africa.  There was one final match in 1983, in Cape Town, drawn 3-3, in which Bill Spalding and Frank Norton were the only players available who played in that first match – Reg Bamford (then 15 years old) played at Number 1 for South Africa.  This Test followed the tour to United States in 1982, where South Africa were also involved, although not playing against Scotland.

Match scores:



South Africa

at Glasgow




South Africa


at Cape Town (a)




South Africa


at Pietermaritzburg (b)




South Africa


abandoned as ‘No Result’ in Glasgow (a)




South Africa


at Glasgow/Edinburgh (b)




South Africa


at Cape Town (a)




South Africa


at Durban / Pietermaritzburg (b)




South Africa


at Cape Town


The following players have represented Scotland in this match:

Alasdair Adam

RSA 83

Bob McLean

RSA 78 79

Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie

RSA 83

David Nichols

RSA 77 78 79

Jack Norton

RSA 76 77 78 79 83

Bill Spalding

RSA 76 83

Rod Williams

RSA 78

Ian Wright

RSA 76 77 78

Stephen Wright

RSA 76 77 79



4-5 September 1976, Glasgow CC:

This summer one of the major events in Scottish croquet even sent ripples through the national press – the South African International.  The Match was hosted by the Glasgow Club, it having the only privately owned grounds immune against possible pressure from disapproving landlords.  The two day Match was nevertheless a low-key affair with no official publicity, although the Glasgow Club did produce a large South African flag (courtesy of the consul) which flew beside the Union Jack and produced a striking effect.  On the Monday morning reports appeared in the Glasgow Herald and the Scottish Daily Express.  For once croquet had become important news for a few hours – doubtless because of the political implications. We did not, however, seem to warrant the effort of digging up the turf or picketing the lawns.

It was pleasing that the matches all went smoothly, assisted by the Referee, Bobby Calder and the Manager, Jim Shearer, and that there was such a good number of Glasgow Club members spectating, as well some from further afield.  The dry summer had hardened the lawns and made them bumpy, or at least this was the excuse given for the lack of break play and the slow games on the first day in the doubles.  (The South Africa Croquet website, in the history section, comments that it was like playing on a sun-baked court reminiscent of gravel …)  Indeed when bad light stopped play on Saturday, the second doubles had just finished their second game with the score standing at +1, -1.  It was mutually agreed that this would count as a drawn match with half a point to each side, so Scotland ended the day one point up.

Play next day, however, proved that breaks were possible, and the singles matches were quicker.  Bill Spalding even showed that a triple peel was possible when he completed his first ever triple to give him victory over Ian Gillespie – a great encouragement to the ‘ground staff’ who had worked so hard over the summer preparing the courts.

This International was marked by the number of pegged out games.  At one point in the singles three of the four games in play were all pegged out ones.  The game between Stephen Wright and Tom Barlow the South African captain, was the most interesting one.  Stephen had quickly made two all round breaks and had one ball pegged out and the other one by the peg.  With both Tom Barlow’s balls still on hoop 1 and a long shot needed to save the game, the result seemed certain.  However Tom Barlow hit the long shot and then proceeded to show how the pegged out game should be played.  He constantly left his opponent a long shot at the peg with his own balls on the opposite boundary.  If Stephen took the shot he risked giving Tom Barlow a three ball break.  By these tactics he got one ball to the peg and the other to hoop 4 before Stephen Wright finally got the innings and pegged out.

Meanwhile on the same court (the singles were double banked) Stephen’s father had pegged out David Cunningham’s leading ball and was playing quite a different kind of pegged out game.  Constantly wiring himself from his opponent he crept round with his second ball to win his game too.

The only singles match to go to three games was the one between Jack Norton and Lester Sullivan, and although he did not win it he at least had the distinction of being the first player in Britain to take a game off Lester Sullivan this tour.

Altogether, Scotland’s victory of 4½-1½ was a very creditable performance, especially bearing in mind the strength of the South African team – indeed, Tom Barlow reached the final of the Open Championship in 1975.  Three years ago we could not have hoped to have the successes we have had in our Matches this year against both England and South Africa.

When all was over the party returned chez Norton and relaxed over champagne and Eglinton Castle croquet on the sloping back lawn (in the best Glasgow tradition).  This was followed by the Farewell Dinner at which it was obvious from the speeches and informal toasts that all had enjoyed meeting, talking and competing against each other.

SCA Tour of South Africa, November 1977:

The Scottish Croquet Team flew out of Heathrow on 30 October with as many supporters as there were players, as David Nichols was accompanied by his wife Janet and 14-month-old son Alexander, and the Glasgow Club by Mr and Mrs Robert Findlayson.  We were met at the Jan Smuts airport. Johannesburg, by Mr Ian Gillespie, President of the South African Croquet Association, who distributed us to our various hosts in Pretoria, and then, in the afternoon, took us on a tour of the city.  The next morning we got down to the business of playing croquet when we played a friendly match against the President’s Select, a team consisting of Ian Gillespie and three members of the Pretoria Croquet Club, Nelson Leech, the President, Pixie Arbuthnot and Garry Culligan.  We played two games each with a mixture of open and handicap games, with some full games and some 18-pt games, and won 6-2.  That afternoon there was a notable achievement for croquet when the Minister of Sport, Dr Koornhof, took nearly an hour off the problems of the impending elections to give us an interview.

Next morning we were back at the Jan Smuts airport for a 1000-mile flight to Cape Town where we were whisked off to nearby Stellenbosch for lunch at the headquarters of Gilbeys, wine producers and the importers of J & B Rare Scotch Whisky, who sponsor croquet in South Africa, including the Test series, and the National Championships.  There we posed for the first of many press photographers that we were to meet on the tour.  In the afternoon, members of the Somerset West Croquet Club took us on a tour of the beautiful mountain scenery around Cape Town, finishing up with cocktails at the home of Tom Barlow, captain of the South African Team, and thence to their homes for the night.

The first Test Match was to be held at the Rondebosch Croquet Club in Cape Town, so early next morning we were delivered to a nearby hotel and then we spent the rest of the morning in practice and getting used to the very fast courts.  They were beautifully true and the weather was very hot.  As there was no sign of the ‘tablecloth’ of cloud which often lies on top of Table Mountain we were taken up the cable car to the top by the Sales Manager of Gilbeys who had unfortunately to step into the breach at the last minute as the club members were sadly attending the funeral of their Treasurer.  In the evening we went to a braaifleis (Afrikaans for barbecue) at Ian Gillespie’s home in Constantia and then to bed, replete, to prepare for the First Test Match the following morning.

First Test, 4-6 November, 1977

Evenings are short in South Africa so croquet starts at 9:00 a.m., and this was when the First Test Match was due to start, but the photographers, both press and Gilbeys, had to be satisfied first, and it was 9:45 a.m. before the first tice was laid in the two doubles matches.  Tom Barlow soon got down to business and went to the peg in three turns, but when David Cunningham was on hoop 6, Stephen Wright got started, went round and pegged Tom Barlow out.  With Ian Wright still on hoop 1, a tense wiring game followed which the Scots won by one point.  In the second game it was Stephen’s turn to get started first and he went to 4-back, whereupon Tom Barlow attempted to triple peel and peg him out but failed to do the rover peel and paid the penalty when Stephen took contact and pegged him out.  Again this was followed by a wiring game, but David Cunningham was more relaxed by this time, and hit in and went out.  The South Africans gave very few chances in the third game and won it fairly easily.

On the next court Jack Norton and David Nichols played Lester Sullivan and Clive Coulson in a long drawn-out first game which the Scots finally won, but they lost the second, equally long game late in the afternoon, and had to peg down the third game at 6:30 p.m. as dusk was falling.  Next morning their doubles match was resumed but their opponents were too strong for them and they lost, to put the Scots two down after the doubles.

In the singles, Ian Wright found that it was not wise to stick in David Cunningham’s hoop off David Cunningham’s ball, a fault which cost him both his games very quickly.  Meanwhile the number one pair, Stephen Wright and Tom Barlow, was thrilling the crowd of over 50 spectators with croquet of a very high standard.  In the first game Stephen went to 4-back at the start and Tom Barlow tried to triple peel him out but broke down before he gave away a contact.  Stephen then got his second ball going but broke down before he scored hoop 1.  Tom then finished off to win the first game.  In the second game Stephen again went to 4-back, Tom again tried to triple peel him out, and again as in the doubles he failed the rover peel going through himself.  Stephen played his other ball, took contact from one of the balls in the middle of the court and went out on a single peel, so they were one game all.  Tom opened the scoring in the third game and then Stephen broke down at hoop 2.  Before long Tom was on peg and peg.  Stephen courageously tried a 7-yd shot at one of Tom’s balls on the boundary and hit it, immediately establishing a break as his other ball was by hoop 2, but he was too far behind and Tom finished off the game to win his match and make it 4-0 to South Africa.

With the First Test Match lost, Scotland were struggling to prevent it becoming a complete rout.  Jack and David both won their first games, in Jack’s case coming through strongly after being well behind.  Both then lost their second games and it was clear that the issue would not be settled that day.  Jack and Lester Sullivan, however, did start their third game, and battled on into the gloaming with Lester finally emerging the victor.  Next morning was a different day and David Nichols rose magnificently to the challenge, and won his game against Clive Coulson to win his match 2-1 and give Scotland a much needed win.  The South African team were well and truly avenged for their defeat at Pollok in September 1976, while the Scots were able to glean a small degree of comfort from the fact that four of their five defeats had gone the full three games, so the defeat was not quite as bad as the 5-1 score suggested.

Throughout the visit to Cape Town the members of the Rondebosch Croquet Club continued to entertain and look after the comfort of their visitors.  On the Friday evening after the doubles, a relaxing evening was spent with Gilbert and Dilys Hobbs, and on the Saturday night Brian Lloyd-Pratt organised a visit to the Israeli ballet.  After the Test Match as finally over, Bryan organised a lunch at the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and then other members of the club took us to Cape Point – the Cape of Good Hope itself – which lay some 50 miles away through some very beautiful countryside.  On the way back a visit was paid to the Fish Hoek Croquet Club, the most southerly one in South Africa.

The next morning, Monday, Ian Gillespie and David Cunningham delivered the party to the airport bus terminal for the flight north to Durban and a few days rest before the Second Test started on the Friday at Pietermaritzburg.  Janet, David and young Alexander visited a game reserve in an air-conditioned XJ6 which Richard Carte had lent them, Jack Norton stayed in Durban with Lester Sullivan, while the Wrights went to Port Alfred to visit Ian’s uncle, also Stephen, the only SCA member in South Africa.  Scottish players will remember Richard Carte who with his sister, Mrs Aubrey, entered the Edinburgh Tournament in 1973.

Second Test, 11-12 November 1977

Friday 11 November saw the Scottish team ready for the off to the second Test at Pietermaritzburg.  After a delightful welcome by the President, Secretary and members of the Maritzburg Croquet Club, the four singles started.  This change from the order at Cape Town arose from the need to start the South African National Championships on the Saturday in order to get them finished on schedule, and this was the only way to ensure that courts were free.  The Scottish team remained unaltered in its seedings but, with a change in the South African team, the order of play was different.  Stephen Wright played Tom Barlow as before, but Ian played Lester Sullivan and Jack took on David Cunningham.  The alteration reflected the change of venue as David Cunningham would no longer be playing on familiar territory while Lester would be.  By lunchtime the results could only be regarded as fairly forbidding.  All the Scottish team had lost their first games except Stephen who had taken advantage of Tom Barlow’s occasional wild shots and errors.  Jack had equal opportunity against David Cunningham but was a little over-ambitious on the bowling green surface.  David Nichols took a long time to settle in against Clive Coulson, and it was this rather than scrappy play that cost the first game.

The second round of games gave some hope to the Scottish team although Ian Wright lost Scotland’s first point when he went down quite quickly in both games.  Jack took his second game by one point against David Cunningham, more by good luck than good judgement.  At one point, aiming at a ball ten feet away, he missed completely, ran penultimate cleanly, cannoned off the centre peg and hit a ball at hoop 1.  At the end of the game, both Jack and David were firing at the peg from varied distances, with the referee constantly dashing on and off the lawn to confirm or otherwise the peg-out.  Stephen had possibly the greatest disappointment in being unable to get out from a commanding position against Tom, who gradually made his way round to take the game.  Being so near to victory yet unable to catch it seemed to have a dampening effect on him as the third game went to Tom easily.  Jack felt he lost his third game through too often miscalculating David Cunningham’s uncanny ability in long rolls.  In a position to win, he twice fell victim to the long hit in.  It was David Nichols who upheld Scottish honour once again, when he beat Clive Coulson in both the second and third games.  The last one was a truly scrappy game, with the innings passing from one player to the other, and neither being able to take any real advantage.   So 3-1 to South Africa.

It was in the doubles that Scotland changed its team while South Africa remained unchanged.  Ian placed Stephen and Jack against Tom Barlow and David Cunningham, hoping this strong pairing would guarantee a doubles win with Ian’s arm giving him the trouble that it was.  The change was fully justified by a relatively swift two-game defeat of the South African pair.  Both of these were pegged out games, with Tom pegging out Stephen in one and Jack in the other, and made excellent spectator sport.  With the score at 3-2 all Scottish hopes were centred on the other doubles.  However Ian and David could do little, although they did have chances, and the South African pair had a 2-0 victory – the cry ‘Lester has hit in again’ was frequently heard.

Scotland thus lost the Second Test Match 4-2, enough to rouse Scottish determination to even the imbalance of 2-1 overall when the return Match takes place in Scotland, we hope, next year.  We equally hope to be able to match the incredible hospitality of the ladies of the Maritzburg Croquet Club who supplied the most delightful refreshments throughout the Test to sustain both teams. 

South African Championships 1977

With no time to rest after the Test Match, we moved straight into the Championships.  Owing to difficulties about playing the Open Championship on a Sunday, the Manager, Clive Leech, put the big handicap, on first, and this event proved to be Scotland’s most successful by far.  By the Wednesday, David Nichols, Jack Norton and Stephen Wright had all reached the semi-finals, with Ian Wright just failing in a close game to Meryl Simkins.  In the semi-finals it was David who went through, having few problems against Stephen, to play Jack in an all-Scottish final.  Both players had their chances, but despite his ‘space age’ aluminum mallet, a novelty in South Africa, Jack did not make enough of his and David won +17.

Scottish players did not fare well in the Open, Stephen getting to the Process semi-final, and Tom Barlow won the Championship for his sixth title.  However in the Championship Doubles, Jack and Stephen met David Cunningham and Tom Barlow in the final, and repeated their Test Match win to take the title +24.

Tom Barlow also won the inaugural Riggall Gold Trophy, an invitation event where the Cup, valued in 1977 at £3,500, shows various items of croquet equipment in gold relief, plus a huge gold plate for the winners’ names mounted on a mahogany board.  It was presented by Leslie Riggall to the South African Croquet Association in 1975 and has to live in a bank vault.  Tom Barlow won nine of his twelve games, with Jack Norton winning eight and Stephen Wright seven coming second and third.

And so our tour ended – a tour where we helped, with the publicity on television and radio, and in the press, to make more people in South Africa aware of croquet as a serious sport, and one in which we were impressed by the generosity and friendliness of the croquet-playing fraternity in South Africa.


First Test, 9-10 September 1978, Glasgow

It seems no time at all since the glorious hot summer of 1976 when we welcomed a visiting team from South Africa for our first international match against the Springboks, but two years have passed and two more internationals.  A long spell of wet weather had caused the Glasgow Club great problems in court preparation, but they worked heroically to have everything ready for the first Test Match, and by the time the quartet of Springboks arrived in Glasgow on Friday 8 September, the courts were ready for play.

Saturday was doubles day and it started wet, got wetter and stayed wet, and this made the courts very heavy – so much so that tactics had to be changed as players realised that long rolls and big splits were impossible.  By lunchtime both the Scots pairs were trailing in their first games, but the food seemed to work wonders on Ian Wright who suddenly produced an all-round break, stopping tactically on penultimate, but this revival was too late and he and Jack Norton lost to Lester Sullivan and Corrie Carter by 4, while David Nichols and Bob Maclean went down by 9 points to the South African No 1 pair, Tom Barlow and Clive Coulson.

In the second game both Scots pairs went well ahead, but the weather got worse and the courts became more and more waterlogged.  At 5.0 pm there was a welcome break when the South African Consul arrived and the Manager, Jim Shearer, gave a cocktail party in the tent.  Before play resumed both captains agreed that the courts were really unplayable and the doubles were abandoned.  Late in the evening a telephone call was made to the Meteorological Office who forecast heavy rain all night and lasting well into Sunday, so, very regretfully, the singles were cancelled and the First Test Match declared ‘No Contest’.

Second Test Match, 18-19 September 1978, Glasgow & Edinburgh

The second Test Match took place on the Monday and Tuesday a week later following the Autumn Weekend Tournament in which the South Africans played.  Again the venue was Glasgow.  The Scottish team was without their best player, Stephen Wright, for both Test Matches, and for this Match Bob Maclean was also unavailable, so Rod Williams was brought in.  The Scots were facing a team one bisque better on average, the sort of odds relished when Scotland plays England.

Monday started dry and there were high hopes of a change in fortune, and by lunchtime honours were even.  Jack Norton and Ian Wright had won their first game against Tom Barlow and Clive Coulson, while David Nichols and Rod Williams had lost theirs to Lester Sullivan and Corrie Carter.  After lunch David and Rod lost their second game to go down 0-2 and Jack and Ian had also lost to be game-all.  By this time the surface of the courts was deteriorating as players walked to and fro over the wet clay soil, so the third game was close but slow.  In the end the South Africans won by five points to end the day 2-0 up.

By this time it was clear that the courts would not stand a day of double banked singles, so it was decided to transfer the second day to Edinburgh.  The South African captain, Tom Barlow, found Lauriston No 1 court entirely to his liking and, giving Jack Norton very few chances, soon had the first singles victory.  Also at Lauriston, Rod Williams found Corrie Carter too strong for him and also lost in two straight games.  Meanwhile at Morningside, things were not going much better as David Nichols had lost a very close game to Lester Sullivan while Ian Wright had also lost his to Clive Coulson.  After lunch Ian came near to winning the second game but victory eluded him, and so it all depended on David Nichols to save Scotland from a complete debacle.

Once again, as in South Africa when his back was really against the wall, David pulled it off, winning the second game by a mere three points and then the final game by 14.  The third game was the best of the Test Match, and probably the closest despite the score.  There was an overall 8½-hr time limit on each best-of-three match due to the short evenings in September, and the first two games had taken more than seven hours.  David got a break going at the start of the third game and went to 4-back – Lester hit the lift and also went to 4-back.  In his turn David also hit the lift, took his ball right round and pegged it out, leaving three balls on the court.  Again Lester hit the lift but could not score.  In the next turn or so David managed to make the last three hoops but could not peg out and then Lester got a break going with his backward ball.  The break was well set up but he had to complete it in about fifteen minutes and lay up for his other ball before time was called.  In his hurry, he over-ran the approach to hoop 4 and stuck in it.  David hit in from eight yards, to take off to the peg and peg out for Scotland’s only point.


SCA Tour of South Africa June 1979:

The Scottish team, Stephen Wright, Jack Norton, David Nichols and Bob Maclean assembled in Cape Town on Wednesday 20 June 1979.  The next day we had a warm-up at Somerset West about 20 miles away where two new lawns had been laid out last year.  Their surface and texture were excellent but a little local knowledge was required to cope with last year’s shrinkages.  The next two days were taken up by the First Test at Rondesbosch.  On the Saturday evening Ian and Bette Gillespie laid on a magnificent buffet for the teams and officials.  In the informal entertainment that followed Bob Maclean was found to be a star at table tennis as well.  On Sunday we had a rest before visiting Cape Point and Fish Hoek Croquet Club on the following day; unfortunately the rain stopped us from playing.

The Second Test was to be held in Natal with the doubles at Durban and the singles at Pietermaritzburg.  On Tuesday we flew up from Cape Town to Durban and stayed with Richard and Jesse Carte in their beautiful home.  Some of us made use of the open air swimming pool but others thought that this was pre-breakfast madness.  The doubles were played on the Cartes’ two lawns and the last game finished at 10 o’clock under floodlights.  We were up at 6:00 the next day to drive 50 miles to Pietermaritzburg for the singles.  By car with an energy-conservation speed limit of 45mph on the motorways it took ninety minutes but Frank Norton got a lift from Tom Barlow in his plane and was there in fifteen.  The Second Test was in the balance right up to Sunday morning when Clive Coulson narrowly won his third game against David Nichols to make the score 4-2 to South Africa.

The Scottish Team and three of the South Africans had been invited to play in the Riggall Gold Trophy, an invitation event for seven players.  This took place immediately after the Second Test, and as in 1977 the winner was Tom Barlow with Jack Norton runner-up.  Unfortunately the trophy (worth over £6,000) was not presented as no one had been willing to take responsibility for transporting it from Cape Town.  The Riggall ended the official part of the Tour, the most memorable aspect of which was the warmth of hospitality and the pleasure of meeting old friends and making new ones.  Another factor was the weather, with one rainy day and two cloudy ones in three weeks with temperatures up in the 70s.

First Test Match, 22-23 June, Rondesbosch

The first Test was played at Cape Town on the three beautiful lawns of the Rondesbosch Club.  The day’s play was scheduled to start at 9 o’clock to take full advantage of the short winter days.  To avoid double banking there were two singles and one doubles played each day.  In spite of the previous day’s excellent practice session at neighbouring Somerset West everybody’s play was scrappy and lacking in confidence at first.

The first day’s doubles were the top pairings.  South Africa won the first game fairly easily.  In the second game both Cunningham and Wright got to 4-back quickly but Barlow stuck on 1-back.  Eventually Cunningham was pegged out by Wright leaving his partner on 3-back and his opponents on 1 and peg.  Norton went out in three two-ball breaks.  In the deciding game South Africa reached 4-back and 3-back before any Scotland score.  Wright got a break to 4-back, but Norton played shakily, making a few hoops at a time but giving away the innings each time he broke down.  Barlow crept round from 3-back to the peg, but then the game developed many mistakes and changes of innings.  Eventually Norton made penultimate at the third attempt and finished to give Scotland their first point.

On the second lawn Nichols was playing Stalker.  After a good start Stalker let in his opponent who went to 4-back, and, a little later, to the peg with his second ball.  The lift was missed and soon Nichols was pegging out, but the front ball missed in a split peg out and ended up four yards from the peg.  This proved too far next turn and the peg seemed to get thinner with every unsuccessful attempt.  Stalker won by one point several turns later.  On his second break in the second game, Stalker in attempting a hammer shot allowed the striker’s ball to run onto his foot after making the roquet.  A long argument followed, before five referees decided by 3-2 that this was a fault.  This let in his opponent who soon finished the game.  In the deciding game Stalker took control.  Nichols could not hit in and wide boundary joins merely gave his opponent hoops.  Stalker went on to gain South Africa’s only win. 

On the third lawn the two ‘new boys’ were also playing singles.  Jackson was not bold enough to bring all the balls into play so that his breaks tended only to last a hoop or so.  When Maclean got going he went to 4-back and next turn to peg with his second ball.  Jackson hit the lift and scored a few more points until Maclean hit in and went out.  In the second game Maclean was on 4-back and peg while Jackson had scored only two points, but his touch deserted him allowing Jackson to score another dozen before Maclean could finish.

On the second day the two captains were playing each other on the first lawn.  After Barlow’s fine first break to 4-back, Wright hit the lift and joined his opponent on that hoop.  Barlow missed his lift, but Wright’s attempted triple ended on penultimate and peg.  After another Barlow miss, Wright finished easily.  In the second game Wright was first to 4-back after which Barlow stuck in hoop 3.  The triple attempt failed at rover, but after a third Barlow missed lift shot, Wright finished to win by 24.

On the second lawn Norton was playing Cunningham; both play in a similar style with long rolls to hoops, long hoop shots, and a love of two ball breaks.  The first game was long and scrappy and was eventually won by Norton.  In the second one Cunningham got to peg and 3-back before Norton started, but the fluff on 3-back let Norton in to go round to peg out Cunningham.  Nothing came from the contact, and Norton played two ball breaks, during which Cunningham had one chance but missed the roquet after scoring penultimate to let Norton win by two points.

The doubles on the third lawn was Maclean and Nichols against Stalker and Jackson.  By the time the Scottish pair had won a long untidy first game the first lawn became available, and the second game was played there for the benefit of the spectators.  The home pair were in excellent form and rattled round to 4-back and 4-back.  The Scottish players went to opposite baulks whereupon their opponents laid up for the peel first for one ball and then the other.  Eventually Maclean hit in and went to 4-back with his opponents on rover and peg.  Nichols then got started but had to have the innings retrieved for him several times by the splendid hitting in of his partner.  A break from hoop 6 to the peg and a missed lift enabled Maclean to peg out to give Scotland the game and the match.

Second Test Match, 29 June – 1 July, Durban / Pietermaritzburg

The Second Test was played at two venues, the doubles at the Atlanta Club in Durban and the singles at the Maritzburg Club in Pietermaritzburg.  The doubles were played in magnificent weather, about 75°F, not a cloud and no wind – the winter at Durban suits us fine … As far as the games were concerned we made too many mistakes but could have won one match.

Wright and Norton played Barlow and Sullivan in the first match.  In the first game Wright went to 4-back competently but Norton made several errors and no long breaks so South Africa won comfortably by 10.  In the second game Norton was round first but Wright could not put things together so that also went to the hosts.

Nichols and Maclean played Stalker and Coulson in the other match.  The second lawn was beautifully flat but in this, the driest part of the Durban year, it was extraordinarily fast and a little unpredictable as some parts were bare of grass.  Breaks were therefore difficult to set up and not very long.  The Scots won the first game by three, playing very much one hoop at a time and taking over five hours.  Coulson and Stalker gave a very good demonstration in the second game, quickly finishing in three good breaks to win +26. 

The third game was played on lawn 1 which by now was free, but play was too conservative again and the game too long – so long, in fact, that it was stopped for dinner half-way through, and the second half was played under floodlights.  Coulson and Stalker got well ahead but Maclean managed a break to 4-back and Nichols got to the peg in about three turns.  By 9pm, Nichols and Coulson were each on the peg, with Maclean on penultimate and Stalker on 4-back.  The South Africans had joined up in the first corner while Maclean had a reasonable rush to his hoop.  However when this did not go too well, he decided to visit his opponents, but went off the lawn.  This gave them the chance they needed to win by four points in a game which Scotland could have and probably should have won.

The next morning we set off for Pietermaritzburg arriving about 9 o’clock to start playing the singles on their three first-rate lawns and a borrowed bowling green, again in absolutely perfect weather.  Wright played Barlow in the top singles, and hit his opponent’s tice in the third turn.  When Barlow missed in turn 4, Wright went to 4-back in his next turn.  Barlow hit the lift and also went to 4-back.  Wright missed his lift but Barlow stuck in hoop 2 giving Wright a chance at the triple – this failed with two peels done, the second ball on the peg, and a lay-up in the fourth corner.  When Barlow missed his lift Wright finished to win by +16.  The second and third games were more error-strewn and peel-less, but Barlow made the fewer errors of the two and deservedly won the match as a result.

The second match was Norton against Sullivan.  The first game was very even and very competent, ending when Norton failed his peg out attempt and Sullivan hit the next shot to score rover and complete his peg out to win the game.  In the second game Sullivan made too many errors allowing Norton to score a fairly easy victory.  By the time the third game was reaching its close, night had fallen.  Sullivan could not stay to complete the match the next morning so it had to be finished.  Norton was assisted by Maclean holding a piece of white paper over a ball in fourth corner for a lift shot, and later Norton again hit in over the full length of the lawn to enable him to finish the match in pitch darkness – he must have had cat’s eyes, and a share of cat’s nine lives.

In the third match Nichols played Coulson in three long close games, Coulson winning the first and Nichols the second.  The third game ran out of light and was pegged down, for Coulson to win by eight points on Sunday morning to clinch the Test Match 4-2 for South Africa.

The fourth match was notable mostly for its lack of spectator appeal.  Maclean won by nine points and then by five points, mainly because Stalker tried to play an incredibly safe game, not risking bringing all the balls in to the court so neither player could get a decent break going.  The final sequence of play showed the nerves.  Maclean had one clip on peg with the other on rover while Stalker was joined up in the fourth corner.  Maclean put his partner ball near the peg and tried to get a rush on one of Stalker’s balls to rover – when the rush failed he scattered the ball and joined wide with his partner in the middle of the court.  Stalker shot at his partner ball in the corner but missed.  This was repeated three times with each player making the same mistake.  At the fourth attempt Maclean got a decent rush and went out.  Everybody clapped, but hardly for good croquet.


The Scottish Tour of South Africa, Match 1983:

Following a repeat of invitations issued to the Scottish Croquet Association some years ago, a further trip to South Africa was arranged for March 1983, so that participants could take part in the Western Province Championships, the Riggall Trophy, a Test series, and some provincial games.  The group comprised captain Bill Spalding (½), Jack Norton (scr), Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie (2½) and Alasdair Adam (5).  Alasdair arrived first on 4 March in Cape Town, and after spending Friday afternoon practising in the glorious hot sun, played in the Western Province Golf Croquet Handicap singles, losing in the semi-final to the eventual winner, a lady who had never played Association Croquet and had only been playing Golf Croquet for 3½ months.  Handicaps were applied and the bisques were well used by the eventual winner.  On Saturday afternoon, at the end of the Golf Croquet, Bill and Ewen arrived.  On Sunday morning there was some sight-seeing to the Cape of Good Hope; in the afternoon the trio gave a demonstration, and had some practice at Kelvin Country Club on fast lawns. 

On Monday, the Western Province championship, sponsored by J&B Rare Whisky, started, using a number of locations, including the Rondesbosch Club, Mowbray Golf Club’s bowling green, Somerset West (some 20 miles away) and Vis Hoek (some 15 miles away).  Ewen and Alasdair went to Vis Hoek who had asked to see some of the Scots at their two-court club in a suburb by the sea.  The lawns were self-created and there was a small clubhouse.  Everyone was very hospitable, but the weather was unkind, with rain starting at 10:00 and continuing all day.  Alasdair was lucky to receive two concessions in the rain, after opponents had variously used all their bisques and found the weather too much.  Ewen had a very tough game against George Jackson, eventually winning by one point after his opponent had failed the peg out.

On Tuesday, play was initially cancelled, then the cancellation was itself cancelled as the weather improved.  Alasdair went to Mowbray whose bowling green was level and extremely fast.  The others went to Rondesbosch Club which has three lawns, very compactly slotted onto a small site beside a main cross-roads with plenty of traffic noise.  It was clear that there was no attention to speed limits and there were frequent screams of brakes, or even crashes, as vehicles pulled up at the traffic lights.  It is so compact that local rules permit moving balls on the north boundary because of the risk of hitting the hedge or back wall on the backswing.  There is a beautiful backdrop looking south of the back of Table Mountain and Evil’s Peak rising over 3,000 feet.  Virtually every day at Rondesbosch was hot, and we had only one day of rain in the full trip.  The Scottish players had very little leave as they were in play the whole time during the week.  But some were able to organise visits to Cape Town castle and to the top of Table Mountain.

In Class ‘A’ the open singles was played as Draw and Process; both Ewen and Bill lost in the first round of the Draw, while Ewen got to the third round of the Process – Reginald Bamford, 15 years old, won both Draw and Process.  In Class ‘B’ which was played semi-advanced with a 1-back lift only, Alasdair lost in the Process to one Nan Coetzee, whom he met again in the final of the Draw, this time winning by +8.  He played Nan again in the overall final, again winning +8 – Alasdair played Nan seven times during the course of the tour, winning five of them.

In the Open Doubles, Alasdair partnered Clive Coulson, no stranger to these shores, and they took four hours to win +20 against a rabbit pairing, before losing in the afternoon to Dick LeMaitre and Carole Knox in a game with few chances, in one of which Clive missed a three-foot roquet at hoop 2 when trying to start a laid triple peel.  Meanwhile Bill and Ewen had progressed to the final with ease, but a tactical error during the opening ended their chance and they lost the final by 24 points.

In the Big Handicap, Alasdair beat Ewen in the quarter-finals to meet his usual opponent Nan Coetzee in the semi-finals where he won +12.  Bill beat Clive Coulson (½) and David Cunningham (-1½) to reach the final too.  The final, on a warm Saturday morning, lasted an unusual length of time, nearly four hours.  Alasdair had an early break using one bisque to set up a break and a second to correct a poor hoop position at hoop 5 before stopping at rover.  On the second ball, Alasdair, with all bisques gone except his half, stuck in 4-back (a known tight hoop) with everything ready for the rover peel.  Bill made heavy weather of the come-back opportunity and eventually Alasdair reached rover and peg, before hitting a long ball to take the final +10.  The Tournament Manager, Bryan Lloyd Pratt, and others were heard to mutter that Scottish handicaps were far too high, but the general consensus in both Scotland and England is that South African handicaps are too low compared to the rest of the world.

By Saturday Jack Norton had arrived.  Sunday’s sight-seeing concluded with lunch with Tom and Ilse Barlow at their beautiful 17th-century house at Verglegnen which was a living museum.  In the evening there was unexpected hospitality at a cocktail party given by a Kelvin Country Club member.

On Monday the four top South Africans, one of whom had had to play off to qualify the previous day on a best-of-three basis, joined the four tourists to pay the Riggall Trophy event.  This trophy spends its whole time in the bank vault and comes out only for the bi-annual play off.  It is worth about £20,000 and is made of gold laid out in the form of a mallet, balls and a hoop mounted on wood.  Alasdair’s handicap was more than 4 higher than the highest-handicapped South African, but nevertheless he was determined to play.  In the event, David Cunningham (-1½) won six games, being beaten only by Ewen who played well to come second with four wins.  The South African champion, Tom Barlow (-2), could manage only fifth place with three wins, losing to Jack and Bill, and beating Alasdair +1 on time in a three-and-a-quarter hours game.  Alasdair predictably finished last, but had the satisfaction of achieving the only perfect result by beating Bill +26 in the final round, thus depriving Bill of second place, pushing him down to fourth.  By this time Ewen was very much on form, playing like a 1½ handicap, to which he was reduced at the end of the tour.  During this week, the very high incidence of burglary in Cape Town was brought personally home since one such crime took place at the home of Mr and Mrs Bamford where Alasdair was staying – he was finger-printed …  On Thursday of the second week political recognition came the way of the tourists with a lunch at the Houses of Parliament given by the Speaker of the South African Parliament.

International Test Match, 19– 20 March, 1983, at Cape Town

The Test Match took place on Friday and Saturday with the singles taking place first.  The score at the end of day one was two-all – each rubber had been won 2-0.  The best game was between Bill Spalding and Clive Coulson which was won by Bill in the fifth turn.  Ewen beat Carole Knox.  Jack, against Reg Bamford, and most particularly Alasdair, against Bruce Stalker, were sadly off form with the latter throwing away an early lead in a welter of poor shots.  In the doubles top pair Ewen and Bill beat Carole Knox and Reg Bamford convincingly 2-0.  Alasdair and Jack lost their first game against Clive Coulson and Bruce Stalker after a bad hoop run was followed by a very bad tactical decision, resulting in defeat by one on time.  They won the second game, also on time, but lost the third 26-2 living dangerously having to play offensive croquet because only two hours were left for the game.  The Test was thus drawn 3-3.

The following Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were free time, and were spent around Cape Town and Durban, helped by the loan of a car from a friend of bill’s brother in Durban.  Jack and Ewen spent Tuesday morning lying in a swimming pool playing battleships, or getting lost in the car, while Alasdair and Bill killed time and effigies!

Provincial Test Match, 24 – 25 March, at Pietermaritzburg

On Wednesday and Thursday of the third week the party played a provincial test in Pietermaritzburg, which is forty miles up country from Durban.  It is a very English town, and once upon a time its state, Natal, had threatened to secede from the Republic of South Africa.  The well-appointed Maritzburg club had three lawns with a lovely veranda between two of them.  The press were in evidence with a photo published of Jack with his Arab head-dress protecting him from the sun.

Cape friends from the Western Province were included in the team.  Ewen and Bill beat Clive Coulson and Eileen Murgatroyd quickly 2-0, while Alasdair and Jack lost to Nan Coetzee and John Davis by the same margin, after appearing likely to take the first game.  In the singles Bill overwhelmed Eileen 2-0, while Jack lost by the same margin.  Ewen lost 2-0 after a very close second game, while Alasdair, as usual, was involved in long games with Nan Coetzee.  His three games over the day and a quarter ran to some ten hours.  He lost the first by 2 on time, won the second by 10 on time, and won the third in a very tactical game by 1 on time, only taking the lead in the final five minutes.  The Provincial Test was thus drawn.

On Friday a visit was made to a commercial Game Park on the way to Pretoria, and the Scots were put up by Nelson Leech.  On the last day there was a fun game at Pretoria with a brivlaes (barbecue) at the side of the lawn.  Bill triple peeled Nelson (2) on very fast lawns, including a jump shot over 1-back to hit a double target beyond.  Playing Clive Coulson, Ewen decided also to keep trying the triple, and was not surprised to lose.  Jack played a handicap game against Mrs Britts, winning after her bisques petered out.  Alasdair played Cheryl Coulson (7) on the fast lawn, winning after a ten hoop three ball break – he had been told that he had to win if he wanted a handicap reduction.  Then there were one-ball games played during the barbecue before leaving at 5:00 to catch the (full) plane home.

In South Africa handicaps tend to be lower than in Britain, such that a South African 6 is a UK 7 or 7½.  They are lucky in that they can play all the year round, which is only dine in UK at Cheltenham.  The hospitality was absolutely Concorde class, all the way from the South African Croquet Association, through the various Clubs and members, the individual hosts in the various locations, to those, including strangers, who invited us out for the evenings or provided us with meals.  None of us will ever forget the wonderful experience of the trip, and we marked it to a small extent ourselves in the South African Croquet Association and in the Western Province by presenting trays as trophies for the National and Western Province Championships to be given, in the fashion of the Edinburgh Tournament’s Lauder Bowl, to the player playing most games without winning a major class event.  At Western Province, it was won by Nan Coetzee, which was rather fitting as the trays were primarily Alasdair’s idea.



Scottish names first:

1976:     Glasgow:

I. Wright & S. Wright beat T. Barlow & D. Cunningham +13, -16, +5
F. Norton & W. Spalding level with L. Sullivan & I. Gillespie -1, +1
S. Wright beat T. Barlow +11, +4
I. Wright beat D. Cunningham +3, +7
F. Norton lost to L. Sullivan +9, -7, -10
W. Spalding beat I. Gillespie +16, +20tp

1977:     Cape Town:
S.J.H. Wright & I.H. Wright lost to T. Barlow & D.G. Cunningham +1, -9, -25
F.V.X. Norton & D.I. Nichols lost to L. Sullivan & C. Coulson +10, -11, -11

Stephen Wright lost to Tom Barlow -16, +14, -12
Ian Wright lost to David Cunningham -23, -22
Jack Norton lost to Lester Sullivan +13, -10, -25
David Nichols beat Clive Coulson +13, -15, +9

1977:     Pietermaritzburg:
Stephen Wright lost to Tom Barlow +4, -10, -23
Ian Wright lost to Lester Sullivan -18, -18
Jack Norton lost to David Cunningham -15, +1, -12
David Nichols beat Clive Coulson -10, +17, +2
S.J.H. Wright & F.V.X. Norton beat T. Barlow & D.G. Cunningham +14, +4
I.H. Wright & D.I. Nichols lost to L. Sullivan & C. Coulson -10, -18

1978:     Glasgow:
D. Nichols & R.N. Maclean behind to T. Barlow & C. Coulson -9
F.V.X. Norton & I.H. Wright behind to L. Sullivan & C. Carter -4
The Test Match was abandoned due to waterlogging during the second round of doubles

1978:     Glasgow (Day 1) and Edinburgh (Day 2):

F.V.X. Norton & I.H. Wright lost to T. Barlow & C. Coulson +5, -13, -5
D.I. Nichols & R. Williams lost to L. Sullivan & C. Carter -14, -12
F.V.X. Norton lost to T. Barlow -19, -19
D.I. Nichols beat L. Sullivan -2, +3, +14
I.H. Wright lost to C. Coulson -17, -5
R. Williams lost to C. Carter -15, -15

1979:     Cape Town:
Day 1:

S.J.H. Wright & F.V.X. Norton beat T. Barlow & D.I. Cunningham -15, +5, +5
D.I. Nichols lost to B. Stalker -1, +12, -13
R.N. Maclean beat G. Jackson +11, +12
Day 2:
D.I. Nichols & R.N. Maclean beat B. Stalker & G. Jackson +16, +3
S.J.H. Wright beat T. Barlow +17, +24
F.V.X. Norton beat D.G. Cunningham +7, +2

1979:     Durban / Pietermaritzburg:
Day 1 Durban

S.J.H. Wright & F.V.X. Norton lost to T. Barlow & L. Sullivan -10, -7
D.I. Nichols & R.N. Maclean lost to C. Coulson & B. Stalker +3, -26, -4
Day 2 Pietermaritzburg

S.J.H. Wright lost to T. Barlow +16, -4, -14
F.V.X. Norton beat L. Sullivan -1, +12, +6T
D.I. Nichols lost to C. Coulson -4, +2T, -8
R.N. Maclean beat B. Stalker +9, +5

1983:     Cape Town:

Jack Norton lost to Reg Bamford 0-2
Bill Spalding beat Clive Coulson 2-0 (first game tp)
Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie beat Carole Knox 2-0
Alasdair Adam lost to Bruce Stalker 0-2
Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie & Bill Spalding beat Reg Bamford & Carole Knox 2-0
Jack Norton & Alasdair Adam lost to Clive Coulson & Bruce Stalker 1-2

1983:     (Provincial Test Match)

Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie & Bill Spalding beat Clive Coulson & Eileen Murgatroyd 2-0
Jack Norton & Alasdair Adam lost to Nan Coetzee & John Davis 0-2
Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie lost to Clive Coulson 0-2
Bill Spalding beat Eileen Murgatroyd 2-0
Jack Norton lost to John Davis 0-2
Alasdair Adam beat Nan Coetzee 2-1