Ruby Roberts - the lady billiards champion

Ruby Roberts

The Lady Billiards Champion

Diary of my travels abroad 1910-1911 (13)
Ruby Roberts, the lady billiards champion - Diary Entry 13

Miss Roberts, who has come all the way from Australia to show English ladies that it is possible for members of their sex to play a fascinating and healthful game well, and who deserves to be spiritedly and generously encouraged. - Club Form by a Lady Player, The Billiard Monthly : October, 1911 – EABA. Available at:

Next morning (Dec 11) we arrived at Port Swettenham at 6am. After breakfast we went ashore. There is not much to be seen, it is only a small place. We went for a walk along one of the country roads and saw a beautiful tree growing by the roadside with gorgeous yellow flowers. Of course, I could not resist them so as the branches were out of my reach I pulled one down with the handle of my sunshade. The next thing I knew I was covered with huge bull ants. Mr and Mrs R tried to brush them of me. Fortunately, none of them stung me but I did get a fright. Needless to say I did not bother about getting any more flowers. It taught me a lesson to be very careful in future. Spent the afternoon on deck watching the natives unloading cargo. All the time they were working they make a sing song kind of noise. We were due to sail at 5pm but during the afternoon we had a terrific storm, with such heavy tropical rain that it stopped the unloading. Consequently, we were three hours late in sailing.

Eastern and Oriental Hotel Penang Old Postcard
Eastern and Oriental Hotel Penang Old Postcard via Geneanet, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

We arrived at Penang next morning (Dec 12) at 9.30am. Mr Norman and Mr Oxenham were there to meet us. Mum and I went to Raffles Hotel and Mr and Mrs R to the Eastern & Oriental (E & O), the latter being the best hotel. We remained indoors all the morning and unpacked. About 4pm we went across to the E and O Hotel and had tea with Mr and Mrs R. After dinner Sherrick Vincent called to see us and stayed until 11pm. He seemed so pleased to see us again. He is a very nice young man and seems to have make quite an impression on Mum.

(Dec 13) After breakfast I went across to the E and O Hotel and had two hours practice. A rather poor table being very slow. I went up to Mrs R’s room before leaving and she had a letter for me from Joe Joe containing the snaps he had taken of us in Singapore. Went back to Raffles for Tiffin and who should be there but two of our shipmates from Australia, an American and his wife. He was an inspector of missions and was touring round the world. They had been through India since we had last seen them so we had quite a lot to talk about. During Tiffin Sherrick rang up to know if we would go for a run in his car that afternoon. I was delighted and looked forward to having a pleasant time. Just as we were ready to leave who should call but Mrs R. I had to tell her that we were going out with Sherrick and then the band played, said I was mad to go out as I was to play that night. In the midst of this, Sherrick arrived. He immediately said, that if it would upset me that we would postpone the outing but then she turned on me and said as we had made the arrangements, to go. We did and without her. I was glad he did not invite her as well. I knew he did not like her. We had a lovely drive. It was a gorgeous car and Sherrick told the driver to take it easy as some of the roads were not too good. The outing would have done me good if Mrs R had not made things so unpleasant. As it was, it worried and upset me. Mr and Mrs Oxenham called for me and took me to the E and O where we were to play, Mr Oxenham being my opponent. We had a very good house but I played very badly, I think I was over anxious and particularly wanted to play well as I knew if I did not Mrs R would blame the motor drive. Poor Sherrick was so anxious that he would not come to the match and when I told him afterwards that I got beaten, he blamed himself for taking me out. He came back to our hotel for supper.

Eastern and Oriental Hotel Penang 1920
Eastern and Oriental Hotel Penang via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0

(Dec 14) Did not get up until very late, had some practice and at 4pm went to the E and O for Mrs R and we all went for walk along the Esplanade and afterwards to the Penang Club where I meet most of the members. They made a great fuss of me and said that they were looking forward to my match. I forgot to mention that when I got home the previous day I found a native boy in our room, turning things out of the dressing table etc. I was very annoyed. I thought he was stealing things but then he told me Mr R had sent him and he was to be my personal servant in future. Mum and I wondered what we were going to do with him but later we found him invaluable. He looked after our clothes and waited on us at table. He dressed all in white and at dinner he wore white gloves. When we saw him first I said to him that we would have no luck as he was cross-eyed – very unusual for a native. We immediately nicknamed him Sambo, why I don’t know. He used to sleep outside our room at night and in the morning would fix our bath and bring Chota Hazri. Then he took to scouting the balls while I was practising and it used to be quite amusing to see the natives peep in through the windows while I was practising (they take a great interest in the game). One morning, one of the boys came in the billiards room to scout for me but Sambo was furious, I thought there was going to be a fight. He said white missy, my missy and no one else wait on her. After that, when Sambo was near I always let him scout. He was very proud of me and swanked it all over the other “boys”.

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