Saturday, December 2, 2023

BBC: Tribute to the Titanic’s squash coach



The BBC has published an interesting article paying tribute to Frederick Wright, the squash coach who went down with the Titanic. Squash players in Philadelphia, led by the game’s leading historian James Zug, are planning to hold a tournament in Wright’s honour.

Tribute to Titanic’s squash coach Frederick Wright

A picture of Frederick Wright
Frederick Wright had been due to teach a squash lesson the morning the ship went down

As the Titanic began to sink, squash instructor Frederick Wright encountered Colonel Archibald Gracie, who he was due to teach, on deck.

As chaos broke out around them, Col Gracie said to 24-year-old Wright: “Hadn’t we better cancel that appointment?”

Wright, who could not swim and knew that the squash court he manned and his cabin had been flooded, simply replied: “Yes, we’d better.”

It is likely those words were his last. His body was never found.

His death has inspired squash players in Philadelphia to hold a squash competition, the Fred Wright Memorial Cup, in his memory.

James Zug, a sports journalist who is helping organise the competition, said that Wright, who who was born in Great Billing, near Northampton, was worth remembering.

“I’ve always felt sad about Fred Wright,” he said.

“He was 24 years old, and had a wage of one shilling a day, so he had to depend on tips. We don’t know much more about him, but we wanted to recognise him in some way.”

Mr Zug said he also wanted to pay tribute to Wright as he saw him as a pioneer for the game. In 1912 squash had not yet been standardised.

He said: “Fred Wright would have had to know whether each player wanted a fast one, a slow one, a large one or a small one. That would have been a nuance that each professional would have understood.”

Frederick Wright plays squash on board
The squash court on board the Titanic was the first of its kind

The Titanic was one of the first ships that provided facilities for passengers to play squash.

In a letter to his sister, Wright described the Titanic as “the best” – implying it was better than the Olympic liner where he had also worked.

First class passengers could pay two shillings and tuppence for a half-hour game, and they could have lessons from Frederick Wright or play against him.

Col Archibald Gracie had booked a court with Wright at 07:30 BST on 15 April, but by then the ship had hit an iceberg.

The men’s encounter is recorded in Col Gracie’s account of the sinking, The Truth About The Titanic.

Mr Zug said Wright’s response to Gracie on the deck was “classic, a perfect example of the British stiff upper lip”.


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