A recent trip to England to play pickleball rekindled plenty of family memories for Debbie Lawrance.
Last month, the White Rock resident and pickleball enthusiast – in an email she uses the word ‘crazed’ to describe her devotion to the sport – travelled to Nottingham, England for the inaugural English Open Tournament.
As a Pickleball Canada member, Lawrance receives notifications about numerous tournaments each year, in locales both near and far. She chose the English Open in part because she qualified as a result of her official pickleball rating, but more importantly, because she has family roots in Nottingham – roots she only recently discovered.
“It was another reason to combine two things I love – pickleball and family,” she said.
“I have a very interesting family history there.”
That history, it turns out, dates back centuries.
Her mother, Lawrance explained to Peace Arch News, was adopted and as a result, never knew anything about her ancestry, nor did her daughter as she grew up. It wasn’t until about two-and-a-half years ago – spurred forward by a friend who was interested in genealogy, that Lawrance discovered her family tree. That tree included famous England Luddite Daniel Diggle, who stood trial and was eventually hanged on the steps of Nottingham’s Shire Hall in 1817.
The trial made the front page of the Nottingham Post’s April 2, 1817 edition.
Diggle, like many other ‘frame breakers’ in the knitting and lace industry at the time, had grown upset that new technology was putting people out of work – the term ‘frame breaking’ refers to the stocking frames that were destroyed by those protesting the advancements. Diggle was charged with firing a pistol at his employer, George Kerry.
Two years ago, Lawrance made her first pilgrimage to Nottingham, where she participated in a re-enacted trial of her great-great-great uncle, visiting the exact spot at which his trial was held 200 years earlier. At the time, she told the Nottingham Post that “it was emotional to walk in my ancestors’ footsteps.”
This time, however, the trip was strictly about her favourite sport.
She didn’t spend as much time learning about her ancestors, but she did manage to connect with relatives of a more current generation – even turning them into pickleball fans.
“I was fortunate to spend time with two cousins I had never met before,” she explained.
“One of them came to my game to cheer me on… She has now decided to take up pickleball as well.”
Three years ago, a chance to watch the sport was what got Lawrance hooked as well, she noted.
“My home is not too far from the Centennial (Park) courts… while walking past these courts one day, I stopped to view this game and was invited to play,” she said. “The next day I showed up and the rest is history. I was hooked.
“It’s been life-changing for me.”
At the Nottingham event, Lawrance was the only participant from the Metro Vancouver area – and one of just four from Canada. In the ladies doubles division, she was matched up with a partner from Yorkshire, England, and for mixed doubles, was paired with a man from Kent.
The camaraderie – and diversity of competitors – was a big draw, she said, adding that a dinner/dance on the tournament’s final night was “an off the charts fantastic time.”
Though she did not win any medals at the Open, she was recognized by a film crew – which was there documenting the tournament – with a ‘best dressed’ award.
Locally, Lawrance can be found on the court nearly every day – she is a member of both White Rock and Surrey clubs – and she is also responsible for social media for White Rock Pickleball.
“I always find a way to stay involved,” she said.