Mr John Shedden Snr pictured with his grandson and founding member, Jamie, strikes
the first ball to commence play (June 2007).
Inaugural Open Day - 2 June 2007
On the 2nd of June 2007 the lawn was officially opened. Over 120 people of all ages
came from the village and surrounding areas to see for themselves what was later
branded the ‘best party the village had ever seen’.
Mr Douglas Shedden cut the ribbon to declare the the lawn officially open, and Mr
John Shedden Snr (91 years old at the time) struck the first ball to commence play.
John Shedden Snr came to Newfield Mains Farm in 1931 and had worked the land over
many decades. Having seen the farm change over many years, and being one of the oldest
members of the local community, he was the ideal candidate to set the club in motion.
Unfortunately previous efforts to invite the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott,
to open the club had failed after a letter of response was finally received from
his office declaring that he would be out of the country on the date in question.
The very first tournament struck off with over 64 pairs entering. The competition
ran close to midnight and was eventually won by Jamie and Douglas Shedden – an early
sign of their future dominance of the sport.
The night was a huge success and the club managed to raise over £160 through donations
and a raffle. In the event, the raffle tickets ran out – a lesson quickly learned
and never forgotten at all subsequent events. The money was invested in a 24” cylinder
lawn mower and some other tools for maintaining the lawn.
July - August 2007
During the summer months of 2007 a series of weekend tournaments were held with the
main events being the Singles Cup and the Pairs Shield. The first season was deemed
a major success - more so than anyone had first imagined. By the close of the season
club membership had expanded to 53 members.
The spring months in 2008 were spent upgrading what had been built the previous year.
Additional fencing was erected to keep spectators from straying onto the lawn and
the patio was extended by more than double its size to accommodate the increasing
numbers. A new super-sized barbeque was kindly donated by Ian Shedden and Jarad Boyd,
and a new equipment shed was erected to provide additional storage for the equipment.
Season 2008 kicked off in April with a full season of events and competitions scheduled
for the summer, including a series of medal tournaments together with the highly
competitive Singles Cup and Pairs Shield. The Open Day was held in June and hailed
as another great success, introducing fresh faces to the club and helping to raise
more funds. Again the club membership grew considerably on the previous year, with
69 fully paid members.
As a result of the inclement weather over the summer of 2008, most of the planned
events were cancelled. Unfortunately the lawn, which was built at minimal cost, had
insufficient drainage. With a layer of heavy clay just below the topsoil, it took
days for the grass to dry out even after the rain had stopped. Just cutting the grass
was proving extremely difficult, and the weight of the mowers on the wet ground was
damaging the playing surface. Something had to be done!
The frustration and disappointment of having to cancel numerous events during the
summer inspired the original founding members to go about improving what they had
built over the previous two years. Not wanting to give up after their initial success,
the boys went to a local green keeper for advice. After a few heated debates amongst
the group, the decision was made to dig up the lawn and install filter drains.
Having priced up the materials to do the job, they quickly realised that this was
going to be an expensive project and out with the means of the club. Never ones to
give up easily, the boys set about organising a fund raising event that came in the
form of the ‘Croquet Christmas Cracker’ – a themed fancy dress party to take place
between Christmas and New Year with all the usual festive shenanigans. After much
hype for the cause, over 150 revelers squeezed into the Old Castle Bar & Restaurant
for a night to remember. The event raised £1,011 - just enough to get what they needed
for the drainage project.
It was agreed that the works must be finished by the end of February in order to
allow the lawn to recover for play in the summer. A tight programme of works was
drafted and the work eventually began in late January.
Parallel channels were dug and a series of filter drains installed diagonally across
the lawn that would allow rainwater to drain away from the playing surface. In all,
over 100 tonnes of wet clay was removed from the lawn by wheel barrow with 80 tonnes
of washed gravel and 20 tonnes of top-soil barrowed in. This was the club’s most
expensive investment to date, with materials costing over £1,000. However, expenditure
was kept to the bare minimum and most of the labour was carried out voluntarily by
club members. The entire project was completed in early March - just one week later
than planned. The grass recovered in time for the first event in April.
With the club now established in the local community, a constitution was written
to formalise the nature and purpose of the club to its members. The Constitution
of Dundonald Croquet Club was formerly adopted on 7th March 2009. The founding members
continued in their existing roles to manage the club with additional input and ideas
from the growing membership. The constitution requires a Club Captain to be nominated
each year and Douglas Shedden was voted in to take the first honour.
The time and money invested in the lawn drainage proved to be worthwhile as only
one event had to be cancelled due to bad weather during Season 2009. Some additional
events were also played on the warmer afternoons. The total membership soared to
new peak of 83, with an average regular medal attendance of 40. The 2009 Open Day
proved to be the busiest event to date attracting over 150 members and guests, with
the tournament final again being played past the midnight hour.
Prior to the start of season, some minor improvements were carried out including
coring the lawn and the addition of a children’s play area. By chance, Troon Tennis
Club were in the process of a major redevelopment programme, including renewing their
astro turf courts, and kindly donated their old playing surface to the club. This
was laid adjacent to the lawn and fenced off to create a self enclosed area where
children could play with toys donated by the members.
During 2009 the club had been in contact with the Scottish Croquet Association (SCA)
with a view to forging closer links within the Scottish croquet community, and on
10th April the SCA sent a delegation to take part in a pairs medal. The group was
made up of Glasgow and Edinburgh club members and headed by SCA Match Secretary and
Head Coaching Officer, Alan Wilson, who submitted a very favourable report to the
SCA Executive Committee. It was also confirmed by the SCA that Dundonald had grown
to become the largest croquet club in Scotland by membership - all within just 8
years of being founded in a back garden!!!
The summer continued to be very successful with all fixtures being played without
cancellation. In May, Dundonald invited local rivals, Auchincruive and Loans, to
play in a new All Ayrshire Cup. This proved to be very popular and after much fierce
competition Dundonald founding members, Steven Easton and Ronnie Zorget, came out
In June the entire club was split into two teams (Natives and Interlopers) and played
for a new Co-operative Funeralcare Trophy; the Open Day was again very popular attracting
many new faces; and a new Crolf day was added to the fixture list.
At the end of season the membership had greatly surpassed all previous years having
now reached the heavens at 112. To mark the end of a very successful year a Prize
Giving Dinner was held in November followed in December by the, now traditional,
Croquet Christmas Cracker.
2011 proved to be another very successful year for us as we continued to play most
weeks during the summer months. Membership remained above 100, and again we brought
together local rivals Auchincruive and Loans to compete in the All Ayrshire Cup.
Unfortunately we were beaten in the final by Loans CC (we’ll get them next year!).
We introduced more competitions to our busy schedule including many sponsored events.
Additionally we brought in the Masters and the Club Championship competitions to
draw out the cream of the croquet players from our midst.
In July, we linked up with Dundonald Bowling Club to compete for a new Dundonald
Derby Cup: a morning of croquet followed by an afternoon of bowling - with lots of
socialising in between. Although croquet and bowling aren’t really compatible, we
did manage to break the games down so that we were competing equally. Both clubs
played well throughout the day, but we managed to take an early lead from which the
bowlers never recovered from, that allowed us to go on and claim the inaugural victory.
Throughout 2011, we also welcomed visitors from across the globe including Robert
Taylor of Vancouver Croquet Club (Canada) and Paul and Sally Barton of Stourbridge
Croquet Club (England). Towards the end of the year we were approached by Phillip
Island Croquet Club (Australia) to enter a twin club agreement; which was subsequently
signed in March 2012 and is now in effect.
Finally, during the season we began talks with the Scottish Croquet Association (SCA)
with a view to forging closer links within the Scottish croquet community, and were
thereafter invited to join the SCA as an affiliate member club; which we have now
Throughout 2012 we continued to play regularly and maintained our links with other
clubs and organisations. During the summer, some of our members made the journey
through to Edinburgh and competed in the annual SCA competition, East vs West. We
even managed to bring home some silverware!
Probably the most exciting development in 2012 was an approach by the BBC to make
a short film about our club. Directed by BAFTA award winner, Folko Boermans, and
presented by Sarah Mack, the film was first broadcast on 25th May 2012 on BBC2 Scotland’s
rural affairs programme, Landward. Famous at last! Click here to watch.