Page Compiled October 2007

All images and text copyright © to Goldings Old Boys reunion members

Old Boys visit to Wimbledon 2004

Ball boys remember.

The Wimbledon tennis championship is always a great sporting event. Especially for Goldings Old Boys who were ball boys there
between 1946 and 1966.
Between 21 June and 4 July , you will have someone in every household in Britain probably watching the television and hoping
against all odds a British player will be the one to win the championship. October 1940 Wimbledon was bombed, a stick of five
500lb bombs had totally flattened centre court plus over 1,000 seats.
After the war Wimbledon was struggling to survive six years of bombing, coupled with rationing and shortages which didnít help.
Most of the green in London plus the club grounds were being used to farm small livestock pigs hens geese rabbits and the like.
The grounds were being used to accommodate the fire and ambulance services, the home guard had also made it their base. Most
of the staff had left to join the services, and lots of things were only available by coupon or licence.
The decision to restart the championship was made in early 1946, although repairs werenít finished until 1949 when building
restrictions were eased.

And so it was that Barnardo's boys came to the championships, at the lowest point in their 130 year history. And they stayed -
bused each day during Wimbledon fortnight from Hertford to London and back - until Goldings closed 1966.
The job of a Wimbledon ball boy was only given to one third of the school and competition was fierce to be selected. For
around a month before each championship, Goldings boys would practice throwing, catching and chasing balls on the staff grass
courts hoping to be chosen for a coveted place. Inevitably, this was also a time when boys were on their 'best behaviour' as any
misdemeanour could lead to your name being dropped from the list. All training was under the watchful eye of a supervisor and
trainer In the 1950s this was the school chaplain, Rev Corbett, a strict disciplinarian, and in the early '60s it was the Rev Bernard.
L Nixon.
Going to Wimbledon gave young men aged 14 to 18 years the chance to be a part of one of the most prestigious international
sporting events. It also meant freedom, freedom from bugle calls and a regimented routine; freedom to meet celebrities and
players with 'exotic' American, French and Australian accents from around the world; and, best of all, a Goldonians blazer gave ball
boys the right to go almost anywhere in the Wimbledon complex. No wonder it led to some practical pranks and joking around.
Goldonian boys were not the only ones who wanted to attend. It's rumoured that the masters used to cajole and do their best to
go along too, for once they had escorted the boys to the courts, there was little to do except watch the matches.
Between 1946 and 1966, the Wimbledon championship gradually grew in size and status. The advent of air travel in the 1950s
attracted many more overseas players. But the greatest changes of all occurred in 1967, the year after the Goldings boys had left t
he courts for good.
For it was in this year that an invitation tournament was sponsored by the BBC to mark the introduction of colour television and
later that year professional players were admitted to the championships for the first time. It was the start of a new era.
The Wimbledon of today bears little resemblance in many ways to the championships of years gone by. and, as noted by the Old
Boys on their recent visit, ball boys today need three months training before the event, whereas Barnardo's boys only needed
one month!

Jimmy James, John Sansom, Brian MacCarthy, Robert Pegg, and Peter Haldenby, Revisit Wimbledon 2004

Many thanks to John Sansom former Wimbledon Ball Boy (46-49) for copies of photographs of The Old Boys Visit 2004