Arthur Ross

Hall of Fame

Arthur Ross

Born:  1895
Died:  1975
Inducted:  2006

Arthur George Francis Ross was born in Christchurch New Zealand and was the third son of Edward James and Ginny Ross (nee Cox).  His father was the founding Secretary of the United Tennis, Bowls and Croquet Club in Christchurch and was a driving force in the formation of the New Zealand Croquet Council in 1920.

Arthur subsequently attended Christ's College in Christchurch and took up croquet in his teens.  In 1915, he won his major title, the New Zealand Doubles Championship with H.A. Penn, and was also runner-up to Keith Izard in the New Zealand Singles Championship.

He fought in World War 1 where, in the latter stages, he was gassed at Ypres.  His two brothers were both killed in action.

During his many months of convalescence at Hanmer Springs, he refined his game and evolved his distinctive and memorable style before resuming play in the 1920 New Zealand Championships where he again won the Doubles Championship with Penn.

Following recuperation, he became a poultry farmer and later a schoolteacher in North Canterbury, New Zealand, a position which also required him to drive the school bus over hazardous back country roads.  He retired in 1951.

His croquet success continued and he won the New Zealand Singles Championship 11 times, was runner-up a further eight times, won the New Zealand Men Championship six times and the British Open Championship in 1954.

In 1930, he made his debut in the MacRobertson Shield, eventually representing New Zealand no less than six times and captained the first New Zealand team to win the Shield in 1950.

At various times, he held every office on the New Zealand Croquet Council (President 1928-1930, Secretary 1932-1935, Vice-President and Referee 1935-1952) and started the New Zealand Croquet Council Gazette as editor, at his own expense.  He wrote "Croquet and How to Play it" which ran to no less than five editions and, due to his acknowledged international authority on the Laws of the Game, the "Powers and Duties of an Umpire" in 1946.

He was actively involved in coaching around the country, often finding himself battling to hold breaks together while demonstrating on some odd proportioned lawns at out of the way clubs, playing with a pipe in his mouth that he would sometimes throw to the boundary as his break became more involved.

In 1952, he was officially recognised as a leading luminary in the sport with the award of a Life Membership of the New Zealand Croquet Council.

He was married twice, namely to Violet Ross (nee Minchen), who died in 1974, and to Lena Ross (nee Ashworth) who also died in 1974.  He had three sons, Hugh (b.1925, d.1992), Terence (b.1927), Peter (b.1940) and his only daughter Jean (b.1930) was at one time married to Ashley Heenan.

Arthur was a wonderfully kind hearted man.  When asked late in life about his croquet record, he only reluctantly gave the details but said that his grandchildren were his best record.

Sometimes known as “The father of the triple peel”, Arthur Ross died at Motueka, New Zealand in 1975.

In 1979, the Ross family and his son-in-law, Ashley Heenan presented to the New Zealand Croquet Council the Arthur Ross Memorial Trophy for the New Zealand National Handicap Event to encourage croquet at grass roots level, something in which Ross believed passionately.

John Solomon

(England)

Hall of Fame

John Solomon

Born: 1931
Died: 2014
Inducted: 2006

John Solomon was born in Wandsworth, South London and emerged onto the tournament croquet scene in 1948 when Croquet could be said to be hanging by a thread.  Affected by the social changes brought about by the war, the restrictions of rationing and the loss of many clubs and about half of the Croquet Association’s membership, it seemed to be a game almost exclusively for old people and doomed to fizzle out in the next decade or so.  Fortunately for Croquet, John appeared and, aided by youth and exceptional ability, did much to keep the flame alive for the next fifteen years.

John made such rapid progress in his first two seasons and gave such a clear indication of his potential that, when a vacancy arose, the selectors were inspired to ask him to join the England team for the 1950/51 Test series in New Zealand.  This was despite the fact that he was only 18 at the time and had never played in a championship or won a major event.  However, the decision proved to be a resounding success and John not only played extremely well in the Test Matches but won the New Zealand Open Championship and Doubles Championship for good measure.

He returned home to begin a croquet career that, spurred on by his rivalry with Patrick Cotter and Humphrey Hicks, dominated the English game for over twenty years.  He amassed ten Open Championships, ten Men’s Championships, ten Doubles Championships, nine President’s Cups, four Champion of Champions victories, a Mixed Doubles Championship and two New Zealand Open and Doubles Championships, a total of 48 championship titles.  It was an extraordinary tally which remained unequalled until 2012.

John also represented England or Great Britain in the MacRobertson Shield on five occasions from 1950 to 1974.  However, it is not for just for his many successes that croquet players should be indebted to him.  Instead, what mattered more was the manner in which he achieved his success and how he was willing to use the legendary status that his success brought him to promote Croquet.

Top sportsmen in any discipline are frequently idiosyncratic.  Not all play their sport in a way that catches the eye and persuades the casual onlooker to stay and watch.  John Solomon’s special talent was to make croquet look easy, rhythmic and elegant.  He was really good to watch and it was clear that some came to the major events to watch John Solomon play croquet rather than to watch croquet as such.  When the media could be persuaded to take an interest in croquet and see John in action, they could not fail to be impressed by the sheer quality of the man and his performance.  Croquet might not be able to avoid the impression that it was a game suitable for the elderly but, with John Solomon on court, it was obvious that it was also a game of great skill and precision and one for all ages.  He was not content just to reel off the wins.  He particularly enjoyed pushing the boundaries by trying new openings and tactics.  Some of his feats still reverberate today – the three-ball triple against Cotter in 1964, the jump over rover to hit the peg and beat Aspinall in 1969 and, perhaps most remarkable of all, his single-handed win in the 1972 Open Doubles Championship where he peeled the absent Cotter’s ball through all 12 hoops – twice.

John Prince, another croquet legend who met John in New Zealand in 1963, said that the Solomon effect was to give the spectator the impression that they were watching a virtuoso playing a favourite piece of music and that John was to croquet what Roger Federer is to tennis.  The resemblance to Federer is particularly apt in another important aspect of competition – demeanour on court and sportsmanship.  In play, John never lost his self-control, let alone his temper, and always treated the twin impostors of defeat and victory just the same.  Like Dudley Hamilton-Miller, a slight pursing of the lips or, in extremis, half-raising an eyebrow would be the only visible reaction to some misfortune.  It was tellingly said of John that if you observed him walking off the court with his opponent you would have no inkling of the result.  He was simply the consummate sportsman.

English croquet has always been fortunate that its best players generally feel an obligation to put something back into the game.  John was no exception and threw himself into croquet administration and promotion.  He became Chairman of Council at the age of 30 and, later in life, served as President of the Croquet Association for 22 years from 1982 to 2004.  His legendary status drew many invitations from outside the UK and his visits to croquet clubs in the Channel Islands, France, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland and the USA were greatly appreciated and played an important part in encouraging the game and sometimes in assisting the birth of organised croquet.

In particular, he led the Hurlingham team that travelled to the USA in 1967 to play the Westhampton Mallet Club.  He met the late Jack Osborn, the founder of the US Croquet Association, and Jack expressly acknowledged the impact of John’s strong advice that the most important first step in establishing a national croquet body was to develop a single, agreed set of rules. 

John Solomon and Jim Bast outside Hurlingham at the 1985 USA versus John Solomon Select Team Match (Photo: Jim Bast)

From that flowed the formation of the USCA in 1981, the involvement of American players in international croquet, the first Test between the USA and Great Britain at Nottingham in 1985, the establishment in 1988 of the Solomon Trophy for annual competition between Great Britain and the USA and the admission of the USA to the MacRobertson Shield in 1993.  As the senior international croquet statesman, John made a truly great contribution which fully complemented his illustrious playing career.

His legacy is a game established in almost 30 countries throughout the world and a succession of champions who have followed in John’s footsteps over the last 50 years.  Nigel Aspinall, Keith Wylie, Robert Fulford, Reg Bamford and Robert Fletcher are the names that spring immediately to mind.  But it is very uncertain what the present position would have been and whether any of them would have become players and champions had the young John Solomon not taken up the game almost 70 years ago and played it so expertly and beautifully.

John Solomon's championship record

English Championships

Open Championship (10):                                  1953 1956 1959 1961 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968

Men’s Championship (10):                                 1951 1953 1958 1959 1960 1962 1964 1965 1971 1972

President’s Cup: (9)                                            1955 1957 1958 1959 1962 1963 1964 1968 1971

Doubles Championship (10):                             1954 1955 1958 1959 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1969

Champion of Champions (4)                              1967 1968 1969 1970

Mixed Doubles Championship (1):                   1954

Other Championships

New Zealand Championship (2):                      1951 1963

New Zealand Doubles Championship (2):       1951 1963

MacRobertson Shield record

Singles

Matches:  25   Won:  19          Lost:  6

Games: 57       Won:  41          Lost  16

Doubles

Matches:  25   Won:  24          Lost:  1

Games:  57      Won:  49          Lost:  8

Updated August 2017

MacPherson Robertson

Hall of Fame
Sir MacPherson Robertson KBE

Born: 1860
Died: 1945
Inducted: 2006

 

MacPherson Robertson was born in 1860 at Ballarat, Victoria.  His father, David, was a carpenter who had gone there attracted by the prospect of gold rush wealth.  When gold lost its steam, David persuaded his wife, Margaret, that they should move to Rockhampton in Queensland to build a new hospital as the main contractor.  However, with the money in his pocket, David departed for Fiji on a wild urge and left Margaret to return to Leith, Scotland, with four small children and one on the way.

It fell to MacPherson (“Mac”) to go out to work to support the family at the age of nine.  He rose at 3 a.m. to deliver newspapers over a ten-mile route and, by 6 a.m., he was lathering faces at a barber shop until 9 a.m.  He then attended school until 3 p.m. and went back to lathering faces until 9 p.m.  Unfortunately, even this prodigious work load did not bring in sufficient income and so Mac had to give up his education in order to work full-time.

A few years later, Mac’s father brought the family back to Australia.  Mac made up his mind to succeed in life and be able to be responsible for his entire family.  On arrival in Australia, he apprenticed himself to a confectioner in Fitzroy, Melbourne, and began a long journey which would see him become the most successful entrepreneur and highest taxpayer in Australia.

Aged 19, Mac set up a small factory in his mother’s bathroom with a “nail keg for a stove, a tin cup for a kettle and some sugar”.  His total capital was about two pounds (or about $200 in today’s money).  He made his confections on Mondays to Thursdays and sold them around Melbourne on Fridays and Saturdays.

Originally, his called his business the Mac Robertson Steam Confectionery Works.  By 1925, MacRobertson Chocolates employed 2,500 people.  Mac had built so many factories in Fitzroy that the block became known as “White City” because he had all his buildings painted white.

Although unions were trying hard to bring manufacturers under their thumb for exploiting workers, his factories never had a strike.  He often said that he should have liked to have done more for his workers but the union made it too difficult.  Nevertheless, he instituted an innovative pension scheme.  His annual turnover rose from £300 in 1880 to £2 million in 1925 ($200 million in today’s money).

He was not one to indulge himself with fine homes, yachts and beach houses, as other successful businessmen were prone to do.  Instead, he had an obsession with keeping fit both physically and mentally.  He punched a boxing speed ball each day to maintain his physical fitness and played croquet to gain relaxation from business concerns.  He enjoyed its strategy and believed that it reinforced his successful business psychology.

After the First World War, Mac saw the new entertainment of cinema as a new outlet for his lollies and chocolates.  He enlisted veteran servicemen to take up these concessions.  Most of the young veterans had no idea of running a business and some failed, owing Mac money for his stock.  He realised that he would have to train them and his other concessionaires in business management.  He realised the benefits of a thinking sport like croquet and encouraged them all to take it up and play it whenever they were free.  Croquet proved to be a wonderful teaching aid for training these young men m in self-discipline and risk management and other attributes conducive to business success.

In 1925, wishing to do something spectacular to create more media interest in his products and to encourage his newly-recruited croquet players, Mac established and sponsored the MacRobertson Shield between Australia and England.  The “Mac”, as the Shield is popularly and appropriately known among croquet players all over the world, remains the most iconic, historic and significant competitive croquet event in the international calendar.  New Zealand joined the competition in 1930 and the United States of America in 1993.  It is the Ryder Cup of Association Croquet and selection to represent one’s country in the Mac remains the pinnacle of a croquet career.

In 1927, Mac co-founded MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Co. and sponsored an around Australia Expedition by two motor lorries in 1928.  Then, in the early 1930s, Mac sponsored a British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition under the leadership of Douglas Mawson.  This gave Australia a physical presence on the Antarctic mainland and, in recognition of his patronage, Mawson named a large tract of the continent as MacRobertson Land.  Mac was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Geographic Society in 1931, was knighted in 1932 and appointed K.B.E. in 1935.

Despite the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, Mac was able to buck the trend and hire even more employees because his “Old Gold” Chocolate Box and Columbines were so well sponsored and advertised.  Mac was an active and generous supporter of charities and unemployment relief but was often disappointed at the wretchedness and demands of some of the poor together with the stupidity and avarice of federal politicians.

This experience led Mac to re-evaluate his charitable actions and financial support to the individual poor.  He concluded that his generosity often simply encouraged others to ask for a free handout as well and that some of the poor were idle and demanding while despising and abusing the prosperous and hard working.  He decided to cease making indiscriminate donations to the individuals and instead concentrate on projects that created wealth for the nation.

In 1933, he donated £100,000 to Victoria for its centenary celebrations.  He was asked what he thought should be done with the money and suggested building a Girls High School; a much-needed bridge over the Yarra River at Grange Road; a fountain in front of the Shrine of Remembrance on St. Kilda Road and an Herbarium in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.  His point was that these building projects would help to provide employment.

In addition, with part of his donation, he decided to advertise Australia and Melbourne by organising and sponsoring the great London to Melbourne Centenary Air Race.  This was then the most gallant and gruelling air race of all time and bought Australia unprecedented publicity.  The top aviators of the world competed and the publicity and status of the event assured the future participation of Australia in international commercial aviation.

However, the federal government responded to this generosity by demanding £42,000 of the £100,000 as tax.  At the time Mac was the highest taxpayer in Australia and one of the biggest employers.  Nonetheless, Mac decided to pay the tax and investigate this extraordinary example of inequity and by bringing it before the highest court in the land.  As a consequence of his action, donations to prescribed charities became tax deductible.

Sir MacPherson Robertson loved Australia and patriotic Australians.  He made “rich” a proud and honourable accolade.  It is said that, whereas Ned Kelly is the patron saint of the Australian poor, Mac is the patron saint of the true Aussie Battlers who are prepared to learn, work hard, persevere and never give in.

He was one of the greatest entrepreneurs and philanthropists in Australian history and his contribution to international croquet will never be forgotten. 

Tom Armstrong

Hall of Fame
Tom Armstrong

Inducted: 2006

Tom Armstrong has worked tirelessly since 1965 to promote croquet in Australia, particularly in South Australia.

After viewing the success of the England Mac Robertson Shield side in Australia in 1969, Tom decided to introduce croquet to students at several Adelaide secondary schools.  A regular weekly inter-school competition began involving up to 100 teenagers.  From this competition, ten new players joined croquet clubs with several continuing on to win various tournaments.

Tom was responsible for players such as Neil Spooner, Barrie Chambers, Mark Prater, Bill Smith and many other state and national representatives joining the ranks of croquet players.

For many years Tom and his wife Jean would travel to Queensland in the winter months to coach and assist with the recruiting of players for Maryborough and Bundaberg.

Tom has given his time freely to anyone who took the slightest interest in the sport of croquet. The folklore at Brighton in Adelaide\'s southern suburbs says that nobody who stopped to peer over the fence at the local club ever escaped the smooth-talking Tom Armstrong.  As far as the number of players introduced to croquet by Tom, the number is well into the thousands.  Many were short term players, but many more were to become long-term members at various clubs.

Ashley Heenan

Hall of Fame
Ashley Heenan OBE

Born: 1925
Died: 2004
Inducted: 2006

Ashley Heenan was the first President of the World Croquet Federation and a leading figure in New Zealand croquet for over 40 years.

Born in 1925, Ashley was schooled in Wellington and attended Victoria University, prior to two years’ study at the Royal College of Music in London.  He had joined the New Zealand Broadcasting Service at the age of 17 and returned there in 1951 working with touring overseas artists for the NZBS Concert Section.  He worked as Music Assistant to two conductors of the National Orchestra, later becoming the first Musical Director of the Orchestral Trainees, a job he retained for over 20 years.  This group was renamed Schola Musica - and many an experienced orchestral player emerged from its ranks.

During a busy administrative life, Ashley Heenan was able to sustain his own urge to compose.  Much of his early output was film music, frequently with an indigenous flavour.  Most would agree that his musical score for Baxter’s Jack Winter’s Dream was his most significant.  But it was part of a large list of compositions.

Ashley lived almost his entire life in Wellington, but his influence radiated widely.  He conducted the NZ National Youth Orchestra on a tour of Britain and the Far East; for more than a decade he headed the NZ Composers’ Foundation; he was New Zealand’s first Writer-Director of the Australasian Performing Rights Association; and, shortly before his death, he saw the publication of God Defend New Zealand: a history of the national anthem. This acclaimed and highly readable work was, perhaps surprisingly, the first substantial account of the history of the country’s national anthem to appear in the 125 years since its composition.

His services to music were recognised with honours from the NZ Phonographic Industry, as well as the Citation for Outstanding Services from the NZ Composers’ Association and the granting of an OBE in 1983 from Her Majesty the Queen.

Given the above, it is hardly a surprise that his other interests included the collection of first editions of Tchaikovsky and Bernard Shaw.  However, apart from his croquet, he had even wider interests, namely as a qualified pilot and a rugby referee.

Ashley Heenan’s croquet career lasted over 44 years. He won his first title - the New Zealand National Tournament - in 1945.  As a young boy, he attracted wide publicity to croquet at a time when youth in the sport was quite unique.  His victory in the NZ Opens of 1946 was featured with a full front-page photo in the Wellington Sports Post.

He won the NZ Open Championship on four further occasions, in 1948, 1958, 1959 and 1964, a record only excelled by Arthur Ross and not exceeded until 1977 by his own pupil John Prince.  In 1958, he had the rare distinction of winning in all four events of the NZ Championships for which he was eligible.  In 1959, he was again finalist in all four events, and won three.

His lifelong relationship with Arthur Ross, who was also his father-in-law, had a significant influence on the direction followed by New Zealand croquet between 1945 and 1964.  Between them, they engineered the tactics that won the 1950 MacRobertson Shield for New Zealand.

However, after that his international career was somewhat restricted by the demands of his musical career and he was unavailable for the tour of England in 1956.  His standing as a player was such that Maurice Reckitt recorded in the Gazette his opinion that his unavailability was the difference between NZ winning or losing the MacRobertson Shield.

During this period, Ashley published his own highly successful magazine, The Croquet World, and was invited by the NZCC to be editor of the flagging New Zealand Croquet Gazette, then on the verge of demise.  He was editor from 1957 to 1961, when he became NZ Referee, a position he also filled with distinction.

In 1957, he was appointed to a constitutional revision committee of the NZCC that made several innovative recommendations that were consequently adopted.  In 1960, as chairman of the NZ Laws Re-Draft Committee, he spent a week in Sydney with Ian Baillieu, working on the finalised draft of the proposed new laws.  Baillieu later acknowledged the part Ashley played in resolving the seemingly insuperable differences between the CA and NZCC to produce the laws as we know them today.

In 1963, he was appointed Captain of the NZ MacRobertson team, but was forced to withdraw when awarded a UNESCO Travelling Fellowship.  On returning from his tour, he played in the 1964 NZ Open Championships, winning the Open and, with his protege John Prince, the Doubles Championship.

The demands of music saw him withdraw from the national scene and, until 1979, his croquet was limited to local club and association events.  Following the death of Arthur Ross, and with some persuasive encouragement from John Prince, he once again began competing in national tournaments.

In 1979, he embarked on what virtually became a second career in croquet.  In that year, he was elected editor of the NZ Gazette for a second five-year term.  In 1984, he became a North Island Vice-President and, in 1985, he was appointed to the role of NZCC President.  He retired from this office before completing his term, feeling that the incoming President should have a year in office before the 1990 MacRobertson Tour and that the new constitution should come into effect with a fresh hand on the helm.

During his period of office, he saw reform of handicapping, laws and the constitution of the NZCC.  He established relations with the Assembly of Sport, the Hilary Commission and initiated new ventures into international sport.  His interests in International Croquet contributed to closer relations with Australia, England and the USA.

In 1986, he managed the NZ MacRobertson visit to England, where the team accorded him the honour of playing in the last test.  It was on this visit that the proposed World Croquet Federation project was initiated.  In July 1989, he was unanimously elected the first President of the newly-formed WCF, the nomination appropriately being put forward by his life-long and close friend, John Solomon.

The measure of his wide interest in the game can in part be found in the list of trophies he has presented the NZCC through the years.  He also designed the NZ Champion Pocket and Medal.  During the 1950s and 60s he spent much time touring the country, often in company with Arthur Ross, and, later, the young players John Prince and Tony Stephens in order to play exhibition games and give demonstrations and coaching lessons.

As with music, he brought to New Zealand and to world croquet a sense of purpose that it sorely needed.


Ashley Heenan’s playing record

New Zealand Championships
Open Championship:        (5) 1946, 1948, 1958, 1959, 1964
Men’s Championship        (4) 1946, 1951, 1958, 1959