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June 18, 2004

Deaf Talkabout: They were smashing times when we had our own court

From: Belfast Telegraph, UK - Jun 18, 2004

By Bob McCullough

18 June 2004

WIMBLEDON starts on Monday and a deaf friend of ours from London writes in ecstasy to say that she and her husband have won a raffle for seats on number one court during the finals.

Tickets are like gold dust for the world's leading tennis tournament and the less fortunate of us must forgo the strawberries and cream and get what enjoyment we can from the subtitled TV coverage. We may miss the atmosphere yet, with the subtitles, learn more of what's going on than if we were actually there.

It's perhaps not widely known that deaf people used to have their own private tennis court in Belfast. It was on land behind the Church of Ireland on the Stranmillis Road and included a putting green and pavilion. It was a great place for summer rendezvous, but, unfortunately, the land proved to be too commercially valuable for our small club to hold onto and was sold for housing.

By modern standards the court surface was mediocre and had to be frequently brushed free of dust and watered down before play was possible. And the putting green needed backbreaking work with the manual grass cutter. But it was ours! In the days before car ownership became popular we travelled to Stranmillis by bus and foot from all over the city and it was a popular meeting place on summer evenings.

Like many things in life, the facilities were not appreciated until they were gone and any enthusiasm deaf people had for tennis quickly evaporated. When we were younger, Evelyn and I would take our racquets on holiday for a game and often had a knockabout in public parks, but with the demise of Stranmillis the deaf community lost something that has been impossible to replace and a great place to meet these warm summer evenings.

÷THIS year's BDA congress is in Inverness, the capital city of the Scottish Highlands, from July 21 to 25 and will be held at the same time as the Highland Games in the same city, with special arrangements for deaf visitors. So if you fancy throwing the caber come and have a fling!

The Congress theme will be "BSL in our hands", focusing on the ownership of sign language, and the programme is linked to this with special lectures from visiting speakers Dr Ben Behan and Professor Harlan Lane from the USA among others. There'll also be a theatre night with the London Deaf Drama Group and a quiz for the BDA shield led by David Jackson.

The group from Belfast are flying to Glasgow and continuing the journey by coach to Inverness.

If you would like more information on this contact Janet Young at the Belfast BDA office on the Lisburn Road. Fax 90 387707, e-mail Or Nathan Smyth, the BDA conference organiser in London, on fax 020 7588 3527, e-mail:

© 2004 Independent News and Media (NI) a division of Independent News & media (UK) Ltd