The First Wimbledon, 1877. Part 4

4 . John Baker

Nothing is really known about this player. Even his first name is uncertain.  He was certainly an experienced player, beating Trist in the first round before losing in four sets to Langham.

5 . John William Trist

He was born in 1848 in Lower Clapton, Hackney. His father was George Trist. At he age of fourteen years John William was placed at Rugby Boy’s school in Warwickshire. In 1870 he was introduced as a pupil at the firm of his father, who was a surveyor. he was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquarians. He acquired an impressive collection of old coins from Italy, Greece, Asia and Egypt, and also a collection of other antiquities including vases and other types of pottery. He possibly was a member of the London Athletic Club (LAC) Stamford Bridge. There is no evidence that he ever entered another major tennis tournament. John William died, aged 65 on 24th October 1913 at Rochford, Essex. Leaving his estate to his widow Annie Jane.

6 . Francis Nathaniel Langham

On Friday 29th June 1877, two weeks prior to the Wimbledon Championships, Francis entered a doubles tournament held at Prince’s Club, Hans Place. Michael Edwyn Sandys was his partner. They lost the first round to Guy Pym and G. Brand. At Wimbledon Francis had a first round walkover and beat John Baker in the second. In the Quarter finals he managed to take a set from the later winner Gore but was lost the match. He never entered the Wimbledon Championships again. But he kept playing tournaments up to 1884. He was so interested in the game that he later built his own covered tennis Court at Highgate House, just outside Little Creaton, Brixworth, Northamptonshire. He was born on 9th June 1841 in London as son of Herbert Langham and Laura Charlotte Micklethwaite. Francis wat educated at Eton college. He played Football and Cricket there. Later he attended Trinity College, Cambridge. There he started playing Real Tennis. He never married and died 23 August 1916 at 41 Brunswick Place, Hove in Sussex.

7 . Charles Francis Buller

By failing to turn up for his first round match against Langham, he became the first ever Wimbledon competitor to concede a walkover. He was known as a flamboyant and formidable racquets player and athletics hero. Also a great boxer and cricket champion. “Charley” as he was often called was a friend of King Edward VII before he became king. Buller was born in Colombo, Ceylon 26th May 1846 as son of Sir Arthur William Buller. He won his place in the Harrow eleven as a boy of little more than fifteen, taking part in the match against Eton at Lord’s in 1861. On the same occasion an almost equally famous batsman, Mr. Alfred Lubbock, was seen at Lord’s for the first time, but on the opposite side. Buller was in the Harrow team for four seasons, finishing up as captain in 1864. In that year he scored 61 and Harrow beat Eton by an innings and 66 runs. Judged by the standard of these days a score of 61 does not seem anything to make a fuss about, but never did the batting of a public school boy at Lord’s earn higher praise. Thanks to his great natural ability and very careful coaching, in which the Surrey player, William Mortlock, had no small share, Buller at eighteen was already a finished batsman, good enough for any eleven. Style in batting was thought a great deal of in the sixties, and Buller’s style was as nearly as possible perfect-quite comparable to, though very different from that of Tom Hayward or Richard Daft. In the Canterbury week of 1864 Buller played for England against Thirteen of Kent, and for the M. C. C. against the Gentlemen of Kent, scoring in the latter match 21 and 68. The next season he had an assured position among the leading cricketers of the day, and was picked for Gentlemen against Players both at Lord’s and the Oval. His highest and best innings in 1865 was 105 not out for Middlesex against Surrey at the Oval. In 1866 he fully upheld his reputation, but in 1867, having in the meantime entered the 2nd Life Guards, he played very little owing to illness. A year later he was quite himself again, but nothing was seen of him in first-class cricket the following year and in 1870 he played in only a few big matches. Then for nearly three years he dropped out, reappearing at the close of the season of 1873 in George Bennett’s benefit match at Gravesend. During 1874, 1875, and 1876 he played for Middlesex, batting in the same perfect style as ever, but his weight had gone up to over fifteen stone and he was not much use in the field. During this latter part of his career two innings that he played are still vividly remembered-51 for Middlesex against Notts on a sticky wicket at Trent Bridge in August 1875, and 67 not out in the North v. South match for the late Tom Hearne’s benefit at Lord’s in 1876. The last match of importance in which he took part was, we believe, Middlesex v. Yorkshire at Lord’s in 1877. He did not finish up badly, scoring 20 and 25. In Bat v. Ball only two hundreds and a dozen other scores of over 50 in first-class matches appear against Buller’s name, but important fixtures were few in his day and any comparison of his doings with batsmen of our time would be altogether fallacious. Some idea of his merit can be gathered from the fact that the late James Southerton thought he never bowled against a better batsman except, of course, W. G. Grace. Batting was a very exact science when Buller learnt the game, and only E. M. Grace and the left-handers indulged in the pulling by which so many hundreds of runs are nowadays obtained. Buller, however, was a master of all the orthodox strokes, his cut being especially fine. Equally strong in back and forward play he had such wrist power that he could without any apparent effort block a ball to the ring. Quite late in his career he scored five runs with a stroke of this kind off a ball that Alan Hill, the bowler, thought good enough to get anyone’s wicket. He was very strong indeed in dropping down on a shooter, and the last time the present writer ever met him he was rather humorous at the immunity from shooters enjoyed by modern batsmen. Curiously enough with all his ability Buller met with little success for Gentlemen v. Players. In ten matches between 1865 and 1874 he made only 181 runs in eighteen innings, his best score being 41 at the Oval in 1868.

As a cricketer he was known principally as ‘C. F. Buller’ (rather than ‘Captain Buller’), and, although he was not gazetted above the rank of Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry (2nd Regiment of the Life Guards), he was known as ‘Captain Buller’ at the time of the high-profile society divorce scandal of 1880 in England in which he was cited as co-respondent. Prior to this he had been discharged from the Army in 1871 as a result of his bankruptcy. He continued to play cricket successfully (though he was not particularly associated with Ireland), and when he died in1906 Wisden, the cricketer’s ‘bible’, accorded him an appreciative obituary. Scandals marred Mr. Buller’s private life and caused his social eclipse.

Buller had married Louisa Catherine Ridley. The marriage was without children and they eventually divorced. Buller died 22th November 1906 at Cobb, Lyme Regis.

sources: ESPN Cricinfo, Jjon.org, The birth of Lawn Tennis by Robert T. Everitt and Richard Hillway (2019) and The British Newspaper archive.

 

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