Who was Ruby Roberts?
Ruby Roberts, the lady billiards champion, was an Australian Professional Billiards player before the First World War.
Growing up in a billiards environment (her uncle was the Australian Professional Champion Charles Memmott) and John Roberts was her mentor and coach. Her professional career was spent mainly playing male professionals in exhibition matches. She made tours to India and the U.K. Where her exhibitions were very popular and quite financially successful. In 1912 Ruby played for a week at the Grand Hall Leicester Square against the English professional William Cook. Receiving 2500 in 7000 she made breaks of 89, 73, 57, 46, 44 and many more 40’s and 30’s only to lose at the finish.
After the two year overseas tour Ruby returned to Australia early in 1913 to give exhibitions and to coach other players. Her best exhibition break was 113 and her best break in practice was 234. These exhibitions included matches with Walter Lindrum (age 14). Walter conceded her 750 in 6000 at Alcock’s Elizabeth Street Parlour in Melbourne. In an interview Ruby said she began playing in 1906 and that her proficiency was mainly due to hard work and playing red ball hazards. (George Gray’s strength). In September 1913 in an exhibition match against young Walter and receiving 2000 in 7000 she was beaten by 196 with Lindrum’s best break 300. In Adelaide against Walter she made breaks of 109, 107, and 90 with many 50’s and in Albury, Ruby made a 122 break.
“A great Lady Player introduced by John Roberts
The game of billiards has long been recognised as one peculiarly adapted to the requirements of the fair sex, but up to the present no lady player has appeared in public capable of making good breaks and giving a really first-class show on the “board of green cloth”. This will no longer be the case when Miss Ruby Roberts, a niece of Charles Memmott, arrives in England and commences to play under the auspices of Mr John Roberts. We know for a fact that this lady is an accomplished player and has made a couple of breaks of over the century, and in a break of 123 scored 105 off the red. This is better billiards than any lady has played to our knowledge, and the arrival of this gifted young lady will be awaited with considerable interest by billiards lovers in the old country”
The above excerpt is taken from John Roberts. The Billiard Year Book 1910, 1911 p44.
These details of Ruby Roberts and photographs have been gleaned from the monthly editions of Alcock’s Sporting Review (1911 to 1914) courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Andrew Ricketts’ book Walter Lindrum Billiards Phenomenon has a photo and a brief text.
The Victorian Women’s Billiards Championship perpetual trophy has been named in her honour.
Ruby Roberts’ handwritten diary of her travels overseas came into our possession by pure chance in 2004 thanks to Gary McPherson and Jeffery Stillwell. Mary Walters has typed the diary into more readable format for people with an interest in billiards. We hope that the awareness of Ruby’s billiards ability and her diary will inspire other women to play the game. The heading for the diary suggests that Ruby intended to continue the diary until 1925. Perhaps there is more of this diary out there in the big wide world.
Graeme Walters, Melbourne 2004