issue99 alangordon

Dr. Alan Carlton shares a coffee with… Gordon Henry

My aim in this colums is to understand the dental community. I want every section of dental communinty illuminated. Everybody has a story to tell. Everybody has a story worth hearing.

Alan: G’day Gordon. It’s really nice to see you. It’s fantastic to see you and meet you at the Royal Tennis Club in Hobart. Outside it says royal tennis but inside apparently it’s real tennis. Not royal tennis.

Gordon:  The name was changed. I think within the last 10 years; anyway from royal tennis to real tennis.

A: How has that changed the game?

G: It’s changed the game in no way what so ever.

A: Has it changed the way people think of the game?

G: People who don’t play still tend to refer to it as royal tennis but the players will correct them and say it’s called real tennis now. And that discerns lawn tennis because royal tennis was the original real tennis.

A: Well I actually play tennis. We call it tennis. Not lawn tennis. We don’t look on this tennis as being real. To us it is royal tennis. 

G: The story I was told is it was called royal tennis because of King Henry 8th who used to play and because of his affiliation with the game it took on the title of royal tennis. It was originally played probably in the 12th century in monasteries and the streets with the hand and then in the 15th century they began playing with racquets.

A: At the moment we are close to the Royal Hobart Hospital which I don’t think King Henry 8th ever went to. Ha, ha, ha.

A: When you are working does royal tennis ever come into that. Does it affect your work at all? Does it help your work?

G: It affecting me in my early days because I was very tired from the night before.

A: Which doesn’t happen nowadays?
Ha, ha, ha.

G: When you are young you can get away with anything.

A: Apparently we are not as young as we used to be. Anyway when you are playing you are doing something physical. That’s good. That makes you physically fitter; helps your work. That’s good.

A: Also I get the feeling royal tennis is a good social activity and it helps you socially.

G: When I first joined in 1991 this club was extremely social club. Not only a sporting club. I used to play pennant probably twice a week and we would have a three course dinner after pennant and invariably get home about three in the morning.

A: Cooked here?

G: Yes. Cooked here and we went to great lengths to put on a good quality meal.

A: Three courses?

G: Yes three courses.

A: Jeepers. Three courses. I was going to talk about physical health and you are talking about three course meals.

G: In those days it was a social club because there was really good eclectic group of people. Yes I got down to a good handicap. I put a lot into it. You have to be fit to play the game well. Because you are running? Court sprints. It can be a very physical game but depends on the level at which you are playing.

A: What are that basic rules of royal tennis?

G: Same scoring as tennis.  The same points, games and sets. Night pennant best of three sets.

A: Can the ball bounce only once?

G: The ball can bounce twice.  King Henry 8th was biggish and moved around the court slowly.

A: We are not going to say that to his face.
Ha, ha, ha.

G: No. He made the ruling that you had to see where the second bounce was. All these marking on the court come into play. The game is a mixture of squash and chess.

A: The amazing thing about this tennis club in Hobart is it very central, everybody goes past it. The building is beautiful and historic. Everybody knows the building and hardly anybody has actually played the game.

G: We only have about 80 active members.

A: When you work do you talk to your patients about royal tennis?

G: Yes. I have a few pieces of art. I had some racquets on the wall and a cartoon and generally speaking with the patients I’ve had for a life time they are aware of my extra-curriculum activities. They know me and I know them. And people are always interested in royal tennis.

A: Yes. I’ve noticed that.

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