Ping-Pong Club 1901-1904
The game of ping-pong had been very popular and there was every sign of its permanence in society drawing-rooms. Ladies being far and away the best players, with the fair sex having the superior dexterity of wrist movement. Such a high degree of skill was being developed, that, like other games, it may drift too much into the hands of experts. So long as the ladies retain their supremacy, the game would probably continue to be fashionable.
The fact that a Ping-Pong Association was in the course of formation left no doubt as to the position which the game holds, whilst the recent tournament had proved that it was of considerable interest to a large number of persons. Played with attempted fastness ping-pong is a pretty game, the present enthusiasts, however, belonging to the class which regards games with severe seriousness.
In September 1901, it was in contemplation to start a Badminton and Ping-Pong Club for the winter months, if the members of the Town Council could be induced to allow the use of the Town Hall at a reasonable rate. By December 1901 the first club had been formed in Ryde, their headquarters being at the Town Hall. They held dances at the same time, so that no-one was waiting around for a table and the ladies could enjoy the evening also.
By the end of January 1902, the Premier Ping-Pong Club had increased to such an extent that the tables and accommodation of the Town Halls were severely taxed. It was plainly obvious that the fascinations of ping-pong had extended, so that one club was not sufficient to meet Ryde requirements.
The Ryde Conservative Club found it necessary to set aside one of its rooms for the game. Another club had sprung into existence, the members of which met at Yelf’s Hotel, and the title of which was “Yelf’s Ping-Pong Club,” Mr. E. R. Ratcliffe being the president, with a strong committee. Although the existence of the club at Yelf’s dates back less than a fortnight, already there were forty members. There was no doubt that ping-pong was becoming a very tricky, clever game and it was anticipated it would become as permanent as billiards, and retain popularity as a means of wiling away a winter evening or a wet day.
For the second season, which opened 10th October, 1902, the Ryde Ping-Pong Club had arranged a series of winter dances at the Town Hall, the first being 9th November and the committee had engaged the R.M.A. Band to enliven some of the Club meetings. There were some who ventured that the game would lose some of its attractiveness in its second season, but that did not seem to be the case.
Because the game had proved so popular with clubs outside of the home, by the winter of 1903/1904 the game of Ping-Pong in the drawing rooms had gone out, and the attempts to introduce fresh table ball games was unsuccessful. Dancing and Bridge had survived for many centuries so those were not likely to go out of fashion.
Isle of Wight Observer 28 December 1901
Advertisement – Ping-Pong, the new table game, consisting of two parchment bats, brass uprights with net and balls, complete in box, 4s.11d.
Ting-Tong, a new Table Croquet, consisting of balls, mallets, in box complete, 1s.6¾d.
Sources: RSHG Archive and IW Observer
Photos: Roy Brinton Collection