Marginal Notes 5: Sporting pursuits

Marginal Notes 5: Sporting pursuits

Tuesday, Sep 05, 2023

When preparing our shortlist devoted to sporting books, I was reminded of my own forays into sporting pursuits – all two of them.

During our childhood my two sisters and I were taught by our father, Les Craddock, how to handle a cue:

Les was an early enthusiast for small table billiard. . . . He formed the world’s first Small Table Billiards Association in Adelaide in the early fifties, and wrote ‘Cues and Tips’, the association’s journal. In the suburban homes of Les and Muriel’s friends, walls were removed to accommodate the new essential, a billiards table. When the Craddock girls were too little to reach the table, they played standing on stools.

Extract from Rare. A life among antiquarian books by Stuart Kells. Folio, Sydney, 2011

My second sporting success was described by Kells:

Kay also struggled in competitive school sports, discovering early that billiards and snooker – naturally her contests of choice – were not on any school programme. Kay often persuaded Muriel to write a note asking that she be excused from sport due to headache, period pain or some other malady brought on by the stress of being the last pick for the softball team, or the one who could not return the tennis ball.

In 1959, when Strathmore High School introduced archery, Kay at last found her niche. Archery is contested by individuals, a fact that appealed to Kay. The sport offers the challenge of bettering one’s own score, and there are no partners to let down if one performs poorly.

Les took up archery too, ostensibly to coach Kay. The exemplary sports dad, he became an active and accomplished archer in his own right. Father and daughter joined the local archery club, the Bowmen of Essendon. As a surprise for Les, Kay inaugurated the only issue of the club magazine, ‘On Target’ (not to be confused with the eponymous journal of the Australian League of Rights) in May 1963. The night she showed it to Les he immediately telephoned the club secretary and they took it to his home for him to see. Les edited Kay’s copy heavily, producing a final version which they duplicated by roneo.

During a visit to Hartley’s Sport Depot to buy archery equipment, my family met Australian champion archer (and world and Olympic record holder), Hans Wright, who eventually replaced my father as my archery coach.

Les and Kay entered State and National tournaments. When Kay started winning events, Hans believed this was due to his expert coaching. Many in the family’s wider circle concurred, but Les held himself responsible for Kay’s success. In the midst of this debate, Kay wondered whether her own talent had played any part. . . . [Kay] became Australian Junior Champion in 1962. Her records for target and clout stood for over ten years . . .

My interest in sport waned once I turned sixteen.