Irish Wimbledon Ladies’ Champion Leana Rice

     As I am a Leana Rice fan, I decided to cover the strand of story; local History, and to put together her story during TP*. Here is a partial account of this truly remarkable Tipperary woman.

Leana Rice, born 21st June 1866 at “Marlhill,” New Inn Co Tipperary South,  is the only Irish woman to have won the Singles Wimbledon Lady Champion to date.

Leana learned the game at home in “Marhill” where they held many tennis parties, she also played in Cahir Lawn Tennis Club.

Leana Rice

           When she swanned daintily onto Wimbledon’s Centre Court to compete in the ladies singles final of 1890, an audience of the 300 clapped politely, not knowing they were about to see something that would change Irish Tennis History for ever!
           It was a sunny day and the crowd were hoping for an exciting match. Lena’s opponent was Britain’s Miss Jacks. Both ladies wore full-length dresses with long sleeves, corsets, bustles, long petticoats, long heavy leather high boots and to cap off the look they wore boater hats to protect their delicate skin from the harsh sunlight. This was the acceptable fashion for ladies’ tennis at the time.

Women were competing in Wimbledon were expected to move in a “ladylike fashion”, never exposing their ankles as they ran about the courts, in contrast to the men, who were allowed to leap and dive around the court. In any event, their heavy corsets and petticoats made it almost impossible for them to play in an athletic way, check out the girls below…comfy right?!

an example of 1890 clothes

The 24-year-old Rice won playing against Miss Jacks on Friday 5th July in 1890. The final score was 6-4, 6-1 winning her 20 guineas and the right to hold the 50 guinea Challenge Cup for a year.

Lottie Dod.

She retired in  at the age of 24, giving no reason, and it is generally thought if she had continued playing she would have been a serious contender to Lottie Dod.

        Leana passed away on her 41st birthday 21st June in 1907, just 17 years after her victory. She is buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard in the village of New Inn.

       I didn’t expect a class so young to care about my lesson, I had expected to spend that entire history class trying to get their attention “TGS”.  “Tragic Greek Style”…you pretend you are in a “Tragic Greek Play” and dramatically throw out your right hand and say “oh nooooo, oh my goodness!” then sweep your arm across your face, until your face is nestled in the crock of your elbow and dramatically say; “Well if no one is going to listen I will have to just hid for the rest of class…maybe if I cover my eyes, count to ten, all the little people running around and shouting will magical sit down….and I DO believe in magic.” Covering your eyes with your hands you ask “TGS” “you believe in magic don’t you??” you count to ten, take your hands away from your face and hey presto…class is smiling at you like you are a “Teaching Glorious Star” and are behaving  for a few minuets anyway!

     I didn’t need to use “TGS”  for that lesson, maybe it was my dramatic reading, the dramatic movements I was doing or just the fact that Leanas’ story is one of the most awesome in my local history to date….when I finished reading and looked up – I was met with the astonished wide eyed gaze of 30 new Leana Rice fans!

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* Teaching Practice

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Michelle says:

    Hi DerRguanlao46,

    Yeah it is a cool story, not many Irish people know about her so it woudl be interesting to see if any New Yorkers know about her.

    Ha! I didn't notice that before but yeah, she does lok like she is floating!



  2. Michelle says:

    Hi Louise,

    I know right? Wow those ladies had it tough. I was so suprised by the class as they were senior infants and 1st class. They never sat down for longer than 5 mins, but after I read out my story…well they were kinda blown away.



  3. Derek Flynn says:

    Fascinating stuff, Michelle. But, is it just me, or is Leana levitating in the second pic down? Looks like tennis wasn't her only skill 🙂


  4. rguanlao46 says:

    Very interesting story. Will quiz my Irish friends here in New York if they know who Leana Rice is.


  5. 120 Socks says:

    Great post! Honestly how cud anyone play under such restrictions! But a wonderful story! Not surprised the attention of the class was held, just goes to show if you have the right material, people will connect.


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