The Origins of the Tennis Player Nelly Adamson (1916-2010)
By Mark Ryan
Although most relevant sources appear to list her birthplace as Bruges, Belgium, the British register of Births, Marriages and Deaths (BMD) contains details of the birth of a girl named Nelly A.J.S. Adamson to a Georges M. Adamson and Adelaide van den Broucke. This birth was registered during the first quarter of 1917 in the Orsett Registration District in the county of Essex in south-east England. (The quarter in which registration took place indicates that the birth had occurred towards the end of 1916.) Nelly Adamson’s actual date of birth was more than likely December 28, 1916, while her place of birth was the town of Tilbury, also in Essex.
The BMD register also shows that the aforementioned Georges Maurice Adamson and Adelaide van den Broucke had married each other around the third quarter of 1914 in the county of Kent, also in south-east England. This marriage was registered in the Gravesend Registration District in that county.
Georges Adamson was born in Bruges on March 17, 1890. From a well-to-do family, he showed a keen interest in sport at an early age and, in his late teens, became a member of the Cercle-Cercle youth football team. However, he did not progress to become a member of the senior team. He was also a good lawn tennis player, but does not appear to have taken part in any important tournaments.
It is clear from several contemporary records that at some point early in his life Georges Adamson chose to enter the Belgian Navy. Indeed, by 1910 Adamson had become a sailor. In the following years he gradually moved his way up the ranks, his formal place of study being the Maritime School of Ostend, an important port city located on the Belgian coast. In the first quarter of 1913, he became second lieutenant in the merchant navy; in June of 1914, he obtained the certificate of first lieutenant in the merchant navy; and in November 1919, one year after the end of World War One, he obtained the certificate of captain in the merchant navy, receiving honours in these final examinations.
Georges Adamson’s career choice is a logical explanation of the link between the Adamson family and England, especially the south-eastern part of that country. At some point, probably circa 1910, Adamson was first employed by the John Cockerill Company, a large manufacturing company, one of whose main routes for transporting goods was the Ostend-Tilbury line. The latter port, Tilbury, is located on the north bank of the River Thames and is the main port of London. Tilbury is situated opposite Gravesend, another important port and the place where the marriage of Georges Adamson to Adelaide van den Broucke was registered in the third quarter 1914. This was after Georges Adamson had become second lieutenant and around the time that World War One broke out.
It is likely that during these years the Adamsons were living in Gravesend or Tilbury, or not too far from both places, at a time when Georges was acquiring practical experience as an employee of the John Cockerill Company while also continuing his naval studies. It is also likely that Georges Adamson saw service during World War One in his capacity as second lieutenant.
By the early 1930s, Georges Adamson was captain at Zeebrugge, the port of Bruges, and also a member of the Belgian Lawn Tennis Federation. He was present at the wedding of his daughter, Nelly, to the French lawn tennis player of Russian origin Pierre Landry when they married in Bruges on February 8, 1937. Also present were Firmin and Valère van den Broucke (or Vandenbroucke), maternal uncles of the bride. Nelly's younger sister, Jenny (b. circa 1920), junior tennis champion of Belgium in singles in 1936 and 1937, was another guest at the wedding.
A long newspaper report of the wedding does not mention Nelly’s mother, Adelaide, and the latter is difficult to trace in genealogical and other records. However, one reliable source states that Adelaide van den Broucke was born in Blankenberge, Belgium, on April 18, 1892, and that she died in Vancouver, Canada, on December 23, 1972, at the age of 80. It is possible that she and Georges Adamson had separated at some point, but this is purely speculation. Georges himself died in Bruges on January 7, 1969, two months before what would have been his seventy-ninth birthday.
Nelly Adamson, the only child of Georges Adamson and Adelaide van den Broucke, later divorced Pierre Landry before marrying for a second time. She died on February 22, 2010 at the age of 93. Her place of death is uncertain.
Last edited by newmark401; Apr 26th, 2013 at 10:24 PM.