It is with great sadness that we inform members of the death of one of our long-standing members, Ralph Oliver. Here Club Historian, Dr Matt Cole, describes Ralph’s tennis career and his outstanding contribution to the Club.
Ralph Oliver was one of the club’s longest-serving and most loyal members as an officer, a mentor, and as a tennis player who, together with Tony Mottram, Roy Dixon and Ann Jones gave the club its national profile in the 1950s. Later he supported the merger into the Edgbaston Priory and encouraged a new generation of players.
Donald Ralph Oliver joined the Priory Lawn Tennis Club as a student in 1952 and the following year made the first of five appearances in the men’s singles tournament at Wimbledon. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Ralph appeared regularly at over a dozen tournaments from North Angus to New Malden, playing ten finals and claiming titles at four.
Back in Birmingham, as well as captaining Warwickshire and competing in the Midland counties tournament, Ralph joined the Management Committee which oversaw the demanding task of merging the Edgbaston and Priory Clubs in 1965. With the new Club just established, he brought his recognition and inspiration to the Chairmanship of its joint tennis committee. The chance to practise with Ralph is remembered by players from the Club’s next generation like Katie Shaw as the reason they came to Edgbaston Priory and went on to compete at Wimbledon in the 1980s.
Asked recently why he joined the Priory, Ralph said proudly: “It was always the biggest club with the best players in the county.” In his sixty-seven years with us, he was to be one of our best players and helped us grow beyond all expectation.
Our condolences are extended to Ralph’s wife and family.