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James Shrimpton Award PDF Print E-mail
Written by Colin Edwards   
Sunday, 11 July 2010 12:54

An excerpt from the book, Burwood Tennis Club celebrating 100 years of tennis.

A little man who stood tall

James Shrimpton was a man who, by his own admission was not a good tennis player, in fact the terms ungainly, awkward, even lacking basic hand to eye co-ordination, immediately spring to mind. But the value of James Shrimpton could not be measured on a tennis court. Put simply he was a delightfully charming, little man, with an infectious smile, and a never say die, ‘can do’ attitude. Nothing was ever too much trouble, if you had a working bee to repair the courts, or the nets; he was always the first to arrive. A tireless worker both on Committee and around the Club. He became an absolute doyen, revered and much loved member of the Club. Plus to be fair, playing so much tennis against better opponents, his tennis did actually improve…marginally.


We’ve all heard the saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover, and while most will acknowledge this to be true. It seems we are often unable to stop ourselves making judgements on a person’s value based solely on a very narrow criterion.


This was certainly true one quiet summer’s day in February 1980 when two prospective new members, Claire and James Shrimpton walked into the Club asking if they could join. As was the custom in those days, they were sent out to have a hit with a Committee Member, who would gauge their tennis playing ability, and report on their suitability as Club members to the Committee of Management. A vote would then be taken on whether they be offered Full Membership, Associate Membership, or their application would be declined, and they were to be, somewhat unceremoniously, informed their standard was not strong enough for them to be considered for membership of the Burwood Tennis Club.


At the subsequent March Meeting, Claire was immediately given Full Membership as she was a strong player, and a welcome addition to the Club. James however was not a good player, in fact he wasn’t very good at all, so instead of declining membership he was put on three month probation. Three months passed quickly, and despite still not being of an ‘acceptable’ standard, James was given Associate Membership, in the hope that his standard would improve. The Committee was also mindful that we needed Claire, and declining James membership would almost certainly ensure they both left the Club. Associate Membership meant that James could use the courts anytime during the week, and it was hoped hitting with Claire would improve his game. There was one major drawback though; Associate members were expressly prohibited from using the courts on a weekend.


However, not deterred, every Sunday afternoon, James would put on his tennis gear, and come up for a social hit with Claire. In those days, the Club had organised Social Tennis every Sunday afternoon from 1pm, where the appointed Court Captain would organise sets for all members who came on the day. James would sit there, with that perpetual smile, chatting and joking with whoever was sitting off waiting for their next set. Unperturbed as set after set was put on, until eventually the Court Captain would feel obliged to give him a set. His eyes would light up as he trotted out to play.


In the early days there was somewhat of an outcry of condemnation from a few of the other players. James was clearly below their standard and they demanded to know “…why was he put in ‘my’ set…he ‘ruined’ a good set.” Whereas many other members chose to embrace James, and his fun loving personality, and simply accepted he was doing his best. But when James detractors complained to Committee members, another letter was sent reminding him that he had been approved as an Associate member only, and as such was not permitted to play on weekends. Testament to his dogged persistence, the very next Sunday, despite twice having been expressly told he was not welcome on weekends, James arrived with racquet in hand, ready to play, and play he did. As was James way, he won over his detractors, and remarkably became a popular playing partner, with his much better accredited partners, actually requesting sets with James.


Two such players were Greg Lapham and Alan Edwards, our reigning Club Champions, and they played a set with James that was one of the funniest, and most enjoyable, matches ever played on Court 1 (now known as Court 5). Members gathered to watch, and roared with laughter at the antics of James, Greg, Alan, and a fourth member, possibly Alan’s father Tom. Greg would hit the ball slowly to James, who was standing at the net, he would swing and miss, and Alan tear around behind James, yelling “I’ve got it James, you get the next one”. Then James would miss the next one, and somehow Alan was still there, “I got it”. And when James actually hit a volley off the frame for a winner, James was just as surprised as anyone, perhaps more so, it was high fives all round, he was so excited, James was renowned for his ear to ear smile, but this day it was bigger than Luna Park.


Not surprisingly, in November 1980, when James wrote to the Club requesting full membership, the Committee reviewed its decision, and awarded James Full Membership. James and Claire were passionate supporters of the Club, it did not matter the function, you knew you could rely on James to be there, and not only would he be there, but he’d stay to the end to help you clean up, even come the next day too. Then in 1986 James joined the Committee taking on the role of Night Tennis Convenor, as well as joining the Selection Committee. James continued to serve on both the Executive and Selection Committees from 1987 to June 1988


A Club in mourning


6 June 1988 - The Club Minutes report, “…the Committee regrets the passing of James Shrimpton one of our most valued members. James was playing tennis on Court 4 (now known as Court 2), when he suffered a fatal heart attack and collapsed between courts 4 and 3. He was unable to be revived. He passed away playing the sport he loved”.


Life Member, and friend, Fran Coggins recalls, “I saw the ambulance, I’d been playing at another club, and I was on the way back, and I thought what’s going on here? When I walked in, there were people sitting around in tears everywhere, no one could quite believe James was gone”. Ron Simpson reported to the Committee, that at the recent Waverley and District Tennis Association Committee meeting, Russ Nicholls spoke about James death, and all those present stood for 30 seconds silence as a tribute to James, such was the reverence with which he was held, not just by Burwood Tennis Club, but also by the WDTA. After consultation with Claire, the Club decided to create a perpetual trophy for service to the Club, and this would be known as …


The James Shrimpton Memorial Award


Fran Coggins was the inaugural winner of this award, and described her emotions about receiving such an honour. “…I was stoked, absolutely stoked! I had got to know James and Claire a lot, when they were on the Committee. James was such a tireless worker; I was really surprised and honoured to be the first winner of James Shrimpton Award You had to admire and respect James so much, from the very beginning. When told he wasn’t good enough, he just refused to accept that, and he persevered and persevered and in the end like the Court Captains who put him into those sets, and the Committee had to listen. In his own quiet and unassuming way, he demanded that he be valued as a whole person, and not judged solely on his tennis ability, or lack there of.”


James had this unique and wonderful quality which drew you to him. He did not possess a loud or overly charismatic personality, but that smile had a magnetic quality about it that lit up the room. Sadly, Claire passed away just 4 short years after James, in July 1992. James and Claire, the Club still mourns there passing.

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~ Five months after having been declined Full membership James sent this letter to the Committee formally applying to have his status upgraded to Full member. James stated playing as an Associate member has enabled him to improve his standard.

~ As per the notation, Full Senior membership was approved on November 11, 1980.


James Shrimpton Memorial Award Winners



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1988 Fran Coggins

1989 Ron Simpson

1990 Ian Barnes

1991Chris Edwards

1991Gail Stiffe

1992 Alan Tyson

1993 Natalie Bacon

1994 Heather Markiewicz

1995 Russell West

1996 Fiona Reynolds

1997 Neville Taylor

1998 Roger Coburn

1999 Simon Byth

2000 Mary Crowe

2001 Baden Pascoe

2002 Wendy Gilbert

2003 Roger Quick

2004 Greg Lammers

2005 Colin Edwards

2006 Mark Thompson

2007 Paul Hambledon

2007 Greg Lammers

2008 Peter Owen

2009 Ian Grayson

2010 Fran Coggins

2011 Natalie Bacon

2012 Hamish Clark

2013 Lyn Shiells

2014 Donna Segelyn

2015 Adam Beggs

Last Updated on Sunday, 01 May 2016 18:18