• Nick Zacharias

Royal Oak celebrates 110 years in Hudson


PHOTO COURTESY ARLENE KINGSLAND

Participants in a parent/junior tournament finish a fun day at the Royal Oak Tennis Club in Hudson, now celebrating its 110th anniversary.

This summer marks the 110th anniversary of the Royal Oak Tennis Club, established beside the Ottawa River in Hudson in 1909, just a short volley from its current location. The club has enjoyed a sporting membership ever since. Members to this day compete for club championship trophies almost as old as the Grand Slams – the Australian Open was established just four years before the Royal Oak was founded, and even Wimbledon came not long before that – though pride is the only payment that comes with winning at the Royal Oak.

No organization makes it through 110 summers and two world wars without a few interesting stories along the way.

“There did used to be an actual oak tree called the Royal Oak at the club, but it’s been gone for about 40 years,” says current president Arlene Kingsland. Evidently, the massive oak was once used as a navigation marker by the Ottawa Steam Navigation Company, and got the title ‘Royal’ when King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, sat beneath it for tea on a visit to Canada in 1860. The original grass court was laid on the site following a fundraising party at the nearby home of Mr. and Mrs. Del Shephard, now the Greenwood Centre for Living History, where the princely sum of $40 was generated for the cause.

As the years went by many changes came to pass, including the switch to a clay court in 1939, the move in the 1940s to the current location on land eventually purchased from the Henshaw family, the addition of four clay courts and two hard courts, and several clubhouse relocations. The installation of mercury vapour lights on an overhead pulley system in the 1970s led to more than a few occasions where members were known to conduct noisy rounds of ‘tennis’ until the wee hours of the morning.

These days the club is family-friendly and thriving.

“We’re attracting more and more kids and young families, and we’re hundreds of members strong” says Kingsland. The high profiles of Canadian players like Milos Raonic, Denis Shapovalov and Bianca Andreescu are no doubt boosting interest in tennis, and the picturesque club welcomes players of all ages and levels to hone their game. They were recognized with a club sportsmanship award in 2018 by the Women’s Interclub Tennis Summer Daytime League, and have a strong Junior Development program that sees young players competing on the regional circuit.

Planned this summer are a slew of parties and events to celebrate, starting with an open house May 25 where members and newcomers are welcome. And in the spirit of the club’s name, organizers have a more durable commemoration planned.

“We’re going to finally plant a new oak tree on the grounds this summer, in honour of the original Royal Oak” says Kingsland. Whether any royals will come to sit beneath it one day, we’ll have to wait and see.

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