Intense historical search starts for mysterious Mary

The racquet got people in Toowoomba talking.
The racquet got people in Toowoomba talking. Contributed

GRAINY black and white photos, a leading women tennis player's trip to the Garden City and a racquet called the Mary.

With scant clues available, a tennis history group is ramping up a search for a technologically-advanced tennis racquet called the Mary.

Rodney Lack from Tennis Heritage Australia is leading the charge and is hoping to unveil some of the mystery.

The Mary is a snowshoe-shaped racquet which was designed to distribute the strain of playing strokes evenly.

Considered "curious" at the time when it made its first appearance in England, the inventor F. W. Donisthorpe was a professional tennis champion of Great Britain in 1924-25.

The racquet is distinguished by its branching arms which form a "v", short handle and webbed oval for striking.

Snippets of newspaper articles reveal it made waves in Toowoomba.

"Meet 'Mary' who caused a stir in Toowoomba" one headline reads.

The article continues 'this is Mary who has excited the curiosity of Toowoomba tennis enthusiasts.

"Secured from Melbourne by Terry Andrews, a prominent A grade player, this unusual looking tennis racquet was immediately dubbed "Mary" by the owner and, on her first appearance on Toowoomba tennis court, became the centre of interest.

"Indeed her appearance created a sensation compared with the appearance of the first pair of Wimbledon shorts.

"This unusual design of racquet is not only strange to Toowoomba but to Queensland.

"The departure from the orthodox the created doubt in the minds of many as to the racquet's usefulness but, after having played with it Mr Andrews states that it is a decidedly better racquet than any he has yet used."

The Mary.
The Mary. Contributed

The article quotes Mr Andrews as saying the balance was beautiful while the racquet seemed to slip through the air of its own volition, giving that extra punch which was the desire of all players.

"With the exception of the semi-circular piece at the base, this racquet is built in one piece, the base piece being built in "Mary" has now become a Downs celebrity and although she has only been seen on the Toowoomba courts one day, she has changed ridicule of her unusual form to admiration and 'tis said as greatly sought after as the most beautiful young debutante. 

Mr Lack said his group, which is devoted to uncovering interesting history about tennis, would love to find the Mary.

"I did search Terry Andrews who is mentioned in the article. He seems to have moved from Sydney to Toowoomba and clearly was a top player," he said.

"He may not have been the highest rank but still he appears in tennis results for some of the major tournaments."

"The immediate story is a true mystery and the odds are it still exists given the notoriety then and even all the way into the 1970s it would still have been unique.

"So the hope is someone has it on a wall or in the attic."

If you have any information about the racquet call Mr Lack on 0418362386 or visit tennishistory.com.au.



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