In 1886, Margaret Tragett née Larminie was born in Jamaica, West Indies, to Edward Merry Larminie and Laura Frances Pollock. Her Irish-born father was a Lieutenant Colonel with the Royal Engineers and her mother, Laura Frances Pollock, was born in Middlesex. London. Larminie began playing badminton in Heidelberg around the age of 10 years old and won the Club Tournament at the Crystal Palace when she was 13. At that time, the Crystal Palace was the location of the most influential club in England, Upper Norwood. She became a member in 1897 before moving on to the Ealing Badminton Club.
A reference in the Badminton Gazette recorded her playing in a match against Crystal Palace in 1901. In that match, Larminie and her partner, Miss E. Bradford defeated a couple of players including the eventual winner of the All England Mixed Doubles of that year.
In 1902, during her teenage years, Larminie made her first appearance at the All England held at Crystal Palace Central Transept. She was a late bloomer and would not make her mark at this prestigious tournament until almost a decade later. Over the next few years, Larminie had a smattering of victories across Europe. Her first major victory would be at the 1908 Middlesex Championships. She won Mixed Doubles with George Thomas with whom she would go on to win many more titles. In 1908, Larminie triple crowned at the first ever French Open with partners, Lavinia Clara Radeglia and Frank Chesterton. The year after, she successfully defended her Women's Doubles title with another partner, Mary Bateman. At the Irish Open, she won a Women's Doubles title with Meriel Lucas in 1908 and doubled crowned in Women's Doubles with Bateman and Mixed Doubles with Thomas in 1910.
The year of 1911 would be Larminie's breakout into the prestigious club of All England title holders. Her long-awaited title came twice after defeating Alice Gowenlock in the Women's Singles and in Mixed Doubles with George Thomas. Later in May of that year, Margaret Rivers Larminie married Robert Clayton Tragett and began competing with his surname.
Tragett won a second consecutive Women's Singles title at the 1912 All England. Her All England title was followed by another double crown at the Irish Open. Tragett would double crown in Women's Doubles with Bateman (1910) and Radgelia (1911, 1912) and Thomas in Mixed Doubles for three consecutive years from 1910 to 1912. At the 1913 Irish Open, she won Women's Doubles with R.H. Plews.
She won another All England title in Women's Doubles with Eveline Peterson in 1914. After this title, it would take Tragett almost another decade to return to the podium. In her mid-thirties, Tragett proved that age was only a number when she partnered up with Hazel Hogarth to win Women's Doubles for two consecutive years at the 1922 and 1923 All England. At the latter All England, Tragett pulled off a miraculous double crown with Gordon Mack by defeating the four-time consecutive defending Mixed Doubles champions, Thomas and Hogarth.
Tragett carried her domination over to the Scottish Open with no less than 9 titles from 1923 to 1932. She won three times in Mixed Doubles with Thomas (1923, 1924, 1926), twice in the Women’s Singles (1926, 1928) and four times in the Women’s Doubles (1926, 1928, 1930, 1932) with two different partners.
She would continue her winning streak at the All England with Women’s Doubles titles in 1925 and 1927 with Hogarth. Her last two titles were a double crown at the 1928 with Albert Talbot in Mixed Doubles and a Women’s Singles title! There was a 17-year gap between her first title won in 1911 and her last titles in 1928 at the age of 42 years old!
Her last known appearance at the All England was in 1935 where she competed in singles and lost in the first round. She was approaching 50 years old. Over the span of her career, Tragett competed at the All England from 1902 to 1935 and won 11 titles with three instances of doubles crowns.
Her last known title won was at the 1936 French Open in Women’s Doubles with Marian Horsley. She won that title 28 years after winning her very first international titles at the same tournament in 1908 thus completing the loop on a very illustrious badminton career.
The great Pat Davis once said that Tragett had "a wide range of adventurous strokes, including trick-shots, sturdy defence and unusual mobility." In fact, she was an early pioneer of the jump smash! As quoted by Bernard Adams, “I have found that I can only smash hard and effectively by jumping – both feet off the ground – as I hit. This method I have heard to be incorrect, owing to the momentary loss of balance that it entails…but so far as ladies are concerned I personally am of the opinion that jumping adds greatly to the power of the smash.”
In addition, Tragett was a woman well beyond her time with her progressive thinking, "While not wishing to insist too much upon Women’s Rights, I am inclined to believe that bad combination in mixed doubles is rather more often attributable to men than to their partners. I hasten to add that women are frequently culpable also, though not permitting men their rightful share of the attack; but I think that the man’s idea of what is his rightful share is often a wrong one. My earlier reference to “the essence of good combination” (i.e. that the shuttle should be struck by the player who is in the best position to do so) applies equally to mixed doubles, with the additional clause, in regard to these, that it is the woman’s duty to see that her partner rather than herself should be in the “best position” for delivering most of the attacking shots.”
Tragett definitely played to her strengths as George Thomas wrote in his Art of Badminton: that, at the 1923 All England - in which Tragett won Doubles and Mixed - that she and Hogarth played the back-and-front formation and side-by-side with Gordon Mack.
Tragett was not only well-known for her racket skills but also for her writing skills. Apart from being a contributor and editor to the Badminton Gazette (season 1921-22 and season 1926-27) for which she was paid £75 for one year and the first £25 of any net profits, she also wrote numerous novels (from 1918 to 1938) as well as a book on badminton, Badminton for Beginners (1929).
In the latter book, she would share coaching tips (technical, tactical, and even on etiquette). Amongst other tips, she wrote:
- -"The first thing a beginner at Badminton should do is to buy a good racquet. Any reliable manufacturer can be depended on to supply what is required, but I do not advise anyone to aim at cheapness.”
- -“Beginners who really wish to improve should, if possible, join a club in which there are some good players, so that they may watch their methods and try to profit by them. The “best” player in a club, however, is not necessarily a “good” player, even though locally regarded as such, so beginners will do well to attend the nearest Championship Meeting at which real “cracks” are competing, in order to obtain as early as possible some appreciation of the standard of first-class play, on which they should try to model their efforts thenceforward.”
- -“I remain strongly in favour of a change of grip for backhand strokes, particularly for women, and especially (in their case) for backhand strokes which require any degree of power. I do not believe that the average woman has a sufficiently strong wrist for her to play such shots effectively unless she adopts the grip I have described.”
- - “Badminton is such an extremely fast game, played at its best, that even experts cannot depend on hitting the shuttle perfectly cleanly all the time, and the tendency of some umpires—and players as well—to stop every few rallies with a cry of “double."
- -“The first piece of advice to be given to anyone entering a tournament, whether for the first time or not, is—“Be punctual.”
Adams wrote, "Mrs. Tragett’s contribution to the game from 1900 to 1940 was immense." Tragett was also member of the famous troop called the Strollers who travelled to several countries to help popularize the sport of badminton. It is reported that Tragett joined the group in 1934 on a trip to Sweden where she reportedly played singles against the best Swedish male players.
Margaret Rivers Tragett died on March 31,1964 in Surrey.
She was inducted into the IBF Hall of Fame in 1999 for her many contributions to the sport of badminton.
INDIVIDUAL AWARDS (in order by year)
1999 – IBF Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
All England 2010 Official Programme
Badminton Association of England Annual Handbook 1967-1968 Edition
Badminton Story (Bernard Adams)
Brief History of Badminton from 1870 to 1949 (Betty Uber)
Catalog.loc.gov (Library of Congress Online Catalog)
Encyclopaedia of Badminton (Pat Davis)
Guinness Book of Badminton (Pat Davis)
International Badminton … the first 75 years (BWF)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
-- By Yves Lacroix