Ruby Roberts - the lady billiards champion

Ruby Roberts

The Lady Billiards Champion

Diary of my travels abroad 1910-1911 (11)
Ruby Roberts, the lady billiards champion - Diary Entry 11

Miss Roberts plays with greater confidence and sangfroid than Madame Strebor, and she also plays gracefully (as Madame Strebor does) and with admirable delivery of the cue. - Debut of Miss Ruby Roberts, The Billiard Monthly : June, 1911 – EABA. Available at:

Monday (Dec 5) I practised all the morning and after Tiffin Mum came round and we went to the Museum, a most interesting place, we spent some time there. That night Mr Rathbone, Mr Griffith and Charlie came to see us and they played bridge with Mrs R. They are all “bridge” mad but I am a very poor player.

Raffles Museum in Singapore 1900
Raffles Museum in Singapore 1900 via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday (Dec 6) I practised all the morning and after Tiffin Mrs R. and I went to Oxley House to spend the afternoon with Mum, she had a very nice room and the people seemed very kind. We had tea then went for a drive in a Gharry. They are nasty, stuffy carriages, much prefer the rickshaws. We called at the De La Paix Hotel where Mr Rathbone was staying. He took us for a ride round China town, My, what a dirty place, there seems to be no sanitation and the smells were awful. We always carried a small bottle of eau-de cologne. Mr Rathbone said we must visit the Temple. I felt a bit nervous, it looked so dark and dismal inside but the walls inside had engravings all round and the guide told us the story. It ran thus – There was a king that had seven sons and he wanted the best one to take his place at his death so he tested them all with seven evils and each engraving on the wall represented one son being tempted by the seven evils. The son that resisted all these evils the king chose to follow him. The way the guide told it made it very interesting. He then took us to see the Torture Carriages (Juggernaut). They are immense temples on wheels. The wheels are nearly as high as an ordinary house. Before the government put a stop to the practice the natives used to throw themselves under the huge wheels while they were moving in procession at some native festival. The idea being that if they were killed in this manner they were sure to go to heaven. As we left the temple a native gave me a string of white waxy flowers with a beautiful scent bur rather overpowering. I think they are called Lotus flowers.

Sri Mariamman Temple Singapore 1901 via Wikimedia Commons

We gave the guide a tip for which he salaamed, then, we got into our Gharry and drove back to Raffles. This is a very beautiful hotel and one of the best in Singapore, It is very extensive, there are the bachelor’s quarters, also the married peoples quarters, then there is the main building and seven out houses. All round the main building is a very wide verandah and it has palms and pot plants of all descriptions mainly tropical scattered about. There are numerous tables and cane chairs where you can have tea and drinks, with electric fans going overhead and a band playing which is very pleasant. The native wallahs come and kneel before you, open their bundles and spread their merchandise before you and try to sell you something. It is amazing, the amount of goods they carry in their bundles. I never got tired of looking at the beautiful hand thread work and embroidered silks etc. Mrs R. bought a number of things. I was amused watching her bargain with the natives, she knew the way to go about it but to me it was so new and I did not know until afterwards that you never give them what they ask, but offer them about a third and sometimes you will get it for less. I felt very tempted to buy some things but realised what use they would be to me while travelling all the time. The natives seem to think that because you are white you must be rolling in money. One day a native was trying to sell me something and to get rid of him I said I haven’t the money. He looked at me and grinned then said, Missy plenty money, all white misses plenty money. Girls are always called Missy, married Memsahib and a man is called Sahib.

(Dec 7) Practised all the morning went for a drive in the afternoon and after dinner Mr Rathbone called and took us in rickshaws round China Town. It looked very gay at night lighted up. It did not look as dirty as in daylight. What amused me was to see the dirty old shops and on looking up above them to see all the gay Chinese lanterns and colours and the noise that issued from these places I was told was supposed to be music. We wandered round the bazaars. Nobody took any notice of us. I was a little nervous at first. At nearly every street corner there was a fruit stall and natives selling a fruit called (Durian) it is called in the east, the King of fruit, it is something like a pineapple in appearance but dark green and prickly, when you cut it, oh my the odour! It has the most dreadful smell and would clear a room of people in 2 minutes. I believe it is delicious to eat if you can get it past your nose. Some people were mad about it and would hold their nose while they ate it. I could not pluck up courage to try it. We bought some Lychees and Rambutans, a funny looking fruit. They grow in clusters on very big trees, some being bright red and others green. When you break open the fruit it is like a white plum inside and the flavour is delicious. After we had been round China town we went to a Chinese theatre but we did not stay long as the music and noise was deafening. While wandering round our old Gharry wallah had followed us so on leaving the theatre we hailed him and he drove us back to the hotel. Quite enjoyed the outing as it was a novel experience for me.

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