Ruby Roberts - the lady billiards champion

Ruby Roberts

The Lady Billiards Champion

Diary of my travels abroad 1910-1911 (1)
Ruby Roberts, the lady billiards champion - Diary Entry 1

I was born at North Carlton, a suburb of Melbourne. I was brought up without any idea of billiards. My father didn’t play, nor any of those at home, and Charles Memmott, my uncle, lived right over at Brisbane, so I seldom heard or saw anything of him. - Ruby Roberts, The Billiard Monthly : May, 1911 – EABA. Available at:

Port Adelaide 1919 State Library of South Australia B-5517
Port Adelaide 1919, State Library of South Australia B-5517

Sept 27th left Melbourne by P and O SS “China” for London. Arrived in Adelaide on the 29th at 6am, we were up very early and after breakfast we took the train from Port Adelaide to the city nearly one hour’s run, such a funny old train, the railway line running right through the main street of one town, the guard walking in front and ringing a bell. Of course we travelled very slowly, we were very amused. I forgot to mention that my mother accompanied me on my travels. Mr Nicholas met us and showed us round the city which was very pretty and clean with beautifully laid out garden. It is called the city of Churches. After lunch we motored to Mt Lofty where we had tea, it was a glorious day and we enjoyed the drive so much. Mr Nicholas took us back to our ship and after dinner we had some music. Mendle, the blind pianist came on board at Adelaide and he entertained us.

We sailed at 9:30pm and for the next three days we had a dreadful time crossing the Bight. It was an appalling voyage. A Miss Carroll and myself were the only ladies who put in an appearance at meals, mother was seasick the first day out but afterwards she recovered and became quite a good sailor. I have never seen such seas. We passed a steamer the second day out and at times she disappeared entirely from sight. Needless to say nearly all the passengers kept to their cabins. We managed to get to the saloon but it was so rough that we had to hold on otherwise we would have been thrown off the settees. Mendle came in the afternoon and went to the piano. I thought we would have some nice music but all he would play were hymns his favourite being for those in “peril on the sea” which did not help to cheer us up.

Cliffs, Great Australian Bight 1920, State Library of South Australia B-26072
Cliffs, Great Australian Bight 1920, State Library of South Australia B-26072

On the third day the first saloon got flooded out and we had to stop for a few hours. Then one of the officers on the Bridge got hurt broke his leg and the next morning about 2am there was a terrible crash and I thought our last hour had come. I heard a swishing noise in the corridor so I put on my gown and opened the door to find a steward mopping up the water. When he saw me he said it’s alright Miss the port hole got smashed and the water poured in, also the door came off the cupboard where china was kept and most of the dishes got broken. We were pretty scared and I wished we had never left home, to add to my misery I had put a glass of water in the receptacle along side my bunk (I had the upper berth as Mother could not climb up the small ladder). Well, when the boat rolled I got the full contents but could not see anything funny at the time. I was so afraid I would be thrown out of the top berth that I got down and squeezed in with Mum, we must have looked funny because we had to lay head to toe. Our trunks kept sliding from one side of the cabin to the other with every roll of the ship. So at last I called the steward and he fastened them down for us.

We spent a most miserable four days and arrived at Freemantle 10 hours late. We were very disappointed not being able to go to Perth but owing to the delay we did not have time. My cousin, Will Memmott came to the boat to meet us and took us round Freemantle but there was very little to see so we went back to the ship and sat on deck and talked until 11pm. We left at 3am next morning. I was rather dreading the remainder of the voyage after our experiences in the Bight but we had glorious weather from then on and the sea was like a lake all the way to Colombo. I was amazed after leaving Freemantle to see all the passengers, some we had not seen since leaving Melbourne. I found we had some very nice people on board and now that they had recovered from their sickness and the seas were calm, they were out to have a good time, so things were brighter and we had a jolly time, We either had a concert or dance every night and sports during the day so the time passed very quickly. Being my first trip at sea it was quite a novelty for me. We sat at the Captain’s table and he was very amusing, telling us stories of sea life.

An amusing incident occurred after leaving Freemantle. Mr Coles, the wireless operator sat next to me at table and one night he said he was most anxious to meet Miss Roberts, the lady billiards champion who was joining the ship at Freemantle. I did not let on for quite a while who I was but the other passengers did tease him. He could not get over it to think he had been sitting next to me at meals all the time and didn’t know it. Of course I could understand him being puzzled as Mr Roberts had been playing in the West and he and Mrs Roberts only joined the ship at Fremantle. Naturally, Mr Coles thought I would be with them.

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