Tournament History

whtc-history This tournament was revived in 1971 as a result of an approach by Mr W.Bruce McGregor, at the time Chairman of the S.L.T.A. Cup & Committee, to the committee of the newly reconstituted Oban Tennis Club. Although no specific records were available it appeared that the Championship Tournament had been held over the years between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second according to the evidence on the four trophies which had lain forgotten in the Burgh Surveyor’s Office. Two of these elegant silver trophies had been presented to the men’s and ladies singles events in 1922 but had, apparently been superseded by two grander silver trophies which had last been presented in 1937 to the winners of the same events. It is probable that the Tournament took place in 1938 but had not been inscribed. The 1922 trophies were adapted for presentation to the winners of the Under 21 singles events in the revived Tournament while the larger trophies were retained for presentation to the winners of the main Open singles events. Further trophies were donated for the competition in the Gents, Ladies and Mixed Doubles by various bodies – the Tourist Association (Mens Doubles), Oban Town Council (Mixed Doubles) and some business and private donors.

There were 8 blaes tennis courts built to tournament standard next to the bowling green on Dalriach Road. This was due to the fact that the original tournament had been run under the auspices of the Town Council. However, in the post-War years the maintenance of these courts was becoming too expensive for an amenity which, in 1968 was little used, and 4 of them were temporarily converted into a car park. This spurred a few of the regular users to re-constitute the Tennis Club which subsequently made representation to the Town Council to re-instate the car park to it’s previous use. This was agreed and subsequently enabled a Committee comprised of 4 representatives of the Tennis Club Committee, the Tourist Office, 3 Councillors, the Burgh Surveyor and Mr Bruce McGregor (ex-officio) to convene to make arrangements to re-establish the West Highland Lawn Tennis Championships to run from the 6th – 11th of September 1971.

whtc-history-1These dates were chosen so that the West Highland Tournament would run immediately prior to the Highland Tournament which was already well established at the Atholl Hotel at Pitlochery. Mr McGregor felt that 2 such holiday tournaments would attract County players from South of the border as well as Scotland to open events and club players to the handicapped events. It was also agreed that social events should be organised for each evening prior to the finals on Saturday – this would compensate for the misery and boredom for the inevitable rainy delays! As it turned out the finals were reached in 1971 without a drop of rain!

Bruce McGregor used his influence to encourage County players to enter to such effect that David Lloyd and Graeme Notman (No. 1 in Scotland) agreed to come to contest the Men’s Singles (which David won) and both returned the following year! They certainly didnt come for the prize money which was £5 for the winner and £2.50 for the runner up but at least the same amount was awarded for the Ladies’ Singles which was won by Eileen Johnston from Lockerbie. However, the hospitality given to a number of the visiting players by club members and patrons more than compensated for the paucity of the prize money.

The social events were a great success – Town Council reception, swimming gala at the Lancaster Hotel, Ceilidh, Sailing Club ‘Regatta’ and culminating in a more formal dinner/dance and this aspect certainly earned the tournament a very good reputation among players around the country. This was just as well because, although there was very little rain during the 1972 tournament the luck didn’t hold for the subsequent years and thereby hangs many a tale!

One of the many features of the tournament for a good number of years was the welcome presence of Spike (Ches Spychala) the Slazenger representative who encouraged and entertained the Referee, organisers and players with his marvellous stories delivered in his Polish accent and idiom. He was greatly missed when he retired.

whtc-history-2Many changes occurred in the following years which caused the Tournament organisers a few headaches. The change of the organisation of Local Government was probably the biggest factor because this resulted in the new Council going ahead with it’s original plan to build a much needed swimming pool in Oban and the site that was chosen? Yes – on the tennis courts! However, the Council agreed to allocate part of the football pitch at Lochavullin to the Club’s use and marked out 5 courts on very uneven blaes. The Council promised a grant to the club towards the eventual building of new courts beside the swimming pool but, contrary to this prediction, this did not happen for another 5 years. Meantime, the Committee soldiered on running the tournament successfully in somewhat adverse circumstances – no one will ever forget the year when Lochavullin (this name is not without significance!) was completely flooded to such an extent that some keen types were actually canoeing on the roadside beside the tennis courts which had been left high and dry!

In the meantime Oban Tennis Club was kept busy raising funds to match the grants in order to build the new all-weather tennis courts while a caravan, which had been generously gifted, served as a clubhouse/referee’s office. Further fundraising efforts were required to raise funds to build a clubhouse and 2 squash courts which have subsequently been further disguised having been incorporated in the Atlantis Leisure building as you can see it today. The Tournament itself has always been generously supported by local businesses and patrons and for 5 years enjoyed the sponsorship of Scottish Mutual Assurance.

Since then there have been changes – the timing of the Tournament, the prize money but the friendliness and the hospitality experienced by the visiting contestants remains steadfast.