Following the seeding of the newly constructed croquet lawn in autumn 2007, the lawn became playable last summer although the weather somewhat curtailed its use. It is a full sized court (35 yards x 28 yards). Hopefully it will come up to competition standards as the lawn settles. Croquet players staying at Inish Beg are most welcome to play especially those who can help the owner to make the much needed improvements to his game.
The beginnings of croquet in Ireland
The origin of croquet is misty; the French have made a dubious claim to its creation via Paille Maille (or Pall Mall), a game played on a court of powdered cockleshells with two hoops made of willow rods and a wooden ball.
What is certain is that the earliest records of what was called Crooky being played were in Ireland in Counties Clare, Louth and Galway as well as near Dublin in the 1830’s. Far from being a French word derived from the Norman French croche, meaning shepherds crook, a superior claim is that it springs from the Irish word cluiche, meaning play.
It was introduced to England from Ireland in about 1850 when Miss MacNaughton gave a set to Mr Spratt who subsequently sold it to John Jacques who in turn put it on display at the 1851 Great Exhibition. The game spread like wildfire and became a craze for not the least of reasons that ladies were able to play it in the company of men. The early game permitted you to place your foot on your own ball and send your opponents ball deep into the bushes surrounding the lawn, often enabling male companions to assist young women in a prolonged search.
Croquet remained popular in Ireland until the First World War after which it sadly declined.
In recent times, as elsewhere, there has been a revival and there are now nine clubs in Ireland and a number of private courts one of which is at Inish Beg. Guests are welcome to play on the new full sized lawn (35yards x 28yards).
Croquet and the Olympics
Which country has had the greatest success in any Olympic sport since the revival of the games in 1896? Yes, you guessed it, France. And what was the sport? Right again, croquet.
Introduced in 1900, it attracted 9 competitors, 8 of them from France. The ninth, a Belgian, dropped out after the first round of the competition, giving the French a free run to win all the medals. There were 4 female members of the French team, the first time women had participated in any sport in the Olympics.
The 1900 Olympics were not a success. They lasted a ridiculously long time – from 20th May until 28th October. They included, along with croquet, other sports which were not repeated in subsequent games, such as live pigeon shooting which involved the release and slaughter of 300 birds whose feathers and carcasses descended on the few spectators who watched.
The games also proved dangerous. The 1896 discus champion returned to claim his crown and managed to hurl his discus into the crowd on each of his three throws.
The croquet games took place over 21 weeks with only one paying spectator, an Englishman resident in Nice.
The Irish, wisely, stayed at home and held their own championships in Dublin.
There was an article published in the English press that stated that croquet was to be reintroduced for the 2012 London games. It was published on 1st April 2008. Please note the date.