Ruth Dyas Durlacher – An Early Irish Sportswoman
By Mark Ryan
Ruth Dyas was born on 22 July 1876 in Malahide, a coastal suburb in north Dublin. She was the daughter of Jacob Dyas, a landowner and Justice of the Peace (b. 20 February 1835), and Sophia Dyas (née Barrett; b. 23 March 1850). Jacob Dyas might have been born in one of the counties in the north-east part of Ireland; Sophia Barrett was a native of Woodlawn, a village in County Galway in the west of the country. They had married each other on 4 June 1872 in Dublin.
In addition to Ruth, Jacob and Sophia Dyas appear to have had three other children. Their first child was born on 19 November 1873 in Heathstown House, Athboy, County Meath and christened Mary Edyth Anne (and later known as Edyth). Heathstown House appears to have been the Dyas ancestral home in Athboy, a small agricultural town to the west of Dublin. A Richard Dyas, probably Jacob’s father and also a Justice of the Peace, was a resident there in the early 1840s when the book ‘A List of the Justices of Peace in Ireland’ was published in Dublin in 1844, ‘For Her Majesty’s Stationers’ Office’.
Another source, from circa 1870, gives Jacob Dyas’s address as Heathstown House, and also mentions that he ‘owned 793 acres’. An entry in wikipedia describes the role of Justices of the Peace in Ireland in the decades before Independence as follows: “Justices of the peace existed in Ireland prior to 1922, sitting in a bench under the supervision of resident magistrates at petty sessions to try minor offences summarily, and with a county court judge (in his capacity of chairman of quarter sessions) and jury to try more serious offences at quarter sessions. In the Irish Free State the position was effectively abolished by the District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Act 1923.”
It is likely that, given his wealth, Jacob Dyas was more a ‘gentleman of leisure’ than a working man, and that his children, especially his daughters, would have grown up with little expectation of their eventually pursuing any sort of career. It is also very probable that Jacob Dyas owned property not just in County Meath, but also in Dublin. This might explain the fact that Ruth was born in the capital and not in Athboy. However, her family might simply have been holidaying by the east coast, in Malahide, when Ruth was born there in July 1876.
One of Ruth Dyas’s first appearances in a lawn tennis tournament came in Dublin in the late spring of 1894, when she took part in the women’s handicap singles event at the Lansdowne Lawn Tennis Club on the south side of the city. She reached the semi-final of the event in question. That year the Lansdowne Lawn Tennis Club tournament was held one week after the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships, at this point in time one of the most prestigious tournaments in the lawn tennis calendar, second only to the Wimbledon tournament. Ruth Dyas first took part in the Irish Championships in 1895, when she was still 18 years of age, and continued to do so almost every year for the next decade or so. She would finish runner-up in the women’s singles event on four occasions, in 1897, 1899, 1901 and 1902.
Although she enjoyed a good deal of success at lawn tennis tournaments in the years circa 1896-1905, Ruth Dyas never quite had the talent required to win the biggest prizes, at least not in singles. Her major successes, so to speak, would come in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles events, in particular at the aforementioned Irish Lawn Tennis Championships, where she won the women’s doubles event in 1896 (with the Englishwoman Alice Pickering), 1898, 1899, and 1901 (all with fellow Irishwoman Louisa Martin) and in 1902 (with a rather obscure Irish player usually listed only as Miss Hazlett).
Ruth Dyas also won the mixed doubles at the Irish Championships three times during its ‘golden period’, which extended from 1880 to 1902 – in 1898 with the Englishman Harold Nisbet and in 1901 and 1902 with the great English player Laurie Doherty. (A comprehensive list of Ruth Dyas’s victories in singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles events throughout her lawn tennis career can be found in Appendix II below.)
In addition to her successes in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles events at her native championships in Dublin, Ruth Dyas also notably won the All England Women’s Doubles Championship, which in those days was held in August, during the Derbyshire Championships tournament in Buxton. (There was no official women’s doubles or mixed doubles event at Wimbledon until 1913.) In 1898 and 1899, Ruth Dyas was victorious in Buxton together with the Englishwoman Bertha Steedman.
Ruth Dyas’s greatest success in the women’s singles event at Wimbledon came in 1899, when she was within one month of her 23rd birthday and already a married woman. In that particular year she won three matches against three Englishwomen – Ethel Tanner, Muriel Robb and Bertha Steedman – to reach the All-Comers’ Final, the last match before the Challenge Round where the winner of what was then known as the All-Comers’ event would take on the reigning champion, who in those days did not have to ‘play through’.
At Wimbledon in 1899, Ruth Dyas’s opponent in the All-Comers’ Final at Wimbledon was the redoubtable Englishwoman Blanche Hillyard (née Bingley), already four times a Wimbledon singles champion. In 1899, Blanche Hillyard won the title for a fifth time (out of a total of six), beating Ruth Dyas in a close three-set match in the All-Comers’ Final, 7-5, 6-8, 6-1. The score is revealing because it shows that, although the first two sets were close, when it came to the crucial third and final set, the Englishwoman had the better game and steadier nerve.
Despite this success at Wimbledon in 1899, when asked what her most memorable lawn tennis match was, Ruth Dyas said that this was the final of the women’s singles event at the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships in 1902. This was when Ruth came closest to winning what was effectively her national title. In the final in Dublin she had two match points in the third set against Louisa Martin, arguably Ireland’s greatest ever female lawn tennis player, but eventually ended up losing by a very narrow margin, 6-8, 6-4, 7-5.
Ruth Dyas wrote about a short piece about the final of the women’s singles event at the Irish Championships in 1902 for the book ‘Lawn Tennis for Ladies’ (1910), by the great English player Dorothea Lambert Chambers. The book in question contained a section featuring reminiscences by some of the top female players of the day of their ‘most memorable match’. Here is how Ruth remembered the match in question:
“A match that remains in my memory perhaps more than any other was the final of the Irish Championship Singles at Dublin in 1902, when Miss Louisa Martin and I met and had a long struggle for supremacy. At one time it really seemed as if I must win this match, as I led at 5 games to 1 and was within a stroke of the match. But I could not make that one point.
“Once when I had the advantage and only wanted an ace [point] to win the match, one of my returns ran along the top of the net, and then, unfortunately for me, dropped my side. Miss Martin stuck to her guns persistently and eventually pulled the match out of the fire, winning the next six games straight off and thus becoming Irish Champion for 1902. It was very disappointing to lose after being so near victory. The score in Miss Martin’s favour was 6-8, 6-4, 7-5.”
As indicated above, Ruth Dyas had already married by the time of the Irish Championships in 1899, when she was within one month of her 23rd birthday. Her husband, the Englishman Neville Durlacher, was also a lawn tennis player, and it is very likely that they first met each other while taking part in a lawn tennis tournament. Their wedding took place on 17 December 1898 in Rathdown, in south county Dublin.
Neville Durlacher was born on 15 December 1870, the seventh son and tenth and last child of Henry Durlacher, an art leader from London, and Adelaide Durlacher (née Zimmerman). Henry was the son of Lewis Durlacher and Susanna Durlacher (née Levi); on his death in London in November 1902, he left just over £100,000, a huge sum in those days. Details of his funeral were recorded in the Register of Burials in the West London Synagogue of British Jews.
Adelaide Zimmerman was the daughter of Godfrey Zimmerman, who was born in Germany (Prussia) in 1792, and his wife Martha Zimmerman (née Hart), who was born in Yarmouth in Norfolk in 1793. The 1851 Census of England lists Godfrey as a shopkeeper and Martha as a shopkeeper’s wife; at that time they were living at 38 Wigmore Street, close to Oxford Street in the centre of London.
Neville Durlacher and his eldest brother, Frederick, were initially both stock jobbers in rubber on the London Stock Exchange, and established their own company, F. and N. Durlacher. An entry in wikipedia describes stock jobbers as “institutions that acted as market makers in the London Stock Exchange. Prior to ‘the Big Bang’ in 1986, every stock traded on the Exchange passed through a ‘jobber’s book’, that is, they acted as the ultimate purchasers of shares sold and the source of shares purchased, by stockbrokers on behalf of the latters’ clients. Stockbrokers in turn were not permitted to be market makers.” The Durlachers’ business prospered and enabled Neville and his family to enjoy an expensive lifestyle. (When the rubber market collapsed after World War One, the Durlachers switched to breweries and distilleries.)
Neville and Ruth Durlacher would have three children together. Their first child, Nora Ruth Durlacher, was born on 19 October 1900 in Paddington, London; she was followed by a son, Patrick Neville Durlacher, who was also born in Paddington, on 17 March 1903 (Saint Patrick’s Day). When the 1901 Census of England was taken on the night of 31 March, Neville and Ruth Durlacher and baby Nora were living in a house in 5 Westbourne Crescent in Paddington. Four servants and a nurse were also listed in the census return. Neville Durlacher describes himself as a ‘stock jobber/agent, own account’ in the same return.
Ten years later, when the next Census of England was taken, on the night of 5 April 1911, the Durlachers were living, or at least staying, in a house in Castle Hill, Maidenhead. Also present were a 27-year-old French governess, Mlle Boquet, and four servants. This time Neville Durlacher describes himself as a ‘stock jobber, dealing in stocks and shares’. (Although the 1911 Census of England found the Durlachers in a house in Maidenhead in Berkshire, it is likely that their main residence by that time was in Stoke Poges, a village and parish in the south-eastern English county of Buckinghamshire.)
Ruth Dyas stopped taking part in lawn tennis tournaments around 1907, the year in which she turned 31 (she entered the Wimbledon tournament for the last time that year, but with little success). Although she was still relatively young, it is possible that after the birth of two children, she wanted to pursue a less strenuous sport. It is therefore not surprising to see her name appearing in contemporary reports of golf tournaments from about 1905 onwards. It is clear from such reports that she was a member of both the Prince’s Club and the Chiswick Ladies’ Golf Club. (The former club appears to be the Prince’s Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, and not the Prince’s Club in London.)
The London ‘Times’ newspaper in particular carries details of Ruth Dyas’s success on the golf course in the years circa 1905-14, when she was sometimes also a member of the Irish ladies’ golf team which took part in a number of international matches against other nations, including England and Scotland. She also enjoyed some individual success at golf tournaments, including the early British Amateur Ladies’ Championship, the Irish Ladies’ Championship and the Ladies’ Championships of France. In a report carried on 12 July 1912, the London ‘Times’ noted the following: “The tournament for the Ladies’ Championship of France was brought to a conclusion at Le Touquet yesterday. In the final match Mrs Durlacher, who is an Irish international player and a member of the Prince’s Club, beat Miss Compton by 4 holes up and 3 to play.”
Ruth Durlacher did not defend her title at the Ladies’ Golf Championship of France in July 1913 because by that time she was pregnant with her third and last child. On 22 September 1913, she gave birth to a boy called Jack at ‘Larchmoor’ in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire. In later life Jack Durlacher would himself go on to have two children, both boys, one of whom, Nicholas (‘Nick’; b. 1945), would become a very successful businessman in the City of London. In a number of interviews he would subsequently give for the British Library as part the British Lives ‘City Lives’ series, Nick Durlacher would reminisce not only about his father, but also about other family members, including Ruth and Neville Durlacher (whom he was too young to remember) and their other two children, his Aunt Nora and Uncle Patrick (‘Pat’). Details of these reminiscences can be found in Appendix I below.
In later life, after World War One, Ruth Durlacher and her husband Neville travelled a good deal. Their names appear on the passenger lists for a number of cruise ships, usually departing from the port city of Southampton in southern England. Some of the places the Durlachers visited in the 1920s and 1930s were Spain, Italy and South Africa. Their last journey overseas took them to the west coast of the United States, including California and Hawaii. This occurred around January 1934, when they were passengers on the Arandora Star cruise ship. Neville Durlacher died one year later, on 23 January 1935, in Stoke Green, Buckinghamshire. He was 64.
Ruth Durlacher died on 21 September 1946 at Pinegrove, Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire, two months after her seventieth birthday. She was survived by her three children, Nora, Pat and Jack.
Reminisces of Nick Durlacher, grandson of Ruth and Neville Durlacher (from the British Library’s ‘City Lives’ series (1995))
“Here talks about father’s growing up period with older brother and sister – Pat[rick] and Nora – 10 and 12 years his senior. Dad an afterthought. Dad’s mother Irish woman named Ruth Dyas – fine sportswoman – champion tennis and golf player also good at bowls. Father very spoiled being so much younger – doted on his nanny. Happy childhood. Also loved sports. Prep school in Eastbourne (Saint Andrews) to which ND and brother subsequently went.
“Gives reason why father went to Stowe instead of Wellington where his brother Patrick was a distinguished pupil. Stowe opened 1923, father went 1926. Had wonderful time there. Boys then allowed to take animals to school –father took ferrets. Father gregarious – loved games if not work – got on well with people. Did not want to go to university unlike brother Pat who had distinguished career at Cambridge. Father wanted to join his friend De Havilland at Stowe – latter’s father was building airplanes but owing to slump in the 1930’s De Havilland could not take him on.
“Dad’s father [Neville Durlacher] got irritated having the boy kicking around at home and took him to work on the Stock Exchange. Talks about the relationship between father and father’s brother Pat. Brother Pat worked for ICI but later joined family firm. Describes Uncle Pat and says always a little frightened of him. About division of firm’s profits between Esmond, Jack and Patrick and Jerome Briggs who was brought into firm when Esmond’s father died.
“Talks about father’s sister Nora – loving relationship. Dad and brother disapproved of Nora’s husband, Leslie Dow, who had been sent down from Cambridge when involved in betting scam considered very improper then. Leslie’s family was Dow’s Port – lost most of their money. Gives reasons why father and uncle thought very little of him.
“More about Aunt Nora. She and husband Leslie lived near Woodbrodge, Suffolk after the war – he visited them occasionally. His father had furious rows with them and visits were forbidden for about five years until peace was restored. House an old rectory at Newbourn near Woodbridge – lovely house, happy home – not much money but lived an agreeable life. Nora sparky, amusing person – two sons, James and David, to whom his father felt very close. Both went to Repton and then Cambridge. At Cambridge James a Communist – resultant row when he told ND’s father [Jack] – forbidden to ‘darken my door any longer’. Nora defended her son. ND about 5 or 6 then – remembers hearing later about this.
“Talks here about cousin David – known as Dumpy – married and went to Jamaica to work on sugar plantation – long gaps between visits – attractive personality – remains a friend. ND remembers his sports car (TR7 or 6) – very glamorous – took them for drives. First wife died before she was 40 from defective heart. She had been advised not to have any children as heart defect was hereditary – had one child however who survived to age 10.
“Cousin remarried and now lives in Suffolk. Reference here to James who tore up his Party card after Soviet invasion of Hungary. He worked with Smith & Nephew. More about David and his dealings in agricultural products on return from Jamaica – very successful for a time then bad debts – nearly bankrupt but saved by selling rights of firm’s name (i.e Dow something) to Dow Chemical - got £50,000 – a windfall.
“About other relatives on father’s side – Uncle Pat married French woman known as Didi – no children. Irish relations heard about but never seen. Esmond’s brother Laurie very distinguished career in Navy – became Fifth Sea Lord – lived in South of France – married to a Russian emigrée – son called Peter and very glamorous daughter Sasha now married to wealthy Lebanese gent.
“Talks more about father’s mother Ruth Dyas – lovely woman apparently, very sociable, enjoyed playing Bridge – died 1947 but had attended ND’s christening.”
A. Main successes of Ruth Dyas in singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles events at lawn tennis tournaments in years 1897-1905 (alphabetical by tournament; chronological by year within a tournament)
British Covered Court Championships, London
1897 Edith Austin d. Ruth Dyas 9-11 6-4 12-10
Derbyshire Championships, Buxton
1898 Ruth Dyas d. Blanche Hillyard 6-2 6-4
1905 Ruth Durlacher d. Evelyn Blencowe Driver 7-5 6-2
Irish Championships, Dublin
1897 Blanche Hillyard d. Ruth Dyas 7-5 2-6 6-3
1899 Louisa Martin d. Ruth Durlacher 6-1 6-2
1901 Muriel Robb d. Ruth Durlacher 9-7 6-1
1902 Louisa Martin d. Ruth Durlacher 6-8 6-4 7-5
London Championships, Queen’s Club
1902 [July] Charlotte Cooper Sterry d. Ruth Durlacher 6-0 6-0
Midland Counties Championships, Edgbaston
1897 Ruth Dyas d. Alice Pickering 8-6 3-6 6-3
1899 Charlotte Cooper d. Ruth Durlacher 3-6 6-4 8-6
1901 Ruth Durlacher d. Maude Garfit 6-4 6-4
1899 [Manchester] Louisa Martin d. Ruth Durlacher 6-8 6-2 6-2
Northumberland Championships, Newcastle
1898 Ruth Dyas d. Blanche Hillyard 6-2 6-2
Sheffield and Hallamshire, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
1895 Ruth Dyas d. Gertrude Provis 7-5 6-3
1897 Ruth Dyas d. Miss Smyth 5-7 6-3 6-3
1899 Ruth Durlacher d. Ida? Cressy 6-2 6-3
1895 Ruth Dyas d. Miss Murray 4-6 6-3 7-5
1896 Ruth Dyas d. Constance Hill 6-1 6-0
1897 Ruth Dyas d. Constance Hill 2-6 6-2 6-2
1898 Ruth Dyas d. Constance Hill 6-0 6-0
1899 E. Makinson d. Ruth Dyas Durlacher, walkover
Warwickshire Championships, Leamington
1895 Ruth Dyas d. Ethel Taylor Valentin 6-3 6-1
1896 Alice Simpson Pickering d. Ruth Dyas 4-6 7-5 7-5
1897 Ruth Dyas d. Minnie Hunter 4-6 6-0 6-1
1898 Ruth Dyas d. Alice Simpson Pickering 7-5 2-6 3-1 retired
1899 Alice Simpson Pickering d. Ruth Durlacher 6-3 6-1
West of England Championships, Bath
1896 Charlotte Cooper d. Ruth Dyas 4-6 7-5 6-3
Welsh Covered Court Championships, Llandudno
1895 (Apr) Alice Simpson Pickering d. Ruth Dyas 6-1 6-0
1897 Ruth Dyas d. Alice Simpson Pickering 4-6 6-3 6-4
1898 Ruth Dyas d. Muriel Robb 1-6 7-5 11-9
1899 Muriel Robb d. Ruth Dyas Durlacher 6-2 6-3
B. Women’s doubles and mixed doubles events (chronological by year)
DF = Women’s doubles final; XDF = Mixed doubles final
Irish Championships, Dublin
DF: Ruth Dyas/Alice Pickering d. Lottie Paterson/Miss Snook 5-7 6-3 6-4
Irish Championships, Dublin
DF: Ruth Dyas/Louisa Martin d. Charlotte Cooper/O. Martin 6-3 6-8 6-2
XDF: Ruth Dyas/Harold Nisbet d. Miss Bloxsome/Laurie Doherty 6-2 6-4 6-1
Derbyshire Championships, Buxton
All England Women’s Doubles Championship
DF: Ruth Dyas/Bertha Steedman d. Blanche Hillyard/Alice Pickering 6-3 6-2
Irish Championships, Dublin
DF: Louisa Martin/Ruth Durlacher d. Miss Hodson/Muriel Robb 6-2 6-4
Derbyshire Championships, Buxton, Derbyshire
All England Women’s Doubles Championships
FI: Ruth Durlacher/Bertha Steedman d. Blanche Hillyard/Alice Pickering 2-6 6-4 6-2
Irish Championships, Dublin
DF: Ruth Durlacher/Louisa Martin d. Miss Golding/Muriel Robb default
XDF: Ruth Durlacher/Laurie Doherty d. S Pollen/Neville Durlacher 6-3 10-8
XDF: Charlotte Sterry/Laurie Doherty d. Ruth Durlacher/Wilberforce V. Eaves (Aus) 6-2 6-3
Irish Championships, Dublin
DF: Ruth Durlacher/Miss Hazlett d. Louisa Martin/Miss Morant 6-3 6-4
XDF: Ruth Durlacher/Laurie Doherty d. Maude Garfit/Walter Carey 6-2 6-4 6-4
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Last edited by newmark401; Apr 21st, 2018 at 08:23 PM.