Ruby Roberts - the lady billiards champion

Ruby Roberts

The Lady Billiards Champion

Diary of my travels abroad 1910-1911 (15)
Ruby Roberts, the lady billiards champion - Diary Entry 15

Miss Roberts appears as a portent - one imagines the conquering woman seizing this branch of art as she has seized others, and by sheer skill driving man from the field...But Miss Roberts's success is obvious to the most biassed male intelligence...The invasion of what had been reckoned man's exclusive indoor game has indeed begun. - MISS RUBY ROBERTS. (1913, May 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 15. Available at:, courtesy of Alcocks Billiard Table Manufacturers (

Palace of the Sultan, Medan 1898
Palace of the Sultan, Medan 1898 via Leiden University Library, Wikimedia Commons

Arrived at Medan, the largest city in Sumatra at 9.20am. Went to the Medan Hotel, a very fine hotel. Mr R had a lot of business to attend to, so Mrs R and I went for a drive round the town in one of their funny little carriages. They are something like a dog cart but built very low, almost touching the ground. They have gaily coloured canvas hoods to keep off the sun. They are drawn by the dearest little ponies and my word they can travel. Mrs R had to sit in the back and I sat in front with the driver who of course told me all the places of interest. I was very impressed with my surroundings; everything was so clean and the bungalows were so nice with beautifully laid out gardens and trees on each side of the road, almost meeting overhead and making lovely shady roads. It was really the cleanest, prettiest town I had so far seen in the Far East. We had a very nice drive. Saw the Sultan’s Palace and the Mohammedan Mosque.

We got back to the hotel about 11am and as we had to wait some time for our train, we sat on the verandah of the hotel and had morning tea, which is not always so easy to get. We watched the people at the tables surrounding us. They seemed to be mostly Dutchmen. They leave work at 11am and adjourn to the hotel for drinks. They sat at the tables and throw dice for who is to pay for the drinks. I was very interested watching them. I was told that the shops all close from 11am to 2pm. No one works or goes out during those hours as it is so hot.

Left Medan at 12.30 for Brahrang by train and arrived at our destination at 1.30pm. It was pouring with rain. I don’t think I ever saw such heavy rain, but tropical rain is like that. Mr Gray met us with his car and drove us to his bungalow which was some distance from the station and the roads were flooded. I might mention here that we had been engaged by the largest tobacco company to play matches for them at their clubs. Mr Maclean being the administrator and Mr Gray is manager. As we were right away from any town, Mr Gray put us up at his bungalow which was very nice indeed. I had a balcony room with a dressing room, the latter having wire netting all round to keep out the mosquitos. I was very comfortable as there were long chaise lounges for resting during the heat of the day. After Tiffin, I slept until 4pm when the boy called me and we had tea after which we went for a walk. We were warned not to go far away from the bungalow because we were close to the jungle and there were only the white people on the estate (overseers etc), all the remainder of the population being native coolies that worked on the estate. The rain had ceased and the roads were as dry as a bone; they dry up very quickly. But the rain had cleared the air and it was very pleasant walking.

Medan Hotel
Medan Hotel 1900 via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}}

Mr Gray gave a dinner party that evening. The table looked lovely with silver rose bowls filled with Honolulu and Maidenhair Ferns; the Honolulu being a very dainty rose pink flower and there were trails of it along the centre of the table. There were eight guests and farm “boys” dressed all in white waited at table. We had a very nice dinner and everyone was very nice and kind to me. We all wore evening dress; I put on my best for the occasion and everyone said I looked very nice. It was a very pretty strawberry coloured georgette which suited my colouring. After dinner we drove over to the club which by the way was for the sole use of the white people of the estate. They had tennis courts and a very nice billiard room. All the members used to visit the Club from 5pm and have “whisky stingers” which I understand meant half and half. Mr Roberts played there that night. All the overseers and their wives from the other five estates drove over to see John play so we had quite a good audience. It is strange how small the world is. I met a Mr Marshall at the Club that had travelled on the same ship with us from Colombo. Imagine our surprise at meeting in such an out of the way part of the world. We had a very pleasant evening. After supper Mr Gray drove us home.

(Dec 18) We were up early and after breakfast Mr Maclean came round in his car and took us out to another estate many miles away. Each estate has a manager but the estates all belong to the same company. We saw miles and miles of tobacco growing. Each estate has large sheds where the tobacco leaves are graded and go through a special process. Most of the leaves are graded for cigars. Each estate has about 1000 coolies working, mostly women, do the grading of the leaves. We went through a teak forest and Mr Maclean told us that most of the roads had been made by his own coolies. The place we visited was about 8 miles out. The manage Mr Warden took us all round the estate. There seemed to be tropical fruits of every description growing round the bungalow. The boy went up one large tree and gathered a huge bunch of Rambutans which we took back with us. I saw all kinds of things growing in the district, rice, sago, vanilla pods, cotton, rubber, bananas, pineapples and what beauties they were, cocoanut plantations, cocoa plants etc.

These are not nearly all the things but they were too numerous to remember them all. Anyway, it was most interesting.

Mr Warden took us back to his bungalow and we had some refreshments, then Mrs R took some snaps of us in the car in front of the bungalow. On our way home, we saw a huge sack on the road. We also saw an active volcano in the distance and could see the smoke coming from it. I can’t remember the name of the mountain; in any case, I would not be able to spell it as it had a Javanese name. We had a lovely morning and got back to the bungalow in time for Tiffin, had a siesta until 4pm when we went to the Club and had a game. Afterwards we went to see Mrs Maclean who had sprained her ankle so was confined to the house. We had tea with her and sat and talked for some time. She was so sorry she could not come to the match. I played Mr Maclean 200 up and beat him easily. Then I played Mr Gray 200 up. He beat me. Then I played Mr Marshall 100 up and beat him badly. After the game we had supper and did not get home until 12.30am.

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