2017 Jesters Tour marks the end of an era

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2017 Jesters tour to Scotland

Edinburgh/Musselburgh, Friday-Sunday 13-15th January 2017

Frank and Harry Akerman write:
The 27th Jesters Tour weekend to Edinburgh proved again to be a big success, with 34 tourists representing the Jesters in the 26 matches, and this despite the date clashing with the 50th North West tournament in Manchester and with the Ladies National Championships. There were many familiar faces back, some regulars (Duncan Neale, Ed and Robin Thompson, and Mansell Jagger) whilst for Joe Gribble this was his first fives-playing trip to north of the border this millennium. We also were pleased to welcome four new tourists, including Shi-nan Zhang, our first ever female player.

Friday afternoon saw a Jesters victory against a strong combined Scottish Universities VI before we had a very high-quality Select VI tournament taking the best six schoolboys from Edinburgh and pairing them each with a Jester. Two pairs – Gary Lemmon (Loretto) & Dave Butler and Archie McCreath (Fettes) & Jez Sinton – each only lost one game in the round-robin tournament; however, while Doug Tidy (Merchiston) & Harry Akerman lost two games, they scored more points overall, so the rules committee (Harry Akerman) decided that Doug was the winning schoolboy!

Following the tournament, we were generously hosted by Fettes for a very tasty curry on Friday night, which saw 70 diners, comprising Jesters, members of the Caledonian Club, school coaches, headmasters, parents, families and boys enjoying an extremely sociable evening. It is clear there is plenty of enthusiasm for Fives in Edinburgh.

On Saturday morning, our resources were stretched thinly, as we lost John Minta to flu and went down to a strong team from the Caledonian Club (139-129) and also to the Old Merchistonians. The withdrawal of one of the school teams for Saturday afternoon saw a re-jigging of resources, allowing an Old Bradfield Team (Butler, Sinton, Marshall, Mettam) to win the inaugural (and possibly final!) Sinton-Matthews cup against an Old Blues team from Christ’s Hospital (Hawke, Lebon, Matthews, Peterson), and didn’t they enjoy their bragging rights for the evening!

Our Saturday evening meal at La P’tite Folie (for at least the 20th year) provided us with an opportunity to reminisce about the 27 years of the tour organised by Frank Akerman – a role from which he is now standing down, passing over the reins to Dave Butler and Ben Hale. In responding, Frank thanked all those who had supported the weekend and also underlined the absolutely vital part played by Harry, who for many years has been responsible for the day-to-day court and game allocations, which is such an essential part to the smooth running of the three days. Frank said he was sure that, with such enthusiastic masters in charge (Matt Hillier at Merchiston, Hector McFarlane at the Academy, Roger Whait at Loretto and Peter Worlledge at Fettes), the immediate future for similar Fives weekends in Edinburgh will be assured.

Warmer weather on Sunday sadly meant sweaty courts and the fixture against an enthusiastic Edinburgh Academy 1st IV team had to be cut short. Meanwhile, at Fettes, the walls were getting wet, but play was possible, allowing an opportunity to see Archie McCreath & Grant Sperling, the Fettes 1st pair, beating both the Jesters pairs. There were also good games against the Merchiston and Loretto 1st IVs, while on the Sunday morning Matt Hillier produced a VI which included Roger Layton and which, for the second year running, was too strong for a tiring Jesters team. We also lost our second match against another strong Caledonian Club side, with fitness once again being a prominent problem!

So, while this era of Jesters tours comes to an end with the usual noises from our camp of sore bodies, bruised hands and commitments to be fitter for next year, the standard and enthusiasm of the school players at all age levels remains high in Edinburgh. As well as some very strong colts coming through at all the schools (including Max Layton, son of Roger), there are also a good number of girls playing Fives and there will be plenty of strong opposition to take on the players in the first Butler/ Hale tour, the dates of which next year will not be allowed to clash with the North West or the Ladies Championships. And, there should be no reason why the current male:female ratio of 33:1 should not also improve.

Over to you, Ben and Dave….!