05 Jul 2016
Posted by: Thomas Barnes
Avid readers may remember a tennis themed blog entry from 2008. As we're mid-way through Wimbledon, it seems an appropriate time to revisit the subject and our tennis based collections.
The image above depicts Australian tennis ace, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, former world number one and seven time Grand Slam winner.
Commercial Union sponsored the International Lawn Tennis Grand Prix between 1972 and 1976, which culminated each year in the Commercial Union Masters Tournament. In 1975 the competition was the most televised tennis tournament in the world!
As we see from this leaflet advertising the 1976 event, the Tournament was marketed as a 'championship of champions', featuring eight days of tennis and 'involving the top 8 singles players and top 4 doubles teams in the world'.
Back at Wimbledon, in 1975 Commercial Union also became the first commercial company in its then 98-year history to be allowed to erect a corporate hospitality marquee at the event, following earlier involvements in 1972 and 1974. Below depicts the marquee from 1978.
Group links to tennis extend beyond corporate sponsorship and one of our sporting alumni is Sir Norman Brookes, who was chairman of the Australian board of directors of North British and Mercantile. Read more in our previous blog entry.
In 1942 Norwich Union bade farewell to the ‘well-known tennis international’, Cyril Gladstone Eames, who had worked with them as an inspector since 1940. Eames represented Great Britain in matches against the USA and Ireland, and made the Wimbledon 2nd round in 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1928. At the height of his tennis career he was also working for Northern Assurance and he contributed an article to the company's staff magazine in 1923 entitled ‘Lawn Tennis and Temperament’. In the article Eames encouraged his colleagues to take up this ‘splendid and healthy form of sport’ and provided new players with the following excellent advice:
First and foremost keep your eye on the ball, as in all ball games, and get it over the net at all cost
Northern was not the only company to encourage its staff to enjoy a game of tennis, many of our companies ran staff tennis clubs and played matches against local teams. The match reports below come from Norwich Union's staff magazine of 1889:
This photograph, from around 1895, presumably shows team members practicing on the company's court, which was located behind Bignold House on Surrey Street, Norwich.
Provident Mutual was another company keen to attract athletic members of staff and the following spoof advertisement appeared in the company's staff magazine for 1952:
Energetic young men anxious to make progress in the insurance world; cricket essential; tennis and/or badminton an advantage; no other qualifications necessary. Apply stating batting average and salary required
Finally, the archive also contains numerous references to claims paid for tennis-related accidents:
My favourite claim comes from Railway Passengers Assurance who paid £13 10 shillings in 1878 to a vicar from York who fell over a dog while playing tennis.