A Biographical Sketch of George Lyttleton Rogers (1906-62)

#1
Part I of II

A Biographical Sketch of George Lyttleton Rogers (1906-62)

By Mark Ryan


Although many sources list his birthplace as Dublin, George Lyttleton Rogers, the last Irish lawn tennis player to enjoy significant success on the international circuit, was in fact born in the market town of Athy in County Kildare, to the west of County Dublin, on 10th July 1906. He was the third and last child (all boys) of Francis William Lyttleton Rogers, a native of County Kilkenny and an inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary, and Hester (‘Hessie’) May Rogers (née Lloyd Sherrie), who was from Dublin.

The marriage of Francis Lyttleton Rogers and Hessie Lloyd Sherrie is registered as having taken place in Dublin in 1894, although Francis appears to have been living in Coleraine, County Derry, in the north of the country, at the time. He had been posted there at some point in his role as a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the armed police force of the United Kingdom in Ireland in the years 1814-1922. The Rogers’ first two children were both born in Coleraine, Francis Lyttleton Lloyd Rogers on 4th February 1895, and Richard Henry Lyster Rogers on 18th September 1896.

In the 1901 Census of Ireland, taken on the night of 31st March, the Rogers family were living in a house on Lower Abbey Street in the townland of Ardnanagh in County Roscommon, in the west of the country. The address indicates a change of posting for Francis Lyttleton Rogers, who completed the census return, listing his occupation as District Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary. His wife is listed as ‘Lady’, while the two boys, six-year-old Francis, junior, and four-year-old Richard, are both listed as ‘Scholars’. Also present is sixty-year-old Marie Sherrie, Hessie’s mother, who is listed as ‘Widow (Lady)’; Marie’s place of birth is given as Sierra Leone, Africa. Two female servants and a male groom round off the list of people mentioned in the census form.

Ten years later, when the 1911 Census of Ireland was taken on the night of 2nd April, Francis William Rogers was living in a house in Leixlip, a town in north-east County Kildare, on the border with Dublin. In the census return he listed his occupation as ‘Gentleman Farmer; Retired District Inspector, Royal Irish Constabulary’. The only other people listed on the return were two male farm servants and a female cook. Hessie Rogers and her three children, including four-year-old George, do not appear in this census return, but were more than likely living together in the family home in Merrion Square, Dublin.

Located on the south side of Dublin city centre, fashionable Merrion Square was in those days largely residential – Sir William Wilde, the renowned Irish eye and ear surgeon and his family, including their son Oscar, had had a house at No. 1 when Oscar was attending nearby Trinity College in the years 1871-74. The eldest of the three Rogers sons, Francis, would also attend the Engineering School at the same university.

Following the outbreak of World War One, and before he had completed his engineering studies, Francis, junior, enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery, which provided support to the regular British Army. According to the website http://www.1914-1918.net/rfa_units.htm: “As with all elements of the regular army, these units were, after being mobilised in August 1914, manned by a mixture of serving regulars, army and Special Reservists. From around October 1914 they began to be supplemented by wartime recruits and by the war’s end the majority of the complement of most regular units were not career soldiers. In general, the regular RFA units were under command of the regular Divisions, until from late 1915 they were increasingly mixed into the New Army Divisions.”

Francis Rogers, junior, was subsequently sent into combat in France and achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was killed in action on 7th January 1916 in the commune of Neuve-Chapelle in the Pas-de-Calais département in northern France, a month before his twenty-first birthday.

Like his elder brother before him, Richard Rogers, the middle of the three Rogers siblings, also enlisted soon after the outbreak of war. He had already been a member of the Royal Field Artillery before the war, having previously entered the Royal Military College at Woolwich in south-east London. Richard was also posted to France, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant. He was killed in action on 4th October 1917, near Arras, a commune and the historic, administrative and university capital of the Pas-de-Calais département. Arras is located just to the south of Neuve-Chapelle, where Francis Rogers, junior, had been killed in January 1916. Richard Rogers had celebrated his twenty-first birthday just two weeks before his death.

The death of Francis William Lyttleton Rogers, father of Francis, Richard and George, was recorded in south Dublin during the first quarter of 1916, around the time when Francis, junior, was killed in action in France. This must have been a very trying time for Hessie Rogers, especially knowing that Richard was in action in France and thus in grave danger. Fortunately, it is likely that she had some of her extended family to support her during this time and to help with bringing up George, who turned ten in July 1916.

Although he would later enjoy a good deal of success at lawn tennis, it appears that George Lyttleton Rogers was a somewhat sickly child. According to the entry for him in the ‘The Dictionary of Irish Biography’: “After the death of his father, his mother brought a then delicate Rogers to live for much of the year in the south of France for the benefit of his health. From a wealthy Dublin family of private means on his mother’s side, he became a top-class tennis player largely by spending much of his time on French Riviera, playing with other top-class players, and regularly competing in the championships held in Nice, Monte Carlo, Beaulieu and Cannes.”

At some point George Lyttleton Rogers also became a member of the prestigious Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin, which had been founded in Dublin towards the end of 1877. The original location of this club was Upper Pembroke Street, just around the corner from Fitzwilliam Square, where the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships would be held from 1879 to 1902, the golden era of this particular tournament. In 1880, the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club moved to grounds at Wilton Place, close to Fitzwilliam Square, but a little further from the city centre. The Irish Lawn Tennis Championships were first held at the Wilton Place grounds in 1903 and, with one exception, these grounds would remain the venue for the tournament until 1972.

It was at Wilton Place that George Lyttleton Rogers would win his three singles titles at the Irish Championship, in 1928, when he was just 22, and again in 1936 and 1937. He also won the men’s doubles title twice, in 1936 with fellow Irishman Trevor McVeagh and in 1938 with Josip Pallada, who was born in Croatia and played under the Yugoslavian flag. A victory in the mixed doubles event at the Irish Championships in 1936 with the Chilean player Anita Lizana saw Rogers take the ‘triple crown’ that year. He had also won the mixed doubles at the same tournament in 1932, with the Polish player Jadwiga Jedrzejowska.

Other victories in the singles event at grass court tournaments throughout his career include those at the West of England championships in Bristol in the years 1929-31; at the North of England Championships in Scarborough in 1932 and 1937; at the Northern England Championships in Manchester in 1937; and at the Welsh Championships in Newport in 1938. He also won the men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles at several other tournaments during his career.
 
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#2
Part II of II

In addition to his successes on fast grass courts, George Lyttleton Rogers also enjoyed a good deal of success on slower clay courts, in particular at the tournaments held during the early part of the season on the French and Italian Rivieras. This is not surprising given that he had been playing on such courts since childhood and would thus have been very familiar with them. Some of his most notable tournament victories on the French Riviera include the singles title at the South of France Championships in Nice in 1931, 1933 and 1934, the Côte d’Azur Championships in Cannes in 1931, the Championships of Monaco in Monte Carlo in 1932 and the Cannes Championships in 1932 and 1938.

In seven appearances at the French Championships in Paris between 1928 and 1939, George Lyttleton Rogers reached the quarter-finals twice, in 1930 and 1932. He played at Wimbledon every year from 1928-39, his best performance in the singles event coming in 1933, when he lost in the fourth round to the Czech-born player Roderich Menzel, 6-1, 6-1, 12-10.

His modest success at Wimbledon and the French Championships is an indication that, although he regularly competed at the highest level for more than a dozen years (circa 1926-39), George Lyttleton Rogers did not rank among the very best players of that period, but was nevertheless still a top-class player and could now and again beat one of the world’s best players.

According to the entry for Rogers in ‘The Dictionary of Irish Biography’: “Particularly noteworthy was his defeat of Australian Jack Crawford in the Davis Cup in 1930, three years before Crawford won Wimbledon and his defeat of the German [future] three-time Wimbledon runner-up Gottfried von Cramm when the Irish team knocked the Germans out of the Davis Cup. He defeated Henri Cochet (winner of Wimbledon in 1927 and 1929) twice, and also beat Ellsworth Vines at Forest Hills in 1931, the year before he won Wimbledon.”

(It should be noted that although George Lyttleton Rogers beat Gottfried von Cramm in the Davis Cup in 1932, Ireland actually lost the tie 1-4. And Rogers beat Ellsworth Vines at the U.S. Championships in Forest Hills in 1930, not 1931.) Rogers was a mainstay of the Irish Davis Cup team for several years in the 1930s and sometimes even captained the team.

Where Rogers’ playing style is concerned, ‘The Dictionary of Irish Biography’ notes the following: “At almost 6 ft, 7 in (2 m), Rogers was the tallest top-class player of his era, and his enormous reach, coupled with a very strong backhand and an extremely hard serve, made him a formidable opponent. He reputedly had a fierce temper, however, and this could have an effect on his timing.”

Although the entry on him in ‘The Dictionary of Irish Biography’ also states that George Lyttleton Rogers emigrated to the USA in 1939, he took part in a number of Italian tournaments in April and May of 1940, and his name only begins to appear regularly in the draws of American tournaments in the summer of 1940. Indeed, in a ‘manifest’, he completed on 2nd April 1949 after crossing the border between the USA and Canada, Rogers states that he had been living in the USA since 10th June 1940, when he arrived in the port of New York aboard the SS Manhattan, an American luxury liner.

Rogers’ arrival in New York in early June 1940 ties in perfectly with his playing in several tournaments during the lawn tennis season in the USA. (He had been to North America at least once before, in the summer of 1930, when he notably won the singles title at the Canadian Championships in Toronto. Some relatives on his mother’s side appear to have lived in Canada.)

In the same ‘manifest’ from 1949 referred to above, George Lyttleton Rogers states that he had come to the USA to reside there, so there is no reason to doubt ‘The Dictionary of Irish Biography’ when the article on Rogers states that he emigrated to the USA, albeit in 1940, not one year earlier. Rogers’ decision to emigrate appears to have been at least partially motivated by Great Britain’s decision to declare war on Germany on 3rd September 1939. Although his two elder brothers had effectively died fighting for Great Britain during World War One, by 1939 the Irish Free State had been founded and would remain neutral throughout World War Two.

It is possible that Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany awoke old memories for Rogers and that he wanted to be as far away from the action as possible. While providing some support for its allies, the United States would effectively maintain its neutrality during the first two years of the war before the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

Although the declaration of war led to the postponement of lawn tennis tournaments in many countries, notably in Great Britain, from around the end of 1939 until 1945 or so, the sport continued to thrive in the USA, especially during the early years of the war. However, by 1939 George Lyttleton Rogers, who turned 33 on 7th July of that year, had passed his prime as a player and was unable to add any more singles titles to those he had already won. In two appearances (1941 and 1942) in the singles event at the U.S. Championships, then held at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, he failed to make it past the second round.

Around the beginning of 1945, George Lyttleton Rogers renounced his amateur status and joined the professional tour, where players were paid for their performances. He did not achieve any notable success on this other tour, but became president of the World Professional Tennis Association when it was founded in early 1945. By this time the war was drawing to a gradual close and a large number of players, both amateur and professional, from many countries had been in military service. Although he would not have been too old to serve, there is no evidence that George Lyttleton Rogers joined the U.S. military. He did, however, arrange and take part in some exhibition matches and other events benefitting the Red Cross and the sale of war bonds. Some of these matches pitted amateurs and professionals.

After the war Rogers continued to take part in some professional lawn tennis tournaments, but was better known as a promoter and coach. At some point he settled in California with his wife. Details of his private life vary depending on the source, but it is clear that in 1931 he became engaged to Marjorie Schiele, usually described in contemporary sources as an ‘American heiress’. However, this engagement was broken off at the insistence of her mother and the pair did not marry. The following related report comes from ‘The New York Times’ newspaper of 30th December 1931:

“Miss Schiele Obeys Her Mother’s Request to Wait a Year Before Marrying Tennis Player

“Nice, France, December 30.– Maternal objection has upset an Irish-American romance. The engagement of Ireland’s Davis Cup player, George Lyttleton Rogers, and Miss Marjorie Schiele, 19-year-old Cincinnati heiress, announced a few months ago, has been broken.

“‘While it is not for me to make comment,’ Mr Rogers said today, “nevertheless it is true the engagement has been broken. Marjorie’s mother told her to wait a year before she marries, but I am unable to concur in this viewpoint because the delay will make me most unhappy. Miss Schiele is a marvellous girl. We are still friends despite the maternal dictum.’

“Mr Rogers and the Schieles are residing at Monte Carlo. The champion said he intended to fulfil engagements in Riviera Winter tournaments.”

Marjorie Schiele later became a noted artist and patron of the arts, and spent most of her life in Europe, where she died in Monte Carlo in 2008 at the age of 95.

At some point, probably after the end of World War Two, George Lyttleton Rogers married June Sears (1914-2009), who was born in the state of Montana. It is possible that she first met Rogers in California, where June had attended the University of California. She later worked as a real estate agent. She and Rogers had one child together, a daughter.

George Lyttleton Rogers died in Los Angeles County General Hospital on 19th November 1962 at the age of 56. The following entry subsequently appeared in the National Probate Calendar for England and Wales: “ROGERS, George Lyttleton [...] of 3137 Buckingham Road, Glendale, Los Angeles, California, USA, died 19th November 1962, at Los Angeles County General Hospital, 1200 North State Street, Los Angeles. Probate London 13 August to Lester Elmer Olson, attorney at law. Effects: £1534 19s. 9d. in England.”
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#3
Part I of II

A Biographical Sketch of George Lyttleton Rogers (1906-62)

By Mark Ryan


Although many sources list his birthplace as Dublin, George Lyttleton Rogers, the last Irish lawn tennis player to enjoy significant success on the international circuit, was in fact born in the market town of Athy in County Kildare, to the west of County Dublin, on 10th July 1906. He was the third and last child (all boys) of Francis William Lyttleton Rogers, a native of County Kilkenny and an inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary, and Hester (‘Hessie’) May Rogers (née Lloyd Sherrie), who was from Dublin.

The marriage of Francis Lyttleton Rogers and Hessie Lloyd Sherrie is registered as having taken place in Dublin in 1894, although Francis appears to have been living in Coleraine, County Derry, in the north of the country, at the time. He had been posted there at some point in his role as a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the armed police force of the United Kingdom in Ireland in the years 1814-1922. The Rogers’ first two children were both born in Coleraine, Francis Lyttleton Lloyd Rogers on 4th February 1895, and Richard Henry Lyster Rogers on 18th September 1896.

In the 1901 Census of Ireland, taken on the night of 31st March, the Rogers family were living in a house on Lower Abbey Street in the townland of Ardnanagh in County Roscommon, in the west of the country. The address indicates a change of posting for Francis Lyttleton Rogers, who completed the census return, listing his occupation as District Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary. His wife is listed as ‘Lady’, while the two boys, six-year-old Francis, junior, and four-year-old Richard, are both listed as ‘Scholars’. Also present is sixty-year-old Marie Sherrie, Hessie’s mother, who is listed as ‘Widow (Lady)’; Marie’s place of birth is given as Sierra Leone, Africa. Two female servants and a male groom round off the list of people mentioned in the census form.

Ten years later, when the 1911 Census of Ireland was taken on the night of 2nd April, Francis William Rogers was living in a house in Leixlip, a town in north-east County Kildare, on the border with Dublin. In the census return he listed his occupation as ‘Gentleman Farmer; Retired District Inspector, Royal Irish Constabulary’. The only other people listed on the return were two male farm servants and a female cook. Hessie Rogers and her three children, including four-year-old George, do not appear in this census return, but were more than likely living together in the family home in Merrion Square, Dublin.

Located on the south side of Dublin city centre, fashionable Merrion Square was in those days largely residential – Sir William Wilde, the renowned Irish eye and ear surgeon and his family, including their son Oscar, had had a house at No. 1 when Oscar was attending nearby Trinity College in the years 1871-74. The eldest of the three Rogers sons, Francis, would also attend the Engineering School at the same university.

Following the outbreak of World War One, and before he had completed his engineering studies, Francis, junior, enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery, which provided support to the regular British Army. According to the website http://www.1914-1918.net/rfa_units.htm: “As with all elements of the regular army, these units were, after being mobilised in August 1914, manned by a mixture of serving regulars, army and Special Reservists. From around October 1914 they began to be supplemented by wartime recruits and by the war’s end the majority of the complement of most regular units were not career soldiers. In general, the regular RFA units were under command of the regular Divisions, until from late 1915 they were increasingly mixed into the New Army Divisions.”

Francis Rogers, junior, was subsequently sent into combat in France and achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was killed in action on 7th January 1916 in the commune of Neuve-Chapelle in the Pas-de-Calais département in northern France, a month before his twenty-first birthday.

Like his elder brother before, Richard Rogers, the middle of the three Rogers siblings, also enlisted soon after the outbreak of war. He had already been a member of the Royal Field Artillery before the war, having previously entered the Royal Military College at Woolwich in south-east London. Richard was also posted to France, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant. He was killed in action on 4th October 1917, near Arras, a commune and the historic, administrative and university capital of the Pas-de-Calais département. Arras is located just to the south of Neuve-Chapelle, where Francis Rogers, junior, had been killed in January 1916. Richard Rogers had celebrated his twenty-first birthday just two weeks before his death.

The death of Francis William Lyttleton Rogers, father of Francis, Richard and George, was recorded in south Dublin during the first quarter of 1916, around the time when Francis, junior, was killed in action in France. This must have been a very trying time for Hessie Rogers, especially knowing that Richard was in action in France and thus in grave danger. Fortunately, it is likely that she had some of her extended family to support her during this time and to help with bringing up George, who turned ten in July 1916.

Although he would later enjoy a good deal of success at lawn tennis, it appears that George Lyttleton Rogers was a somewhat sickly child. According to the entry for him in the ‘The Dictionary of Irish Biography’: “After the death of his father, his mother brought a then delicate Rogers to live for much of the year in the south of France for the benefit of his health. From a wealthy Dublin family of private means on his mother’s side, he became a top-class tennis player largely by spending much of his time on French Riviera, playing with other top-class players, and regularly competing in the championships held in Nice, Monte Carlo, Beaulieu and Cannes.”

At some point George Lyttleton Rogers also became a member of the prestigious Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin, which had been founded in Dublin towards the end of 1877. The original location of this club was Upper Pembroke Street, just around the corner from Fitzwilliam Square, where the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships would be held from 1879 to 1902, the golden era of this particular tournament. In 1880, the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club moved to grounds at Wilton Place, close to Fitzwilliam Square, but a little further from the city centre. The Irish Lawn Tennis Championships were first held at the Wilton Place grounds in 1903 and, with one exception, these grounds would remain venue for the tournament until 1972.

It was at Wilton Place that George Lyttleton Rogers would win his three singles titles at the Irish Championship, in 1928, when he was just 22, and again in 1936 and 1937. He also won the men’s doubles title twice, in 1936 with fellow Irishman Trevor McVeagh and in 1938 with Josip Pallada, who was born in Croatia and played under the Yugoslavian flag. A victory in the mixed doubles event at the Irish Championships in 1936 with the Chilean player Anita Lizana saw Rogers take the ‘triple crown’ that year. He had also won the mixed doubles at the same tournament in 1932, with the Polish player Jadwiga Jedrzejowska.

Other victories (you should omit one of these words) in the singles event at grass court tournaments throughout his career include those at the West of England championships in Bristol in the years 1929-31; at the North of England Championships in Scarborough in 1932 and 1937; at the Northern England Championships in Manchester in 1937; and at the Welsh Championships in Newport in 1938. He also won the men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles at several other tournaments during his career.
 
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