Ruby Roberts - the lady billiards champion

Ruby Roberts

The Lady Billiards Champion

Diary of my travels abroad 1910-1911 (6)
Ruby Roberts, the lady billiards champion - Diary Entry 6

I liked the game from the first, and I adore it now. There is nothing so fine and exciting as billiards, especially if you can play well, as I hope to do one day. - Ruby Roberts, The Billiard Monthly : May, 1911 – EABA. Available at:

Thursday morning Nov 17th I was up at 6am and packed ready for my tour through the Malay States. Went to the jetty where I had to get a launch to take me to the mainland to a place called “Prai”. Mum and Mrs Roberts came to the station to see me off. Mr Roberts had left a few days previously so I had to travel alone as Mum and Mrs Roberts were remaining in Penang and were to join us in Singapore some time later. I felt terribly lonely and it certainly was a big undertaking for a young girl but expenses are so high in the East that we had to cut down expenses where we could. I had my breakfast on the train which was very good. The trains are funny, long compartments with an aisle down the centre and no windows but the usual shutters. I was the only woman on the train so had the compartment to myself. Alongside the railway line for miles was a creek with Buddha lilies growing wild. They were all in bloom “pink and blue”, a great sight.

Offices of the government at Taiping 1910 via Wikimedia Commons
Offices of the government at Taiping 1910 via Wikimedia Commons

I arrived at Taiping at 10.30am and Mr Roberts was there to meet me. We went to the club, saw the secretary and had some practice, met Captain Beaumont. Taiping is a small military station and very pretty something like Penang only on a smaller scale and is surrounded by hills. Charles Lumb was at the club fixing up the table so after he finished he took me back to the Rest House where we were putting up for the night, had Tiffin or I should say a cup of tea for that was all it consisted of . I could not eat the food as it was dreadful. I might mention that before I left Australia I never drank tea but was told not to drink the water in the tropics unless it was boiled so took to drinking tea and now I like it very much. I felt too nervous to stay at the Rest House all the afternoon, so went back to the club and rested on the couch in the ladies lounge. When Charlie finished the table we had tea and he took me for a rickshaw ride round the town, passed the lakes where we meet Capt Beaumont in a very smart turnout (horse and trap) went back to the Rest House and after a bath and change had dinner in my room. As I did not like the look of the people in the dining room I was in a great dilemma at this place. My evening frock fastened at the back and usually I had Mother to help me. I rang the bell and when the boy came I tried to make him understand I wanted one of the women sent to me. No English woman being in the building, he sent one of the native women. Well, if I didn’t have a time trying to make her understand how to fasten the hooks and eyes. Needless to say she had never seen such things before and was quite hopeless, so I had to go the club with my frock unfastened and on arrival get the secretary’s wife, Mrs Moss to fix it for me.

I played Mr Knight before a very large audience, and they all seemed to enjoy the match very much. I had a dreadful night at the R.H. It was such a funny place. The main building was long and narrow and there was a room built at either end on top. To get to this there was a stair way which ran from the street so anyone could go up without going into the house. These were their two best rooms and each had a balcony right round which made them much cooler but I was frightfully nervous being perched up there all by myself so I pushed the dressing table against the door but I am afraid I did not sleep much.

Next morning was up at 6am and Charlie Lumb took me to the station, fixed up about my luggage, got my ticket and saw me safely on the train. I don’t know how I would have managed without him as I could not speak Tamil. A funny incident occurred while waiting for the train to leave. I was sitting looking out of the window when I saw a rickshaw drive up to the station and pull up just near my window. To my amazement when it stopped he just stood still and let the handle bars go with the result that the two men sitting in the rickshaw shot over the back and landed on the ground. They were not hurt but frightfully mad and if they could have got hold of that wallah he would have had a pretty rough time but directly he let go and ran for his life. Charlie saw the episode and told me that the wallah probably had a grudge against the men but to us looking on it was one of the funniest things I have seen.

Charlie told me not to be nervous as I would probably have the compartment to myself as the coolies were not allowed to travel in the first class so imagine my horror when at the next station a very richly dressed old Chinaman got into my compartment. Of course he sat at one end and I at the other but I was frightened so I got hold of the porter at the next station and tried to make him understand that I wanted this man removed. I could not make him understand so took some money out of my purse and tried by pantomime that I would give him the money if he would remove the Chinaman. As a rule the sight of money sharpens their wits but this time I was out of luck and he just stared blankly at me. As there was no other compartment for me to go to, I had to put up with it. I travelled through three long tunnels with no light expecting every minute that I would be murdered but holding my green sunshade which has a sharp point ready to defend myself. I suppose the poor old chap was quite harmless but my imagination ran riot. I had heard of such dreadful things happening. I arrived at my destination a nervous wreck.

Railway near Ipoh, Malay States 1902 via Wikimedia Commons
Railway near Ipoh, Malay States 1902 via Wikimedia Commons

Mr Roberts met me at Ipoh Station and when I told him of my experience he only laughed but promised to get a servant to travel with me in future, which he did the next day but unfortunately he gave the boy a month’s salary in advance £20. Of course that was the last we saw of our money and the boy.

I played Mr Tyte, Sherrick’s brother-in-law at the club that night. Having caught a chill on the train, I felt far from well and did not play up to form. Next morning we waited for our “boy” to turn up but of course he had disappeared. I was surprised at Mr Roberts as first he should have known the ropes as he had visited the country before.

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