Murder and tennis well matched on the stage

Maria Tracey

The real life Victorian melodrama, Love All is based on the life of Vere Thomas St Leger Goold, whose family hailed from Old Court, Doneraile. A Wimbledon finalist in 1879, almost 30 years later, Goold found himself on trial for murder.

Cork writer and actor, Tadhg Hickey joined fellow performer, Aideen Wylde for the venture. Ms Wylde initially sparked interest in combining the world of tennis and theatre after research into the life of fellow Tipperary native, Wimbledon champion Lena Rice. This later led the duo to the tale of Vere Goold, who along with his wife, French woman Marie Violet, found themselves embroiled in a "murky world of gambling, alcoholism and murder".

“We are both interested in ‘hidden history’ but in a light manner. We started looking into the tennis world and were blown away by the success of Ireland during the Victorian period. We came across a lot of interesting tales before we stumbled on this guy, St Leger Goold,” explained Mr Hickey.

At the age of 25, Goold won the men's singles title at the first Irish Championships, held at Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, in 1879. He was also runner-up in Wimbledon that same year. “He was the red-hot favourite to win at Wimbledon though but he didn’t perform on the day. Research indicates that maybe that was the start of his alcohol problem,” said Mr Hickey.

In 1907 on a train from Monte Carlo to Marseilles, Goold and his wife instructed that a trunk and a large handbag be forwarded to London. A porter, disturbed by a smell coming from the luggage, called the police. When the luggage was opened they were found to contain the dismembered remains of a woman. Both were given life sentences for the murder, with Mrs Goold serving hers in France and Goold transported to the notorious Devil's Island penal colony off French Guiana, where he died in September 1909.

It is thought that the murdered lady had lent the couple money, after they whittled their cash away through bad investments and gambling.

Produced by theatre company, Cheery Wild Productions, the play will premiere at the Clonmel Junction Festival in July and is directed by Donal Gallagher.

It is hoped that funds for the project will be raised through, a new crowdfunding website for Ireland’s creative projects. The Fund It initiative includes rewards to funders, depending on how much is donated. Every project must reach or exceed its target amount before the time expires, otherwise the project does not receive funding and funders do not get charged.

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