From the Archives

Foxhall Keene at Roehampton Club 1902

Foxhall Keane was one of the earliest Members to join Roehampton Club in the year the Club opened its doors in 1902. He was proposed and seconded by two of the founders, the Miller Brothers who were keen to recruit Members of good standing and sporting excellence. Foxhall Keene exceeded these criteria on both fronts.

His father James Robert Keene was born in England in 1838 before moving to America in 1852. The family initially settled in Virginia but then journeyed west to California where his son, Foxhall was born in 1867. Drawn by the potential riches in the mining industry in Nevada, James Robert Keene bought some mules and began hauling supplies for the Bonanza Mines where he made a small fortune before heading back to California. He experienced several peaks and troughs in his finances before enjoying a steady period of prosperity during which time he was elected President of the San Francisco Stock Exchange before moving on to New York City where he made several bold plays on Wall Street making his name as ‘probably the greatest Stock Exchange strategist of all time’, according to financial commentator at the time Edward Moorhouse.

It was during this time that he discovered horse racing and his interest in breeding which led in turn to his ownership of multiple winners. In 1881, he achieved his first major international victory with his colt Foxhall who he had named after his son. Foxhall Keane had already begun to excel in several sports including golf, tennis, and polo.

In 1897, he competed in the US Open Golf Tournament held at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ohio and in 1898, he made the quarter finals of the US Amateur Golf Championship at the Morris County Golf Club, New Jersey. In 1883, he reached the semi-finals of the US National Tennis Championships and the quarter finals in 1885. These achievements were overshadowed by his abilities in the game of polo where he became the first player to reach the highest handicap in the sport as a 10-goal player while he was a member of the Rockaway Hunting Club in Lawrence, Nassau County, New York – the oldest Country Club in the United States. In 1886, he was part of the first US International Polo team that competed in the inaugural International Polo Matches against England. He was rated the best all-around polo player in the United States for eight consecutive years and won the Gold Medal in polo at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

His interests also extended into the racing of automobiles, when he competed in the Gordon Bennett Cup at Athy, County Kildare, Ireland driving for Mercedes, although he failed to finish the race owing to axle issues.

The International Polo Match between the United States and England was featured in the British newspapers with an announcement from the Press Association authorised by the Earl of Lonsdale to state that the incident which took place at the Hurlingham Club on Saturday had been settled by a letter from Mr Foxhall Keene, Captain of the American Team to his opposite number Lord Shrewsbury.

The letter from Foxhall Keene is addressed ‘My Dear Shrewsbury’ and goes on to regret the unpleasantness between one of his players and his lordship seeking to clear the air. In his reply, Lord Shrewsbury addresses ‘My Dear Keene’ in the same vein in which he is only too glad to accept the good spirit in which it is written and will close the matter as far as he is concerned putting the matter down to the excitement of an international contest and will not occur again. Lord Shrewsbury finishes his letter by saying that ‘I hope you’re your team and yourself will give me the pleasure of driving down with me on my coach and having lunch with me next Saturday at Hurlingham’. While the outcome was unsurprising, it was more likely to be a result in everyone’s interest as Lord Shrewsbury was Chairman of Roehampton Club and Foxhall Keane had only recently joined the Club.

The postscript to this story however has a sad ending. Despite the successes in his sporting life and business affairs, and according to his biography on the internet, Foxhall Keene died in poverty on the 25th of September 1941 at Ayers Cliff, Quebec.

Steve Riedlinger, Club Archivist