About Us

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Message from the President

The Knights Squash Rackets Club was founded by Kendal Jarvis in 1960 with the intention of sending teams of young promising squash players on tour to Britain, not only to play against clubs and county sides, but also to play in tournaments being held at the same time.  The first tour took place in 1961/1962 and the 26th tour leaves South Africa at the end of November 2012 for six weeks of squash, and an experience of a life time.

The success of these tours can be judged not only by the fact that they have been an active part of South African squash for fifty years, but also from the reality that many Knights members have gone onto play for their provinces, win South African tournaments and championships, and become Springboks.  In addition to playing ability, selection places a very high premium on sportsmanship and good behaviour.  Representation from around the country is also an important factor.  The current selector is Steve Doeg.

Our success would not have been possible without the support and generosity of many squash-loving Britons, not least the late Dick Hawkey who was responsible for arranging the first tour, and many after that.  After his death his wife Lynn and son Allan took over the reins, until handing the baton to the tireless Joe Richardson.  And there are many more who have provided accommodation and generous hospitality for the enjoyment of some 140 young and eager squash players.  In the 60's and 70's the Knights hosted three British sides who toured under the name "Swallows".  It is hoped that we might see another Swallows side touring South Africa in the not too distant future.  It is also intended to arrange matches between Knights and other clubs such as the Jesters and the Wanderers (in Johannesburg).

At the recommendation of Dick Hawkey, the Knights Club formed a trust which aims to assist financially with the tour costs.  This trust could do with more funds and anyone interested in making a contribution should contact the Chairman of the Trustees, Richard Robinson, or the Club President, Chris Richards.  It remains a policy of the Club, though, that players selected must raise the major portion of the cost themselves.

Chris Richards

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The Knights’ Story – How it all began

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By Founder and first President, Kendal Jarvis (Edited)

The Knight's Squash Rackets Club was founded in 1960, in response to the rejection by the Squash Rackets Association of Southern Africa, to my suggestion that a junior Springbok side be selected to tour the United Kingdom. This would enable the leading young players to gain experience in the tough world of British squash. In those days of squash development Britain was the centre of the amateur game. The Amateur Champion had most often been British. The game was served by only a few professionals most of whom were Pakistani, Indian or Egyptian.

At the time the average age of the leading players in the country was over 30. Transvaal was the leading province. In all four of the other major provinces there were only one or two strong players under 21.

When George Mennie, the Chairman of the SASRA reported the Committee's decision to me, it was a bitter pill to swallow. I asked him if he would object to my forming a club with the specific objective of getting South Africa's best young squash players on a tour of Britain, to expose them to the tough competition in the leading clubs, and to play in several of the major championships, including the Amateur - the 'Wimbledon' of squash. This proposal was accepted and the Knights became an Affiliated Club of the Association.

I drafted a constitution for the Club, which out-ruled discrimination on any grounds. Members of the teams were to be chosen solely on their playing ability and their suitability to undertake a tour which would place a very high premium on sportsmanship and good behaviour.

My brother Roger, who was a Springbok and S.A. Champion, had played for S.A. in Britain in 1955. He had met and played against Dick Hawkey, who was a senior member of the British squash administration. Roger made arrangements for me to meet Dick who was in South Africa at the time on a Romany Cricket tour. I will never forget the meeting. Dressed in my best pin-stripe suit, I wondered what sort of reception my proposal would receive, and if this would be the first of many approaches to find someone in Britain who would help bring my dream to reality. I did not have to wait long. After outlining my proposals, Dick said he would be delighted. It was difficult to believe. Even as I write this now the enormity of his undertaking and the excitement of it sends a shiver down my spine.

The weeks and months after that meeting were crammed full of activity in Britain and in S.A, and were not without their worrying moments.

KNIGHTS CRISIS

Although each of the six team members was able to enjoy six weeks in Britain for just R500, including the airfare, the flights had been offered by the Overseas Visitors Club via Lourenco Marques (Maputo). Less than five weeks before we were due to fly to LM a letter was received from the Club advising that the flight had to be cancelled as the airline company had gone into liquidation. A later flight was offered but acceptance would have acceptance would have meant that the first ten days of the tour that had been arranged with enormous pioneering effort by Dick Hawkey, would have to be cancelled, and that the tremendous effort and dedication that had gone into the organisation of that first leg of the tour would be wasted. If we arrived late it might do irreparable damage to the concept of the Knights Tours.

The problem was also financial. The OVC air-flight was going to cost R300 return, and allowing for essential out-of-pocket expenses and some modest spending money, the members of the first Knights team only required R500 for the tour. I had 'sold' the idea to the parents of the team members six months before, and they had supported the tour. It was such good value and an exciting opportunity for their sons. I had also secured the backing of the SASRA, despite their rejection of a Junior Springbok team.  Now the bottom had fallen out of it all ! The return ticket on one of the scheduled airlines was R460, and with five of the six flying, (Brian Lefson left some months earlier by sea ) we would be R800 short.

I had to try to persuade one of the scheduled airlines to give us a flight at a reduced cost. I started planning a systematic journey to the doors of every one of the airlines that operated flights to Europe. I had no alternative but to 'cold canvass'. But I never got further than the Travel Manager, or his equivalent. This included SAA, BOAC, KLM, UTA and Lufthansa.

Eventually it came down to Sabena - the last possibility. I had to get through to the local General Manager of this Belgian airline. His name as Albert van Oppens. As it turned out, every person I spoke to did their best to block my intention and determination to meet Mr van Oppens. I made many attempts and was eventually advised that he would see me about two weeks later.

The meeting was scheduled for 10am. I arrived early and waited in the lobby. That wait was far worse than waiting to go onto the Wanderers match court, or in the tunnel at Ellis Park before inter-varsity. A huge amount of effort had gone into establishing the club, and selling the tour idea. Dick Hawkey had worked his butt off, and used all his very considerable influence in British squash circles to have the tour accepted and supported by the British enthusiasts. If I didn't sort out the problem it would be a calamity that I and the British squash fraternity would never forget.

After a couple of further attempts by some junior members of staff to prevent me meeting the General Manager, I was ushered into his office. It was precisely 10am. Despite his obvious curiosity and surprise at my age and the reason for the appointment, his welcome was warm and friendly. And he gave me the opportunity to relate the dilemma I was in. After a short silence he enquired as to where the money was. It was with the Allied Building Society and he asked if a cheque for the amount could be made out in favour of Sabena Belgian World Airlines.

He ignored my comment that the team would still be R800 short but asked if Sabena could have an advertisement in the tour brochure.

Then finally he simply said: "I shall arrange for the five tickets to be issued. Sabena will pay R800 for the advertisement, cash. We shall also make six of our Sabena hand luggage bags available which I would appreciate your using for your squash kit. And Mr. Jarvis, thank you very much for approaching us. I hope you have a very successful tour. You go with my and Sabena's very best wishes.

I had succeeded!

Had it not been for the amazing response, and spontaneous readiness to assist, of Sabena's Albert van Oppens, the first Knights Tour might never have taken place. That it did, with an unbeaten record, and that it has been followed by over fifty five years of similar tours, is in no small way attributable to the far-sightedness, generosity, and perception to back an opportunity, of the man who helped get that first tour off the ground, figuratively and literally in a Sabena Boeing.

Years later Albert van Oppens retired to the Cape. When I tried to contact him to thank him once again, to my dismay he had died. How proud his family must be of having had a father with a heart as big as his.

Kendal Jarvis

Founder and First President