North Kelsey and District Mixed Tennis Leagues

A brief history of the League

        Keith Wadd (Chairman) - 2007    
Whilst, back in the 1950s and 60s, mixed tennis was widely played in clubs on a friendly basis or in club tournaments, rather surprisingly there was no organised league mixed tennis.  
The North Kelsey League was formed in early 1966 by two members of the North Kelsey Club, namely Brian Glover and Cyril Bennett, who became the league's first Chairman and Secretary respectively. The initial idea was to promote mixed tennis in the villages, so works clubs were not allowed to join.  
For 1966 there was one division of eight clubs playing each other once in the best of three long set tennis. The clubs were N.Kelsey, S.Kelsey, Brigg (playing as Brigg Sugar), Caistor, Osgodby, Ingham, Barton and Scotter who won the league in that year. The Lincolnshire Lawn Tennis Association donated the trophy, thanks to the efforts of Cyril.  
In 1967 and 1968 ten clubs played in one division with Market Rasen and N.Hykeham joining. In 1970 the league expanded to 14 with works teams and club second teams allowed to join. Hence two divisions were formed of 7 playing home and away.  
Division One was made up of Appleby-Frodingham Works, Market Rasen, N.Hykeham, Nypro Works, Osgodby, Skellingthorpe and St Helens of Lincoln. Division Two was made up of Caistor, Dunholme/Welton, Epworth, Scotter, Market Rasen 2, Kirton Lindsey and N.Kelsey.  
App-Frod won the title in 1970 and 1971, but then Osgodby became the force. The backbone of the team was the Pickering family. There was Ron and his wife Cynthia and their children Helen, Eileen and Peter, plus Rons brother Eric and his wife Beryl. Helen already played for the County side and she recruited Carol Hix. Brian Duke was also a regular team member.  
A quotation from the Market Rasen Mail of September, 1975 about Osgodby after their fourth season of success and winning every match for three seasons read "considering that Osgodby is only a tiny village, there achievement in beating teams from a works side such as App-Frod is really outstanding” Osgodby played on one concrete court and one grass one! However any team that relies so heavily on one family does not last long and after winning the league again in 1976, Ron Pickering withdrew the team as all his kids had gone to university.  
The remaining players went to Market Rasen, which made them the dominant force, winning Division One from 1977 to 1979.  
Meanwhile the league had continued to expand. Division Three was introduced in 1972 and in 1975 was split into a Division 3 North and South to reduce travelling times. The winners of these two divisions played off for the right to go into Division Two.  
In 1978 the formation of the Leagues were as follows –

Div One  – App-Frod, Brigg Sugar, Market Rasen, Nypro, Scotter and St Helens.  
Div Two  – Kirton-Lindsey, Epworth, Market Rasen 2, Reepham, Normanby Park Works of Scunthorpe and Springthorpe  
Div Three North  – App-Frod 2, Caistor, N.Kelsey, Nypro 2, Scotter 2, and Winterton.  
Div Three South  – Beckingham, Ingham, Misterton, Saxilby, RAF Scampton and Wragby.  
The rules were changed to allow two teams from the same club in the same division.
In 1980 the number of teams wishing to join meant that Divisions 3N and 3S became Divisions 3, 4 and 5! At its peak in 1982 there were 33 teams playing the best of three long set weekend tennis!
    The five division weekend format continued until 1990. Tie Breaks were introduced in 1982 for the first two sets only and then in 1985 for all sets.  
    The League ran very popular Tournaments from 1980 until 1992. From 1986 to 1992 the tournament was split into two, i.e. Division 1 and 2 couples played against each other and Div 3,4 and 5 had there own. These were initially played on Nypro's excellent grass courts (Nypro Works eventually closed down and became Scunthorpe Tennis Club) and from 1986 moved to App-Frod to give the extra courts for the split competition.  
    In 1989 a Knock-Out Cup was started and ran until 1997.  
    In 1982 a new Midweek League was started, initially on a 2-couple “short set” basis, but soon to become a “timed” basis. The clubs joining were App-Frod, Bottesford, Barton, Burton, Broughton, Epworth and Winterton. This format proved to be popular and became the saviour of mixed tennis and the North Kelsey League.  
    The number of teams started to decline from the late 1980s for several reasons. Many village clubs folded due to lack of up and coming players and poor facilities. Works clubs suffered due to closures, but the biggest influences was the change in people's commitment to the game.  
    1990 saw 5 divisions become 4. In 1992 Division 4 became a 2- couple division and this lasted until 1998 when the League was reduced to three divisions. In 1998 Divisions 2 and 3 were changed to 2-couple timed, but from 2002 the weekend leagues reduced to 2 and in 2000 even Division 1 became 2-couple timed.  
    The mid-week 2-couple timed tennis his remained popular. A second division was started in 1992. Initially the two divisions were regionalised, but in 1999 they became two straight divisions.  
    Elsewhere on this web-site are listed all the Divisional winners since 1966, plus the Tournament and Knock-out Cup Winners. There are a few small unknown winners in the lower divisions in the 1970s and 80s. If anyone can fill in any years, I would be pleased to hear from them.  
    Also elsewhere on this website are the lists of officials and a chronology of notable events. In a history of the league it would be very remiss of me not to highlight the effort put into this league by Cyril Bennett.  
    Cyril was secretary from the league formation in 1966 right up to his sudden and unexpected death at Xmas 2005. He saw 40 playing seasons and I fully expected him to see 50. Cyril, never much of a tennis player, loved the league he started. Through thick and thin, he worked for the League, He did have several personal blows in his life and even ran the league when he had to leave the area contracting. Cyril organised very successful League Presentation Dances at several venues and back in the 70s and 80s over 300 people attended.  
    I first met Cyril in 1978, when I attended the AGM at a pub in Glentworth, joining my new wife, Liz Ehrenfried as the representatives of App-Frod. His enthusasism never abated in all the years I knew him. He was a nuisance at times and thought nothing of ringing late at night, but it takes people like Cyril to make sure things happen.  
    Much more could be written about the North Kelsey League. My wife has played for nearly 40 years for App-Frod and played the Pickerings of Osgodby, the battles against Market Rasen, Perrys (the old Blue Circle of Kirton Lindsey), North Scarle and, more recently, the Grimsby Clubs. I have played for 30 years, mainly in the lower divisions and have had some great matches, some excellent teas and some great socialising. Every club had its many different characters that made it, on most occasions, a pleasure to play mixed tennis.  
    Teams have come and gone in the leagues, but when a club like App-Frod has to end its comittment to Mixed Tennis, as it did in 2007, then it is somewhat worrying for the future. The league is 42 years old and must go on!  
    Over the period 2007 to 2009 the league joined the modern era with its own website and all results and communications via it and email. This was largely due to Allan Thompson. All clubs are now tuned in to this method of media and is a vast improvement in having to rely on the post and newspapers.  
    By the 2010 season only 12 Mixed teams played in two weekend divisions and one midweek. However a potential move forward for tennis and the North Kelsey League was the starting of a 2 couple timed mens league with 8 teams. This proved to be very popular and if a Ladies League could be started as well, then the League can continue to serve tennis in the area.  
    While I am able to, I shall ensure the North Kelsey League continues to provide Tennis in whatever format its members demand. 2011 will be the 46th playing season for leagues, long may it continue!!  
    Keith Wadd – November 2010.  
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  Page updated :- 4 November, 2010