Ruby Roberts - the lady billiards champion

Ruby Roberts

The Lady Billiards Champion

Diary of my travels abroad 1910-1911 (10)
Ruby Roberts, the lady billiards champion - Diary Entry 10

We went to Colombo and Penang, and all over the Malay States. I played twenty-five matches with the best gentlemen amateurs in the districts to which we went winning seventeen and losing eight. - Ruby Roberts, The Billiard Monthly : May, 1911 – EABA. Available at:

Wed. Nov. 30. I got up early, had breakfast and finished my packing, then went down to the reading room to look at the papers. While I was doing this who should walk in but Charlie Lumb. We were surprised to see each other. It appears he had finished the tables at Taiping and that J.R. had wired for him to go on to Singapore. I was pleased to see him as I had dreaded doing that trip by the SS Ipoh alone. He knew quite a number of people on board so I had quite a nice time on the return journey. When they knew who I was, I was given the seat of honour next to the captain at the table. After dinner we all adjourned to the deck as usual for coolness while Captain Olsen entertained us with stories of his travels. Had another bad storm during the night, thunder and lightning was very bad. It seemed a funny thing but every journey I had on those boats. We had a thunder storm at night. Had a very disturbed night owing to it, and the heat.

Singapore via New York Public Library
Singapore via New York Public Library

Arrived Singapore next morning Dec 1st at 8am. There being no one to meet us. I collected my luggage and went to Raffles Hotel, saw Joe Joe the Manager, arranged about my room and had breakfast. I forgot to mention that the cabins on the “Ipoh” were built for coolness so the partitions between each cabin did not reach the floor or ceiling but left quite a gap so that what breeze there was could blow through. So, imagine my surprise when I awoke one morning to find a man’s shirt on the floor of my cabin. It must have blown in from one of the other cabins through the night. I told the “boy” to return it to the owner, but didn’t I get a ragging about it. Mum came and had Tiffin with us and stayed all the afternoon. I wanted her to stay at Raffles with us but it was so expensive so she stayed at a very nice rest house about a half hour’s ride from the hotel. I would rather have stayed with her but old J.R. insisted I stayed at Raffles as I had the table to practise on, in the early morning. After dinner Mr Rathbone and Charlie Lumb called and we played bridge.

Next morning I had a game of billiards with Joe Joe, he was very attentive but I did not like him. After dinner he took us for a drive in his car round the town and out to the waterworks. On our return he would have us go to his private suite and have supper. If it had not been for Mrs R., I would have refused.

Robinson Road, Singapore via New York Public Library
Robinson Road, Singapore via New York Public Library

Next morning I was up early, had my practice and after breakfast went with J.R. to the Bank. They kept us there an hour, they are so slow; nobody hurries as it is so hot. While waiting I was amused, watching two native boys pulling the punkahs. They sat with their backs to the wall and the rope from the punkah was attached to their foot. They were both fast asleep but the swinging of the punkah pulled the rope which of course lifted their feet from the ground, so the punkah was kept moving all the time and the boys could sleep in peace. They are terribly lazy and up to all sorts of tricks to save work. From the bank we drove round to the Press office, then on to the Arcade Robinsons and the Princes Tiffin rooms to see how they were getting on with the tables (we were to play there that evening). Mum came and spent the afternoon with me. It was so frightfully hot that we rested all the afternoon.

Played at Princes Tiffin room that night where a special table had been fitted up for me, before a crowded house. My opponent was Mr Biddulph, he was very popular and during the interval I was surrounded by a number of his friends one of whom bet him that he would not score 300 to my 500 up. He lost the bet by one point scoring 299 to my 500. His friends did tease him about it but he was a very good sport. I must say all my opponents have been very good sports and take a beating from a girl very well. After the game we had supper and I met a number of people, then Charlie and Mr Rathbone saw me safely to the hotel. I was tired out; the heat does take it out of me. Next day being Sunday we rested all day. Just before dinner Mr Biddulph and his friend called. They wanted me to have dinner with them and go to see J.R. play afterwards but Mrs R. was very disagreeable that night and would not let me go. They were so disappointed. After dinner Mr Griffith a fellow passenger from the “Kleist” called to see us. He had just returned from Jahore where he had been sent on his arrival in Singapore. He was so pleased to see us that you would have thought we were long lost cousins. Poor man, he was so homesick that he was delighted to see us again. He stayed to dinner and afterwards we got rickshaws and went for a ride round the bazaars. That night I had a dreadful time chasing the cockroaches out of my room. They are very bad in the East and I loathe the things. Can’t sleep if I know there are any about.

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