H N Marrett

Henry Norman Marrett was one of the first successful badminton players of the early twentieth century, and an article in Lawn Tennis and Badminton, April 13th 1907 described his success – we reproduce the article, which also illustrates the way in which such articles were written at these times. The article was illustrated with a cartoon of Dr. Marrett by Charles Ambrose.

Mr. HENRY NORMAN MARRETT, the only son of Colonel Marrett, B.S.C., was born at Umballa, in the land of the Five Rivers, on Dec. 15, 1879. His earliest ambition was to be a “soldier of the Queen,” and to “fight beneath the dear old flag,” but second thoughts induced him to adopt medicine at his life’s work. After the usual course of training at St. Bart.’s he qualified to practice in 1902, and is now a specialist in the open-air cure for consumption.

His connection with badminton dates from his joining the Streatham Club in 1901, and the Crystal Palace Club a year later. From the first he showed exceptional promise, though his power of attack was slower in reaching its full development than his defensive game. Comparatively unknown to fame on his first appearance at the All England Badminton Championships in 1903, he created a veritable sensation by winning his way to the finals in the Men’s Singles and failing only by a single ace to secure the Championships at his first attempt. In the following year, 1904, Mr. Marrett carried everything before him, winning the triple All England Championship, including the Singles, the Men’s Doubles  with Mr. A. D. Prebble, and the Mixed Doubles with Miss D. K. Douglas. This record achievement at once stamped our subject as the “bright particular star” of the Badminton sky.   In 1905 he again won the Singles, and in 1906 he won the Men’s Doubles for the second time, on this occasion with Mr. G. A. Thomas; and it is believed by many that, with more preparation and practice than he has been able to get of late, he is still quite capable, when at his best, of repeating his phenomenal successes of 1904. In the past two years he has been defeated in the Singles by that sterling player, Mr. Norman Wood, the present champion. Without, however, detracting in any way from the merits of Mr. Wood’s more recent and admittedly great performances, it was plain that Mr. Marrett was not in his very best form either in 1906 or the present year. Last year Mr. Marrett’s chances of retaining his title to the Singles Championships for the third year in succession were greatly jeopardised by excessive exertion in handicap matches on the preceding days, while in the present year he had , owing to illness and other causes, far too little preliminary practice for so severe an ordeal. Having, however, played himself in, as it were, at the All England Tournament, Mr. Marrett was quite at the top of his form in the following week at the Crystal Palace, where he performed a notable feat in winning, in the course of two afternoons’ play, fourteen out of fifteen matches, and three out of the four events in which he took part, and being only beaten in the finals of the fourth.

Mr. Marrett’s successes, apart form the All England Championships, have been too numerous to describe in full. It may be mentioned, however, that he has on two occasions won each of the following events, viz., the Irish Singles and Men’s Doubles, the South of England Men’s and Mixed Doubles, and the Middlesex Mixed Doubles Championships, and on one occasion the Surrey Men’s Doubles Championship.

The chief feature of Mr. Marrett’s game at Badminton is undoubtedly his abnormal activity and command of the court from back to front and side to side. In addition, he possesses a peculiar and very effective power of concealing both the direction and strength of his shots, his adversaries frequently not knowing, until perhaps too late, when and where to expect the deadliest of smashes or the sublest of drops, and being unable to bring into play with any certainty their usual methods of anticipation.

Hm MarrettActivity is, of course, a sine qua non in the armoury of a successful Badminton player. “Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona,” and there may be others to come who will rival our subject in this respect, though we “hae our doots.” Brilliant as his play is in the Singles game, he is perhaps seen at his best in a Mixed Doubles match. In the lattergame, especially Mr. Marrett’s watchword is “ubique.” On such occasions he may frequently be seen at one moment standing close to the net at the extreme right, after returning a short drop, and before one has time to wink he has suddenly reached the far-away opposite corner of the court ready to intercept and return with a swinging back-hander a shuttle which has almost touched the ground. Just how he has arrived there – whether with a single bound, or a hop, skip and a jump – it is impossible to note. The spectators have heard an agonising yell of “Yours!” addressed to his partner without the smallest expectation of her coming to the rescue, and have seen a confused vision of some legs, arms and a racket instantaneously shot, as it from a cannon’s mouth, across some twenty to twenty-five feet of space, while the only plainly sight that meets their eyes after this meteoric flight is the image of Mr. Marrett in the middle of the court awaiting the next return with a confident smile. Nothing, indeed, except a cinematograph camera, with the quickest of lenses, the fastest of films, and the brightest of August suns, would enable a photographer to record, however indistinctly, the series of complicated movements by which Mr. Marrett bridges space in his rushes across a Badminton court.

Although he has not hitherto obtained the same pre-eminance in lawn tennis as in Badminton, Mr. Marrett is a very prominent exponent of the former game, both in Mixed and Men’s Doubles. His most notable success, perhaps, was his victory at Eastbourne last year, in partnership with Mr. A. F. Wilding, in the Open Men’s Doubles, against such strong combinations as Messrs. G. W. Hillyard and A. H. Riseley, and Messrs.C. G. and E. R. Allen.