Going through the hoops
By Susan Prior
The Graceville Croquet Club’s cute-as-a-button clubhouse, erstwhile known as the pavilion, is on Appel Street, on a leased pocket of Graceville Memorial Park. I was invited there by Maureen Singleton on behalf of the committee, to see their facilities, fathom the game – or should that be games, because there are at least six variations – and have a chat over a cuppa.
This club is one of eight croquet clubs in the Brisbane City Council's area, and was formed in 1919. Croquet was originally played on members’ lawns before the funds were raised to lease the land. Around the room are trophies and honour boards dating back to 1922, although, unfortunately, many old photos and records were destroyed in the 1974 floods. It has been suggested that the clubhouse was originally a school room, but without the records we can’t be sure.
Croquet, at its most basic, is about hitting a ball through a hoop with a mallet. I had a little dig around to learn about the history of croquet. (Nothing to do with the potato croquettes my mother used to dish up in the 1960s!) There are two theories.
First, a form of the game was introduced to Britain from France in the 17th century, during the reign of Charles II. It was called paille-maille, French for ball and mallet. This became pall mall. And yes, Pall Mall in London is the site of one of the earliest greens. And, yes, again, the name for a mall, as in a shopping mall, is derived from the shaded walk that was Pall Mall. The term came into popular use in the early 1960s as the name for an enclosed shopping gallery. (I love this stuff!)
Second, a similar game, called ‘crookey’, was played in Ireland in the early 1800s. In 1872, noted croquet historian Dr Prior unequivocally stated that this is where Britain’s game of croquet originated.
Maureen tells me about the different types of croquet games: Association, golf (at which the Egyptians excel, apparently), ricochet, gateball (a Japanese variation) and Aussie. And I thought croquet was just croquet! Golf is the simplest game to learn and is the game most people start with, whereas Association is a more complex, tactical game.
While I am talking to her there are a number of players outside on the lawns, and no stuffy white uniforms to be seen. Apparently, the club members made a conscious decision to dress brightly – a nice welcoming touch.
Did you know that Wimbledon is called the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club? It was originally just a croquet club, but converted to tennis as well in the 1870s, as tennis grew in popularity. It still has a croquet lawn.
Everyone I chat to on the morning of my visit is most hospitable. The club is open for games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. They have regular ‘come and try’ days; just give them call to find out when. To join the club costs $76 a quarter, plus $5 green fees per visit, but after the second visit in a week it is free.
The room is also available for hire. Again, I suggest you call the club for all the details. It is a great little venue with a delightful aspect.
Before I leave, Maureen showed me a print hanging on the wall: a charming, exquisitely detailed relief-block print of the croquet club made by her husband, Wayne Singleton. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk to such a talented artist, which is why you will find the next article on Secret Brisbane is about Wayne.
If you are interested in having a go at croquet (they really are a most welcoming group) give them a call on 07 3379 5530.
The print at the top of this page is Sunday afternoon, Graceville, by Wayne Singleton. You can find more of his work here.