Categories

Books

Tom Cleary

The Victoria Billiards & Snooker Association of Australia managed to acquired a manuscript written in the 1970’s by the great Australian billiard-player Tom Cleary (World Amateur Champion in 1954, and five times Australian National Champion between 1947 and 1966). This 41-page document was discovered in an auction of sporting memorabilia and has been published as a series of articles in the VB&SA newsletter “The Cue and You”.

We are grateful to the VB&SA for their permission to use some extracts from this document which gives a fascinating insight into one of the World’s greatest post-war players.

Starting Out

My first introduction to a billiards table was at the age of fifteen when I became a member of the Yarraville CYMS Club, which was situated opposite my home. My parents were pleased that I should join the Club because of the good influence of its senior members and, furthermore, they would know where I was spending my leisure hours! Immediately I was fascinated by the billiards table, but it was some time before I plucked up courage to take a cue from the rack and attempt to play. The Club opened its doors at 7 o’clock each evening, but the caretaker commenced his duties at 6.30pm. Living close by, I would wait on his arrival and then help him remove the cover from the billiards table. At the same time I could manage to get about 30 minutes of practice before other members arrived. The fascination of the tables I found irresistible and thereafter my pocket money was devoted to billiards. In those days a game of 100-up cost sixpence.

At that time, one of the outstanding billiards players at the Club was Eric Longton, who also played with the Victorian Softgoods Club and could regularly make a 100-break. Other good players at the Club were Bill Burke, Mick Ryan and Fred Guest, who took a kindly interest in my progress and was instrumental in getting me started on my billiards career. I always remember him as a kindly man who spent much time teaching me to hold a cue properly, how to hold my bridge hand and correcting my stance.

At the age of sixteen I made my first 50-break. At this time the CYMS formed an inter-Club billiards competition, the matches being played on Tuesday evenings. I soon became the first emergency for the Yarraville team and it was my duty to carry the cues for the players and attend to their wants. During the season I made a 70-break in a practice game and was given a place in the team, but to my sorrow I was defeated in my first match. However, I was encouraged to keep on practicing and soon I was a regular member of the team, winning my last three games for the season.

During the summer months that followed I practiced on the billiards table more than any other member, and at last made my first 100-break. In the ensuing billiards season I was promoted to No. 3 position in the team – we played six a side – and was defeated only four times that year. Meanwhile, I had purchased a cue – for the sum of six shillings! I came to share this cue with two other Club members – Tom Lannon and Frank Palmer – so that it really cost me only two shillings! However, it was not long before I bought them out. It is very important that every aspiring player should have his or her own cue. It becomes part of oneself.

I spent as much time as possible watching good players in action. I shall never forget the great Joe Davis who, in the early 1930’s visited Australia to participate in a series of snooker matches with Horace Lindrum. When they played in Melbourne I went along to see them, taking with me a notebok in which to record my observations. I was astounded at the shortness of Joe’s cue. It scarcely reached the knot of his tie and when he fired, his chin almost touched the cue. I noted his comfortable stance and that he never lifted his head until he had completed a shot.

As soon as possible I cut five inches from my cue and immediately went about correcting other of my faults. From then onwards it seemed that I never looked back. Even today players ask me why my cue is so short. After I have offered my explanation, I have noted that some have followed my example. Later they have told me that it improved their game. Here I offer a word of advice to billiard players: The cue should measure in length from the floor to the knot of the tie, or Adam’s apple, irrespective of a person’s height. It could even be a little shorter.

Not long after I had made these adjustments to my game I was chalking up breaks of 100 and 150, and eventually I made a break of 235. I continued practicing almost to the point of becoming a billiards fanatic. I would go to bed at night and sometimes dream of making a 500-break. All top players seem to develop along much the same lines. Walter Lindrum was an example. He once told me that often he could not sleep because whilst lying in bed he would continue thinking about the intricacies of the game. He would ponder over nursery cannons, or plan various moves which might differ one-hundredth part of an inch. Occasionally he would get out of bed, sometimes at 3 a.m. and go to his billiards table to experiment.

After I became a 500-break player I often watched Walter by the hour playing nursery cannons. He made it look so easy, and I would say to myself, “If only I could catch on to these nursery cannons”! I hoped that I, too, would be able to make a 1000-break, but practice as I did the secret eluded me and I could not conquer nursery cannons. I could take the balls along the top cushion, pass the top pocket and then proceed down to the middle pocket, but to overcome the skillful move of passing this pocket was beyond me.

On several occasions, I asked Walter to help me with this move, but much to my disappointment he did not come to the party. There is no doubt that nursery cannons were the secret to Walter Lindrum’s mammoth breaks. After making 500 or so at the top of the table, Walter would indicate that he would then play a series of nursery cannons. In two strokes he would have the balls in position and proceed to add a further 500 points by means of nursery cannons, after which he would return to top of the table play.

Playing at the top of the table is very demanding on the player as it calls for heavy concentrations. At the same time, the player tends to tire because of having to make quick moves from one side of the table to the other. Walter could overcome this problem by quickly switching to nursery cannons, then back to the top when it suited him. All the world’s leading professional players could, perhaps, play top of the table as good as Walter, but none could switch to nursery cannons like Walter. That made all the difference between him and other players.

Harking back to my days at the CYMS Club at Yarraville, I recall a young man named Jim Long coming to live in the district. I had heard that he was an up-and-coming player and naturally I was anxious to discover how good he was. He joined the Club and we became very good friends. We played a lot of billiards together and at that time I think I had a slight edge on him, but there was not much in my favour.

[Jim Long became National champion in 1956, taking the title five more times between this date and 1975. He was also runner-up to Herbert Beetham in the 1960 World Amateur Championships – Ed]

Jim made many 100-breaks in games with me and we became friendly enemies on the billiards table. That rivalry continued over many years. We both made fairly big breaks, mainly by losing and winning hazards, but at that time were unaware of top of the table play. Later on we came to use this style of play freely.

 

Our old style of play was comparatively slow and a little boring to the onlooker, as it would take about ten minutes to compile 100 points. Later we were to learn that by playing top of the table we could make 100 in about 4 minutes. One day Jim told me that a young fellow named Horace Lindrum (a nephew of Walter) was making breaks of 700 and 800 in Lindrum’s Billiards Saloon in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, by using the top of the table method. I learned that Horace practiced regularly between 9 and 11 a.m. each day when the saloon was not busy, so I called in one morning to watch him. I thought to myself, “It’s a quick way of scoring, and it looks easy”. I noted that Horace was doing his own scoring, so I quietly asked if I could help him. He agreed, with the result that I was able to get a close view of everything he did. I watched intently and learned a lot.

Some four years later, in 1935, I won the Victorian Amateur Billiards Championship for the first time and was selected to represent the State in the Australian Championship to be held in Sydney. On one occasion in Sydney, Horace was a member of the audience. He was about to leave for England to compete in the World Professional Snooker Championship. When I was introduced to him he looked at me and said “Your face is familiar”, so I reminded him of how we first met in Melbourne. He then told me “That is the way I learned the game, I would watch my uncle Walter”. On that occasion I was defeated by the then Australian Champion, Les Hayes, but Horace urged me to keep on practicing.

Les Hayes was purely a red ball player, and very slow at that. I shall never forget my first and only encounter with him in the Australian Amateur Billiards Championship. In 1935 the title was contested in a match of 1,000 points, played in two sessions each of 500 points. As it was my first experience in an Australian Title Series I was very nervous, and Les won the match by about 800 points. He was a very tough opponent and gave nothing away, not even to a young player like me. With ten minutes to go, the score board read: Hayes:955, Cleary:195. To my dismay at that stage of the game, he potted my ball and left a double balk. He was a real killer. Unfortunately I never had an opportunity to even the score with him. His untimely death in the following year shocked all billiards enthusiasts

In 1936 a leading amateur player named Fred Hancock defeated me for the Victorian Title. Fred must have watched Horace Lindrum practicing top of the table before I did, because he employed a raw type of that method of play, which was good enough to allow him to easily defeat me. I realised then that top of the table players would always be better than good all round players. Fred Hancock would have been a great player had he stuck to it, but unfortunately for business reasons he drifted out of the game.

After watching Horace Lindrum at practice, I could not get to my Club quickly enough to try out this top of the table play. Although it had seemed easy when performed by Horace, I found it rather difficult but very interesting. After about six months I was able to compile breaks of 50 and 60 by means of top of the table play, but there seemed to be all sorts of traps and at times I desponded of ever mastering it. However, I persevered and slowly my ability to handle the top of the table improved. In this type of play there are many difficult moves and it took me many years of practice to become really proficient. In later years Walter Lindrum stated that he considered I was the best amateur exponent of top of the table play in the world.

Eventually Jim Long began to develop top of the table play. Each time he played against me he would almost knock me over to get a closer look at what I was doing and he was not too proud to ask a few questions. I helped him to the best of my ability and he rapidly improved, so that we became even greater “enemies” on the table. We were always trying to out-do each other, but he was a few years behind me and it took him some time to catch up. This he did, and Jim eventually became a great player. His knowledge of top of the table play today makes him one of the best amateur billiards players in the world.

Jim and I were the only players in Victoria to make any real progress with this modern style of playing billiards. At least 500 players in regular competition, striving to improve their game, would give a great deal to be able to play top of the table at a reasonably good standard, but only a handful have made any real progress. George Ganim, a protégé of mine, showed early promise – in fact, he defeated me for the Victorian Championship in 1945 – but to my disappointment he has not progressed as well as I had hoped. George is a likable chap, a great all round player and a lover of billiards, but the mysteries of the top of the table play seem to elude him.

Two good players of the younger generation are Ron Moore and Bruce Stevens. Ron is a player with much potential, but unfortunately cannot give the required amount of time to practice. He could also become a first-class snooker player. Bruce is under the watchful eye of Jim Long and receives a lot of tuition from him. During the last three or four years he has made good progress at billiards, but must knuckle down to more practice. Lance Pannell and Bob McLass, both of the Yarraville Club, are two players with great potential. Lance is a good all round player who should try to master top of the table, but he does not work had enough. Bob is a snooker player who is just learning billiards and is working hard to improve his game. He is one of the best snooker players in Victoria and a good knowledge of billiards will undoubtedly improve his snooker.

Another first-class snooker player is Harry Andrews, who has won the Victorian Amateur Snooker Championship on the last five occasions. However, he is only a moderate billiards player and would undoubtedly improve his snooker if he would concentrate on developing his knowledge of billiards. Geoff Walters, of the Prahran Club, is also a promising snooker player, but unfortunately at present he is unable to devote sufficient time to developing his game. Fred Thomas of the South Yarra Club is also in this category. In Jim Lyons, the Brunswick Club has an outstanding snooker player. He also would improve his game by devoting a little more time to learning the intricacies of billiards. In a competition snooker match at the Yarraville Club in November, 1971, Jim compiled a break of 105; a notable performance.

The past two or three years have also seen the arrival on the billiards scene of a promising young player from Bendigo – Phil Tarrant. I have been taking a keen interest in developing this player, who has a good knowledge of all round play and is fairly adept at the top of the table. He is keen to learn and spends a lot of time practising. I have seen him regularly making breaks of 200 and 300 in good style. If he continues to practice and develops his game on proper lines, much more will be heard of him in the not too distant future.

[A good prediction by Cleary as Phil Tarrant went on to win the Australian National title four times between 1987 and 1992. – Ed]

Robert Marshall’s controversial qualification for the World Amateur Championship of 1936

Walter Lindrum once said to me, “Tom, you must practice until you almost break your back. I am irritated when I hear people say that proficiency at billiards is the sign of a misspent youth. If such were the case, do you think I would have been invited by the late King George V to give a command performance at Buckingham Palace?” The expressions “pool room” and “billiard saloon” do not sound respectable to some people, but I would point out that all the leading amateur and professional players acquired their skills at billiards and snooker within the confines of sporting and social clubs. At the age of fifteen years I commenced to learn billiards at the CYMS Club in Yarraville, which was a non-licensed club. It is a pity that young people are unable to join licensed clubs until they are 21 years of age, although they may drive a motorcar when 18. The appeal of billiards passes by these young people because they are not being presented with an opportunity to learn the game in the most favourable circumstances.

When I was 21, I was playing No. 1 for the Yarraville CYMS team. My good friend and mentor, Fred Guest, then thought that it was time that I had a crack at some of Melbourne’s leading amateurs, so he arranged a match for me with Jim Bracy, one of the leading players at that time. The match took place on a Sunday afternoon at the St Kilda Tradesmen’s Club, of which Jim was a member. Fred and I, accompanied by a few supporters, journeyed to St Kilda by train. No doubt some of the billiards enthusiasts had heard of me, as a good crowd was in attendance.

The match was to be 500 up, and was refereed by the late Charles Allen, who was a 100-break player and was to become one of Melbourne’s leading bookmakers. At first I found the table somewhat strange and, furthermore, I was a little nervous, so that I started off poorly. I overheard Charlie Allen remark to Fred Guest that he was sorry for me. Indeed, I was feeling sorry for myself! However, at last I made position at the top of the table and managed a break of 115. Many of the onlookers were mildly astonished as they had not previously witnessed this type of play. The match finally resulted in a narrow victory to me and, needless to say, I was very pleased and so was Fred Guest. Charlie Allen then remarked “Within two years this lad will be the Victorian Champion”, and from that day he became one of my best supporters.

I was immediately invited to play with the St Kilda Club in the South Suburban Billiards Association competition, and eventually I played No 2 in the team under Jim Bracy. That same year I won the single-handed championship of the Association, defeating Bracy in the final. Jim, of course, was the warm favourite to win that title and his name had already been engraved on a beautiful silver cup. However, one week later I was the proud owner of that trophy – which then bore my name! This trophy was my first and it still takes pride of place in my home.

These events marked my entry into the wider field of competitive billiards, in which I was further assisted by Fred Guest. At my first try at the Victorian Title I reached the quarter-final stage, to be defeated by Bill Carter, an excellent red ball player. In the following year (1935) I reached the final and was opposed to Charles Norman, a member of the South Yarra Club, who was a double strength player and very hard to beat. In this match I was a little “jittery” and did not employ much top of the table play, being content to rely upon the all-round game. However, I managed to win by 150.

In the following year I again reached the final, this time to be opposed by Fred Hancock, who could play top of the table. I was afraid to match my “top” against his and decided to again play all-round billiards. Much to my dismay, Fred easily defeated me. But I learned this lesson: a good top of the table player would always beat a good all-round player. I did not fall into this error again and thereafter concentrated on top of the table, with continuing success.

The winner of this match was selected to represent Victoria in the Australian Championship to be played in South Australia. The winner of the Australian Title was then to travel to South Africa to compete in the British Empire Amateur Billiards Championship (as the World Championship was then known). It was confidently expected that Fred Hancock would win the National Title and get the overseas trip – but that was not to be.

At this time Bob Marshall had won the Western Australian Title and was entered for the National Title event. He had a big reputation, but his amateur status was suspect. The amateur rules were strictly controlled and certain people in the inner circle of billiards administration were suggesting that Bob Marshall would not make the grade as an amateur. It was rumoured that Bob’s father had conducted a billiard saloon in the West and that Bob had worked for him. From a strict amateur viewpoint this was “taboo” and for this reason some people considered that Bob would not be allowed to compete in the Australian Championship series.

Fred Hancock knew of all this and naturally continued to practice furiously, with an eye on the overseas trip. If this eventuated, he was to be accompanied by a manager- Jack Oke – who was the billiards writer for a Melbourne evening newspaper. At that time, in direct contrast given to billiards by way of news coverage today, the game received fairly wide publicity in the daily press. Jack Oke made the trip to Adelaide as a Victorian Delegate and he met with the Delegates from the other States to investigate the amateur status of Bob Marshall.

After a meeting lasting about ten hours, the Delegates voted 3 to 2 against Bob competing in the National Title series, which then commenced. Fred Hancock easily won his first match and looked to be the certain winner of the Title. Then came a sensation! A special meeting of Delegates was called to further investigate the position of Marshall and next morning it was announced that he was to play in the Championship series after all. It appeared that the Delegate from New South Wales had changed his mind. Bob duly won the Australian Title and went on to South Africa to annex the World Title, proving himself to be the best amateur billiards player in the world. Fred Hancock was very disappointed at the turn of events and never competed again in a championship.

The Brunswick Club

In the five successive years I won the Victorian Title and I considered that my success was due to greatly improved top of the table play. In this period of severe economic depression I had been unemployed for about two years. Eventually I was reinstated as an employee of the Victorian Railways and was soon asked to play with the Railways billiards team. My work was that of a machinist. This was hard work and not conducive to playing good billiards, but I was happy to be again employed.

A turning point came in my life when a good friend, Dick Jacques, who was a committee man of the Brunswick Club, approached me with a suggestion that I play billiards for that club. Furthermore, employment was available to me, the club offering further advancement and better wages than I was at that time receiving. I decided to accept this offer and tendered my resignation to the Victorian Railways, at the same time applying for a clearance to play billiards with Brunswick. To my surprise, the clearance was refused. Just imagine such a clearance being refused today! Mr Reg Harding who was then President of the Brunswick club, fought my case at the next meeting of Delegates to the Melbourne Clubs Amateur Billiards Association. A Mr Ben Fallone, a gentleman of high repute in the Victorian Railways, also came to my assistance and eventually the clearance was granted.

I commenced working with the Brunswick Club as a storeman and was later appointed assistant to the Secretary, whose work had become increasingly heavy because of the Club’s expansion. At that time the Manager-Secretary was Ben Warr. Without doubt he was the finest Club Manager I have known. Although he was a hard man, he was also very kind and was liked by all who associated with him. He was extraordinarily capable, and it was his drive and leadership which were responsible for the success of the Club which was to become one of the leading sporting clubs in Melbourne. Mr Reg Harding headed the Committee as President.

I became the No. 1 player in the Club’s top billiards team and from that time on the standard of my play improved enormously, and I felt that I was reaching up towards world competition class. I was able to get plenty of practice and after I had completed my duties I scarcely left the billiards tables. George Ganim and Bob Dickenson, both first-class players from Geelong, journeyed twice a week to Melbourne to play with the club. I was able to help George improve his game and he became one of Victoria’s best billiards players. Bob was also a stylish player, but he never adopted top of the table style of playing. Consequently he did not reach championship standard. Another outstanding player was Gus White, who on one occasion won the Victorian Snooker Title. Frank Egan, Dick Jacques, Harry Watson, ‘Doc’ Liversidge, Frank Warton and Fred Piera were all good players capable of making a 100-break. In those days the Brunswick team was not often defeated and won many premierships. In fact, the Club was regarded as the leading billiards club in Victoria. When billiards matches were in progress the Club was usually packed to capacity, which greatly contributed to the Club’s progress.

At this time the Brunswick Club functioned in leased premises, a building which in earlier years had been known as the Lyric Theatre. Only a small portion of this huge building was leased to the club, but in view of its expanding activities, negotiations were entered into with the owners of the building and eventually it was purchased by the club for £ 12,000 ($24,000). This transaction has proved to be a bargain. Today the property, which includes many improvements effected by the club, must be worth in the vicinity of $160,000. Present members of the club owe a great debt of gratitude to Reg Harding and members of the committee who negotiated that transaction.

Much the same might also be said about the South Yarra club, which has also had some great billiards players among it members. Jim Long, Jim Bracy, Col Norman, Frank Freston and Jack Langley were all champions. The South Yarra Club had progressed from what was once a double-fronted dwelling to a comfortable and modern two-storey building containing excellent appointments for its members. Much of this progress might also be said to be the result of the success of the club’s billiards players.

A fund-raising tour of Australia with Walter Lindrum

During the Second World War the Brunswick and South Yarra Clubs staged a challenge match to augment funds for the fighting forces and by this means raised £3,185 ($6,370). In the light of this success, a further match was arranged and this time netted £4,220 ($6,440). On each occasion Brunswick was the winner. Subsequently a number of the players who took part in these matches were honoured by being appointed life members of their respective clubs.

Then came Australia’s complete involvement in the Second World War. I was not employed in a “protected” industry, so decided to enlist in the RAAF, with an assurance that the position would remain open for me when hostilities ceased. I was posted to an Air Force Welfare Unit and No 1 Stores Depot, in Port Melbourne, and very soon I was able to obtain two billiard tables, one from Mr Leo Hemingway and the other from the Brunswick Club. These tables provided me with opportunities to practice in my spare time. Soon I was being asked to give billiards exhibitions at Air Force Stations throughout Victoria.

A little later I was contacted by Walter Lindrum, who had been devoting much time and effort to raising funds for the fighting forces by giving exhibitions of billiards. He asked me to accompany him on a tour of South Australia to raise money for patriotic funds. I seized this opportunity with enthusiasm as I knew that I could learn a lot from Walter, and the necessary leave was arranged. Walter would never travel by air, for what reason I never enquired, so we commenced our six weeks tour on the “Overland Express”. Incidentally, the only time I can recall air travel being required for Walter was on the occasion of his untimely death, when his body was flown from Queensland to Melbourne. At that time he had been holidaying at Surfer’s Paradise with an old friend and billiards enthusiast, Frank Williams.

The South Australian tour had been arranged by the late Pat Brady, a billiard table manufacturer, who was accompanied by Pat, Junior. Walter, of course, was the star performer and I was the “Jack-of’-all-trades” which meant I was commentator, referee, and occasionally filling in with an exhibition. Pat, junior, was the tradesman who attended to the tables and equipment. All the receipts from our exhibitions were placed in the hands of Pat, senior.

Walter and I shared a compartment on the train journey to Adelaide and his only topic of conversation was billiards! At last I had to feign sleep, but Walter, who suffered from insomnia, would nudge me and ask for a cigarette, and then take up the conversation again. Half way through the night journey he woke me saying “Tom, would you have a look under the seat and see that my gear is intact? It would be a shame if I had forgotten something”. I examined his kit and reported that all was in order, whereupon Walter said, “get out the billiard balls”. I did so and handed them to him. Walter fondled them for a few minutes and then addressed them, “you poor things! You are in for a hiding shortly. I hope you are kind to me”. He then kissed them saying “please forgive me”!

In Adelaide we were met by the Bradys and commenced our tour by car. When giving exhibitions Walter always brought along his own cushions, to be attached to the table on which he was to play. There are two types of cushion – strip rubber and block rubber. Strip rubber cushions are made up of six thin pieces of rubber solutioned together and allow the ball to bite in on impact and take the necessary “side”. Block rubber cushions are of solid rubber which causes the ball to rebound much more quickly and “side” does not react so readily. Strip rubber cushions are considered to be more desirable for billiards.

The tour commenced in the heat of February, with Walter’s cushions strapped on to the bumper bars of the car. Ideally billiards is a winter game because heat and humidity do not make for good playing conditions, but Walter was not unduly deterred. We headed for Port Augusta where we were to play on a table specially set up at the skating rink. We had received good advance publicity and faced a crowd of about 600. Walter was in magnificent form and quickly ran up a break of 1000 unfinished. My job was to explain the shots and at the same time appeal for donations from the crowd.

The larger donations were forthcoming when Walter played his trick shots. After three hours of hard work Walter was exhausted by his efforts, but the exhibition had realised a sum of £2,600 ($5,200). After a night’s rest, we journeyed to Port Pirie, starting at 7.00am but before long the temperature was 106 degrees! Our progress was somewhat slow and eventually we reached our destination at 3.15pm. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we arrived at the Port Pirie Sportsmen’s Club only half an hour late.

Pat had no time in which to change the cushions. Walter took one look at the table and almost cried “They’re block rubber cushions”!. He threw a ball up the table and it travelled seven lengths. He said “I’ll do no good on this table”. And neither he did. He was unable to compile a break of 100. After about an hour, Walter suddenly announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen I am sorry but I am not well. We have travelled a long distance today and I need a rest. I assure you that I’ll have recovered by evening”. He knew that there would be an opportunity to change the cushions. But, to my astonishment, he then introduced me to the crowd, saying “I am sure that Mr Cleary will substitute for me for the remainder of the afternoon and that he will keep you happy”. To add to my confusion, I had left my cue at the hotel. Walter explained this to the crowd, at the same time handing me his own cue, saying “Here Tom, use my cue”. To the onlookers this appeared to be a great gesture – but not to me! I had never used Walter’s cue. But I had to do something. About 700 people present had paid £1.00 each to see an exhibition of billiards, so I immediately challenged the local champion, Jack Gregory to a match of 500 up, giving him 250 start. I broke and Jack immediately followed with a break of 76. I told myself that this was my great moment to do something and surprised myself by compiling a break of 376, mainly from all round billiards as the table was much too fast for top of the table play. At the time, I considered that this was my best performance on a billiard table.

Although I had commenced playing under adverse conditions, the crowd was quick to appreciate my effort. During a short interval in the match a collection among the onlookers added a further £410 to our fund raising effort. Jack Gregory failed to score at his next visit to the table and I ran out with a break of 125 unfinished. At the conclusion of the game, four leading businessmen of the town handed in cheques to the value of £100, and further contributions from those present realised £165. Our organiser, Pat Brady donated a further £20 and another £200 resulted from an exhibition of trick shots given by myself. Never in my widest dreams had I thought that I would raise such a large sum of money by an exhibition of billiards.

I then returned to the hotel to find out how Walter was faring. After a good rest he had recovered, and when I told him what had happened he was so thrilled that he kissed me! He was glad that I had come along to assist him. He then enquired if Pat Brady had changed the cushions, and was pleased when I told him that it was being attended to.

In the evening an even larger crowd arrived. People were hungry to see the great Walter Lindrum. The cushions had been changed and everything was in readiness. There was no opponent for Walter – he always gave solo exhibitions. He announced to the crowd that he would endeavour to make a 1000 break. I was in charge of the demonstration and placed the balls at the top of the table position. Hundred after hundred rolled off Walter’s cue. At 600 he got the balls into a nursery cannon position and without visible effort ran the break to 1000 unfinished. The applause was deafening. He then gave a brilliant exhibition of trick shots, followed by a game of snooker with me. I broke and Walter followed on to clear the table with a break of 138. Walter gave a magnificent performance on the strip rubber cushions. The people of Port Pirie were generous. Never before had I seen to much money change hands so quickly. A sum of £2,000 was contributed during the evening, making a total of £3,200 for the two sessions. We continued to travel through to South Australia and in six weeks raised £40,000 – a really magnificent effort from a billiards table.

I then returned to my Unit at Port Melbourne and was immediately posted to Darwin, which meant a spell from the billiards table. Six months later the war ended and within a short time I was back in my old job at the Brunswick Club, and again playing billiards. I quickly discovered that, with the experience I had gained from watching Walter play, I was playing better than ever. In addition to playing in competitive games for the Brunswick Club, I was inundated with invitations to give exhibitions. For quite some time I was out every night of the week playing billiards, but fortunately I had an understanding wife! Over the next three years I gave countless exhibitions for various charitable causes and was responsible for raising about £8,000. For this service I was awarded a medal by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the time of her coronation.

I won the Victorian Amateur Billiards Championship from 1947 to 1950, in which year I was selected to take part in the Australian Championship held in Melbourne. The Western Australian representative was Bob Marshall, to whom I had been runer-up in this event on four previous occasions. This time Bob and I again reached the final. On my first visit to the table I made a break of 285, followed by 276, and on my third visit I made 306. At this stage I had a lead of 860, so I reverted to safety play. At the end of the first session I had a lead of 1,100. I said to myself, “he will not beat me now! I’ll play the red ball tonight and slow down the game” And that is what I did. I won by only 444, but it was my first Australian Championship. Bob was bitterly disappointed at his defeat, but I regret to say that in the following year he got his revenge. This was the one that I wanted, as it meant a trip to England for the Word Title. It had been one of my life’s ambitions to play billiards in England, the home of this grand game.

After that championship Bob broke down in the dressing room. He could not believe that I had beaten him. I told him, “Bob, I have taken a hiding from you for many years. Surely you don’t begrudge me this win?”. Bob was no invincible when his opponent went with him. In the West he had no one to beat; consequently he had no hard match practice. However, Bob was such a popular sporting figure in the West that pressure was brought to bear and permission was sought from England to allow him to compete in the World Title. The authorities there knew of his ability and realised that his presence in the Championship series would be a tremendous draw-card. The result was that the Billiards Association and Control Council granted permission for Bob to take part provided he paid his own expenses. The sportsmen of Western Australia came to his aid, with the result that Australia had two representatives in the World Championship on that occasion.

Billiards at Buckingham Palace

I left Melbourne by air in September, 1951, and on arrival in England was met by Horace Lindrum and Bob Marshall. Bob and his Scottish-born wife, Jean, had travelled earlier by ship and it was a good opportunity for Jean to visit her relatives in Scotland. I was domiciled at the famous Albany Club in Saville Row, London. This so-called “posh” club is noted for its history and tradition, but I discovered that it was a somewhat ordinary old-fashioned building. I was given a room that was supposed to have been occupied by Lady Hamilton well over 100 years before and at that time I daresay it was first-class.

The Albany Club was frequented by many leading stage and screen stars, of whom I met quite a number including Tommy Trinder, Arthur Askey, Sonny Tufts, Danny Kaye and Gracie Fields. A Bill Little was the owner and manager of the club. Because I was the Australian Amateur Billiards Champion I suspect he thought I was a wealthy man, because he introduced me to many of the “stars” of the theatre and even invited me to attend a gala dinner with them. At that time, television was in its relative infancy and a portion of the proceedings were televised. Everyone attending the dinner was expected to provide a small item, or skit, to add to the evening’s fun. I was seated between Danny Kaye and Gracie Fields, when Danny asked me if I would like to appear on television. “What could I do?” I said. Nothing further was said at the time and the dinner continued. However, later on Danny said to me, “Go up to your room and see if you can find an umbrella. Take this vase and orange with you and practice potting the orange off the table into the vase. And don’t forget your chalk!”.

To pluck up courage I swallowed a whisky, then left the dinner to find an umbrella. Much to my surprise, I discovered it was quite easy to lift the orange into the vase using the umbrella as a cue. So I rejoined the party at dinner and told Danny that I could do the trick. A little later Danny announced to the gathering, “We have with us tonight Tom Cleary, the wonder boy from down under, who is in London to compete in the world’s Amateur Billiards Championship. He will now give you a little demonstration of billiards”. I quickly gulped down another whisky, placed the orange and the vase on the table, chalked the end of the umbrella and said, “This is how it is done”. I “potted” the orange into the air, but I had hit it too hard. Instead of going into the vase, it landed in a large bowl of water filled with flowers and, amidst laughter, everyone seated nearby was splashed. Apparently they all thought that it was my intention. And that signalled my entry into the Albany Club!

Previously, a good friend, Jack Le Francie, had visited England as a member of an Australian Bowls Team. During this visit he had become friendly with Mr John Blyfield, the King’s Entertainment Manager and, as a result, he and his wife had been shown through Buckingham Palace. Before I left Australia Jack said to me, “I would like you to see the Palace while you are in England”. I said “You must be joking”! However, he immediately wrote to Mr Blyfield asking him to look after me. When I had been in London for a week I telephoned Mr Blyfield, introducing myself. He was very friendly and told me he would arrange a visit to the Palace.

On that day I was scheduled to play a match against Walter Ramage and suggested to Mr Blyfield that he might like to watch the game. He thanked me and said he would be delighted to attend. I was in good form that day and make a break of 316 – all top of the table. Incidentally, it was voted the best-compiled break of the championship series, for which I was later presented with a set of snooker balls together with a beautiful leather case.

My performance must have impressed Mr Blyfield, for he said to me “Tom, when you visit the Palace you must give us an exhibition of billiards”. I readily agreed as it was a great compliment to be asked to play on the table at Buckingham Palace. Mr Blyfield asked me not to inform any of the newspapers that I was to play at the Palace as, unfortunately, King George VI was very ill at the time and it was not desired that the public should know the seriousness of his illness. At that time, Walter Lindrum and I were the only players who had been invited to give a billiards exhibition at Buckingham Palace.

The date for the exhibition was arranged and an official invitation forwarded to me. On Friday, 21st October, 1953, a Royal car arrived at the Albany Club to take me to luncheon at the Palace. At 1.00pm I was conducted to the King’s billiard room and, to my surprise, I observed that the colour of the cloth on the table was almost purple. The cloth had not been replaced since Walter Lindrum had played on the table before the late King George V during the 1930’s. King George V was a keen lover of billiards, but King George VI was not interested in the game – hence the condition of the table.

However, the table played well and to my satisfaction. At my first visit to the table I made a break of 311, followed by 259 – so I was extremely pleased with myself. Two frames of snooker followed, and then I amused the sixty odd people present with some trick shots. The onlookers comprised some of the administrative staff employed at the Palace. Unfortunately, no members of the Royal Family were present. The present Queen, Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip were holidaying at Windsor Castle, and I had missed Princess Margaret by about five minutes, she having had another appointment.

My exhibition finished at 3.00pm and Sir Pearce Leigh, who was in charge of the Royal household thanked me and asked Mr Blyfield to show me around the Palace. For the next three hours Mr Blyfield escorted me through the 165 State Rooms in the Palace. I was astounded by their magnificence and by the beautiful furniture and chandeliers. Each room measured approximately 40 feet square. What caught my eye was the hand-controlled clocks. There were two clocks in each room, each mounted on a marble pedestal – 330 clocks in all! I was informed that two mechanics were employed on the daily round of winding the clocks and keeping them in order, and that they were never one second out!

The gold and silver plate room in the Palace was magnificent. The many pieces displayed there must have been worth many thousands of pounds, likewise the beautiful paintings in the portrait room. I was shown the War Cabinet Room where Winston Churchill presided during the years of the Second World War. I also saw the huge and beautiful ballroom, in which was a large chair about six feet high, lavishly decorated with gold trimmings. It was situated on a platform and I was told that it was here that Royal Investitures took place. Amid laughter, I took the opportunity of performing an “investiture” on Mr Blyfield.

We then passed down a corridor some 300 feet long and, upon passing one particular room, Mr Blyfield informed me that the King was lying very ill in that room – in fact, it was believed that he was dying. I remarked that it seemed strange that no guards were present. I was told, “Don’t worry. Your credentials were well investigated before you were invited”. At 6.00pm we adjourned to the reception hall, where we again met Sir Pearce Leigh and some of the administrative staff. Sir Pearce immediately said to me “Cleary! I think you would partake of a drink?” I answered “By all means”, and a bottle of Highland Queen was immediately produced. I then asked Sir Pearce if it would be possible for him to give me some token by which I could remember my visit to Buckingham Palace. I told him that my Australian friends would not believe me if I informed them that I had visited Buckingham Palace! He pondered for a short time, then said he would see into the matter.

In a couple of days, two letters arrived for me at the Albany Club – one thanking me for my exhibition, and the other containing an invitation card bearing the Royal Crest. When I arrived home I had both documents framed, and today they are proudly displayed in my billiard room. Needless to say, more than one bottle of Highland Queen was drunk during my visit to the Palace. When I departed I was in high spirits indeed, and would not have called the King my uncle. It is sad to relate that some six months later King George VI passed away.

Apart from my stay at the Albany Club and visits to the royal household and Scotland Yard, to my regret I did not see very much of London. It was very noticeable that those in charge of the Billiards Association and Control Council were reluctant to provide hospitality for visiting players, and I had to find my own way about the City, even to places at which I was to play. The championship matches were played at Burroughs & Watts Hall, which I knew was in Soho Square and eventually I managed to find it. I walked as much as possible for exercise, as well as to look around the City. Several times in the first few days I became lost. In most host countries it is customary for the controlling body to look after the wants of competitors as much as possible, but I regret that on this occasion such was not the case. The competitors were not even taken on weekend trips or shown around London. Even on the completion of the championship series there was no presentation ceremony or celebration, and most of the players made their way to a small café in Soho Square to partake of sandwiches and tea. On Sunday, Mr White, the Agent-General for Victoria, arranged for a car to take Bob Marshall and me to Brighton and Eastbourne, two seaside resorts. He also arranged for Bob and me to give an exhibition match at Scotland Yard, which was followed by a trip on the Thames in a police yacht.

After the championship matches were completed, Bob and his wife left for Scotland and I arranged to stay in London for a further week to have a look around. However, after one day on my own I became lonely, so I called on BIAC and was fortunate enough to obtain a seat for the following day. In spite of the disappointments to which I have referred, I loved London and its history and tradition. Much of the wartime bomb destruction still remained and it was obvious that the people had suffered severe hardship during the war years. However, the people whom I met were most hospitable and helpful. Incidentally, Bob Marshall won the World Title; Frank Edwards, the English Champion, was runner-up, and I was third.

First visit to India

A dislike of spiced food and a diet of bananas saw Clearly lose 14lbs in weight.

In 1949, the strain of long hours and arduous duties at the Brunswick Club, as well as playing billiards on most nights, commenced to take its toll on my health. My son (Kevin) and daughter (Kathleen) had both married, which frequently left my wife at home alone at night. In addition, there was no doubt in my mind that the long hours and heavy duties, especially at night, expected of a Club Manager had hastened the death of my predecessor. All these problems were confronting me and, after discussing the position with my wife, I reluctantly decided to tender my resignation as Manager of the Club. It was a difficult decision to make, as the Brunswick Club had been very kind to me. Indeed, the Club had provided me with a business education, as well as enabling me to have an opportunity of becoming, perhaps, one of the top amateur billiard players in the world.

I gave the Club three months notice of my intentions, during which period I received an invitation from the Indian Billiards Association to make a tour of India with the object of promoting billiards in that country. As I felt the need of a holiday, I readily accepted the invitation. I left Melbourne in October, 1949, naturally in some state of excitement. I soon discovered that travelling overseas could provide many disappointments. For instance, the plane’s first stop after leaving Australia for Djakarta for refuelling. The passengers were herded like sheep, under a military guard, and were not allowed to leave the airport. We were not provided with food or drink until we again boarded the aircraft.

Our next stop was overnight in Singapore, where there was a long delay with Customs. My baggage was opened and the contents strewn all over the place. The official said to me, “have you any sticks”? I soon realised he was referring to cigarettes and answered, “There are a few packets there”. They were amongst my clothing and the official promptly selected six packets and placed them in his pocket, then cleared me. After I had rearranged my luggage it was left with BOAC for forwarding to Calcutta, my destination. Then with my overnight bag I was conducted to the Raffles Hotel for the night.

Next day I arrived at Dum Dum airport at Calcutta and was met by the Indian billiards officials. Unfortunately, my baggage had not arrived with the plane and all I had was what I stood in, together with the contents of my overnight bag, my cue and a set of billiard balls. I was in a nice fix, but at least I had my tools to work with! Ten days later I recovered my baggage in Madras. In the meantime the Indian Billiards Association fitted me out with a complete new wardrobe.

The Dum Dum Airport is about thirteen miles from the City of Calcutta, but it took about two hours to reach the Great Eastern Hotel where I was to stay. The roads were crowded with people and each vehicle using the road was fitted with two “tooters”. One worked from the car battery in the usual manner and the other was operated by hand. The latter was necessary because the car battery would not have lasted 30 minutes! It was necessary to blow the horn almost continuously to clear the road of people. The noise for the whole journey was deafening and I was relieved when we reached the hotel.

To add to my discomfort, I was nearly sick from the stench rising from the roadway. There seemed to be no sanitary conveniences for the general use of the public, and it was a strange sight to see men and women urinating and defecating along the public highway. I was informed that the ordure was gathered up weekly and subsequently burned, hence the horrible stench. At the time it was the dry season and lack of rain added to the problem. I was appalled at the conditions under which these poor people lived. Their clothing appeared to be only a dirty loincloth, and mostly they slept on the streets. A splash of water from an odd tap provided a wash, but they had no soap. Soap is a comparative luxury in India and these poor people were quite unable to obtain it. Perhaps they were not even aware of it.

The person responsible for my tour was Mr Begg, the President of the Indian Billiards Association. On my way to the hotel Mr Begg handed me some coins saying “Do not be too liberal with your money, or you will be inundated with beggars”. Upon arriving at the hotel I was besieged by servants who wanted to carry my luggage (my overnight bag and cue), but I was reluctant to part with it. Mr Begg muttered that it would be all right, and I was then taken to my room on the fifth floor.

After about half an hour I became worried that the servant had not arrived with my bag and cue. I was unaware that servants were not allowed to use the elevator. Eventually there was a knock on my door and three servants entered the room with my gear. I thanked them, but they did not move. I then realised that they were waiting for a tip, so I fumbled with the coins Mr Begg had given to me, but did not know their value or how much to give each servant. I decided to give each servant one of the largest coins, but their expressions indicated that they were not very happy. Eventually they left, but later I found out that the large coin was the equivalent of about one-penny. No wonder they glared at me! I was unable to rectify the matter as I was unable to tell one Indian servant from another. No doubt I was held in low esteem by all the hotel servants after that incident.

I was unable to sleep that night because of the loud “tooting” of passing motor cars. It was like a children’s party on Christmas Day! I had been placed in a second-class room which had no windows, but on the following day I corrected that. The following morning Mr Begg arrived with a tailor and a few samples of cloth. I selected a beautiful grey silk material and, after being measured, my suit was ready for me to wear at one o’clock that afternoon. I purchased the remainder of my requirements in the Great Eastern Hotel, where it was possible to buy anything from a pin to an elephant! Mr Begg apologised for my discomfort on the previous night and, after doing some more shopping, he conducted me to my new living quarters – a well-appointed large room with all modern conveniences. So I began to think that life in India was not so bad after all.

That evening I was given an official reception, amid much pomp and splendor. Whisky flowed like water, the food was appetising and I was waited upon like royalty. However, this luxury living was not to last, as I was informed that I was to commence my tour of the country next morning. I was to be accompanied by a Mr V. Freer, who was Amateur Billiards Champion of India at that time. He was a train driver by occupation and was a good all round player.

We travelled by train to Vizagapatam, which is approximately 100 miles from Calcutta, for our first exhibition match. The playing conditions were somewhat ordinary and the club in which we played only held about 60 spectators comfortably. However, about 100 people somehow managed to crowd into the billiard room, and there was scarcely room left for us to move around the table. Mr Freer and I played a match of 600 up. I broke and left the balls in a good position for him, which is the usual thing to do when giving an exhibition. He ran up a break of 110, and then played safety. I could see that he was going to be a tough opponent. Foolishly I tried to score but missed, leaving the balls in a good scoring position. This time he made a break of 169, and again played safety. By this time I was in real trouble. The table was fitted with block rubber cushions and was running fast – about nine lengths – and the cloth was like glass, with no nap left on it. The conditions were such that it was not possible for me to play top of the table. My opponent was in good spirits, for he was a good red ball player. I managed a couple of breaks of 100 or so, but he was too far ahead and ran out a winner by over 200 points. I was a little disappointed, but resolved to do better next time.

Mr Singh, the President of the Club – if, indeed, it could be called a club – made it easier for me when he informed me that Mr Freer had defeated Bob Marshall by about the same margin when Bob had played there about two years earlier. Incidentally, Bob had told me that he had been undefeated during his tour of India, but I later learned that he had been beaten on no fewer than six occasions.

After the match with Mr Freer at Vizagapatam an odd incident occurred. I asked one of the committeemen to direct me to the toilet. He explained that there was no toilet in the club and that I would have to go down to the river. I had no alternative. It was just as well that I invariably carried a handkerchief! This experience taught me a lesson, and subsequently I never failed to carry toilet paper in my pocket. Toilet paper was almost unheard of in India, and most of the Indian population use the left hand for this purpose. Some wash their hands afterwards, but some do not. It is no wonder that the people of India claim that the left hand is unclean.

Mr Freer and I then travelled south to Cocanada, Guntar, Vizayawada and Chennapuri. As we continued our journey our performances improved, the climate being cooler and more suitable in which to play billiards, but the condition of the tables left much to be desired. My best break was 296, and I was able to defeat Mr Freer in every subsequent encounter. In all the games there had been a referee, a marker and an official calling the hazards and six ball boys (one for each pocket). This made nine officials and it soon became evident to me that there was some method behind this apparent madness. After each game I was expected to tip each official 1 rupee (about 20 cents Australian). Mr Freer was not in a position to do likewise. As my expense allowance was somewhat meager, I could see that I was going to be flat out trying to make ends meet!

During the next exhibition match at Guntar I made a very bad faux pas. The night was sticky and humid, the table very fast and the pockets slightly under standard size. Lamps had been placed under the table to help dry out the cloth. Each time I visited the table I could feel perspiration trickling down my legs – I was the only person present wearing long trousers – and I was not in a good mood. The large crowd was expecting to see some big breaks but, under the prevailing conditions, I knew this was not possible. To add to my concern, all kinds of beetles and insects kept dropping onto the table. At my first visit to the table I had reached 96 and said to myself “I’ll make 100 this time, or die”. I played a cannon to reach the red ball, which was on the brink of a pocket when a beetle fell onto the table right in the path of my cue ball and turned it at right angles away from the red ball. I thus missed the cannon and the 100 break. I exploded and cried out, “This is a black fellow’s game”. Then all at once I realised I was the only white person in the room. I forthwith apologised for my indiscretion. Later on I managed to make a break of 176 and, following some trick shots which always add lustre to an exhibition, an enjoyable evening was spent.

After the exhibition I expressed a desire for a bath as I was wringing wet with perspiration. The President of the Club thereupon invited me to his home, which proved to be a rather primitive place. When we arrived he informed me that the bath was behind the curtain and that his servant would attend to my wants. When I pulled back the curtain I was dumbfounded. I had expected to see a nice bathroom, but instead there was a large tub – the kind used to bath an infant. It was placed in the middle of a square of concrete measuring about six feet by six feet. I had to sit in this tub while the servant poured water over me from a dipper. Nearby was a kerosene tin which did service as a toilet pan.

After the “bath” the President and I sat down to dinner. It was then two o’clock in the morning. It is the custom of the Indian people to dine late, but on this occasion it was much later than usual. I was starving, but try as I would I was unable to cope with the food, which consisted of curry swamped with chilies. Too hot for my taste!

After having been in the country for only seven days I had lost 8 pounds in weight! I practically lived on bananas during this southern tour and was glad when it ended. Madras was our next venue and again I was pleased to be in a big city, with the chance of enjoying some wholesome food. I stayed at the Conomara Hotel, a beautiful white marble building constructed by the Russians in 1900. Unfortunately this great hotel had become something of a “white elephant” because of changes which had been effected in the laws relating to liquor in 1920.

In Madras I gave three exhibitions with Wilson Jones, V. Salvaraj and V. Freer. Wilson and I turned on some scintillating billiards and snooker, each making breaks of 100 and 200 odd in billiards. My highest break was 347. Salvaraj also made the odd century, but he was largely a red ball player, hence his lack of success. Nevertheless, he was a charming gentleman and companion.

The large attendance at these exhibition games was almost frightening. Many hundreds of people were turned away. Those who gained admittance were jammed into the hall, some even sitting in the rafters! The temporary seating that had been erected looked by no means safe at any time and, in fact, on the last night it collapsed. I was in the middle of compiling a break when suddenly I heard a great noise. I glanced around to see dozens of people tumbling down towards me. In a flash, I dived under the billiard table to safety. Ten spectators required hospital treatment for broken limbs. Salvaraj’s cue was smashed. He had not been able to avoid the crush, and was also taken to hospital suffering with shock. Altogether it was a terrifying experience.

Because of the great success of these exhibition games, pressure was brought to bear on me to stay a further day. However, as I had a busy itinerary ahead of me I declined, as I was required to fulfil engagements at Bangalore, Coimbatore, Trivandru, Madras and other centres. A delay would certainly have disarranged the programme. It was just as well that I refused to stay the extra day for a calamity would have befallen me.

Bangalore is the coolest part of India and the playing conditions there were somewhat similar to those in Australia. I was playing at my top and made a billiards break of 456, and later a break of 99 at snooker. In this frame I ran out of balls, which deprived me of the opportunity of reaching the coveted 100. The spectators greeted this performance with great excitement and I was “king” of Bangalore that night!

Next morning I travelled on to Trivandrum by plane, where my best break was 367. This exhibition was not as hectic as that of the previous evening and I was able to get to bed reasonably early. But, alas, a tragedy was about to occur. The following morning I was taken to the airport to meet the plane that was to take me to Coimbatore. After a wait of two hours the plane had not arrived and I returned to my hotel. By this time fears were held for the safety of the plane and during the afternoon word filtered through that the aircraft was missing. Later a replacement plane took me to Coimbatore and the evening newspapers confirmed that the other plane was missing and was believed to have crashed.

I fulfilled my engagements and returned to Madras. Eight days later the ill-fated plane was found in jungle country. The bodies of the passengers and crew had been mutilated by wild animals. If I had consented to stay a further day at Madras I would have been travelling on that plane. Such is life! It was the first air tragedy to have occurred in India for ten years.

The next portion of my tour covered New Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Govidina. Travel to New Delhi was by train, which was by no means safe as white people were not held in the highest esteem. I was placed in a compartment alone and was told to lock myself in. It was a 12 hour journey and I hardly slept a wink. It seemed to me that beggars were constantly knocking on the carriage door shouting “Sahib! Sahib! Sahib!” They were travelling on the footboard of the carriage. It was all very disturbing to my peace of mind and I was relieved to reach my destination.

I arrived at New Delhi on Saturday, which was a free day for me, and expressed a desire to see the film “Samson and Delilah” which was showing at the time. Arrangements were promptly made for me to have a private box at the theatre. A Government car was placed at my disposal and when the driver dropped me at the theatre he asked if he could go home to see his wife and family, stating that he would pick me up after the show. I agreed, and then entered the theatre where, presumably as a precaution, I was locked into my box. However, to my dismay I discovered that the sound track of the film was in the language appropriate to that part of India, and I was unable to understand any of it!

Next morning my chauffeur was directed to take me on a tour of Old and New Delhi. I had been suffering with constipation for about three days, so I asked him to stop at a chemist’s shop so that I could obtain a laxative. I duly swallowed three tablets and continued my tour. At lunch time we returned to the hotel for a meal. As I was settling down to enjoy my lunch an acquaintance walked over to me saying “Tom, you were indeed lucky to miss the plane that crashed!”. Suddenly, I could feel the laxative working, so I said “Excuse me, but I’ll be back in a few minutes”. I had to get to my quarters about 100 yards distant and up two flights of stairs. I had a feeling that I would not make it! Just as I reached the door of my room nature took its course. I was in an awful mess and it was necessary for me to have a bath and complete change of clothing. When I eventually returned to the dining-room my acquaintance was no longer there, so I was unable to explain my apparent rudeness. Little did I know that there was a toilet about ten yards from the table at which I had been sitting!

Wilson Jones came to New Delhi to play an exhibition match at Government House. On this occasion we each performed very well, making breaks of over 300 at billiards, whilst at snooker Wilson made a break of 81 and I managed one of 79. For our efforts we were each presented with a pair of gold cuff links.

Next day we visited the Cricket Club at New Delhi, where I met the famous Duleepsinju. He was a charming person and a good billiard player. I played a friendly game with him, during which he made a break of 125. Sad to relate, he passed away about twelve months later.

I then journeyed to Agra, where I played a couple of matches in private homes and was entertained by Mr R. Singh. My real reason for passing through Agra was to see the famous Taj Mahal, one of the great wonders of the world. I stayed three days in Agra, then travelled to Lucknow. This journey was something of an ordeal. It took eighteen hours and I was required to travel by oxen cart. What a nightmare it was! At the end of the journey I was sick, sore and sorry. My joints were aching so much that I had to rest for the next 24 hours. However, I was quartered in what I was informed was the best guest house in Lucknow. It was like a gaol! It was a hut about 16 feet square, with a concrete floor, and no bed. The windows were merely openings and were fitted with iron bars. I was unable to eat the food supplied to me so bananas again became my staple diet.

By this time I had lost 14 pounds in weight and was becoming fed up with this type of living. But what could I do? I was in the heart of India and had to put up with it. I said to myself “Only three more days and I’ll be back in Calcutta!”. Although I never saw a cloud in the sky in the three months during which I was in India, I carried with me an overcoat which, on this occasion, was to prove very useful. No blankets were provided in my room so I rolled the overcoat around my shoes and thus made a pillow. I was so tired that I slept like a log, with my clothes on, and did not open my eyes until 10 o’clock the following morning. In the act of putting on my shoes I suddenly noticed a large scorpion drop out of one shoe. I was really shocked to think that I had been sleeping with that scorpion close to my head. Eventually I recovered from the whole ordeal, but was glad to leave Lucknow.

I arrived back in Calcutta on 18th December in time for the National Championship series. The Commonwealth Cricket team had also arrived for the second test match. George Tribe, Cargie Greaves and Bruce Dooland, all of whom I knew, were travelling with the team and naturally I wanted to see them. I phoned George, who made arrangements for me to meet him in the cricketers’ dressing room, where I was introduced to members of the team.

It was an extremely hot day and the visitors, who had won the toss, decided to bat. Immediately I was invited to have a drink, and I was amused to see that nearly all the players were also drinking. The team had received a donation of six dozen bottles of Dutch beer and it was being consumed with enthusiasm. Cargie was to go in to bat at fifth wicket down, and by the time he had taken his place at the crease he had had a few beers. I thought to myself, “he won’t last long out there”, but he knocked up a century in 70 minutes, then threw away his hand. George Trible also made 71. Perhaps the beer had given them Dutch courage! I spent a couple of days with this cricket team – a welcome relief from intensive billiard matches.

The National Championship was contested by a strong field, including Wilson Jones, Chandra Hirjee, M. Lafir (of Colombo), T. Salvaraj, V. Freer, myself, and a couple of players of lesser fame\. Hirjee was regarded as one of the most brilliant and entertaining players in India. In 1954 he was selected as second string to represent his country in the World Championship series contested in Sydney. He came from a wealthy family engaged in the jute business. Unfortunately, he fell foul of the taxation authorities in 1954 and was not allowed to leave the country, which cleared the way for me to compete as second string for Australia in that year. As a result, I won the World Championship Title on that occasion – but more of that later.

Salvaraj and Freer, being red ball players, were considered not to have much chance of winning, whilst it was thought that the up-and-coming Wilson Jones might be the surprise packet. With the exception of M. Lafir, who was a promising player, the remainder of the field was given little chance of winning the Title. At that time, Lafir was better known as a snooker player, but in 1967 he was runner-up to Leslie Driffield (England) in the World Amateur Billiards Championship. Lafir was gifted with a keen sense of humor. One evening in Calcutta the players decided to attend a picture theatre. Instead of travelling by rickshaw it was decided that we should walk. As most people are aware, cows throughout India are regarded as sacred animals and roam the streets at will. Naturally they leave droppings in all sorts of unexpected places. As we made our way to the theatre I accidentally put my foot in a patch of cow manure. In a flash Lafir cried, “Foul! Four Away!”.

The National Championship was eventually won by Wilson Jones. He and I played off in the final, each of us being undefeated. By this time I was “browned off” with billiards and did not produce the form expected of me. Wilson went on to win the World Title at Calcutta in 1958, and again in New Zealand in 1964. He retired at the comparatively early age of 54. The Government of India invested him with a knighthood to mark his achievements. At that time he was the only Indian to have won a World Championship in amateur sport. Later he was presented with a testimonial of 100,000 rupees – at that time the equivalent of $A20,000.

Following the National Championship series at Calcutta, the last leg of my tour took me to Bombay. I considered this very interesting and large city to be the cleanest, wealthiest and most Westernised community in India. I was provided with accommodation at the Cricket Club of Bombay – a beautiful stadium with all modern conveniences. In fact, it reminded me of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. A Mr Visinji, millionaire employer of Wilson Jones, was in charge of my stay in Bombay.

When I arrived the great festival of Bombay, which extends over ten days, was at is peak. Mr Visinji said to me “Do come and see this wonderful procession. It is something you might not see again”. Later I was introduced to the Maharajah of Burdwan, the Maharani, and many of their family, all of whom seemed to me like characters out of a fairy tale. Dressed in gorgeous saris, they were all strikingly beautiful, and they all wore magnificent jewellery during the festival. Mr Visinji informed me that even a computer could not assess the value of all the diamonds and other jewellery worn at the festival. I was dumbfounded by all the display.

The people welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home. I attended many public and private ceremonies more breathtaking that Cecil B. de Mille ever dreamed of. The climax came when I was invited to join the Shah of Persia and his Princess in one of the cars in the procession as it made its way through the streets. At the head of the procession were the Maharaja and Maharani of Burdwan, seated in a golden howdah on the royal elephant, followed by a retinue of people of lesser importance, but all looking resplendent in their trappings, with beautiful hand-painted designs on their foreheads. It seemed as if we were passing through a sea of dark faces, with waves going back as far as the horizon. Many people also were heightened further when daylight faded and the procession continued by torchlight. When later I thanked the Shah for the privileged position from which I had witnessed the procession, he remarked, “Oh! I do like to meet strangers”.

My programme for my six days stay in Bombay was: rise at 7.00am, take a bath, followed by breakfast comprised of toast, jam and a cup of black tea. Other food was available, but I was in no mood for anything more substantial. On arrival in India I had been somewhat overweight, but by the time I reached Bombay I had lost 18 pounds and I was feeling much fitter.

There was a good billiard table at the Cricket Club and after breakfast I would practice for about two hours. At midday a car would pick me up and take me on my way for exhibitions – perhaps two in the afternoon and one in the evening. During my short stay in Bombay I played 21 exhibition matches and was undefeated. Strange to relate, Wilson Jones was never selected to play against me, for what reason I do not know. The only conclusion I could arrive at was that the Indian authorities did not wish to risk him being defeated. I was playing at the top of my form and consistently had made breaks of over 200, and three breaks of over 400. However, my tour was a great success and the Association profited by many thousands of rupees.

During my stay in Calcutta I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Princess Toy and her brother, Prince Sonu, as well as their mother, the Begum, all of whom were associated with the Indian Billiards Control Council. They treated me with great kindness and on many occasions invited me to their home. In appreciation of our happy times together the Begum presented me with five lovely diamonds. So much did I value this gift that I kept the diamonds constantly in my possession, even sleeping with them under my pillow. I wrote home to my wife telling her that I would bring her back some beautiful diamonds, something she had always wanted, especially from India.

Somoneith (Sam) Banerjee’s father at this time asked me if I would assist his son with his billiards with a little coaching. I readily agreed, whereupon a car was placed at my disposal each morning for one week so that I could travel to and from Sam’s home, where there was a billiard table. Sam was an apt pupil and my coaching enabled him to improve his game considerably. In appreciation of my efforts for Sam, Mr Banerjee presented me with a suit length, and asked me if I would like anything else. I told him I was satisfied with the cloth, but he remarked, “Surely that is not sufficient” and insisted that I name something else. I told him that I had been given some precious stones and that perhaps a gold ring might make a suitable mounting for one of the stones. He immediately ordered a chaffeur to take me to a jeweller, with whom I made arrangements to mount one of the diamonds on a ring. Two days later the finished ring and the remainder of the diamonds were returned to me at my hotel.

When I arrived back in Australia my wife was anxious to see these jewels. When they were shown to her she said, “I don’t believe they are diamonds, Tom, although they shine like diamonds”. Soon afterwards she took them to a prominent Melbourne jeweller to have them valued, to be informed that they were plain glass and virtually valueless. To this day I do not know whether the “diamonds” were switched by the jeweller. I would not be surprised if this had occurred, as sharp practices of this nature are not entirely unknown. Such was another sad experience for me in India.

The 1954 World Amateur Billiards Championship

Upon my return home from England in 1951 Walter Lindrum phoned to congratulate me on finishing third in the World Championship that year. He suggested that I take a break of three months from the game and I took his advice. When I resumed playing I noted that my form was better than ever. I found that consistently I was making breaks of 300 and 400 – and even an occasional 500. At the time I was employed by Mr Charles Allen, a leading snooker bookmaker and a member of the Victorian Club in Melbourne. I practiced mainly at that club and two of its members, Darcy Eccles and Bill Bailey, both great players, took a keen interest in me. Both saw to it that I worked hard, and it was nothing for me to practice four to five hours a day.

In 1954 I ran up breaks of 684 and 735 – two of my highest breaks – which were made mostly at the top of the table, with a few runs of nursery cannons. It was at this stage that I asked Walter Lindrum for some hints on these close cannons. I felt that if I were to become proficient at nursery cannons a break of 1000 would not be beyond me. Walter promised to help, but unfortunately, and to my bitter disappointment, he never came to the party. On three occasions he invited me to his home at Albert Park, but each time he put me off, making the excuse that he was too busy. To be quite fair to the “master”, I really do not think he could impart to others his knowledge of the mysteries of nursery cannons, or for that matter any other phase of the game. He was a supreme player and so far ahead of others in the game of billiards that I am afraid he did not know where to commence teaching, but I am sure he would have liked to help me.

I do not know of any other player who was helped directly by Walter. In latter years Jim Long was very friendly with him, and I know that Walter showed him a couple of comparatively simple moves. Many people may disagree with me on this point and I ask them to forgive me for expressing my personal opinion on a small aspect of the make-up and personality of the greatest billiard player the world has ever known.

The World Amateur Championship series for 1954 were staged in Sydney. Shortly before these games were to commence Bob Marshall had defeated me for the Australian Title in Launceston in a very tight game. For three sessions we were almost dead level, but in the last two hours Bob was too good for me and ran out the winner by the comparatively narrow margin of 202 points. The World Championship was to be contested in Sydney in the following month and Bob was automatically selected to represent Australia. Chandra Hirjee had also been selected to compete in this event as second string to Wilson Jones, representing India. However, Hirjee was unable to make the trip at the last moment and I was invited to compete in his stead.

The games were staged in the Anthony Horden Pavilion at the Sydney Showgrounds and were played on Walter Lindrum’s table. This was good news for me as I was aware that the cushions were fitted with strip rubber and I had learned the game on tables fitted with that type of cushion. This news filled me with confidence. The competitors for the Title included Bob Marshall (Australia), Frank Edwards (England), Wilson Jones (India), and Taffy Rees (South Africa). My first opponent was Frank Edwards. I immediately got away with a break of 156, but Frank countered with a 127. Then I managed 216, followed by 287. I was in my element with the soft strip rubber cushions, and at the end of the first session was leading by 457. On the home run I ran out a winner by 760 points. To dispose of such a fine player a Edwards was a great start for me.

The great Bob Marshall was my next opponent. I was quietly fancied in this match as I had been performing well at practice. The bookmakers were wagering rather heavily on this game. Bob commenced in great form and at the half way mark led by 261. The position looked bad for me, but I was still confident. In the second session I really struck form. At the commencement of this session I was in play with 56 unfinished, which I took to 286. A little later I followed with a 267, then a 367. Eventually I won the match by 605 points.

At this stage I had defeated two great exponents of the game and naturally I was in high spirits. However, I could not afford to be overconfident as I still had to meet Rees and Jones. In my match against Rees I made the best break of my career in championship billiards by compiling 682, which still stands as the highest break made in an Amateur World Championship series. In this match I was an easy winner.

To win the Title I then had to face Wilson Jones. Naturally I was a little nervous, particularly as Jones had nothing to lose. He had won only one match in the series and therefore was under no strain. After the first hour of play he led by 250. I said to myself, “don’t panic, but play billiards”. This I proceeded to do with breaks of 186, 240 and 299, as well as sundry breaks just over 100. The result of the match was in my favour, 1810 to 1498. Although a great player, Wilson Jones could not strike form in Australia. He visited Australia on three occasions, but never once did he play really well. Change in climatic conditions appear to affect the performance of many players.

I was greatly relieved and, of course, excited when that match was over. I had won my first and only World Championship. It was the highlight of my billiards career. I was 44 years of age at the time and felt that my success was the result of years of hard and earnest practice, as well as keeping myself fit and retaining good health over the years. The other competitors in that Championship Series were all about the same age as myself, which perhaps proves that it takes a good part of a lifetime to reach the top in billiards. Therefore I stress to young and promising players that they cannot expect to master the wonderful game in five minutes – or even ten years! It took many years for the greatest snooker player of all time – Joe Davis – to make the highest possible break of 147 at snooker in championship games. This occurred on the evening of his retirement in a match against John Pulman at Leicester Hall, London. Afterwards Joe remarked, “Fancy! I have been playing snooker all my life and no one knows how much work I have put in behind the scenes. It has taken me all this time to achieve the almost impossible in a championship match. It is like the tip of a cue – at its best when it is finished”.

Lindrum and Davis

Many snooker enthusiasts have raised with me the question: If Walter Lindrum had concentrated on snooker, would he have proved a greater player than Joe Davis? In my humble opinion, I do not believe that he would have done so. Walter had a round arm unorthodox cue action and nearly every stroke he played was made with spin, which allowed for a small margin of error. However, when potting the balls in snooker there is no margin of error – the player has to make his shot in a very deliberate manner. The cue action must flow freely and the arm should operate in the nature of a piston inside a cylinder – with great exactness.

During my visit to England in 1951 I recall talking to Joe Davis on this point. Joe considered that Walter was not a good business man. By way of explanation, he went on to explain thus: “At a billiards match played in Melbourne in the 1930’s, in mid-winter, Walter and I prepared to commence the game. Naturally we had each removed our coats. Walter broke and played out the session with a break of 4,127. Half way through the session I had to slip into my coat again because of the cold”. Joe went on to say that he considered that spectators attended a match to see both players in action, but Walter was so good that he did not know how to break down! He was so much like a billiards machine that very often the onlookers were almost unaware of his genius. By playing in this machine-like manner for long periods, Walter diminished his earning power.

Joe said that he gave this matter great thought and when he returned to England he decided to concentrate on snooker, in which game the spectators are treated to the skill of both players at short intervals. As a result, Joe became the greatest snooker player of all time – indeed, he retired from the game a rich man. Unfortunately, in spite of his great ability at billiards, Walter did not do likewise. However, the great “master” was generous man and it was nothing for him to give a billiard table to a worthy cause. At one time, he presented me with a table and all accessories to match it. Walter did not seem to care about wealth – all he wanted to do was play billiards and demonstrate his skill to the people. Walter badly needed an experienced person to manage his billiards activities. For a time the late Jack Rohan acted in this capacity with some success.

The 1958 World Amateur Billiards Championship

In 1958 India was the venue for the next World Championship series and I was to defend my Title there. My wife had never before had the pleasure of travelling with me on an overseas trip and I thought that if on this occasion she could accompany me it would be a wonderful experience for her. With the assistance of some good friends, her trip was made possible. Leslie Driffield’s wife also made the trip from England so my wife was in good company. On this occasion, Claude Harris, President of the Australian Amateur Billiards Association, also made the trip. Claude thoroughly deserved this privilege as for many years he had carried out a tremendous amount of work on the administrative side of the game.

We arrived at Calcutta in mid-November, to be met by officials of the India Billiards Association, and were given a warm welcome. The seven contestants for the Title were: Leslie Driffield, Wilson Jones, Chandra Hirjee, Rafik Dina, Mahomed Lafir, V. Freer and myself. Driffield, Jones, Hirjee and I were named the “big four” and after the earlier games had been played, w were left to fight it out. As all four players were in good form it was difficult to pick the winner.

Hirjee and Jones met in the first encounter and spectators were treated to some brilliant billiards, each player making numerous breaks of over 100. Hirjee then made a break of 246, which was quickly followed by 306 from Jones. On the billiard table no love was lost between these two players. They were keen rivals and were fighting to see who was India’s best player. At the first interval there was little between them, but Jones eventually ran out the winner by 260.

The next match was between myself and Hirjee. I at once struck brilliant form and made consecutive breaks of 190, 239 and 346. This burst seemed to demoralize Hirjee, and although he made two fine breaks of 165 and 176 in the second session, I was a comfortable winner by a margin of 960.

Wilson Jones was next in line for me. I knew that I would have to play at my top, as Jones had been displaying brilliant form in both matches and at practice. In the first hour of this match I ran up a handy lead with useful breaks of 165 and 158, but Jones fought back with a beautifully compiled break of 345. At the end of the first session the scores were almost level. Unfortunately for me, a tropical storm broke over Calcutta at 5.00pm that day. This was unusual as rain like this had not fallen in December for about fifteen years. The result was that the atmosphere became very humid. My cue would not slide properly through my bridge, making it difficult for me to play good billiards. Jones was not similarly affected. Like other Indians, Jones skin was hard and as dry as a bone. I was at a disadvantage, whilst he was in his element, playing as if nothing unusual had happened. He made further breaks of 186, 269 and several over 100 and won the match by over 500 points.

At that stage, Jones was undefeated, but still had to play Leslie Driffield. I also had to play Leslie. If I beat him and he defeated Jones, it would result in a three-way tie. I felt that I still had a fighting chance, but it was not to be. My match with Driffield was a thriller, but he defeated me by the small margin of 135 points. I thought I had him beaten right up until the last 20 minutes, when I was leading by 54. At that stage I had two shots “on”. Driffield’s ball was on the brink of the top left-hand pocket and at the same time there was an easy in-off the red ball. Should I pot him and play safety, or should I continue to play the red ball? By doing so I felt that the minutes would tick away and my score would steadily increase.

I got in-off the red ball and left myself with a perfect position for an in-off into the centre pocket. I told myself the game was mine! After scoring nine points I shaped up for my next shot. However, in my excitement and to my complete disgust I fouled the cue ball. I could scarcely believe it! The balls were then in an easy position for Driffield to score a cannon and, playing like a bulldog, he ran to 203 unfinished, thus winning the game. It was a great disappointment to me. I felt that I had had the game won, only to lose it by sheer carelessness. I just had to accept the situation as best I could. Thus ended all my hopes of winning that Title.

The final looked promising for a great game between Wilson Jones, the idol of India, and Leslie Driffield, the dour Englishman. Leslie was not very popular with the crowds in India and no doubt that feeling extended back to the days of Great Britain’s influence in India. However, the two players commenced their match in brilliant form. At the end of the first hour of play the scores were level at 340, each player having contributed two breaks over 100. At the end of the second hour the scores were: Driffield 880, Jones 757. The second session was played in much the same fashion, with Driffield leading by 312. In the third session Driffield went steadily ahead to increase his lead to 450.

In the first hour of the final session when Driffield was leading by 600 and looked a certain winner a startling change came over the game. Jones made a fighting 240 break. Driffield then missed an easy shot, to let Jones in for another nice run of 199. By this time the excitement was intense. The crowd was favouring Jones in no uncertain manner. At this stage, each time Driffield visited the table the crowd commenced to chant and hand-clap. They refused to stop when requested. These outbursts were uncalled for and Leslie became very annoyed. He turned to the crowd and appeared, “what have I done to deserve this”? This only incited the crowd to even worse behaviour and pandemonium reigned. In all the excitement Leslie broken down and cried.

It was ten minutes before the crowd quietened down to allow the match to continue. Leslie had put away his cue, threatening to forfeit the match. I went over to him and made an effort to comfort him, but he said “I am finished. I’ll never come to India again”. I said “Don’t forfeit, Leslie. Don’t take any notice of the crowd. You can still win the championship. You are in front, so don’t throw it away”. I then took his cue from its case and handed it to him. After he had received a nod from his wife, he continued to play. At that stage he was 90 points ahead, with 20 minutes left for play. However, it was obvious that the demonstration had upset him and he was shaking like a leaf. Poor Leslie could not get a shot, and Wilson Jones went on to win by 105 points. It was a sad ending to a wonderful Championship Series. Leslie Driffield left India next day.

The Indian National Billiards Championship

Wilson Jones, who hailed from Bombay, became a national hero and his employer, Mr Visinji, invited my wife and me to visit that city. After three days of celebration at Calcutta we arrived at Bombay amid great excitement. We were met at Santa Cruz airport by dozens of Government officials, Mr Visinji and his family and many notable sporting personalities. A great fleet of limousines was made available to drive us all through the streets of Bombay. Nearly every thoroughfare was decorated with bunting and thousands of people thronged the streets. It was as if the President of the United States of America was arriving.

After a drive through the city lasting about two hours, we arrived at Mr Visinji’s home to attend a banquet in honour of Wilson Jones’ victory. After a wonderful evening, Mrs Cleary and I were driven to the Bombay Cricket Club – the famous Brabourne Stadium – which was to be our home for the next seven days. Although playing billiards was not the purpose of my visit to Bombay, I was asked to give several exhibitions. I played on about ten occasions, but not once was Wilson Jones asked to play. At the conclusion of this visit, Mr Visinji presented me with a beautiful handwoven tablecloth. It had been hand sewn with hundreds of little mirrors interwoven. It was a beautiful piece of work and is still in use in my home.

At the end of my stay in Bombay I, and Mrs Cleary, were given a send-off at the Palace at the Shah of Persia. This was a magnificent building constructed of white marble. The Shah only occupied the Palace on occasional visits to Bombay, but it must have cost an enormous amount of money to maintain the Palace as twenty servants were constantly employed there. Such is wealth! The proceedings commenced with an Indian luncheon served in the banquet room. About forty people were present, including some of the wealthiest residents of Bombay. No cutlery or crockery is provided to eat an Indian meal – one has to manipulate the food to the mouth with the thumb and first two fingers. The table setting provided each guest with a large banana leaf, about 24 inches in diameter. This was used as a plate and all food comprising the various courses was laid out on the banana leaf.

The main course was a mutton stew, flavoured with chilies, which was considered to be a great luxury, but it was almost impossible to eat it. Too add to my discomfort, I was extremely thirsty because of the heat, but the only beverage I felt it safe to drink was a soft drink served from a bottle. In Bombay at that time it was not possible to obtain beer or spirits as the State was subject to liquor laws which prevent the consumption of alcoholic drinks. I asked for a glass of lemonade and eventually, when I was feeling particularly parched, it was served to me. However, before I had time to take even a sip, the servant attending me accidentally dropped some food into the glass and thereupon removed it. I had to wait about half an hour before I was served with another glass of lemonade, and by that time the highly flavoured food had made me very thirsty indeed. Although Mrs Cleary was quite hungry, she was unable to eat the food. She neatly folded the banana leaf around the food and explained to the servant that she could not eat because she had had a meal shortly before. In a foreign land such as India it is very difficult for the Westerner to fit in with the eating habits of the local people who, incidentally were always most hospitable and almost overwhelming with their kindness.

After leaving Bombay I journeyed to Madras, where previously I had been approached by the Madras Billiards Association officials by means of a somewhat flattering reception, accompanied by garlands of flowers for Mrs Cleary. There was a purpose behind this cordial welcome as they wished me to play in the National Billiards and Snooker Championships which were to be held at Madras following the World Amateur Billiards Championship to be conducted at Calcutta. The officials were well aware that my entry in these events would be an additional draw card towards attracting spectators, as at the time of the invitation I was the reigning World Champion. This interlude meant a further stay of 21 days in India, and as my wife had not seen Madras I decided to accept the invitation to play in the “Nationals”, as they are called. However, I informed the Madras billiards officials that I would compete only under certain conditions:

  1. That first-class accommodation was provided for me and my wife.
  2. That I be granted an allowance of £3 a day.
  3. That I be provided with two plane tickets from Calcutta to Madras.

Upon arriving at Madras after the completion of the world’s championship series at Calcutta we were driven to the Air Lines Hotel, where we were provided with second-class accommodation – not at the beautiful Conamara Hotel which I had hoped for. I immediately contacted Mr Nardu, Secretary of the Madras Billiards Association who informed me that he had been unable to obtain accommodation at the Conamara. Later I discovered that his was not true. I had become very friendly with Sam Banerjee, of Calcutta, who was a competitor at Madras and who was staying at the Conamara at his own expense. He informed me that there were plenty of vacancies at that hotel – so the first condition I had imposed on the Madras officials was not met. Sam came from a very wealthy family and at this time was a considerable help to me. As he was about to leave the Conamara Hotel each morning on his way to practice he would phone me and arrange to pick me up in his taxi outside my hotel, thus saving me some little expense.

At the time of our visit to Madras it so happened that Marshall Tito was also visiting that city. One morning, when my wife and I were waiting outside the hotel for Sam to pick us up, there emerged from the crowd in the streets two young girls, no more than 19 years of age, who came up to us and shouted “You imperialist pigs!” and then spat in our faces. My wife was angry and wanted to remonstrate with the girls, but I immediately ushered her into the hotel. We felt that the insult was unwarranted, but no doubt all white people fell into the same category so far as the girls were concerned. However, my wife was extremely upset by the incident and, on the following day, became very ill with a high temperature. The manageress of the hotel called in a doctor and eventually engaged a nurse who scarcely left my wife’s side for three days. After about ten days Mrs Cleary’s temperature returned to normal and she slowly regained her health.

On another occasion when Sam Banerjee called at my hotel to pick me up I recall noticing six very well-built young men pulling along the road a dray carrying a load of jute. I remarked to Sam, “They do it the hard way here”. He replied “How much money do you think they earn?” He then continued, “In your money it is eight pence per day. Why, a traffic policeman only received eighteen pence a day”. Such is life in India!

Before the National Championships I practiced for one hour each morning at 8 o’clock. At several of these practice sessions I noticed in the audience an attractive young girl who seemed to be very interested in what I was doing on the table. One morning when a suitable opportunity presented itself she politely asked me if I gave coaching lessons, to which I replied “do you play?” She said “I mainly play snooker, but have made a break of 82 at billiards, also a 59 at snooker”. I was mildly astonished at this and invited her to play a few shots on the table. Thereupon she produced her own cue and proceeded to play billiards. A set of snooker balls was then produced and I placed the coloured balls on their respective spots. From in hand she then potted the six colours. Her stance, bridge and cue action were well nigh perfect, in the style of Joe Davis. I enquired how much practice she was able to get, and she replied “not as much as I would like. It is hard to get a game as there is not much opportunity here for girls to play”. She went on to explain that her father owned a billiard table, but after his death it had been sold.

It is interesting to contemplate what effect an outstanding woman player would have in the field of male competition in both billiards and snooker today. However, I venture to say that if this girl, whose name was A. Kamala Devi, could have been given suitable coaching she would have defeated British women players, including Joyce Gardner and others equally well known. Later I discovered that this girl was an actress and entertainer who performed on All-India Radio. On one occasion she took my wife and I on a visit to the radio station where she played for us a number of her recordings. Unfortunately, I have not heard of her since that time. Perhaps she gave up playing billiards and snooker because of lack of opportunity and encouragement.

The National Snooker Championship was to follow the Billiards Championship and competitors included Wilson Jones, who had just won the world’s Amateur Billiards Title, and Rafik Dina, both of whom represented Bombay. Other competitors were Sam Banerjee, from Calcutta, T. Salvaraj and V. Freer, from Madras, Mohamad Lafir, from Ceylon, and myself. Wilson Jones and I were seeded No. 1 and 2 in the billiards series, the other competitors not being given much chance of success – and thus it was proved. However, my semi-final match with Salvaraj was a thriller. Between the illness of my wife and the constant demands made upon me to play billiards I had become a little “browned-off”, and was not producing my best form in the match. Although Madras was a “dry” area, the President of the Billiards Association conveyed a message to me asking if I would like a “reviver”. It was apparent that the officials wanted me to appear in the Final against Wilson Jones, as that would ensure a good attendance. Within a couple of minutes of my indicating that I would like a drink I had passed to me a soft drink bottled containing whisky and water. The spectators naturally thought the bottle contained a non-alcoholic beverage, but after a couple of nips I felt like a new man. Soon afterwards I compiled a break of 373, which enable me to win the match.

In the meantime, Wilson Jones had won his way into the Final, but to my dismay he suddenly reported that he was ill, and announced that he was unable to play in the Final. Immediately the officials were in a state of panic. They were hoping for a full house and a good gate for the final match. The doctor who attended my wife during her illness was called to examine Wilson Jones, and he later confided to me that, in his opinion, Jones was not ill. After persuasion from the officials, Jones eventually consented to play, but he performed as though he were a sick man. Eventually I defeated him in the Final by over 500 points, thus winning the All-India Amateur Billiards Title.

The snooker championship series followed immediately, the same players taking part. After some excellent snooker from all players, I made the Final to meet M. Lafir, of Ceylon. The match was of seven frames, to be won by Lafir in the last frame when he potted the pink ball. I made the best break of the series with an 83. It proved a successful championship series for me as I won four of the five trophies contested – the All-India Billiards Title, Highest Billiards Break of 373, Runner-up in the Snooker Title and Highest Snooker Break of 83. These trophies are still displayed in my trophy cabinet at my home, together with many others I have won over the years.

A tour of Ceylon

A late invitation was extended to me by the Ceylon Billiards Association to make an eight-day tour of the island, giving exhibitions and lectures on billiards and snooker. As it was on my way home and as I had heard a lot about Ceylon, I accepted the invitation with the provision that first-class accommodation be provided, my friends in Bombay having informed me of living conditions on the island. I received a reply to the effect that my wishes would be complied with and that we were to stay at the Galle Face Hotel – a first-class hotel but which provided air-conditioning to VIPs only. Fortunately, we were classed as VIP. The hotel was famous for its European food, especially Australian beef, and naturally my first request was for some Australian steak. This was the best meal enjoyed by my wife and me since we had left Australia three months previously. Our stay at the Galle Face Hotel was almost too good to be true.

After three days of lectures and exhibitions in poor conditions, we left for Kandy and Nuralia, a journey of some 100 miles. We stopped overnight at Kandy, where I was scheduled to play an exhibition match. The table with which I was confronted was a “shocker”. It had so many uneven surfaces that it seemed like a scrubbing board! However, I managed to make a break of 100, but I was like making 500 on a good table.

We then journeyed to Nuralia. This trip was the worst that I encountered during the tour. The roads were in a terrible state, ascending steep hills and winding around elbow bends. When we arrived at our destination, I was too ill to play that evening. Next day I felt refreshed, for at least Nuralia had a cool climate.

I played at the Kenya Club and among the crowd was a fair sprinkling of Europeans. The table was excellent and the conditions to my liking, there being no humidity. My opponent was the local champion, who had a big reputation – hence the large attendance. Unfortunately, he struck me at my best. The game was 600 up, and at the finish the score board read: Cleary: 600, Nankeo: 69. I rounded off the game with 369 unfinished. We then played the best of three frames of snooker. Nankeo won the first frame and I won the other two. In the last frame I ran out of balls with a 98 break, which gave the crowd much pleasure. After these exhibition games came further entertainment. A four-piece orchestra went into action, with food and drink in plentiful supply, although my wife and I carefully by-passed the Indian food. The entertainment concluded at 4.00am. Ceylon is noted for its tea plantations and one gentleman told me that he would forward a chest of tea to me in Australia. I am still awaiting the arrival of the tea!

Next morning the trip to Colombo was a nightmare. Travelling down hill was worse than going up. It was like an Indian told me, “An elephant will catch you travelling uphill if he wants to, but he hasn’t a chance downhill”. We were relieved to reach Colombo, but a shock was in store for us. Instead of taking us to the Galle Face Hotel, our driver delivered us to a third class hotel, and informed us that we were to stay there for the remainder of our visit. My wife and I were furious and immediately protested. The driver said that it was the President’s instruction. I said, you get in touch with the President and tell him it’s the Galle Face or nothing”. After two hours on the telephone, he received permission to take us to the Galle Face Hotel, but we were given a room with no air-conditioning.

This was too much and I refused to give any further exhibitions. I then got in touch with BOAC seeking a return booking to Australia, although three more days of my tour remained. The booking clerk at BOAC stated it was impossible to get me an immediate booking, but when three pounds sterling was placed in his hand, he said he would give us the first cancellation. Next morning, we were on our way back to Australia.

The 1964 and 1967 World Amateur Billiards Championships

Although I retained my form during the ensuing years, I found that the continued strain of competition matches and many years of hard training, together with the fact that I had achieved the world’s highest honour for an amateur player, was affecting my keenness and my eyesight was starting to fail.

By 1964 Jim Long, who had been improving all the time, had caught up with me. In that year he won the Australian Championship and became eligible to represent Australia in the World Title event to be contested in New Zealand. Unfortunately for Jim, he was unable to make the trip because of pressure of business, and I was sent in his stead. This was my seventh appearance in world championship matches. This series was won by Wilson Jones, who defeated Jack Karneham of England, I finished fourth, but never at any stage reached top form.

In 1967 I won my twentieth Victorian Amateur Billiards Title. And then announced my retirement. However, many friends persuaded me to change my mind and I continued to play, but again Jim Long proved too good for me and defeated me in the Australian Championship in 1967. At this time Jim was available to travel to Colombo for the World Championship. However, a prominent Sydney businessman and a good friend of mine, Mr Keith Lord, offered to sponsor me to Colombo if permission could be obtained from the Australian Amateur Billiards Association to allow me to make the trip. The Association was agreeable, and I am indeed grateful to the Association and to Mr Lord for his generosity and kindness. So far as I am aware, no other private individual has ever sponsored an Australian Amateur Billiards Player on an overseas trip to contest a World Championship Series.

On this occasion, Jim Long was Australia’s Official Representative and I was the second string. I told Jim that we would find it difficult to win in Ceylon because of the climatic conditions. Jim dearly loves the cold weather and the strip rubber cushions. After all, billiards is a winter game and it is difficult for many players when the World Championship is contested in a country that has a hot climate. I venture to say that Jim and I were the two most knowledgeable players in this series, but because of the climatic conditions we were unable to exploit our style of top of the table play and had to revert to all round billiards. To add to our discomfort, we had to resort to using gloves in an endeavour to combat the problem of perspiration. Needless to say, we were both unplaced.

Leslie Driffield eventually ran out the winner. He proved just too good for the opposition, with his painfully slow all round billiards. I am sure that he did it on purpose to upset his opponents. On one occasion he took 47 minutes to make a 371 break, although in the prevailing conditions it was a good effort. M. Lafir, of Ceylon was runner-up, but he would not have come within reach of the first ten players in Australia. So much for the 1967 World Championship Series. Nevertheless, we met many kind and hospitable people who, after all, are not to blame because their climate is not conducive to good billiards.

Late in 1968, I suffered a severe illness, with the result that I lost the use of my right arm. However, excellent medical treatment and therapy have enabled me to recover my health, but my touch is not the same; thus my competitive billiards life has come to an end. It has been with great sadness and regret that I have had to leave the competition side of the game, which enabled me to make so many wonderful friends, both among my opponents and the many followers of the game. Early in my billiards career I entertained three main ambitions: Firstly, to visit England, the home of billiards; secondly, to win a world championship; and thirdly; to make a break of 1000. I managed to achieve the first two, but to my lasting regret my third objective has eluded me.

Modern Billiards (1910 Edition)

by John Roberts Jnr.

JOHN ROBERTS THE YOUNGER: A SKETCH.

John Roberts, the famous son of a father no less famous in his day, was born at Ardwick, near Manchester, on August 15th, 1847, his father being at the time in charge of the billiard-room of the Union Club, Manchester.

When he was about ten years of age his father took the billiard-room at the George Hotel, Liverpool, and the family removed to that town. Young Roberts attended school at the Mechanics’ Institute, Mount Pleasant, but the love of billiards was in his blood, and no sooner was he released from school than he used to make the best of his way to his father’s billiard-room and knock the balls about for so long as he was allowed, which depended upon whether his father was present or not. If the elder was absent, young John would have fine times with Johnny Herst, one of the markers, who afterwards became a well-known player himself. It was from this Herst that young Roberts obtained much of his early instruction, if indeed he ever had any guidance beyond his own observation.

One of the regular customers at the “George” billiard-room at this time was Mr. James Barber, well known for his connection with the turf He was a most enthusiastic billiard-player, and it was his custom to gamble heavily on any game he played. His most frequent opponent was a Mr. Hugh Williams, and they usually played games of 50 points up for too or too, and the stakes in ready money were always stuffed into one of the pockets of the table. Mr. Williams always conceded Mr. Barber a start of 15 with the red hazard thrown in-that is, the red ball, instead of being placed on the spot, was put into position for the easy loser. Barber was so enamoured of the game that he could not tear himself away from the table; in fact, on one occasion he had gone down to Liverpool to see the race for the Liverpool Cup, for which a horse of his had been heavily backed; but he got to playing billiards at the “George,” and could not make up his mind to leave, with the result that though his horse won the cup he did not see the race! When playing billiards he would bet with the spectators on almost every stroke, stopping now and again to say in broad dialect, “Nathen, aw think a’ll hev a little settlin’.” He was a good example of the men who make and lose fortunes on the turf. Of humble origin, he made a large fortune by horse-racing, and though he was up to all the tricks of the turf, his knowledge did not prevent his losing it again, so that he eventually died in very poor circumstances.

The elder Roberts afterwards left the “George” for the Queen’s Hotel, in Lime Street, and it was here that the younger Roberts first noticed a trick of his father’s, which ultimately had some bearing upon the introduction of the rule imposing a penalty for knocking a ball off the table. At that time there was no such penalty, and it was a common practice of old John’s, if his opponent’s score stood at 96 or 97, to knock his own ball and the red off the table, and so give himself a chance. The walls of the room were covered with dents at the height of the table where the balls had been driven against them with force, and on one occasion he actually drove a ball through a window nine feet from the ground. This was thought to be such an extraordinary feat that the pane was not put in for some time afterwards, the empty sash being covered with a curtain and shown as a curiosity.

The family came to London in 1860, and young John took his place as a regular assistant in the subscription-room of his father’s rooms at Savile House, in Leicester Square. He says that money used to change hands very freely in this subscription-room, which was the resort of many well-known men about town, the late Lord Westbury and the late Earl of Dudley being two of the most regular players.

Savile House was burned down in 1864, and the elder Roberts went to Australia. He returned in 1865, and took billiard-rooms in Wellington Street, where the subject of this sketch played constantly

The champion says that to the best of his recollection the first handicap he won was in 1866, but he has no particulars, and only remembers that his opponent in the final was H. Evans.

In 1867 he won a big handicap promoted by W. Dufton and played in the St. James’s Minor Hall. The record of this handicap is valuable as showing the status of the different players before the public at that time, so it is given here in full.

Play commenced on Monday, January 14th, 1867. The heats were 400 up, and there were twenty-four players.

John Roberts, sen. London owes 100
C. Hughes London rec. 10
Christmas London rec. 10
J. Bennett London rec. 10
J. Herst London rec. 10
John Roberts, jun London rec. 35
W. Green Liverpool rec. 70
W. Dufton London rec. 70
W. Cook, jun London rec. 70
H. Evans London rec. 70
T. Morris London rec. 70
G. Davis London rec. 70
A. Hughes London rec. 70
G. Mulberry Twickenham rec. 70
F. Symes (winner of a handicap at the Philharmonic) rec. 100
S. Bunting Manchester rec. 110
W. Moss Manchester rec. 110
G. Craggs London rec. 115
Gus Baillie London rec. 115
G. Collins Bristol rec. 120
J. Bradley Scarborough rec. 120
Bancroft Manchester rec. 120
Murray Leeds rec. 120
T. Ottoway London rec. 130

The results as far as Roberts was concerned were: –

FIRST GAME.-John Roberts, jun., beat W. Moss by 32.

Breaks.-Roberts: 11, 23, 11, 14, 16, 17, 28, 15, 21, 20, 10, 10, 15, 11, 12. Moss: 10, 29, 12, 19, 21, 29, 10, 12.

Betting 5 to 1 against John Roberts, jun., for the handicap.

TENTH GAME.-John Roberts, jun., beat John Herst by 116. Time, 1h. 21m.

Breaks.-Herst: 13, 12, 10, 12, 48, 17, 14, 29, 19, 30. Roberts: 30, 11, 49, 15, 26, 14, 25, 15, 117, 19.

In the twelfth game John Roberts, sen., beat Dufton, and afterwards was freely backed for the handicap at evens, and 3 to 1 was taken about the chance of John Roberts, jun.

THIRTEENTH GAME.-John Roberts, jun., beat H. Evans by 101 in 1h. 17m.

At the start of this heat the odds on Roberts were 5 to 4. Towards the finish, after he had made a break of 53, £50 to £1 was laid on him. Other breaks were 51 and 63.

FOURTEENTH GAME.-John Roberts, sen., beat G. Davis by 90.

FIFTEENTH GAME AND FINAL.-John Roberts, jun., beat John Roberts, sen., by 97 in 1h. 28m.

Betting level.

Breaks.-John Roberts, jun.: 13, 61, 22, 14, 21, 48, 17, 50, 27, 13, 19. John Roberts, sen.: 45, 37, 31, 19, 55, 22, 42, 12, 22, 12

In the final heat, according to the terms of the handicap, John Roberts, son., had to score 500, while his son had to make 375. The elder man actually scored 403, or only 28 more than his son.

At this period the subject of our sketch had charge of the billiard-room at the Exchange Hotel, Newcastle-on-Tyne. This room was frequented by all the best people in the town, but the busiest time was when the race-meetings were on. Then there were high jinks, and the billiard-room was often kept going the whole night.

During Roberts’ tenancy of this room, on the occasion of a race-meeting, the late Sir William Elliott played billiards the whole of the night with a Pontefract bookmaker named Greaves. During the night, in the course of an argument between Sir William, who owned horses, and a Nottingham bookmaker named Nichol, who was also an owner, about riding, a match was made to be decided the following day, each to ride his own horse. The wager was for either £500 or £200 a side and the two horses. Owing probably to the ‘`all-night sitting,” which had a greater effect upon Sir William than upon the seasoned Nichol, the former was not able to do full justice to his horse, and accordingly lost the match.

Roberts played in another handicap about this time at the Post Office Hotel, Manchester. The players were almost the same as in the St. James’s Hall Handicap. In this competition, however, young John owed 25 in 300 up, and his father owed 100. Young Roberts beat a player named Syddal in the first round, but in the second round he was beaten by W. Moss, of Manchester, the scores reading: Moss 300, Roberts 297. Moss won the handicap, the second prize falling to W. Green.

In the last game of the second round of this competition there was a good illustration of old-time tactics. The game was called, Green 297, Johnson 294; Green to play. With the object of leaving Johnson only one ball to play at and that ball on the spot, Green knocked the red and his own ball off the table. As already explained, this manoeuvre was often resorted to, the elder Roberts being its originator. In the result it served its purpose here, for Green won the game.

W. Moss, the winner of this handicap, was about the best known player in Lancashire. He was possessed of great nerve, and was, moreover, a great gambler. He was at the Chester Meeting the year that Beeswing won the Chester Cup At the commencement of the meeting he had very bad luck; and had come down to his last five shillings. He put this on a winner, and then commenced “playing up.” He backed winner after winner, and when the time arrived for the Chester Cup to be run he had quite a respectable amount in hand, which he planked down to the last shilling on Beeswing and won £1,100.

He and Julius Johnson were always antagonistic. They were pretty nearly equal, not only at billiards, but at many other things, and they never met without having a dispute, with a consequent wager. They would fight, swim, play billiards, or anything else. It was not very material to them what they battled about, but they must battle about something. It is said that on one occasion, on a Sunday morning, when they were got up in silk hats, etc., they were walking on opposite sides of the river at Oxford. Though they were separated by the river, they must have the inevitable argument, which ended by both of them plunging into the stream to settle it in the middle. These two men played many matches in Manchester, when the bets would amount to thousands. Prior to a big match of this sort they would both go into training, but never in the same town; that would not have done at all. Moss usually selected Southport as his training quarters.

C. Hughes, another player in these handicaps, was a fine exponent of billiards, and at that time a great rival to J. Bennett. Bowles, Hughes, and Bennett were constantly meeting, and used to play at evens. Hughes afterwards went to India, and died there about 1873, on his way to Calcutta after visiting the Nawab of Dacca.

Christmas, the head marker at Pook’s Club, St. James’s Street (afterwards the “Cocoa Tree”), another competitor, was in those days supposed to be quite as good as anyone, except John Roberts, sen.

J. Herst, who has been previously mentioned as being a marker with old John Roberts at Liverpool, was also a very good player. After Cook had got into the form which led him to aspire to the championship, Herst beat him at evens in Scotland.

W. M. Green, who also was in the St. James’s Hall and Manchester Handicaps, now keeps a large billiard saloon in Glasgow, where he has been for years.

W. Dufton, who promoted the St. James’s Hall Handicap, was selected by Earl Spencer to give lessons in billiards to the present King, and afterwards wrote a book on the game which he called Practical Billiards. In 1865 he played a great match for £1,000 with a well-known quasi-amateur named E. Green, who laid £600 to £400 on himself. Dufton won, and his backers thereupon presented him with an illuminated testimonial and a purse of 210 sovereigns. This testimonial was picked up in a saleroom a few years ago by William Mitchell, and is now in his possession. Dufton committed suicide, and Green, who at the time of the match was very well off, died in London about three years ago in the most extreme poverty.

H. Evans, another of the players, is still wielding the cue in Australia, and a few years ago was champion of that continent.

G. Davis, another of the players, was a turf commission agent, his principal employer being a gentleman named Nicholson, who raced under the name of Graham. As to one of this gentleman’s horses, Gamos, who won the Oaks of 1870, Roberts tells a story.

He says that George Fordham, who was to ride, strongly advised him to back it, and meeting Mr. Hugh Williams, previously mentioned as being Mr. Barber’s constant opponent at billiards, asked him to get £5 on, at the same time handing him a note for the amount. Mr. Williams replied that Roberts might consider it done. The horse won at 20 to 1, and Roberts, again meeting Mr. Williams about an hour after the race, asked him for £105. He said, ” Good God! I forgot all about it, and did not put the money on, but I must pay,” and pay he did.

About the end of 1867 Roberts played a series of games at pyramids with L. Kilkenny, of Huddersfield. The match was the best of twenty-one games for £50, Roberts conceding a start of one ball in each game. The score was ten games each, and seven balls all on the twenty-first game. Kilkenny got the remaining ball, and thus won the match. Roberts describes this as the closest and most exciting match he ever played.

Writing of Kilkenny brings to mind a funny story he used to tell. He was playing a match against a player named Bishop, and in the course of the game he made a simple masse stroke. This stroke was almost unknown in England at that time, and a pitman, who was in one of the top tiers of seats, was so overcome by what he thought was the unnatural behaviour of the ball that he started for the table, plunging through the spectators, and clearing his way by swinging his arms about. Arriving on the floor, he proceeded to shake Kilkenny violently by the hand, at the same time fairly shouting in a very excited way in broad Northumbrian, ” By the holy, did ye ivvor see such a shot in yor life! ”

Roberts left Newcastle in the beginning of 1868, and spent most of that year between York and Scarborough playing pool and billiards. At the end of 1868 and beginning of 1869 he went on a tour in and about Lancashire with his father and William Cook. This was the time when Cook began to show promise of his future excellence by making breaks of 300 and upwards. He was then so much better than young Roberts that he used to beat him three times out of four, and had his physique and self-control been equal to that of the present champion, he might have remained his superior to the end of the chapter.

In those days, however, professional billiard players led very Bohemian lives, and the all-night sittings, the drinking, smoking, and other things were responsible for many good men losing form and weakening their constitutions. Roberts was no better than his contemporaries, but in addition to having the advantage of a strong constitution, he soon discovered that extreme Bohemianism and excellence at billiards do not keep company for long.

Somewhere about this time Roberts played a very sensational match at the Bush Hotel, Manchester, with W. Timbrel, giving him a start of 300 in 1,000. Timbrel finished the game with a break of over 100 with Roberts within 9 or 11 points of the game. During the course of this match one of the spectators actually laid £100 to £1 on Roberts and of course, lost his money. Nowadays there is practically no betting or gambling at all on professional billiard matches, but at that time any match between professionals was sure to be productive of very heavy wagering, and in subscription and public rooms the amount of money which changed hands was enormous.

In December, 1868, a match which was productive of much interest and consequent speculation was played at the old Bentinck Club, which is now the Vaudeville Theatre. The players were John Roberts, jun., and W. Cook, and the stakes were £100 a side. Roberts was favourite at the commencement of the game, but Cook speedily deprived him of that position, and the game was called 346 to 288 in Cook’s favour. Roberts then began to gain on him, and shortly after entering the fifth 100 he was again backed at odds on. Roberts won this game by 92, and his father, who was present, was so struck by the excellence of the play that he stated publicly that he doubted his ability to beat either of the players on the form displayed. Cook however, shortly afterwards evened up matters by beating Roberts easily in a match of 1,000 up at St. James’s Hall.

Now occurred the first match for the championship, and here are some remarks of the younger Roberts concerning it. He says:-

“I fancy that it was about the beginning of 1869 that the idea first occurred to Cook to challenge my father for the championship. At any rate, I quite recollect Tom Cook saying about that time that he would back his nephew to play Roberts, sen., level if Will kept on improving as he did. When it became known that William Cook was actually going to challenge, I tried to persuade my father to retire and let me play instead, but he had the idea that he could not be beaten, and would not, therefore, give way. In vain his friends put before him the value of retiring with an unbeaten record, and assured him that he would have a magnificent testimonial given to him if he retired. He knew as well as anyone what Cook’s abilities were, and could not disguise from himself the fact that it was by no means a good thing for him to beat Cook, but he would play.

“I was present at the match, which took place at St. James’s Hall on February 11th, 1870, and, although odds of 5 to 1 were laid successfully on Cook, I certainly think that Cook was very lucky to win. He made his last break of 60 odd off a fluke, and on many occasions during the match the balls went very favourably for him and ran very adversely for my father. Again, the offer made by Lord Dudley while the match was in progress to give my father £1,000 in the event of his winning rather upset his play for a time, and I have little doubt that it tended to defeat its own object by making him too anxious to win.

“During the match W. Dufton acted as a self-appointed master of the ceremonies. At the interval Dufton caused considerable amusement by advising the spectators to spend the most of the few minutes allowed in recovering their seats. As there were a large number of people standing, the hall being crowded and standing room at a premium, it was almost a certainty that anyone who left his seat for the interval would have to stand for the remainder of the time.

“If my father had won this match, he would probably have retired. If he had not done so, he would only have been putting off the evil day, as he must have been beaten a very short time after. After the match he had for a while the intention of trying to regain his position, but his play got worse, and with Cook and myself improving daily, he soon saw that it would be useless to make the attempt.

“In estimating my father’s position as a billiard player, it must be borne in mind that for some time previous to this match he had had but little practice, and, in fact, never had more than could be obtained by playing an occasional match in public and by playing at his own rooms. Against this, Cook and I were always on the billiard table, and it is not surprising that while we, in the course of the four years from 1866 to 1870, improved beyond all expectation, my father deteriorated, or was at least left standing still. If the amount of practice my father had and the different conditions of play in his day and the Present be taken into consideration, I think that most people will agree with me in the opinion I have formed that he was a greater player than has been seen since. Had he taken the advice of his friends and retired without playing Cook, he would now, doubtless, be quoted by competent authorities as the greatest billiard player of any time.”

Immediately after the conclusion of the first championship match young Roberts challenged the winner, a friend in the North of England promising to find the necessary £100. A week or two before the time fixed for the match this friend suffered a serious financial loss, and asked Roberts to try and find the money elsewhere. This he was unable to do in the time, and it looked as if the match would fall through. His friend, however, eventually found the money, and the match took place on April 14th, 1870, Roberts winning by no less than 473 points.

Roberts states that just before starting play he asked Cook how he felt, and he replied, ” Oh, pretty well for a man who is going to be beaten.” During the course of the match Roberts took a bet of £100 to £10 that he would win by 500 points, and lost it by 22 points.

Roberts was not allowed to rest on his laurels, for he was immediately challenged by Alfred Bowles, whom he easily beat by 246 points on the 30th May following. It may be doubted whether Bowles was ever really up to championship form, as he was always considered to be about 300 in 1,000 inferior to the elder Roberts. The strength of his game lay in cannon play, and it may have been this fact which led him and his friends to think that he would have a chance for the championship, as the small size of the pockets discounted hazard play. After this match he appears to have recognised the fact that he had attempted something beyond his class, for he never challenged for the championship again.

Bowles once played the elder Roberts a one-handed match for £100 a side. The match was played at Bowles’s rooms, in Brown Street, Manchester, and, as might have been expected, Roberts won easily.

Five days after the championship match with Bowles Roberts played on the same day two matches of 1,000 up with Cook. The first one was played in the afternoon at the Crystal Palace, opposite the Handel Orchestra, and Roberts had the best of it all the way, winning by 226, the best breaks being 116 and 100 by Roberts and 104 by Cook. The second match was played in the evening at Cook’s rooms, at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Paddington, when Cook won by 53.

A few days after this again (June 9th) Roberts played a somewhat sensational exhibition game at Birmingham with Alf. Bennett. He gave Bennett a start of 300 in 1,000, and actually caught him in the last 100, but for all that Bennett won by 77.

Alf Bennett was a bit of a humourist in his way, and it was sometimes difficult to know whether his remarks were in jest or earnest. For instance, he once told Roberts quite seriously that he had improved in his play so much that he had not had a fluke for three years!

Roberts had to play for the championship again on November 20th. His opponent was Joseph Bennett, who succeeded in beating him by 95 points. Roberts thinks that Bennett’s victory was much in the nature of a fluke, and was more due to Roberts having got careless in his play and deteriorated, owing to keeping late hours and not taking care of himself generally, than to the excellence of Bennett’s game. He says further that the strength of Bennett’s game lay in his losing hazard play, and that though he played what might be described as a splendid mathematical game, he ought not to be classed with those players who have the resource to make a game for themselves when they get into difficulty.

By the way, the honour of inventing the spot-barred game rightly belongs to Bennett, though it is generally ascribed to Roberts. So far back as 1869 Bennett issued a challenge to play anyone in the world “spot hazard barred,” and this was long enough before Roberts thought of discarding the spot stroke. When Roberts did make the spot-barred game his own, and had invented the break-making methods which every professional now aims at acquiring, someone asked Joe Bennett what he thought of it. “Think of it?” said Bennett, ” why it’s a devil of a game. He goes out for all sorts of strokes-and gets ’em too ! ”

Bennett was always very fond of dogs, and generally had several of them about him. A friend once asked him how it was that he showed such a predilection for canine society, and he is said to have replied, “I don’t know. I suppose it’s because they are the only pals I have in the world, and I can give ’em a good hiding if I like without their rounding on me.”

About this time Cook’s rooms at 99, Regent Street, were the gathering-place for men about town who liked a game of pool. The pools were open to the world-anyone could play-but professionals were only allowed two lives, and as may be imagined with this handicap, they did not by any means have the best of it. The play was not high-three shillings the pool and one shilling a life, but it was quite possible to lose pretty heavily. Roberts used to be a regular player there, and says that on the whole he does not think that he got anything out of it. It was by no means unusual for him to come away, after an afternoon’s play, £5 or £10 out of pocket. He says in these pools he came across some of the best hazard strikers he ever met.

In those days a public billiard-room of good class was worth having, for club life had not taken such a hold as now, and the best amateurs used to do most of their play in public rooms. The attractiveness of pool, too, always made the rooms busy, but nowadays it is very much the exception to see pool played in a public room, and it is not played at all to anything like the extent it was.

In December, 1870, Bennett (champion), Cook, and Roberts played a series of matches at the Town Hall, Manchester. The opening match (750 up) was between Cook and Roberts, and Cook won by 428 points, making a break of 304, which included 59 spots. The same afternoon he beat Roberts two games out of three at pyramids. In the evening they met again, when Roberts won the billiard game by the narrow margin of 24, and also took the rubber at pyramids. The following day Cook and Bennett played, and Cook won all the games, the billiards by 155 and 31, and the pyramids each time by 2 to 1.

In January, 1871, Roberts met Bennett again, this time at the Corn Exchange, Manchester. The game was 1,000 up, and lasted three hours. It was well contested, Roberts only winning by 30, his best break being 91. A day or two previous to this he had defeated Cook at the Maypole Inn at Nottingham in a game of 800 up at billiards, and the best of twelve games of pyramids.

The fifth match for the championship was played at St. James’s Hall on January 30th, 1871, and resulted in the decisive defeat of Bennett by 363 points. Roberts was so confident of his ability to reverse the result of the previous match that he did not train or practise, though in the game itself he played very carefully, and did not throw away any chances. There was a great deal of betting on this match, odds of 6 to 4 being laid on the winner.

Between this time and May 25th, when Roberts met Cook in the sixth match for the championship, they played five matches together at Paddington, Bala, Great Yarmouth, Hartlepool, and Boston. Of these matches Cook won four, so that it was no wonder that he was made favourite when the championship contest came on. At one period of the game Cook was 150 ahead, but Roberts passed him at 624, and was himself caught at 668, and he did not get in front again until Cook was 872. Roberts absolutely threw this game away. He only wanted 15 to win while Cook wanted 36. Roberts had an easy screw cannon to go at, which should have left the balls together, making his winning a certainty, but he missed the stroke, leaving excellent position for his opponent, who ran out.

In the month previous to this match (April 21st) Roberts played a match of 1,000 up at Hull with William Mitchell, then known as “Bradley’s Boy”. Young Mitchell on this occasion received a start of 500, but he managed to win by no less than 452, and also won the three games of pyramids which followed. In speaking of Mitchell, Roberts says that he has always thought that if the Sheffield player had taken more care of himself he might have made a bold bid for premier honours. Almost everyone who knows Mitchell is much of this opinion, and the glimpses of marvellous form which he even now gives us occasionally amply confirm it.

On January 2nd, 1872, Cook and Roberts played 1,000 up at the White Bear Hotel, Manchester. The highest breaks were 127 by Roberts and 111 and 100 by Cook. Cook won this game mainly by spot-stroke play, and, bearing in mind the mammoth “all in” breaks which were the rule only a few years afterwards, it is noticeable that his highest break was only 111.

Roberts tells the following story of the after-proceedings on this occasion:-

“In those days it was hardly considered the thing to go to bed before the small hours, and after the match Cook and I sat up with others talking billiards, and, as was also the custom of the time, taking a fair quantity of drink. About two o’clock Cook and I were engaged in a hot discussion as to our respective merits at pyramids, and by way of settling the question, I offered there and then to give him a ball. We adjourned to the billiard-room with several of the company, but we played so slowly that they filed out one by one, until Cook and I had the room to ourselves.

“About four o’clock a gentleman named Ainsworth, who was at the time the secretary of the Gun Club, came in, and hearing from the night porter or someone in the smoking-room that we were in the billiard-room, he came up. At this time we had been playing for nearly two hours, and we had been playing so much safety, and, moreover, the sitting up had so affected our play that in all this time neither of us had taken a ball. We both owed three balls, and had we continued playing, the game might reasonably have been expected to finish some time the next night.

“Mr. Ainsworth, seeing the position of affairs, suggested that we should postpone the game until another evening, and we readily fell in with the idea, as we were both heartily sick of the game. This incident led to my making a match to play Cook the best of twenty-one games of pyramids for £50 a side, I owing a ball in each game. We played at the ‘White Bear,’ on February 13th, with the result that I won by eleven games to seven.

“On one of these occasions I met a gentleman named Washington Taylor, an American resident in Manchester. He was a great frequenter of the Albion Hotel, then perhaps the place in Manchester most resorted to by billiard players. On the occasion I refer to he invited Cook and me to go up and play a game. We did so, and Cook won. Afterwards, sitting in the smoke-room, the talk turned on hotels, and I, having already had some experience of hotels in all parts of the United Kingdom, was airing my knowledge a little, when Taylor, turning to me, said, ‘Why, you haven’t any big hotels in this country at all. If ever I see you in America I’ll show you what I call a big hotel.’ Strange to say, some four years afterwards, when passing through San Francisco on my way to Australia, and having to stay there a few days, I put up at the Palace Hotel, then perhaps the largest hotel in the world, and going in at the door, I came face to face with Mr. Taylor, who hailed me with the remark, spoken as if we had only been arguing about the matter the day before, ‘Ah, now I can show you what a big hotel is like!’ ”

It was in 1872 or thereabouts that Roberts took the billiard-rooms at 82, Market Street, Manchester, now in the occupation of Edward Diggle. He retained these rooms until 1876, and for about three years of the time he had them he was a total abstainer and won £2,100 in stakes.

It was in January, 1872, too, that John Bennett promoted a handicap at the Nell Gwynne Tavern, near the Adelphi Theatre. The heats were 500 up, and the final was 1,000 up.

The players and the starts were as follows:-

W. Cook; John Roberts, jun; Joseph Bennett [each owed 100]

Kilkenny; Harry Evans; Alfred Bennett; John Bennett; Fred Bennett; Stanley; Taylor; Richards; T. Morris [75 start]

R. Inman; R. Wilson J [100 start]

John Stammers; W. Hinton [125 start]

Roberts was beaten by Morris in the first round by 89, and Morris was beaten in the final by Joseph Bennett, who won the handicaps.

On January 25th, 1872, Cook and Roberts played two matches at the Angel Hotel, Macclesfield, and Roberts won both. With the exception of the pyramid match above mentioned, they did not meet again until they played the eighth match for the championship on March 4th. Roberts was dead out of form on this occasion, while Cook was in very good trim. Cook won by 201 points, and in the course of the game made a break of 116, which up to that time was the highest break ever made in a match on a championship table. As to his doings during the summer of i872, Roberts says:-

“After this match I played but little exhibition billiards until the winter, being engaged very much in racing. In the racing centres there used to be a deal of high play at billiards and pool in the evenings, and though I must admit that at times I won some money, generally speaking, I was too heavily penalised to make much. As I have before mentioned, those were the days of late sittings and much drink, and had I continued at this mode of life I am afraid that my billiards would have suffered permanently.

“A prominent figure in these gatherings, and an enthusiastic billiard player, was E. Green, who died only a couple of years ago in abject poverty. Green was to be found in the billiard-room in one of the hotels affected by racing-men at every meeting. He was, in my opinion, one of the gamest players that ever played, and played pool as well as anyone, especially on the tables we used to come across in these provincial hotels, where neither the tables nor the balls were calculated to enhance scientific play. Green was a very successful owner of racehorses, and was on one occasion reported to have won over £100,000 on two races. His good fortune on the turf, however, was more than counterbalanced by his ill-luck in other lines, and he was eventually brought to extreme poverty, not, as might be supposed, by his turf speculations, but by commercial losses. If I remember rightly, one ship went down which meant a loss to him of some £34,000. Up to the end of his life he used to lament the fact that he had embarked in commercial speculation, and was firmly of opinion that had he stuck to the turf he might have died a rich man. He once played a match at billiards with Dufton, the professional player, for £1,000, Green laying £600 to £400. Dufton won, but it was generally considered that he was rather lucky to do so.

“The last I heard of poor Green previous to his death was of his being in the habit of frequenting a licensed house at Walham Green, where he used to pick up a few coppers at ‘shell out.’ As to this, my informant told me the following story: Green, just before his death, suffered from a trembling in the hands, and generally looked the very last man to be successful in a game of either billiards or pool. Well, one day-it was an early-closing day-he went into the billiard-room above mentioned and found about a dozen shop-assistants and so forth playing ‘shell out.’ He diffidently asked to be allowed to take a cue, and the players, after some demur from one of them as to the iniquity of ‘shacking’ the poor old gentleman, let him in. Now it was a curious fact that, though ordinarily his hands shook as though he had the palsy, no sooner had he got his left on the table and made his bridge, than they were as steady as those of any of the company, and it was found at the finish of the game that the ‘poor old gentleman’ had pretty nearly all the money in the crowd.”

The antagonism with Cook was renewed on November 9th, 1872, when they played two matches of 500 up at Pursell’s, in Cornhill. They each won one of these games, but Roberts won the best of eleven games of pyramids by taking six games to two.

Pursell’s was another great pool-room. As at Cook’s, the game usually played was threes and ones, and the tables were going continuously from about 10.30 in the morning until seven or eight at night, when the place closed.

Before the year ended the rivals met again at the Grosvenor Hotel, Blackburn. In the afternoon they played 500 up and the best of six games at pyramids, and Cook won both events. In the evening they played 1,000 up at billiards, and Cook again won by 179.

It was Cook and Roberts again in the first half of 1873. On January 1st and 2nd they played two games of 1,000 up at the Hen and Chickens Hotel, Manchester. Cook won the first by 299, and Roberts won the second by 236. In the first game Roberts’s best break was 114 (22 spots), but Cook made what was then considered the magnificent break of 396 (110 consecutive spots) and another of 112 (22 spots). In the second game the best breaks were: Roberts, 109 (27 spots), 50 (9 spots), 63, 59, 46 (these three breaks being all-round), 73 (mostly nurseries), 51, 65 (7 spots), 65 (9 spots), and an all-round 101 unfinished. Cook made 66 (9 spots), 122 (19 spots), 55 (16 spots), 141 (30 spots), 65 (20 spots), and 104 (11 spots). At pyramids they left off equal, each of them winning one of the sets of five games.

On January 27th and 28th they played a somewhat sensational match at the Waverley Hall, Edinburgh. The conditions were that four games should be played-two of 1,000 and two of 750-the player making the highest aggregate to be the winner. Cook won the first game of 1,000 up by 259, and the following game of 750 by 516, thus securing a lead of 775. On the second day Roberts won the 1,000 up by 405, and the 750 by 392, thus beating Cook’s aggregate by 22 points, and winning the gold medal which was offered as the prize. Roberts also beat Cook at pyramids on this occasion.

They again met on February 23rd, at the Albert Institute Hall, Dundee. There they played two games of 1,000 up, and Roberts won both, the first by 248, and the second by 146. Cook won the best of nine games at pyramids. Again, on the afternoon and evening of March 4th, they played two games of 750 up. Roberts won the afternoon game by 131, and Cook won the evening game by 219. They played the best of seven games of pyramids at each sitting, and each won a turn.

They met again at the same place on March 5th, when Roberts beat Cook by 74 in 750 up in the afternoon, and by 53 in the evening. They each held their own at pyramids.

Cook won two games which they played on April 1st, 1873, at the White Hart Hotel, Lewes. The first game of 500 up he won by 148, and the second of 1,000 up by 387. Cook was again successful in two games played on the following day at his rooms at 99, Regent Street. In the afternoon the game was 500 up and the best of eleven games of pyramids. Cook won the billiards by 114, and Roberts the pyramids by six games to four. In the evening the game was 1,000 up, and Cook won by 278.

On May 26th there was an exciting match at pyramids between Roberts and Cook. Roberts undertook to concede a ball in each game. The stakes were £25 a side, and the game ended in a draw, each player winning ten games.

Roberts went racing again this summer, and did not play in public until December 8th, when he took part in a big handicap promoted by Cook, and played at the Guildhall Tavern, Gresham Street. The entries and the draw for this contest were as follows:-

MONDAY, DECEMBER 8TH.

H. Evans (130) v. S. W. Stanley (120); W. Dufton (170) v. T. Taylor (120); Joe Bennett (scratch) v. John Bennett (150).

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9TH.

L. Kilkenny (130) v. G. Collins (130); J. Roberts, jun. (scratch), v. F. Bennett (120); J. Stammers (200) v. A. Bennett (150).

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10TH.

W. Cook (scratch) v. T. Morris (140); J. Roberts, sen (130), v. A. Hughes (140).

Roberts beat F. Bennett in the first round by 133, but was himself beaten by Cook in the second round by 223. Cook won this handicap, the runner-up being Kilkenny. The heats were 500 up all in.

After this there were two games with Izar, the celebrated French hand-stroke player. They took place at the Falstaff Hotel, Market Street, Manchester, and Izar won both. The first was a cannon game of 150 up, which the Frenchman won by 18 points, and the other was a game of 500 up at ordinary billiards, at which Roberts was beaten by 198.

On January 14th, 1874, at the Guildhall Tavern, Roberts conceded F. Bennett a start of 300 in 1,000 for £100 a side. Roberts won by 68 in two hours and forty-four minutes.

He was at Cook again on January 27th, when they played 1,000 up at Pontypool. Cook was in excellent form, making breaks of 380 (125 spots), 157, and 129, and won by 122. Roberts’s best break was 124.

On the following day they played two games at the Royal Hotel, Cardiff. The first game was 500 up spot-barred, and Roberts won by 116. The other was 500 up all in, and Cook won by 24.

In February, Roberts himself promoted a handicap at the Bush Hotel, Manchester. The entries and draw were:-

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2ND.

L Kilkenny, Yorkshire (130), v. John Smith, Liverpool (160); John Roberts, jun, Manchester (scratch), v. John Roberts, sen., Manchester (130); W. Timbrell, Liverpool (120), v. D. Richards, London (150).

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3RD.

A. Hughes, London (150), v. G. Collins, Bristol (130); John Bennett, London (160), v. S. W. Stanley, London (120); W. Cook, London (scratch), v. W. Dufton, London (180).

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4TH.

F. Bennett, London (130), v. H. Evans, London (130); A. Bennett, Birmingham (130), v. T. Taylor, London (130).

The heats were 500 up, and the final was the best of three games. Roberts beat his father in the first round by 131, but Cook knocked him out in the second round by 273 and eventually won the handicap by beating Joseph Bennett two games out of three in the final round.

On February 24th Cook again defeated Roberts for the championship by 216 points.

There was another handicap promoted by Cook at the Guildhall Tavern, commencing March 16th, 1874. The draw was F. Bennett (received 140) v. J. Stammers (received 250); H. Evans (140) v. T. Morris (160); Jos. Bennett (scratch) v. Louis Kilkenny (140); A. Bennett (140) v. D. Richards (180); J. Roberts, jun. (scratch), v. John Bennett (180); S. W. Stanley (200) v. G. Collins (150); J. Roberts, sen. (140), v. W. Dufton (200); W. Cook (scratch) v. T. Taylor (180). The heats were 500 up, and Roberts was knocked out in the first round. The final lay between Stanley and Taylor, the former proving successful.

After this nothing of note transpired until the following June, on the first of which month Roberts met Bennett at St. James’s Hall in a game of 1,000 up for £100 a side. The table was a difficult one, which, with the great amount of safety play, accounts for the fact that the breaks were small. Bennett never appeared to have a chance of winning, and was beaten by 432 points.

Beyond taking part in an entertainment for the benefit of William Cook at St. James’s Hall, on August 20th, 1874, Roberts made few appearances in London, and none of any importance, until November 27th, when he beat Cook by 63 points in a game of 750 up, at 99, Regent Street, and also on the same occasion took five out of nine games of pyramids.

In the early part of the same month Cook and Roberts had played together at the Brookland Hotel, in Manchester, and at the Victoria Hotel, Widnes. Both games were 750 up, and took place on succeeding days. On the first occasion Roberts won easily by over 200 points, but the second game was productive of a rather remarkable finish, for Cook only wanted 6 points of game when Roberts ran out with an unfinished break of 211.

The year 1875 is notable for the introduction of the American tournament into England. Previous to this all tournaments in England were played on the “knock out,” or coursing principle. In the American tournament each player meets every other player, and the winner is he who wins most games. Cook was the introducer of this system into England. He had been to America, and on his return mentioned the matter to Mr. J. S. Burroughes, of the firm of Burroughes and Watts. Mr. Burroughes at once fell in with the idea, and his firm offered to give £100 as prize money. A meeting was held at the house of Mr. Burroughes, at which preliminaries were arranged. The eight selected players were W. Cook (champion), John Roberts, jun., and Jos. Bennett (scratch), T. Taylor (100 start), S. W. Stanley (120 start), W. Timbrell (140 start), A. Bennett and L. Kilkenny (160 start). The heats were 500 points up. The distribution of the prize money and the “gate” was to be pro-rata, according to the number of heats won. Thus the winner of the greatest number of heats would receive nine shares, the next eight, and so on, down to the winner of the least number of heats, who would receive two shares. The winner was also to receive a gold medal, presented by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, and W. Cook presented a locket, value £10, as a prize for the highest break.

No one knew how to arrange the order of play, but after some trouble and guess and trial figuring, this was managed. The competition commenced at Bennett’s Billiard Rooms, 315, Oxford Street, W., on January 18th, 1875, and was an enormous success. It is pretty safe to say that there has never since been a tournament which at all approached it for public interest. The betting on the handicap was very heavy. A. Bennett was the favourite, his backers having to lay odds of 6 to 4 on his chance when he had won his first five games.

Roberts in the meantime was so unfortunate as to lose two out of the first three games he had played, so he was not thought to have a chance. He won the next four games, however, and tied with Bennett for first place with a score of five games out of seven, and beating Bennett on playing off the tie, he came out the winner. Cook, Stanley, and Taylor dead-heated for the third place, but did not play off the tie, while Taylor won the highest break prize with 248. Roberts was rather lucky to win, for had it not been for a fluke in his game with Taylor, he would probably have been beaten, and have had to put up with second place.

In February there was a handicap at the Montpelier Tavern, Walworth, in which Roberts beat Taylor in the first round, but was knocked out by Kilkenny in the second. This handicap went to Stanley, who in the final with Cook won two out of the three games of 500 up.

Cook defeated Roberts twice on the 24th February, at 99, Regent Street, in games of 500 and 1,000 up.

During the progress of the American tournament a match had been made for Roberts and Cook to play Taylor and Stanley a four-handed match of 1,500 up for £200 a side, the two champions conceding 300 start. This match took place on March 26th, 1875. Though the charge for admission was a sovereign, the hall of the Guildhall Tavern was packed, and money had to be refused at the doors. There was much speculation on the result, Roberts and Cook being made strong favourites at 5 to 4 on. One does not ordinarily look for the best of form in a four-handed match, but this was a notable exception, for each of the four played quite up to his best form, and it was a stern struggle all the way. Stanley was the first to make anything like a break, when he put on 209, which included sixty-three spot strokes. Roberts shortly topped this with 289, also made mostly by the aid of the spot. Then it was Taylor’s turn, and after getting spot position he was nearing 200, when in getting down to play he touched his ball with the side of his cue near the tip. Roberts at once claimed this as a stroke, and as no referee had been appointed the matter had to be settled by argument. At one time it looked as if the match would not go on, but eventually Roberts and Cook gave way, and the point was decided in favour of their opponents. Taylor ran the break into 348, which gave his side a lead of nearly the start received. Cook following, only scored just over a hundred, but Stanley, though left with fine position, could not take advantage of it, and, breaking down, left the balls in fine position for Roberts, who made 148. Taylor replied to this with 79, and after this play ruled somewhat slow until the game was called, Taylor and Stanley 1,333, Roberts and Cook 1,303, with Stanley to play, and left in dead position for the spot. The excitement was now very great, and it looked as if Stanley would finish the game. Alas! for the hopes of his backers, for he missed the very first hazard, and let in Cook, who made no such mistake, for he finished the game with a break of 197, winning one of the most remarkable games ever played between professionals by 167 points.

Though it had no connection with Roberts beyond the fact that he backed the loser, it may be recorded here that on the following day at the same place Cook played Richards the best of twenty-one games of pyramids for the pyramid championship. Cook was made a very strong favourite at the start, odds of 7 to 4 being laid on him, but in the opinion of many good judges who were present this was a false price, for so far from its being odds on Cook, the balance should have been the other way. Richards took the lead from the start, and when the game was called, Richards 9, Cook 6, it looked such a good thing for Richards that John Roberts himself laid odds of 5 to 2 on him. The game was not, however, by any means over, for Cook was never beaten until the marker called game. He took the next two games in fine style, bringing off some hazards which called forth the enthusiastic applause of the spectators. Richards won the next game, which made the score read 10 to 8 in his favour. He had only to win one of the three remaining games to win the match, and his backers were already congratulating themselves, but they were doomed to disappointment, for Cook took the whole of the three games, and thus won the match.

The success of the London tournament on the American principle led Messrs. Burroughes and Watts to promote another one to be played in Manchester. The idea was to have the same eight players who had competed in London, but Timbrell Was not available to play, and his place was taken by Harry Evans. The entries and starts were: W. Cook and J. Roberts (scratch), Jos. Bennett (100 start), T. Taylor (100 start), S. W. Stanley (100 start), A. Bennett (160 start), L. Kilkenny (160 start), and H. Evans (160 start). This tournament was played at the Cotton Waste Exchange, Manchester, in March, 1875, and was won in hollow fashion by John Roberts, who won the whole of his seven games and received a special prize in the shape of a silver tankard valued at fifteen guineas, in addition to the first prize. The second prize was taken by Louis Kilkenny, who won six games out of seven. W. Cook and A. Bennett tied for third place with four wins each, while Cook won the prize for the highest break, a handsomely fitted suit case, with a break of 304. Jos. Bennett retired after losing three games.

On April 30th, 1875, Roberts beat Cook in a game of 500 up, and in the evening of the same day Cook turned the tables in a game of 1,000 up, and also beat Roberts at pyramids. These games took place at Cook’s rooms, 99, Regent Street. On May 5th they met again at the Angel Hotel, Chesterfield, when Roberts won a game of 1,000 up by 193

Roberts succeeded in wresting the championship from Cook on May 24th, 1875, by 163 points after a very interesting game, and following this he twice beat Cook (500 and 750 up) at Newton Heath, on June 19th, in one of these games making a fine break of 290.

Between this date and September he played no public matches. At the end of September he met Louis Kilkenny at the Union Cross Hotel, Halifax, for two days’ play. On the first day the game was 1,000 up, Kilkenny receiving 250 start. This game Roberts just won by 11 points only. The next day Kilkenny, receiving a start of 150 in 700, was beaten by 244. On this occasion they also played nine games at pyramids, Kilkenny receiving a ball, and Roberts won by five games to four.

The next public match played by the champion was at the Queen’s Theatre Hotel, Manchester, for a piece of plate value £300. His opponent was W. Timbrell, who received a start of 300 in 1,000. Roberts was defeated after a close struggle by 62 points. This was on October 18th, 1875.

Two days afterwards the champion made his first and only appearance in public as a bagatelle player. Mr. Grundy was playing bagatelle in fine form just then, and-the result of some banter and argument-he and Roberts made a match off hand for £10 a side. Roberts was beaten easily, but was not satisfied until the process had been repeated. It is somewhat difficult to see why Roberts ever went into this. His chance of winning was small, and he had little to gain if he did win, while he suffered the loss of a certain amount of prestige by being beaten.

A few days afterwards he again met Kilkenny on successive days-at Lanscher’s Hotel, Bradford, and at the Union Club, Bradford. Each game was 750 up, Kilkenny receiving 150 start, and Roberts won both, the first by 118, and the second by 17. At pyramids honours were divided, Kilkenny winning on the 28th and Roberts on the 30th.

On November 15th Cook won a game of 1,000 up in hollow style at Chelsea. Roberts was dead out of form, which may have been partly due to the want of public interest in billiards just then. Tom Taylor tried to take 250 points in 1,000 from the champion on November 29th, at the Gloucester Hotel, Park Street, Oxford Street, but was beaten easily by 156.

December 20th, 1875, saw a very keen struggle between Cook and Roberts for the championship. H.R.H. the Prince of Wales was present, and it was evident that the lack of public interest in the game did not extend to championship matches, for St. James’s Hall was packed. The players passed and repassed each other many times, and Cook was in front at the interval, but after nearly three and a half hours’ play Roberts won by 136.

Shortly after this there was some rather sensational billiards at Cook’s rooms, in Regent Street. He and Roberts were giving an entertainment, consisting of two games of 500 and 1,000 up. Roberts won the game of 500 up in the afternoon, and it looked as if Cook was going to run away with the game of 1,000 up in the evening, for early in the game he made a break of 362 (113 spots), and by the aid of other breaks got so far ahead that Roberts appeared to be hopelessly out of it. Much to the surprise of everyone, however, Roberts came out with breaks of 345 (98 spots) and 448 unfinished, and beat Cook on the winning-post.

In the beginning of 1876 Roberts left Manchester and removed to Brighton, where he had billiard-rooms behind the Bedford Hotel. Kilkenny was given a complimentary benefit at the Imperial Hotel, Huddersfield, in February, 1876, and Roberts gave his services. He played Kilkenny 1,000 up, allowing 250 start, and won by 218. Following an unimportant victory over Tom Taylor, Roberts played Timbrell for £300 a side at St. James’s Hall, on February 21st. It was a very tame match indeed, and evoked little or no public interest. Roberts, who conceded a start of 300, won by 236, Timbrell never having the ghost of a chance.

A match played with Tom Taylor at the Globe Hotel, Newton Abbot, was remarkable by reason of Roberts making half his total points at one visit to the table, at that time a great feat. He was giving Taylor 250 points in 1,000, and made a break of 558 (175 spots), which enabled him to win very easily,

A few days after this Cook and Roberts played 750 up to celebrate the opening of the billiard-room at the Pavilion Hotel, Brighton. In this game the number of consecutive spots was limited to 20. Cook was dead out of form, and was beaten by more than half the game. The next night, at the Bedford Hotel, Bedford Hill Road, Balham, Roberts defeated Cook by 174 in a game of 750 up, and also took four out of five games of pyramids.

Roberts now made his first visit to Australia, leaving this country on April 6th, 1876. Here, in his own words, are his experiences of that trip:-

“Acting on the invitation of Mr. Alcock, a billiard-table maker, of Russell Street, Melbourne, an old friend of my father’s, I went to Australia, little thinking at the time that the journey was to be the first of a series which was to include eleven visits to India, three visits to Australia, two to New Zealand, two to America, and six to South Africa. I, of course, went to Australia on a professional tour, and when I arrived there one of the first things I did was to make an arrangement with an agent to conduct all the business arrangements of the tour in consideration of his receiving one-fourth of the profits.

“The success of the Australian tour was so great that, happening to see an advertisement in the Melbourne Argus offering advice on that country to those about to visit India in a professional capacity, the idea occurred to me that it was very likely indeed to yield at least sufficient to pay expenses, and I accordingly had an interview with the advertiser, who, it turned out, had been travelling in India with theatrical companies, and was therefore just the man for my purpose. He advised me to write to two men named Soundy and Breslauer, who went in for theatrical speculations, and would, he thought, be very likely to take me up at their own risk. I accordingly wrote to them, and, having made up my mind to go on to Ceylon, I asked them to reply to me at Point de Galle, where the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s boats called at that time When I got to Point de Galle I found a letter awaiting me, offering £300 for a month, in addition to all my expenses I at once closed with the offer.

“While in Ceylon I met and played with a precious stone trader named Mohammed Bey. Mohammed sold me two sapphires, and on my hesitating as to their value, he offered to give me my money back at any time if I found that the stones were not worth the money I had given him for them. Sure enough, when I returned to England the next year I found that the bland Ceylon trader had not treated me any better than they are reputed to treat everyone when they get the chance, and that the stones were certainly not worth anything like the money I had given for them. I was mindful, however, of his promise to refund, which was probably made on the supposition that he would never see me again; and on my next visit to Ceylon I kept a sharp look-out for the gentleman, and on seeing him, at once tendered him his sapphires and demanded my money. He was very much surprised, but paid me at once, simply remarking that such a thing had never happened to him before.

“When I had finished the month for which I had engaged myself to Messrs. Soundy and Breslauer-out of which, by the way, they made a gigantic success-I decided to stay awhile on my own account, and engaged Mr. Breslauer as my agent. I made such a success of this tour, playing in military messes, clubs, etc., that the Pioneer, the leading Indian paper, referred to the tour as ‘The Great Billiard Epidemic.’

“It was on this tour that I first made the acquaintance of Ram Singh, the Rajah of Jeypore. It came about almost by sheer accident. I was playing at the Agra Club, and Breslauer, my agent, went on to Jeypore to ask for an engagement. The Rajah declined to give me an engagement, but said that if I chose to come he did not think that I should go away disappointed. We naturally thought that this was encouragement enough, and I went. I certainly never have had cause to regret that visit, for on that occasion the Rajah made me a present of 1,000 rupees, and afterwards became a most munificent patron of mine, giving me an annual salary of £500 as his Court billiard player, besides making me many valuable presents. This tour lasted a year and a day. I left England on April 6th, 1876, and returned on April 6th or 7th, 1877. I think I made about £7,000 over this trip, so there was no cause to regret having made the journey.

“I arrived at Bombay on the morning of the 24th January, in the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s steamer Assam. perhaps the most important match I played in the course of his tour was one I played on the evening of the 24th February, 1877, at the United Service Club, Calcutta. My opponent was Major Mant, Royal Engineers, who at that time was considered, and I should say justly so, to be one of the best players on the Bengal side of India. Certainly up to the time of our meeting he was the toughest opponent I had met in India. The game was 1,000 points up, and I conceded the amateur a start of 600 points. I recognised the fact that I should have to go at my best pace to win, and accordingly made the most of my opportunities. I started with a break of 60, which was almost immediately followed by one of 23 and another of 21, and then the largest break of the match, viz. 188, in which there were no less than 44 consecutive close cannons. This was followed by breaks of 56, 52, and 39, bringing my score to 508 to my opponent’s 698, I having scored 508 to his 98. After the interval, however, I did not have it all my own way, and Major Mant overhauled me at a rapid rate, scoring almost every time he visited the table, his best breaks being 17, 23, 25, 21, and 31. Eventually I won by the narrow margin of 46, the scores at the conclusion reading: Roberts, 1,000, Major Mant, 954.

“I played this gentleman again during the course of this tour. This time the match was 500 up only, and was played at the Town Hall, Calcutta, the Viceroy and Lady Lytton, accompanied by the viceregal party, honouring the match with their presence. I won this match after conceding a start of 350 points, and then played a Mr. Dickinson, a prominent member of the Civil Service-he was a magistrate, I think- and beat him also. I was much shocked to hear some years ago of Major Mant’s suicide, which took place in England.

“Another of my opponents during the course of this tour was Colonel, afterwards General, A. W. Drayson, Royal Artillery. I played this gentleman twice-once at Allahabad and again at Calcutta-on both occasions giving him a start of 700 in 1,000. On the first occasion, that is at Allahabad, he beat me; but on the second, when we played at the Town Hall, Calcutta, I beat him by 90 odd. Colonel Drayson was what I should call a scientific player; every stroke he made was well considered, and he seldom played any of a risky nature. He could play an uphill game as well as any amateur I have ever met. I heard some years afterwards that this officer became a professor at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and I know that he is the author of one of the best-known works on billiards. He was also, I think, a somewhat celebrated whist player. A few days after my second meeting with Colonel Drayson I played a game with a Mr. Morris, a judge of the Bengal High Court. This match took place at the Bengal Club, and was most keenly contested, Mr. Morris eventually winning by about 100 points.

“During this tour in India I played nearly every evening, mostly at different stations. I used to travel after finishing play, so as to be at the next station in time to have a rest before playing the following night. In many cases the places were far apart, and generally the trains ran but seldom, so that I was obliged to work things in this way. I suppose that during my seven weeks’ stay in India I played on an average five nights a week, and travelled quite 1,000 miles to do so. It will be agreed, I think, that this was very hard work, and of course could not have been kept up for any length of time. I think that nothing could have exceeded the kindness and courtesy with which I was treated by everyone during this tour, and I took the occasion before leaving India to express my thanks through the columns of the Calcutta Englishman.

“One of the funniest incidents of the tour occurred when I was playing a native, a Parsee, at the Franjee Cowasjee Institute at Bombay. My opponent was a very bad loser, and several times in the course of the game made peevish remarks to the effect that it was of little use anyone playing against me, as the balls always ran very kindly for me and unluckily for my opponent. After the conclusion of the game I gave an exhibition of fancy strokes. A well-known fancy stroke of mine is to throw a ball down the table and, by putting twist on it with the fingers, to make it stop near some desired spot, generally in the D. The company was largely composed of Parsees, and when I came to this shot and commanded the ball to stop, and it of course did so, one of the most influential of them got up and said, ‘I can understand what he does with the stick and balls together, but when he speaks to the balls and they obey him I have done with him, for he must be in league with the devil !’ and, having said this, he got up and solemnly walked out of the hall, about a dozen of his friends accompanying him. The Governor of Bombay, Sir Philip Woodhouse, and party were present on this occasion, but had left before the incident occurred.

“My usual remuneration for these one-day matches in India would be from 350 to 500 rupees. I daresay the average would cone out at quite 450 rupees per night. On the afternoon in Calcutta when I played Major Mant and Mr. Dickinson I took about 2,000 rupees, and this, I think, was the largest amount I took at one ‘show’ during this tour.

“Another match which I forgot to mention in its place was played in the Chutter Munzil at Lucknow against Dr. Galway, who beat me with a start of 650 in 1,000.

“Another incident of the tour was my taking an order from the Nawab of Dacca to fit him up two tables and supply all appurtenances This order came about in rather a curious way. The Nawab on one occasion having expressed surprise that I played so well, I told him that I could play much better if I had a good table to play on-in fact, with a good table and appurtenances I could easily make breaks of 500. I am pretty sure that the Nawab did not believe me, but he gave me the order above mentioned with a view of testing my assertions when I next came out. The tables were duly fitted up, and I believe are still there.”

During this tour Roberts, while playing a Mr. Weston at Dunedin, New Zealand, made the record time of 1,000 in 1 hour, 2 minutes. When news of this feat reached England it was disputed by The Sportsman, because that newspaper thought the performance an impossible one.

Prior to returning to England Roberts had challenged Cook for the championship, and this match came off on May with, 1877, at the Gaiety Restaurant, Roberts winning by 221 points.

On June 11th, also at the Gaiety Restaurant, Roberts gave Timbrell 300 in 1,000 for £250 a side, and Timbrell won by no less than 439 points.

Roberts had played Shorter the week before this at the opening of the billiard-room at the Chancery Restaurant, and had attempted to give him a start of 150 in 750 up, but was beaten by 319 points. He fared little better on June 18th, when he attempted to give Shorter 250 in 1,000 at the Kings Arms, High Street, Kensington, for he was beaten again, this time by 280 points. Things improved on the next occasion, however, for, playing Shorter at the Mitre Tavern, Greenwich, on July 2nd, Roberts won a game of the same description as the previous one by 213 points.

On the 5th of the month, playing an exhibition match against Cook at the Suffolk Hotel, Lowestoft, Roberts made a break of 756, of course “spot in.”

A tournament for the benefit of George Collins was commenced at the Alexandra Palace on July 14th. The players were W. Cook, J. Bennett, F. Shorter, T. Taylor, F. Bennett, and John Roberts. Cook and Roberts were at scratch, and met in the first heat, the heats being 500 up. Though Roberts scored 109 while Cook was scoring 2, the latter won by 130 points.

On July 16th Roberts played one of the closest games in his experience. It was at the “Delaware Arms,” Portman Street, against Tom Taylor in a game of 1,000 up, in which Taylor received 250 start, and won by 11 points only.

After this Roberts went on tour in the provinces, and visited Liverpool, Southport, Manchester, Runcorn, Sheffield, Swansea, and Tenby. At the latter place, at the Royal Gate House on August 23rd and 24th, Roberts beat Cook “all in,” “spot-barred,” and at pyramids. The “all in” game was 1,000 up, and the final scores were: Roberts 1,000, Cook 856. At the “spot-barred” game of 500 up Cook fared even worse, for he only scored 240, while at pyramids Roberts beat him by six games to one.

After this tour Roberts and Cook played a series of games at Roberts’s rooms at Brighton, Cook on the whole coming off best, as he did on September 22nd, when he defeated Roberts twice at his own rooms at 99, Regent Street.

The game was now dragging a bit in London and the South of England, and there was no money in exhibition billiards, so Cook and Roberts decided upon a tour in Ireland. They visited Cork and Dublin and drew good gates, and the tour generally was a financial success.

From Ireland they went to Wakefield and played boon up at the George Hotel, Wakefield, where the billiard-room was then leased by Mr. Claude Norton, brother-in-law to Roberts. Here Roberts won by 250. Back again in London they played at Notting Hill on November 1st, when Cook won, and almost immediately afterwards Roberts left England on his second trip to India and the Antipodes. Here, as in the former visit, we can let him tell his own experiences:-

“I reached India on my second tour early in September, 1878. To anticipate a trifle, I may mention that it was during this visit that I founded the firm of John Roberts and Co., of Bombay, which is now a limited company paying 12 per cent. My partner was the Mr. Breslauer whom I have before mentioned as being my agent when I first went to India, and who also acted in the same capacity during this tour. He is still the manager of the limited company. When we first started we imported carpenters’ benches and other tools from England, and Breslauer engaged a staff of Parsee workmen. One morning-the first after the arrival of the benches-Breslauer went down to the works, and was considerably astonished to find the men sitting on the top of the benches using their tools as though they had been used to them all their lives.

“I played my first match during this tour on December 17th. My opponent was a Mr. Bridger, who was on the staff of The Times of India. I forget exactly what start I conceded, but I know that I won very easily. One of my own tables was erected especially for this match, for of course I was travelling purely with an eye to business. This was in Bombay. The following night I gave no fewer than 650 points start in 1,000 to a Mr. Morrells, and won by over 70. In recording games against amateurs it is desirable to make it quite clear that in India the standard of amateur play is much higher than is the case in this country. Not that we don’t possess as good an amateur player; that is not my meaning. I simply wish to convey that amateurs as a body attain greater proficiency than is the case in England. The game just referred to was played at the Temple Bar Restaurant, Bombay. The owner of the place was Antone Bonneville, a Frenchman, who also had a similar establishment in Hyderabad.

“On the 19th-you will see that I was playing every night- I met Antone, a Portuguese, the marker of the Byculla Club, giving him 600 in 1,000. Antone had a very good local reputation, but I beat him fairly easily, and won by 123. The following night was rather an important one, for then I set up a record, one, however. which I-and other players as well-have frequently beaten well since. I played a Parsee, named Morenas, 1,000 up, giving him 650 start, and winning by 248. In the course of the match I made a break of 124, in which were fifty-six consecutive cannons. Such a run of cannons had never previously been made, and the achievement caused a lot of excitement. Morenas, my opponent, afterwards went to Baroda, where he entered the service of the Gaekwar.

“From Bombay I went to Calcutta, and on Thursday, January 4th, played M. Eugene Courjon, of Chandernagore. He was a Frenchman, who had been in India for some years. He was reputed to be the best amateur billiard-player in France before he went to India, and at the time of my visit he was, in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best player of English billiards in that country. He was also a confirmed misogynist. He had promised to play me on one occasion during my first visit, and duly turned up to fulfil his engagement, but noticing a few ladies in the hall, he incontinently bolted without saying anything to anyone, and I had to play a scratch match with a man named Green. When I next saw him I asked why he had run away and left me in such a fix, and he said, ‘Oh, I don’t know; I suppose that I was not very well. He had a brother whom the Europeans used to call the Wild Man, because he would go out into the jungle for months at a time, and hold no communication with civilisation. He (Eugene) was an excellent musician, one of the best chess players in the world, and a magnificent shot; in fact, he was good at anything but facing ladies, and that he couldn’t stand. He was a most eccentric character, and very passionate. I remember hearing of him that he once went shooting, and because he did not hit anything he actually threw his valuable gun away. His house, like most bungalows, had all the rooms opening on to a veranda, and this veranda he had made wide enough to admit of a team of ponies being driven round it, and when he wanted any exercise he would have the pony-carriage brought on to the veranda, and drive round it until he was tired, and then jump out at the door of whichever room he wished to enter. I tasted my first dish of snails at his house, and though I did not at first much fancy the experiment, I found that they were very toothsome, and I enjoyed them very much.

“The papers spoke of my first game with Courjon as the most difficult I had undertaken so far. I gave him 600 points start in 1,000, and commenced by scoring 200 whilst he obtained 40. At the interval the scores were 730-501 in his favour, and finally I won by 169. Courjon was not satisfied with his defeat. He had undoubtedly improved since my first visit to India, but then, so had I. The Frenchman had practised the ‘spot’ a good deal, and thought he might turn the tables on me, so we met for a second match on Saturday, January 5th. The game was a noteworthy one. It was decided at the Dalhousie Institute, Courjon again receiving 600 start in 1,000. The match went all in favour of the Frenchman for a long while, and he eventually reached 940 to 800. I ran to 962 against 973, however, and then went out.

“Subsequently Courjon had the satisfaction of beating me, for, when receiving 650 in 1,000 on one occasion, he played a very fine game, and won by as many as 370.

“At this time I received an invitation from the Nawab of Dacca to his private mansion. An amateur player of fairish ability was pitted against me there on January 14th. We played two games of 500 points up. I conceded 300 start, and was beaten by 266 points the first time, but won the second by 47. The Nawab was a great admirer of the all-round game, and so I confined my attention almost solely to that, making but slight effort to play the ‘spot’ stroke. I may mention that the name of my opponent at Dacca was Vahid, but the gentleman of the same name who has competed in amateur championships in this country bears no relationship to him.

“I must place it on record that both the Nawab Abdul Ghoni and his son the Nawab Ahsunollah treated me with the greatest kindness. The younger, especially, I found to be a capital fellow, and a good all-round sportsman to boot. I have not mentioned previously that Mrs. Roberts accompanied me on this tour. At Dacca I received many presents from Nawab Abdul Ghoni, who also gave Mrs. Roberts a very valuable cashmere shawl.

“During the same month I visited Bengal. On the 23rd I played some games with amateurs. One man I gave 200 points in 300 up, and won by 9, after which I played a couple of men at the same time, allowing them half-way start in a game of 300 up. I did not catch them until their score was 290 but I then ran out. Up to this time I had only been beaten twice during the tour, but at the same time was not showing my best form. Some of the newspapers noticed the fact, and commented upon it. There was a simple and an obvious reason for the fact, however. My want of form was due partly to the fact that I was playing on all sorts of tables, some of them very bad, and partly to the constant travelling.

“On January 28th I was at Allahabad, and at the club there gave an entertainment. On this occasion I met two amateurs, conceding 300 points in 500 each game. Mr. Porter and Mr. Shirooze were my rivals, and both were easily beaten.

“During my stay in India there was a Frenchman named Carme touring the country. He gave exhibitions of the French game, but they did not pay, and I and a few friends assisted him to go to South Africa. I am pleased to say this effected a great alteration in his fortunes, and at Kimberley he did very well.

“On February 1st I was at the Agra Club, and played a very exciting game with a Mr. Billings, who had 600 start in 1,000. The game was called 974 all, and then 998 to 980 in favour of Billings. He was left with an easy stroke on, but failed to get it, and I ran out amidst very great excitement. The same evening I left for Jeypore, under engagement to the Maharajah. The city of Jeypore lies 140 miles S.W. of Agra, but is approached with great ease. The late Maharajah built a most exquisite palace solely for the purpose of billiards. Ram Singh, although not anything of a billiard-player himself, was wonderfully fond of the game, and I must say he treated me with the greatest distinction. A suite of rooms in the Palace were placed at my disposal, and during my stay I, of course, lived in them. I played mostly with Runjit Singh, the Rajah’s head marker, who was supposed to be the best native player in the country.

“His Highness was delighted with my play, although, as previously stated, my average in India was far below that for England, and on leaving he presented me with an enamelled gold cup and saucer, studded with diamonds. I was also appointed his Court billiard-player, and the letter of appointment-a reduced facsimile of which I reproduce-carried with it a salary of £500 per annum, which I enjoyed up to the day of Ram Singh’s death.

“I left Jeypore on January 15th or 16th and went to Meerut, where I played on the 18th. From Meerut I journeyed to Umballa, appearing at the Sirhind Club, and thence to Lahore.

At the latter place I had the pleasure of playing Major Broadfoot, the editor of the Badminton Billiard Book. I then proceeded down country, playing at Agra, Dinapore, Bombay (two nights), Hyderabad-at Sir Sala Jung’s invitation-Secunderabad, and Bangalore. Afterwards entertainment’s were arranged for me in Madras, Colombo, Kandy, and Guile. The latter was the last of the series, and about the end of April I took ship for Melbourne, where I expected to meet either Shorter, Stanley, Taylor, or Kilkenny, from England. I had booked dates in Australia till the end of September. Ere leaving India I undertook to return in October, and booked a few engagements. I was certain that my play had to some extent suffered through my playing nobody but amateurs. It was my idea that on my return to India I would take with me a good professional. I had Shorter in my mind, for at that time he was, in my opinion, the next best player to Cook and myself

“I was again defeated at the Sirhind Club at Umballa. I tried to give Major Angelo 600 points start in a thousand, but the table was a dreadful one. ‘Spot’-stroke play was absolutely out of the question on it, and I never caught the Major, who won by 90 points. Altogether my second visit to India proved very enjoyable. It was also highly remunerative, and was one that I shall always recollect with pleasurable feelings.”

In 1879 and 1880 Roberts made a third visit to India, this time in company with Cook; and it was after the return from this tour-in the autumn of 1880-that he first attempted to give Cook a start. This match was for £500 a side, and took place at the Palais Royal, Oxford Street, W., on January 16th, 17th, and 18th, 1881, Roberts conceding Cook 500 points in 5,000 up (all in). Though Roberts was so ill on the second day that it was thought that he would have to abandon the match, he won in hollow fashion by no less than 1,658 points.

Space will not permit much detail with regard to Roberts’s career for the past twenty years. His matches during that period have been mostly of the exhibition order, and are not to be taken too seriously. By far the most interesting part of his career is the ten years when he and Cook were active rivals and there was little to choose between them.

When Cook had sunk into a secondary position and Roberts became the autocrat of the billiard world he became more or less a showman, and his matches, generally speaking, do not possess any value as records. Perhaps the two most interesting matches he played during this period were his match of 6,000 up with Ives in 1893, and his match with Dawson in the early part of the year 1899. The latter has not improperly been called the “match of the century,” and was certainly one of the most interesting matches at billiards ever played.

The match with Ives can hardly be called a match at English billiards. It was played at Humphrey’s Hall, Knightsbridge, between May 29th and June 4th, 1893, and resulted in a victory for Ives by 2,169 points. The English game proper is, as is well known, played with balls 2 1/16 inches in diameter, the pockets being 3 5/8 inches wide at the fall of the slate. In the game under notice a compromise was made, the balls being 2¼ inches in diameter and the pockets were only 3¼ inches wide. This was, of course, all against hazard play, the backbone of the English game, and in favour of cannon play, at which American and Continental players greatly excel those who play the English game. Notwithstanding this, Roberts was ahead on the first three days of the match, the scores at the close of the third day’s play being: Roberts 3,000, Ives 2,243.

On the Thursday, however, Ives got the balls in one of the corners. They were not jammed under the English rule, as to fall within that rule part of the balls had to overhang the pocket, and this was an impossible position with balls and pockets of the size used in this match. The position was more what is known in America as the “anchor,” and was perfectly allowable under the articles. With the balls in this position Ives made a break of 2,540, and then purposely destroyed the position, feeling no doubt that he had the game perfectly safe. On the Saturday he again got this position, and went out with a break of 892. Roberts’ highest break was 249.

It will be seen that there is not the slightest foundation here for saying that Ives beat Roberts at English billiards, for the game was not English billiards, but a compromise between the English and American games, and yet there are still many people in England who maintain that the American came over here and beat Roberts at his own game. If any American thought that he would stand a chance at that there would surely have been some acceptor before this of Roberts’s standing offer to give 5,500 in 21,000 to anyone in the world for £1,000 a side.

Between this match and the recent match with Dawson there comes Roberts’s record spot-barred break. This break was made in a purely exhibition match, and would probably have never been made at all in a match for money, for in serious money matches breaks do not rule high. This break was made on Thursday and Friday, May 3rd and 4th, 1894, in the course of an exhibition match with E. Diggle at the Gentlemen’s Concert Hall, Manchester, and it entitled Roberts to the prize of £100 which Messrs. Burroughes and Watts had offered to anyone who first made a break of 1,000. The break was of an ordinary character until he had reached 400, when he had to face a difficult masse stroke; following this he played an all-round game until he reached 700, and then he put on a string of 54 nursery cannons. When he had passed his previous best spot-barred break of 867 a cheer from the Press table announced the fact. When he had made 1,000 the cheering was loud and prolonged, and the champion was kept for some minutes bowing his acknowledgement. At 1,033 play ceased for the day, with the balls in no very good position for continuing the break. He carried the break on to 1,392, however, and then in playing for a red winner in the left hand corner pocket he played a trifle short of strength, and the ball stopped dead in the jaw of the pocket. At the conclusion of the break there was a scene of the wildest enthusiasm, and Roberts in all his experience probably never got such an ovation before. This break still holds the record, and from all appearances is likely to do so for some considerable time to come.

The level match with Dawson which has been referred to as “the match of the century” was brought about in the first place by some ill-feeling between the men, caused by a dispute over the takings at the Egyptian Hall when Dawson was playing there on sharing terms. This happened the season before, and as the outcome of some remarks made by Dawson as to Roberts insisting upon those professionals who played at the Egyptian Hall “waiting” for one another and playing to the “gate” there was an acrimonious newspaper correspondence, which culminated in Dawson offering to play level for £100 a side.

It is difficult to believe that Dawson actually thought that he had a chance with Roberts at evens. What is more probable is that Dawson and his friends thought that the advertisement to be got out of such a match would be very cheap indeed at the stake money, £100. Be that as it may, the issue of the match was never in doubt, and the general impression is that Roberts could have won by a much greater margin than he did had he so desired.

Since 1898 Roberts has played exclusively with Bonzoline balls, the only exception being the match with Dawson above alluded to.

It will be interesting to see the developments when Roberts returns from his present tour to India and the colonies. It is quite on the cards that he will voluntarily retire when he returns, but that will depend upon his own opinion of his capabilities. He will hardly retire so long as he thinks himself unbeatable at evens, but, on the other hand, he is hardly likely to stay before the public until advancing age makes defeat a certainty.

 

1888-1889

LONDON

MACMILLAN AND CO

AND NEW YORK

1889

THE HISTORY OF BILLIARDS

An investigation into the early history of billiards reveals the curious fact that while many English writers on the game attribute its invention to a native of France, the French authorities declare that it had its origin in this country. There is however great conflict of opinion on both sides of the Channel, and no research has definitely settled when the game was first invented.

Among those who declare for its English origin we find that Bouillet in the Dictionnaire Universel des Sciences says—”The game of billiards appears to be derived from the game of bowls. It was known in England in old times, and was perhaps invented there;” and he adds it became the fashion in France owing to Louis XIV. playing the game after meals by the advice of his physicians.

This monarch’s predilection for billiards is noticed in the Memoirs of the Duc de Saint Simon by M. Chernel, and the good fortune of M. Ohamillard was attributed to his skill at the game. A quatrain concerning him ran as follows—

Ci-git le fameux Chamillard,
De son roi protonotaire,
Qui fut un heros au billard,
Un zero dans le ministere.

The Academie de Jeux also says—”It would seem that billiards was invented in England.”

Dr. Johnson, characteristically perhaps, remarks in support of its English origin, that the name was originally “halyards,” that is a game played with balls and sticks, and an allusion in Spenser, as we shall see presently, supported his theory. Strutt of the Sports and Pastimes, gives very contradictory evidence. He says—”The invention of this diversion is attributed to the French and probably with justice; but at the same time I cannot help thinking it originated from an ancient game played with small bowls upon the ground, and indeed that it was when first instituted the same game transferred from the ground to the table.” But this “ancient game” of which he gives a picture, like “pall-mall” and many others resembled croquet much more than billiards, and might quite as probably have been derived from the latter game, as have suggested it.

The authorities on the French side are no less numerous. Todd says the word billiards should be spelled billard from the French bille a ball and adds that the game is of French origin. Other dictionaries give the same etymology, and the first English writer on the game, Mr. E. White, in 1807, states that, “Billiards like the greater number of games which are prevalent in modern Europe is of French invention,” a sweeping assertion which is hardly borne out by facts. In the Nouveau Dictionnaire the invention of the game is claimed for the French, but it is going too far to name the inventor as some authorities do, one Henrique Devigne, an artist in the days of Charles IX., 1560-74, for the game was undoubtedly known and played here before the days of Elizabeth. The earliest issue of Hoyle’s Games does not mention billiards but the writer of the article in later editions speaks of the game of “Carambole” as an introduction from France; while Cotton in The Compleat Gamester assigns the origin of the game both to Spain and to Italy, an impartiality not particularly satisfactory to the historian.

In a correspondence in Notes and Queries as to the origin of “crow” or “fluke,” an accidental score at billiards, Mr. Mansfield Ingleby wrote—”Crow is a corruption of raccroc, the French equivalent. The game is originally French, and naturally many of its terms in England are from the French.” He adds, “May not raccroc be from raccrocher to hit upon?” There is no doubt that most of the terms used in the game are derived from the French. There is the name itself, unless we agree with Johnson, and then we have bricole explained in some French rules published just before 1700, “on emploie ce mot pour signifier le chemin que la bille fait, apres avoir frappe une des bandes du billard;” the word has the same meaning now and is acclimatized here. Cannons in old books are called caroms from caramboler—”C’est toucher avec sa bille les deux autres billes,” while the Queue is of course the cue of our day, and the Masse the mace, now never used except by ladies and children at games played on the bagatelle table. It may be noted in this connection that it is a pity “cannon” ever took the place of “carom,” and that “crow” is a word only heard now from the lips of very old-fashioned players, if indeed it be not quite extinct. “Fluke” is the word in vogue nowadays, and has been derived for obvious reasons from the fluke of an anchor.

To sum up, it must be said that the balance of opinion inclines to the French origin of the game, but be that as it may we can console ourselves with the fact that nowhere in the world has it been brought to a greater state of perfection than in this country.

The allusions to billiards in our literature are very interesting. Some here presented are stereotyped in treatises on the game, but three or four have as far as we know not had attention called to them before. The most familiar reference to the game is that in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.

After having asked for music the Queen continues—

Cleo. Let it alone; let’s to billiards: Come, Charmian.Char. My arm is sore; best play with Mardian.Cleo. As well a woman with an eunuch play’d As with a woman. Come, you’ll play with me, sir?Mar. As well as I can, madam.Cleo. And when good will is show’d, though’t come too short, The actor may plead pardon.

This game did not come off as every one knows, which is much to be regretted. A description by Shakespeare of the game as played in his time would have been invaluable.

Spenser’s allusion to billiards is not a complimentary one. He makes the Ape, in Mother Hubbard’s Tale entertain young gallants— “With dice, with cards, with halliards farre unfit, With shuttelcocks, misseeming manlie wit.”

Ben Jonson, in the Celebration of Claris, has a pretty simile drawn from billiards, for we read— “Even, nose and cheek withal, Smooth as is a billiard ball.”.

A. P. GASKELL (AMATEUR).
(From a Photograph by E. C. PORTER)

In Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy we read—”The ordinary recreations which we have in winter, and in most solitary times busy our minds with are cards, tables, and dice, shovel-board, chess play, the philosopher’s game, small trunks, shuttlecock, billiards,” &c. In the comedy, The Woman’s Prize, of Fletcher, which according to the office-book of Sir Henry Herbert was “an ould play” in 1633, when he prohibited it till he had purged it of oaths and ribaldry, we find a rather indecent allusion to playing at billiards, which has, we fancy, not been noted before. In Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding, we read that, “When the ball obeys the billiard-stick, it is not any action of the ball but bare passion.” Boyle speaks of “ivory balls meeting on a billiard table”; Misson in his Travels in England mentions the game, and Gayton in his notes to Don Quixote, published in 1654, alludes to billiards, which he says, was in those days played in taverns. Some twenty years after that date, we find Evelyn describing a billiard- table which he saw at the house of the Portuguese ambassador, and he notes that the balls were struck with sticks shod with silver or brass—very uncomfortable cues we should imagine. In the reign of James I there is a note of a payment to a “joyner” for a billiard-board made of walnut-wood— evidently the forerunner of some of the handsome tables of the present day. In Charles Cotton’s Compleat Gamester, 1674, which we have quoted above, we read that— “The gentile, cleanly, and most ingenious game at billiards had its first original from Italy, and for the Excellency of the recreation is much approved of and plaid by most nations in Europe, especially in England, there being few towns of note therein which hath not a publick billiard-table; neither are they wanting in many noble and private families in the country for the recreation of the mind and the exercise of the body.”

JOHN ROBERTS, JUN. (CHAMPION)
(From a Photograph by H. H. CAMERON)

This writer says that the cushions were stuffed with “fine flax or cotton,” and that the maces were of heavy wood tipped with ivory, the balls being made of the latter substance. He also gives a picture of two gentlemen playing at an oblong table with six pockets, prodding at the balls, with the broad ends of the maces held over their shoulders, the whole business looking very like the “ancient game” transferred to a table, which Strutt declared to be the original of billiards. In the edition of this work published in 1734 we first hear of “French billiards,” as distinguished from English.

This is said to be “so-called from their manner of playing the game, which is now only with masts [maces] and balls, port and king [the arch and stick of croquet] being now wholly laid aside.” This game, as “Cavendish” points out, was essentially the single pool of to-day, and it is curious to find that only good players were allowed to use cues—there were no tips then—others having to content themselves with maces for fear of cutting the cloth. The cue, by the way, appears to have been a foreign importation, and the French, Italians, and Dutch, we learn from White, looked down upon the English for clinging to the use of the mace.

In a ballet of cards in a comedy by Thomas Corneille, acted in Paris in 1676, we see that one of the four slaves who held up the trains of the queens represented billiards: while it may be noted, too, that the stage of to-day has recently shown a pyramid ballet. In a book by M. Jean Barbeyrac, Professor of Law, published in 1710, which discusses at length the lawfulness of games of chance, we find billiards mentioned more than once as a game which, like tennis or raquets, depends upon manual dexterity. As billiards sometimes lead to gambling, one is not surprised to find it declared an unlawful game in an Act of the 30th year of George II., when playing it in public houses was prohibited under a penalty of £10. In a similar spirit were the regulations put forth regarding the game by the Elector of Saxony in 1716, among which there is a rule that “Those who frequent billiard-rooms must be served by men persons,” as if female markers were fashionable. There was a billiard saloon in Oxford Street where, some fifteen years ago, a girl officiated as marker, and did her work carefully and well. Coming to the present day, readers of Frank Fairleigh will remember Smedley’s condemnation of the game, in a heading to one of his chapters from a supposed old legend—

The devil he baited a trap,
With billiard balls and a cue;
And he chose as marker,
An imp much darker
Than all the rest in hue.
And he put on his Sunday clothes,
And he played with saint and with sinner;
For he’d found out a way
To make the thing pay,
And when losing he still was the winner.

Calverley too has told us in some ringing verses how in his undergraduate days he “Struck at Brown’s the dashing hazard.”

John Sterling in the Election, a tiny duodecimo without name attached, which was published in Albemarle-street in 1841, tells us of Peter Mogg how—

“A younger son, he learnt in Oxford’s halls The spheral harmonies of billiard-balls.”

Byron mentions billiards twice in Don Juan, the last two lines of Canto xiv. running as follows—

“You’ll never guess, I’ll bet you millions, milliards. It all sprung from a harmless game at billiards.”

A “Lecture in Verse” on billiards appeared in The Billiard Journal now extinct, published by Messrs. Orme of Manchester, 1874, in which the poet declared somewhat prosaically that “Of all the sports that glad the heart of man, Proudly may billiards claim to lead the van.”

A writer quoted in Songs of Society has thus expressed himself regarding the game, when played with ladies (and they are often great proficients) in some verses entitled—”A Billiard Lesson”—

‘Twas pleasant on the winter nights
To see beneath the shaded lights
Her classic head bent low;
To watch her snowy fingers make
A tiny ‘bridge,’ and count each’ break,’
Of this heart-breaking foe.And though she said it was a sin
To beat her, I could always win
To bear such pretty blame;
While ‘mid the winning strokes I made,
It seem’d to me as if I play’d—
A very losing game.There’s KUOOS in the rattling strokes,
You make amid a fire of jokes
From chaffing fellow men:
But should a beauty turn away
And pout at your superior play
You’ve other feelings then.No ‘hazard,’ that my cunning cue
With all my greatest care could do—
Or lucky ‘fluke’ might get,
Could ever equal that I ran
In playing—miserable man!
With such a flirting pet.And though I lost such heaps of gloves
In betting with her, when one loves
Such losing bets are blest:
And since she teased me night and day
I only had at billiard-play
The chances of a ‘rest.’

The ‘cannon’ on the table green
Will to a Canon come I ween,
Who’ll tie me to a wife;
And she with backers not a few,
Will quietly put on the’ screw,’
And ‘pocket’ me for life.

No less a poet than Robert Browning has deigned to go to the billiard-table for an illustration of his meaning. We read in Mr. Sludge, the Medium—

“This could not last long: soon enough I found Who had worked wonders thus, and to what end: But did I find all easy, like my mates? Henceforth no supernatural any more? Not a whit: what projects the billiard-balls? ‘A cue,’ you answer: ‘Yes, a cue,’ said I; ‘But what hand, off the cushion, moved the cue?'”

The bibliography of billiards is not very extensive. Most of the leading professionals have put their names to books compiled for them under their supervision by other people, and one or two amateurs have also written on the game. By far the most interesting work is the one by White quoted before, A Practical Treatise on the Game of Billiards, 1807, which has a historical value as the first regular book on the subject published in this country. He says that after “the French, the Germans, the Dutch and the Italians brought it into vogue throughout most parts of the continent,” it became “a favourite diversion in England, particularly among persons of the first rank.” He then utters a prediction which has certainly been fulfilled—”As it is replete with entertainment, and attended with that kind of moderate exercise, which renders it at the same time more agreeable and conducive to health, it will, in all probability, long remain in fashion.” We have an engraving of a billiard table, the instruments used at the game which include the cue, the mace and the bistoquet, the latter being described as “sorte d’instrument avec lequel on joue pour eviter de billarder.” With regard to the cue which had then no tip, though leather tips were invented by Mingaud, a Frenchman, about the same period, the player is advised to roughen the end with a file to prevent its slipping from the ball. The advice as to playing the game is for the most part sound and has been copied into the majority of the works published since. The rules appear to be mainly founded upon some French ones promulgated shortly before, and here it is that we meet with the famous axiom so often repeated since that, “L’angle coincidence de la bille contre une des bandes du billard est egal a l’angle de reflexion,” but the players of that day soon discovered that especially when using the cue, the angle of reflexion was not always equal to the angle of incidence: that is to say what we now call “side” had been accidentally put on, with the result that the ball was deflected one way or the other, according to the side on which it was struck.

White saw this and elaborately explains that “it is the effect of the particular manner in which the point of the instrument is applied to the ball, and it requires some delicacy to avoid it.” Here was the first recognition of the side-stroke, but White only looked upon it as a nuisance to be avoided by playing with the butt, and it was not utilized until shortly afterwards when Bartley, the proprietor of billiard rooms at Bath, rediscovered it, as it were, and showed it to his marker Carr.

This individual saw the capabilities of the stroke and improved upon it, and it is said that while it was still a secret he attributed it to the chalk he used and sold it for half-a-crown a box, as possessing “twisting “powers.

There are rules for the various games then in vogue in White, many of them as he acknowledges taken from the French, which he quotes, and those for “The Winning and Losing Carambole Game”—that is to say the ordinary game of billiards—are substantially the same as those in force at the present day.

He also gives rules for other games now extinct except the simple cannon game, and one virtually single pool, and the regulations of an extraordinary game called “Fortification Billiards,” played with French and English forts, passes, batteries, flags, balls and all the paraphernalia of warfare. This was evidently an amplification and survival of the earliest game on a billiard-table like “pall mall,” which we have already noticed.

The author’s general observations are admirable and have not been improved upon in more recent works while he gives elaborate tables of odds and much curious information on the doctrines of chances, mainly from the French. There are further a number of useful diagrams, and in them the player will note that the “Jenny” or hazard from baulk into a middle or top pocket, which was called so then as it is now, must have been played without “side,” as Mr. Cook still counsels it should be done in certain positions.

More recent books on billiards can hardly be said to have improved much upon this early treatise. The books ostensibly by the players Roberts, senior, Dufton and Cook, and claiming to be practical, are only in a measure so; as a rule they leave the beginner to find out for himself precisely the things he wants to know most, and they are full of irrelevant padding about great matches in which the authors have taken part, and in some cases with wholly useless mathematics. There are of course interesting mathematical problems connected with billiards, but they are of no practical use whatever.

An earlier book by Kentfield, a celebrated Brighton professional, is better than most modern treatises, and an amateur, Mr. Mardon, wrote a sensible book on the game, disfigured however by much egotism and by absurd glorification of the said Kentfield, who would not have been considered even a second rate player nowadays. A little book by a writer who called himself “Captain Crawley,” is mainly, it would seem, a compilation, and this too, is disfigured by twaddle in imitation of Thackeray about the Megatherium Club and so forth. Better still perhaps is Bennett’s book edited by “Cavendish,” and best of all for beginners is a little work recently published entitled Billiards Simplified, or How to Make Breaks. This is the only book which makes perfectly clear and illustrates the half-ball stroke, or “natural angle” of which other writers say so much but never condescend to explain. Very little however can be learned from books. More can be taught by a professional in half-an-hour, supplemented by practice and carefully watching good players than by all that was ever written on the game. Oddly enough the books supposed to be written by the finest players are the least practical. Mr. Cook is a very good spot-stroke player, though his fame has been eclipsed in recent years by Mr. Peall; but the directions given for playing it in a little book he published some years ago leave much to be desired.

WILLIAM COOK.
(From a Photograph by H. H. CAMERON)

Billiards like most other games and especially those which depend upon skill as well as chance, has been, since its earliest days, a favourite one with chevaliers d’industrie. It can be of course, and is, played fairly and honestly by gentlemen, but the “sharper” sees in it many opportunities for his illicit gains, and no sketch of its history would be complete without some notice of the way in which he proceeds. White complains that even in his time the game had, “been in some measure prostituted by a set of men, who infest the various places of public resort and live upon the spoils of the unwary,” and in an elaborate foot-note he warns his readers against betting with strangers who may all the time be concealing the strength of their game. The caution was needed if there were many men about like a Mr. Andrews who flourished about the period at which the book appeared. We are told of this interesting individual that “He devoted himself entirely to the goddess, and worshipped her incessantly in the form of two ivory balls. He was remarkably thin, not very tall, and a perfect vacuum with respect to every possible idea except billiards.” It is said that while always “laying by for bets,” and exercising “latent finesse,” he did not win so much money as his devotion to the game deserved, though his gains were considerable.

After winning large sums at billiards however he would lose them at hazard and tossing, and it is recorded that he died a very poor man. A good story is told of the famous Earl of Chesterfield, who when at Bath used to amuse himself by playing billiards with a notorious gamester named Lookup. The latter won a game or two and then asked his lordship how many he would give him if he were to put a patch over one eye. Lord Chesterfield agreed to give him five—the game then it must be remembered was twenty-one, or at the most twenty-four —and Lookup having won several games in succession his opponent threw down his mace declaring that Lookup played as well with one eye as with two. “I don’t wonder at it, my Lord,” replied Lookup, “for I’ve only seen out of one these ten years.” A very similar case is within the writer’s own experience. Some curious tales were told in 1820 about an individual named the Dutch Baron, who “concealed his play so well that no one could form an idea of its extent.”

He “always won on important occasions,” and after “rooking” scores of players in Bath and London turned out to have been a billiard-marker in Hamburg. Readers of Peregrine Pickle too, will remember the chapter in which “Godfrey executes a scheme at Bath by which a whole company of sharpers is ruined.” They played billiards, the old white winning game, and it may be noted that the cues are called “masts.” In a later edition of The Compleat Gamester, in 1750, we come across a story of sharping in which a gentleman’s cue was tampered with, a little rising being left in the middle; and in a sporting work, Crockford on Life in the West, 1828, there is an elaborate account of how a young gentleman at Cheltenham was swindled out of £5,300 at billiards.

W. J. PEALL.
(From a Photograph by CHARLES F. TREBLE)

Sir John Fielding, writing in 1776, warns strangers against coffee-houses, and says that if any one “finds in you the least inclination to cards, dice, the billiard-table, bowling-green, or any other sort of gaming you are morally sure of being taken in.” This part of the subject may be dismissed with the following curious story told by T. B. Thiers in his Traite des Jeux et des Divertissmens.

He says—”Saint Ignace de Loiola joua un jour au billard avec un gentil-homme qui l’avoit invite d’y jouer, et s’il en faut croire l’eloquent Jesuite Maphee, il le gagna miraculeusement quoiqu’il ne scut pas le jeu. Cum nihil minus calleret Ignatius, divinitus factum est ut in singulos omnino trajectus victor evaderet.” It is amusing to find a Jesuit divine representing St. Ignatius Loyola as a sort of “Heathen Chinee,” for we may be sure that his antagonist, though probably a devout believer, had his private suspicions about that particular miracle.

Turning to the practice of the game it will be found that the popularity of billiards has been enormously on the increase of late years. There are now three or four times as many public tables in all large towns as there used to be, and no country house is considered complete without a billiard-table.

The game too is recognized as a healthy exercise, developing the muscles of the chest and arms more particularly, but it should of course be played in a properly ventilated room. The progress of the game in. another way has been equally remarkable, that is to say, players have become extraordinarily proficient at it as compared with the performances of fifty years ago. The old game, as we have said, was “twenty-four up,” and in the second edition of Mr. Mardon’s book, published as lately as 1849, he advises a player to “confine himself to the legitimate game of twenty-four up,” adding that “the game of fifty or one hundred up produces generally a desire of showing off, begetting a passion for display, leading to an elaborate style, at variance with discretion.” We shall see presently how absurd this sounds when compared with the play of to-day, but before discussing that it must be said that the long scores made are mainly due to what is known as the spot-stroke, which is, it may be explained for the benefit of beginners, a series of consecutive red winning hazards into the two top pockets, the red of course being spotted in the same place after each stroke. The use of this stroke had been known for years, but no one took full advantage of it until John Roberts, senior, for long the champion billiard-player, practised it assiduously, and mainly by its aid held his own against all comers. Then a curious thing happened. So long as the elder Roberts was the only man, so to speak, who could make the spot-stroke, there was no outcry about it; but the moment Cook and other younger players became proficient at it, it was arranged that the games for the championship should be played on a table with smaller pockets and the spot nearer the cushion, making long spot-breaks practically impossible. This curious anomaly still exists. The games for the championship are played upon a table which differs from those in ordinary use, an absurdity which could only be paralleled by altering the form of the wickets or the bats when Eton and Harrow meet at Lord’s and reverting to those now in use when playing ordinary games at cricket. Then again matches are played “spot-barred,” which explains itself, or “all in,” that is to say, the regular game, and there is no doubt that something should be done to make the tables uniform, so that the championship honours should belong to the man who could beat every one else at the game as it is ordinarily played.

A glance at the greatest “breaks,” or continuous scores, of the most famous players will show the gigantic strides made in the game. We shall enumerate the “all in” breaks first.

The largest break made by Edwin Kentfield, known as “Jonathan,” a Brighton professional, who was said to be the best player up to 1849, was 196 points, and another player in the same town, named Bedford, made 157.

Then John Roberts, senior, appeared on the scene, and his best break of 346 was for many years considered unsurpassable. But those feats are as nothing to recent performances.

Cook has made 936, John Roberts, junior, 1,100, Mitchell 1,863, while Peall has reached the astonishing total of 2,143. In the spot-barred game the figures of these fine players vary a little, for Roberts heads the list with 690, followed by Cook with 462, Peall 322 and Mitchell 312. As to consecutive spot-strokes it may be noted that while Kentfield never made more than 57 spot-strokes, Cook has made 270, and Peall 548, while more have been made in practice by Mitchell who achieved 612. It will thus be seen that the professional players of to-day have positively made a number of single spot strokes exceeding the largest break of John Roberts, senior, who was billiard champion for twenty years. Taking that fact into consideration, and seeing that Peall came near to beating his own record the other day, it would seem that the breaks of the future will only be measured by the physical endurance of the players.

Descriptions of the various games played on a billiard-table do not come within the scope of this paper. We will conclude with a bit of advice to young players given by an old writer which is worth remembering —”Every inordinate affection of the mind,” he says, “immoderate bursts of passion, and even the fretting at trifling disappointments in his game, are usually found prejudicial to the player; his nerves being affected, it becomes impossible for him to make his stroke with that steadiness and nicety the game requires.” If the beginner remembers that, inscribes Dum spiro spero on his cue, and above all practises assiduously he need never despair of becoming proficient in that most fascinating of all recreations.—”Le Jeu Royal de Billard.”

H. SAVILE CLARKE.

1861 to 1870

It is really difficult to realise the wonderful advance made in billiards during the past twenty years, and it was not until I looked over some of the older records that I fully realised how great the difference is in the billiards of today and of twenty years ago, when John Roberts, sen., was regarded as an exception to all rule-a player whose like would never be seen again.

To illustrate what I mean it is not necessary to go farther back than the December of 1866, when a handicap took place at the Philharmonic Hall, Islington, and in one of the heats Roberts, sen., met Charley Hughes, the former owing 60 points, and the latter starting at scratch in a heat of 200 up. In this heat Roberts made a break of 128, concluding with a series of 38 consecutive spot hazards.

The leading sporting newspaper comments as follows, and it is but just to say that these comments were in accordance with the opinions of all the best judges of billiards of the day:-“What can we say about such a performance ? Nothing save that there never before was such a player, and that there is not his equal in the whole wide world. We do not include England and the continental countries alone, but America, the very hotbed of billiards. To write that there was immense cheering would be absurd. Our pen indeed must fail to describe the applause which followed so great an achievement. “It is really difficult to repress a smile when we read this account, and think of the breaks made by Roberts, jun., Peall, and Mitchell in the present day.

In 1861 Roberts, sen., stood alone, for no player would accept 300 in 1,000 from him. Next came Bowles, Tabley, C. Hughes, and Dufton. I remember the first match between these latter players which took place at the Eyre Arms Tavern, St. John’s Wood, in January, 1861. Dufton was favourite, and was expected to perform wonders at the quill stroke, just then coming into fashion, as well as on the spot. Hughes won the game by 90 points, his best break being 50. The break of the evening was one by Dufton, viz., one of 56. The Sporting Life says, “Dufton continued scoring in a brilliant manner, making no less than 17 red hazards with the spot stroke in a break of 56 off the balls.”

In a return match made shortly afterwards between the same two men Hughes again won, this time by 190 points, making breaks of 56, 52, 93, and 60, Dufton’s best break being 54.

In March in the same year a match took place between Alfred Bowles, of Brighton, and James Tabley, to decide which was the second best player in England. Bowles won by 85 points. His best break was 68, while Tabley never scored 50 throughout the game.

Later on in the same month Roberts, the champion, played one of his very best matches, at Savile House, his opponent being a Mr. Downs, an amateur, who accepted the start of 700 in 1,000. This match well illustrated Roberts’s powers. He played a fine dashing, brilliant game, striking his ball, as a rule, far harder than first-rate players do nowadays.

One stroke is worth mentioning. Mr. Downs very properly calculated that if Roberts scored 3 while he made 1, that he would reach game while Roberts’s score stood at 900. Consequently Mr. Downs ran a coup. If Roberts gave a miss he would probably run another coup, and so on. Roberts’s answer was most effective. He merely said, “Look out, gentlemen,” and played at the red ball on the spot, hitting his ball clown, and very hard. Away flew the ball like lightning, red and white both sprang up in the air, one of the balls doubling up the hat of a gentleman who was sitting on some raised seats fronting the spot end of the table. Of course, Mr. Downs soon saw that he could not run coups against nothing, and was then obliged to give a miss. The result of this game was that Roberts, who scored breaks of 96, 58, 195, 200, etc., won by 93 points.

Those who, like myself, were fortunate enough to witness this magnificent performance, as indeed it was at the time, will remember how vastly different was the style then from what it is now. The brilliant forcing hazards-the dash-the evident pleasure the player had of sending in a ball with a bang-the occasional fancy shot, such as some kiss cannon right up the table, or some wonderful screw back, seemed to stamp Roberts’s game as something different to any other ever seen before or since.

Probably the same play now would look comparatively poor, after what we have witnessed in more recent times.

For some time after 1861 but little change took place in the way of improvement of play. In December, 1861, Roberts gave C. Hughes 375 points in 1,000, and beat him by 180 points, making two good breaks of 160 and 114. About this time Bowles was universally considered the second-best player in England, and in January, 1864, he played Roberts a match for £100, Roberts giving him 300 points. In this match the Field states: “Then came the break of the evening, the champion making 90 off the balls, and great was the excitement caused thereby.’ Bowles won this match by 109 points. In March in the same year Roberts gave Hughes 350 points in 1,000, and won by 243 points; the Sporting Life remarking apropos of the time of the game, which was 2 hours 23 minutes, “an extraordinary performance truly.”

The year 1865 was chiefly memorable for a famous money match between Dufton and Green for the large stake of £1,000. Dufton won by 107 points, his best break being 75.

In October, 1866, Roberts and Dufton gave 200 points in a game of 1,000 up to C. Hughes and Joseph Bennett. The latter players won by 344 points. At this period, evidently, the rising player was Charles Hughes, as in this four-handed match the points scored by each were as follows:-Charles Hughes 497, Roberts 488, J. Bennett 281, Dufton 136; though it must not be forgotten that Bennett, who played before Roberts, acted strictly on the defensive, and invariably gave a miss whenever he did not feel sure of scoring, his mission evidently being to prevent the champion from getting a break.

Early in the year 1869, Charles Hughes left England for a tour in Australia, India, and other places, and shortly before he started played a match with Roberts at the Golden Lion Hotel, Deansgate, Manchester. In this match, which Hughes won by 264 points, he made the very fine break of 269 off the balls. Hughes had made many friends, but his promising career was cut off, and, like many others, he may be said to have been killed with kindness.

It was about 1866 that W. Cook first appeared above the horizon, and it required a prophet indeed to foresee that this young player, whose reputation then was, figuratively speaking, no bigger than a man’s hand, was destined to rise and eclipse the very sun itself; that had shone so long and so uninterruptedly.

Such, however, was the case, and the history of billiards for the next fourteen years is almost the history of Cook himself. He has had many brilliant victories, and many disastrous defeats. But throughout, friends and foes equally admit that he has done much to raise the tone of the game, and to render it popular. Indeed, in few sports can it be said that through a series of years a man has taken a leading position, and yet even the breath of suspicion has never been known to taint his name. This, however can be said of William Cook, and the universal respect in which he is held by all, once more proves the grand old saying that “Corruption wins not more than honesty.”

In 1866 and 1867 Roberts, jun., J. Bennett, and W. Cook were all rapidly coming to the front. In February, 1867, J. Bennett and Roberts, jun., played a match, which Bennett won by 71 points, the break of the evening being one of 52 by Roberts. In the December of the same year Roberts, jun., beat Bennett in another match by 97 points, Roberts scoring breaks of 77, 93, and 61.

In November, 1868, W. Cook played J. Bennett both players having been previously beaten by Dufton. Cook had an easy victory, making breaks of 78, 64, 76, and 60, and winning by 357 points; and in the close of this year Cook played his first match for money with Roberts, Jun. Cook at the time was nineteen years of age, and Roberts twenty-one. The following account of the match appeared in the Sportsman paper, and is well worth studying, contrasting as it does with the play of the present day:-

Roberts, jun., and W. Cook, jun., for £200.

“For nearly twenty years John Roberts, the elder, has been the undisputed Champion of the ‘noble game.’ And his claims to supremacy have been acknowledged universally, and we have thus been called on to chronicle but few matches of late to which any great interest has attached. When Dufton and Green played, a lot of speculation took place, and when the former and Smith, of Liverpool, met, a good deal of excitement pended. The handicaps two seasons back created somewhat of a furore, and several matches resulted, but no large sums of money have been betted until the encounter of last night came upon the tapis. The opponents were William Cook, jun., and John Roberts, the Champion’s eldest son, who played a match of 1,000 up even, for £100 a side, at the new Bentinck Club, 404, Strand. Since the signing of the articles Roberts has practised with Dufton at the Prince of Wales Club, where he put together some remarkably fine breaks. Cook, prior to the match, resided at Brighton, and played a good deal with Bowles.

“Amongst racing men Roberts was the favourite ‘for choice,’ but at the West End Cook held his own in the quotations. Before the game commenced, however, Roberts’s supporters, who mustered strongly, laid £25 to £20 on him, and in some cases £6 to £4.

Long before eight o’clock the room was full, and prior to play opening it was crammed. We were informed that tickets had been issued for 350 persons, but it seemed to us that many more were spectators, and new seats had to be put together for the accommodation of late comers. At sixteen minutes past eight, the balls having been duly weighed, and the remainder of the stakes (£50 a side) posted with our representative, play commenced, Roberts winning the string, and ordering his opponent to begin. Cook was first to score, but they had several strokes each ere a break was made, Roberts getting in with a 19. Cook followed with a 15, and presently the marker called them ’29 all.’ Then Roberts missed an easy kiss cannon, and Cook having the balls near the top of the table went away with a pretty break of 41, including six spot hazards. From 48 Roberts got in with a 25, and became 73 against his opponent’s 78. Then another run of 24 made Roberts 119, Cook being 94 only. The latter, however, here improved his position greatly, consecutive breaks of 21,18, 32, and 36, the last including eight losers off the red, making the game-Cook 191, Roberts 123. Slow scoring succeeded for half a dozen strokes, but from 213 Cook put together 27 (eight ‘spots’), and then 18, reaching 258 against Roberts’s 159. Here the latter fluked a cannon, and added 13, Cook following with 39, and becoming 302 against his adversary’s 172. Then Roberts, in the midst of a break, landed a red winner, and 25 resulted, Cook from 309 getting farther away with a 37, inclusive of a lucky red loser. Game- Cook 346, Roberts 208. From this point the play changed altogether, Roberts, who had been less fortunate in the breaks than his adversary, and had hit out once or twice rather wildly, ‘pulling himself together,’ and inspiring his backers with fresh confidence by contributing the first substantial run-a 72-in which were a lot of finely judged strokes. Game- Roberts 299, Cook 360. Both were now very careful, and when at 370 Cook got away with a 28 his opponent succeeded with a 41, the marker shortly calling Cook 400, Roberts 404, the partisans of ‘young Jack’ being almost wild with excitement at this unlooked for alteration in the state of affairs. Roberts followed up his advantage with a break of 38, and was soon again a strong favourite, £14 to £8 being laid on him at 453 against Cook’s 417. No contributions of any importance ensued until at 470 Roberts added a 29, and presently he reached 512 Then followed the break of the evening, made principally near the top of the table. It included ten spot hazards, and terminated eventually for 120, Roberts failing at an easy red loser. Game-Roberts 632, Cook 444. The latter made a 20, and then his opponent went on again with a run of 99, this time composed chiefly of ‘spots,’ of which he put on twenty consecutively. Game- Roberts 731, Cook 465. Betting £30 to £5 on Roberts taken. Shortly Cook got to 471 (Roberts 748), and then added a break of 59, including 17 ‘spots,’ Roberts following with 36, and then with 50 more, in which were 13 spots. Game-Roberts 838, Cook 555. And now a second ‘change came o’er the spirit of the dream.’ Cook had been playing with the worst, and his adversary with the most outrageously good luck. Four times Roberts began breaks with a fluke, and as often his opponent lost the white ball after the first or second stroke. At 576 Cook added a 32, at 613 he followed with 92, in which were ten spot hazards, and at 703 he made 37 more, contributing no less than 166 while Roberts made 17. Game-Roberts 892, Cook 742. Those who earlier on had laid ‘fancy’ bets of £50 to £2 and £30 to £1, now began to feel rather ‘in the hole,’ and though their man here put on a fine run of 60, including 18 spot hazards, Cook continued to score well, and breaks of 31, 92 (20 ‘spots’), and 24 made him 900 against 976. Roberts now landed a lucky red hazard, and eventually won the best match we have ever seen by 92 points, after exactly three hours’ play.

“After so lengthy a description of the game we do not feel called on to enter upon any very lengthy remarks. Everybody who saw the match was delighted, and every backer of Cook must have felt that he had a ‘straight run’ for his money, and a good man to carry it. At the outset both were undeniably nervous, and Roberts, too anxious to be going on, missed a lot of strokes he would otherwise have made. Then the balls began to break favourably, and from that point he went ahead like a steam engine. Nothing seemed too difficult, every stroke was accomplished by his dexterity and power of cue. His break of 120 was a splendid display of the scientific points of the game, and many of his shots showed that careful attention to finesse had not been without avail.

“Of Cook’s performance we cannot speak too highly. Fortune seemed to forsake him early, when Roberts was having chances, and he never got well down to his work again until it was almost too late to retrieve his position. If the match were to be played again we should hardly know to whom to assign the position of favourite. At one time we were impressed by Roberts’s dashing style. The result seemed a foregone conclusion. But afterwards Cook got the balls into play, and his remarkable judgement and delicacy of touch forced us to believe that there is little to choose between them. Cook’s uphill play was the admiration of all, and though Roberts received the stakes, we are inclined to think the result might have been much closer had Cook’s attention not been taken off by mistakes in the marking (particularly when 800 instead of 900 was called in the midst of a spot-hazard break), and by a lot of by-play and loud talking amongst several persons interested to the extent of a few sovereigns in bets.”

This account of the match, which at this period of time there is no harm in saying was written by one who was himself a good amateur player, gives a very accurate description of the difference of style between Cook and Roberts, jun; the latter dashing and brilliant, like his father, the former remarkable for judgement and delicacy of touch.

Cook’s backers were by no means discouraged by the defeat, and a return match was quickly made, and played in March in the following year-viz., 1869. On this occasion the tables were completely turned, Cook winning by no less than 323 points. His best breaks were 81, 51, 49, 52, and 76; whilst Roberts only once made more than 50 off the balls. Neither man played with such brilliancy as when they last met, and indeed Roberts seemed to be much out of form In addition, he had bad luck throughout, as far as the breaking of the balls was concerned. Cook made altogether 116 spot hazards, and Roberts 37- rather a contrast to the play in an “all in” match in 1888.

After this, Cook, during the remainder of the year, played better and better, making some of the largest breaks ever known. and beating all Roberts’s best records. At the Royal Hotel, Dale Street, Liverpool, Cook made a break of 351; and at the Prince of Wales, Moss Side, Manchester, a still better one of 359. A match for the championship was now inevitable, and Cook challenged Roberts, senior, the result of which challenge, and the mode in which it was accepted, deserving a chapter to themselves.

1870: The Championship

The year 1870 was certainly a memorable one in the history of billiards. Indeed, it marks a new epoch, like 1066 in English history. Before this year there had virtually never been a match for the championship. Roberts, senior, had for many years been looked on not merely as champion, but as one who stood alone, unapproachable. The rapidly increasing excellence of Cook’s play, however, rendered a meeting between the two inevitable, and it only remained to decide upon the terms. The general feeling at the time amongst the best judges of the game was that Roberts was the best all-round player, but that Cook, owing to his superiority in one particular stroke, viz., “the spot-stroke,” would probably win.

It should be remembered that hitherto nothing had been done to settle a question that should have been settled long before, viz., what is the proper shape of the pockets on a billiard table. There are many now living who will remember how often Kentfield’s table at Brighton was mentioned-how it was frequently said that had Roberts or any other player to play on his table, how different it would be. Consequently a certain rigid pocket was fixed upon, the object of which there is no doubt was to do away as much as possible with the spot-stroke. Roberts and his advisers were of opinion that with large easy top pockets, Cook, who had made a special study of this one stroke, would prove too good. A model table was made and fixed up. Cook tried the table, made thirty “spots” on it, and approved. Models of cushions, pockets, openings, and slates were made by the three leading manufacturers, and exhibited at the Sportsman office, when the celebrated original low cushion (now called the “Eureka” extra low cushion), made by Mr. James S. Burroughes, of Burroughes and Watts, was chosen by J. Roberts, sen., W. Cook, and the other players in the presence of the representatives of the firms, the Editor of the Sportswear’, and many other witnesses. It was then arranged and settled that all future matches for the Championship must be played on tables constructed on this model. Thus originated the present championship table, which, as most players know, virtually does away with the spot altogether. It is a very difficult point to decide how far this alteration was just. Persons are apt to urge that the champion is always the “best player on an ordinary table.” But, then, who is to decide the difference between an ordinary table and an extraordinary one ? In 1870 the size of the pockets was in a transition state. Many used to remark on the difference between the public match table at Savile House, and those at some of the clubs in Pall Mall and elsewhere. That Roberts, senior, was right in limiting the size of the pockets has been abundantly proved. Even in the present day we see the evil increased.

The match of 1870, for £200 and the championship, between Roberts, sen., and W. Cook, deserves a special account, the following from the Sportsman being written by an eye-witness at the time:-

“The Match for the Championship.

“Extraordinary preparations had obviously been made for the match, the entrance to the grand hall being strongly barricaded, and police stationed at all the pay places. The table was of course placed in the centre, and temporary seats were constructed which reached beyond the ordinary balconies. The commencement had been fixed for eight o’clock, but the arrival of spectators began a considerable time before that hour; and owing to the capital arrangements in the issue of tickets with counterfoils, places were found without much confusion. The immense company, it is safe to say, included all the representative men of the leading branches of sport, including a preponderating number of turfites, patricians and plebeians. A private box was apportioned for His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in the left-hand corner of the chief balcony, many of the racing speculators having secured the most eligible positions immediately surrounding the table, which was corded off, and in one angle of which Joseph Bennett, the referee, took up his official post on a chair.

“Bowles and Dufton were early in making their appearance for the preliminaries of the match, and Mr. Steel (the leviathan) was the first to make an offer in a betting shape by expressing his willingness to accept 50 to 20. Shortly after the same stentorian voice proclaimed his intention of taking 200 to 100 about Roberts. It was agreed when the company were seated that such a spectacle had never before been witnessed at any billiard tournament in the world. Just after eight o’clock the impatient lookers-on began to call ‘Time !’ whereupon Dufton, addressing them, said that the players were only waiting for order, and they would proceed. The shouting becoming more general, Roberts and Cook made their entree, and were received with loud cheering, which continued for some seconds. Dufton then said it was unnecessary to introduce to them John Roberts, who for twenty years had been champion of England and the world. (Cheers.) He also added that at 600 points there would be an interval of fifteen minutes, and he advised the spectators generally as to taking the best means of recovering the places they might vacate. (Laughter.)

“Roberts’s appearance contrasted very much with that of Cook, whose extreme juvenility evidently took the uninitiated by surprise. Each was attired in black and in his shirt-sleeves, Roberts wearing, as is his wont, a wideawake during the match. Perfect order having been obtained after some slight difficulty, the first ball was struck at a quarter-past eight. Shortly afterwards the Prince of Wales, accompanied by Colonel Keppel, the Earl of Leicester, Hon. O. Montague, Hon. Mr. Arundel, Mr. Sumner, and Mr. G. Russell, came in so quietly that for some time the arrival of the Heir to the Throne was unnoticed. Upwards of one thousand spectators were assembled when the game opened. It was plain at first that both men were somewhat nervous, but it soon wore off, and when the first stroke was made the silence contrasted strangely with the hum and babbling just before. The only ladies present were Mrs. Cook, Mrs. J. Bennett, and two or three feminine friends, and the young champion more than once looked up, and, with natural pride, smiled in confidence at his fair partner. During the progress of the first portion of the game the most skillful strokes were greeted with enthusiastic recognition, and Cook, upon the first occasion that he secured position for the spot-stroke (at 40), was greeted with several rounds of applause. The Prince of Wales watched this display, only five in succession, with manifest interest and the deepest curiosity, and when Cook broke down there was a general feeling of disappointment. When the players settled to their work they were quite composed and collected, Cook’s bearing being reserved and becomingly modest, while the veteran performed in his lingual jaunty fashion, and constantly offered to back himself, pausing early to hand bank notes up to Steel, who was three or four benches up on the right. The first bet made by Roberts with Steel was 20 to 10. Shortly afterwards a gentleman betted Steel 200 to 100 Cook, which the leviathan not relishing much, disposed of by retailing the same bet out in ‘tenners’ and small amounts. In the fifteen minutes’ interval 100 to 40 was currently offered on Cook, without finding takers. The prevalent opinion among those conversant with Roberts’s play was that in the first stage of the game, up to 600, he was too offhand, and ill-natured critics went so far as to describe him as acting with indiscreet ‘flashness.’

“The Prince left at twelve o’clock, and expressed himself highly pleased with Cook’s fine play in the second half of the match. His Royal Highness at the same time, we understand, declared his intention of not witnessing another match except on the old-fashioned tables, as he wished to see how the great breaks, of which he had read so much, were played.

The Play.

“Cook having won the ‘string,’ Roberts opened with a miss in baulk, an example followed by Cook. This was repeated a second time by each player, but then Roberts succeeded with 23, composed of losing hazards and cannons. Cook did not score, nor did Roberts, at his next attempt, but then the former added 8. Roberts now made 5 and Cook 19, finally breaking down at a white losing hazard for the middle pocket. Twice in succession did Cook fail to score, and during that time Roberts added 3 and 2. Score-Roberts 35, Cook 29. The champion now had the red ball left over the top pocket. This he holed, and then ran up 19. From 29 Cook went on to 40, when he got into position for the spot-stroke, but in making his second ‘spot’ hazard he accidentally touched his opponent’s ball, and the score was disallowed. Cook was now 44 to 54. Roberts did not score, but Cook added half a dozen and then five more, leaving a double baulk. Roberts gave a miss, and Cook ran from 57 to 94 by an all-round 37 capitally played, and with great care. Roberts next got in with 7, but Cook added a dozen before relinquishing his cue, and passed into his second hundred after playing 27 minutes. When Roberts had again failed to score, Cook went on with 18, and made the marker call the game-Cook 124, Roberts 65. The latter now put together 20 in very fine style, while Cook only added an all-round cannon, an example followed by Roberts at his next innings.

“A couple of misses were now given, and then Cook ran up 18, five ‘spot’ hazards being in the break. Twice did Roberts fail to score (while Cook each time only made one red hazard before breaking down), and then went on with 13. Score-Cook 151, Roberts 104. The former next made 7, and the latter 9, followed by 17 from Cook. The next to score was Roberts, with 7 and 4, Cook after one futile attempt succeeding with 14. From 130 the elder player added 10, but Cook capped this with 9, after which Roberts ran on with 22, in which were a couple of ‘spots.’ Failing to score at his next attempt, Cook let Roberts in again, but he only added 7. His adversary’s next score was 21, and he then followed with another 7. Small scores carried the combatants to-Cook 241, Roberts 187, when the latter added 34, in which were four ‘spots;’ and then, Cook not scoring, 7 more; the last-named now went on to 249, but Roberts again at that point resumed scoring, and with a capital 17 attained to within three points of his opponent. Cook now had an opening left, and in very steady fashion put together 38, a break which was finished only by his missing cue. He soon followed this with 12, while Roberts succeeded with 19, and made his game 278 to 302. Here Cook manipulated a nice all-round 24, but had no sooner worked his way up to the spot ere he broke down, the small size of the pockets materially affecting the play of each man in this particular. From 278 Roberts went on to 287, while Cook at 331 added 22 and got as far as 353. Each man now failed to add to his figures, but then Cook ran up 16, and Roberts followed with 30, the game at this point being-Cook 369, Roberts 324. The former next made 23, and the latter 17, after minor breaks, but then Cook entered his fifth hundred with a run of 28, and made his total score 420. A break of precisely the same value brought Roberts on to 378, while another of 20 by each again followed. Roberts with 13, 10, and 8, Cook failing to score, now rapidly reduced the gap between the players, but Cook, with a couple of 7’s, ran on again to 456, Roberts then being 431. Two smaller runs of 8 and 13 carried Cook to 478, while Roberts with 23 went on to 456, and thence to 463, in the latter break of 7 a stroke which holed the red ball in one of the bottom pockets and came back round the table and cannoned, fairly bringing down the house for the first time during the evening. From 471 Roberts added 22, and then got on to 497, again taking the lead, which, however, Cook directly afterwards reassumed, and with 10 got to 505, passing into his sixth hundred at half-past ten. At 517 both players were level. When Cook got to 522 he made a couple of such brilliant cannons that the assembly, getting very excited, cheered him again and again. From 532 Cook proceeded with 49, the highest break hitherto made, to 581, and thence, after Roberts had added but 3 more, with 44 more to 625. An interval was now allowed, the total score standing-Cook 625, Roberts 521. Time, 10.45.

“During the interval odds of 100 to 40 were offered on Cook, but these were only taken in isolated cases. It was not until twenty minutes past eleven that play was resumed. For some time it was very slow work, but at length from 641 Cook went on with 18 to 659, Roberts having then reached 540. At 665 Cook stayed for some time, while Roberts gradually crept on to 578, his largest break in doing so being 17. The younger player now went on again with 27, in which his delicate cannons were very conspicuous, and followed it up with 11, after Roberts had scored 10. Cook was now 705 against Roberts’s 600, and the former put together a very fine losing hazard and cannon break of 80, at the conclusion of which the whole room cheered to the echo. He followed this with a dozen, while Roberts only made 8 in three breaks, and Cook entered his ninth hundred while his opponent was only 608. Here Roberts put together 20, and then each player added 11 before Cook went on with 14 and 16 to 856. A good spin of 20 now carried Roberts to 660, and another of 16 immediately succeeded, Cook meanwhile making but 5. The latter, however, was next to score with 22, but Roberts, with breaks of 26, 10, and a couple of 17’s, while Cook remained stationary at 883, made up a good deal of his leeway. The total numbers were now-Roberts 746 to Cook 887; but the latter could make no move, while Roberts again kept moving with 24, 14, and 12, until he had scored 796 to 897. Here two ‘ponies’ were offered and accepted about Roberts, who was playing grandly, and in his next break passed into the same hundred (the ninth) as Cook.

“At length, when Roberts had reached 822, Cook got the balls in position, and quickly ran up 63, making his score 962; but as Roberts followed by making 62 (five spots), he did not gain much advantage thereby. When the score was Roberts 892, Cook 977, the latter made a foul stroke, and the balls had to be spotted. At about ten minutes to one Cook completed his 1,000 (Roberts being then 899), and went on in the same run to 1,016 the entire break numbering 35. In the succeeding break Roberts added 39, and followed with 10 and 11, after Cook had gone on to 1,027. Here he stopped, while Roberts put together a very fine break of 31, mainly composed of losing red hazards. Roberts got to 1,000 when Cook was 1,037, and then with a break of 41 went by his youthful antagonist, who, however, again repassed him, and with 22 and some little ones got to 1,069 to 1,049. The excitement was now very great and each stroke was loudly applauded. Again, with 31 and 10, he got farther away, until he reached 1,110 to 1,051.

“Each man was now very careful, and the play proportionately slow for some time, until Cook was 1,132 to 1,083. Here, with a little luck, he got the balls in good position, and worked them so well that he ran out with an incomplete break of 68, several of his losing hazards being especially brilliant. The winning stroke was a losing red hazard into the middle pocket at twenty minutes to two o’clock.

“The match altogether lasted just five hours, of which two hours and forty minutes were occupied in making the first 600. Cook was thus declared the winner (by 117 points) and the champion amid a scene of the wildest excitement. Roberts was naturally much chagrined at his defeat, but after a little while recovered himself, as he found that his old supporters, so far from deserting him in his trouble, crowded round him all the more eagerly to offer consolation.”

1870 to 1873 (The first great Burroughes & Watts tournament)

The next great match after the memorable one between Cook and Roberts, sen., was a match at pyramids between Cook and Roberts, jun. This match, which was virtually, though not nominally, for the championship at pyramids, was played on an ordinary Burroughes and Watts table (3 5/8 inch pockets) at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Paddington. The play on both sides was magnificent. After the two players had won nine games each, the match being the best of twenty-one games, Roberts, jun., scored the next two games, and thus won.

After this match a series of exhibition games took place principally round the country, the players being as a rule Cook and Roberts or Cook and Stanley. Day by day news came of larger and larger breaks being scored, till at last Cook, in a match with Stanley at Totnes, made no less than 512 in one break.

Next followed the second match for the championship, which proved a most easy victory to Roberts, jun., who won by no less than 478 points. This game was played on the 14th April, 1870, and was 1,000 up instead of 1,200. The time of this match is still the fastest on record for a match for the championship, Roberts winning in 3 hours 4 minutes. He was immediately challenged by Alfred Bowles, of Brighton, and the match was played on May 30, 1870. Bowles, however, had no chance, and it was at once apparent that he was altogether a different class of player. Roberts won an easy match by 246 points, the time being 4 hours 10 minutes.

The next to challenge was Joseph Bennett, who met the holder of the Cup on November 28 in the same year, defeating him by 95 points in 4 hours 45 minutes. And thus closed the memorable year of 1870, which had witnessed four championship matches and four billiard champions-viz., John Roberts, sen., W. Cook, John Roberts, jun., and Joseph Bennett.

Early in 1871-viz., on the 30th of January-the championship once more changed hands. Roberts, jun., had at once challenged Bennett to a return match, in which the latter suffered a severe defeat, as Roberts won by no less than 363 points, in 3 hours 22 minutes, whereupon W. Cook once more came to the front and challenged Roberts. The two met on the 25th of May, 1871, and Cook once more won the championship, after a most exciting struggle, by 15 points only. The next to challenge was Joseph Bennett, who met Cook on 21st November, 1871, and the latter won by 58 points in 4 hours 23 minutes. Thus ended the year 1871, which, in addition to these important matches for the championship, teemed with others too numerous to be mentioned.

The first match in 1872 was between W. Cook, the champion, and Roberts, jun., who once more challenged for the Cup, but was again doomed to disappointment, as, on the 4th of March, Cook defeated him by 201 points, in 3 hours 27 minutes; and the last named was now in the zenith of his fame, playing better and better every day. No one again challenged for the championship in 1877; but before the end of the year Cook had surpassed all his former efforts, and in an exhibition match with Joseph Bennett, on the 29th of November, had scored the splendid break of 936 off the balls, including 262 consecutive spot hazards.

In 1873 another event took place that has had a marked effect in advancing billiards as a scientific game. In the December of that year Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, the well-known firm of billiard table manufacturers of Soho Square, first commenced that series of handicaps which has done so much to advance billiards, and which has been the means, in fact the only means, of bringing forward rising young players, who, but for their liberality, would still be comparatively unknown.

For some time professional billiards had been too much monopolised by three or four players, to the exclusion of all others. By means of these handicaps young players for years past have had opportunities of showing their powers unhampered by a backer.

The secret of the marvellous success of these Burroughes and Watts handicaps has been that the best players have been selected with the utmost fairness. The handicap has been left in the hands of the press, and no entrance fee whatever has been demanded from the players, who, in addition to the valuable prize of over £100 given each time, have been allowed to share all profits accruing over each entertainment It is by these means that men like Shorter, Collins; Mitchell, Peall, and others, have been enabled to come to the front rank of players.

In the first great handicap, played at the Guildhall Tavern in December, 1873, the following sixteen players were selected:-Cook, Roberts, jun., Joseph Bennett, Taylor, F. Bennett, Stanley, Harry Evans, Dufton, Roberts, sen., Tom Morris, Alfred Hughes, John Bennett, L. Kilkenny, Alfred Bennett, Stammers, and Collins. The play was very interesting throughout, and eventually Cook (scratch) beat Kilkenny (130) in the final, winning two games out of three, and winding up the last game with a break of 428.

Cook finished up this most successful year with a match at Liverpool with Timbrell, to whom he gave 250 points in 1,000 for a stake of £400. Timbrell in this match made one good break, 112, but Cook won the game by 229 points, making breaks of 116, 149, and three consecutive ones of 111, 106, and 168. In addition to this match another took place in the same month, December, between Taylor and Stanley, at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Holborn, the game being rendered memorable by a famous break by Taylor of 435 points (137 spot hazards). It is almost needles to say that Taylor won the match, which was for £100 a side.

1874

The first event of any consequence in 1874 was another match for the championship, Roberts, jun., once more challenging Cook, who had remained in undisturbed possession of the title of champion since March, 1872. Cook’s star was still in the ascendant, as he won the match, the ninth for the championship by 216 points, in three hours and ten minutes. This game was played on the 4th February. Cook was in wonderfully good form, starting with a break of 121, the largest that had ever been made on a championship table.

About this period considerable discussion took place in various papers with regard to the spot-stroke. Timbrell had been credited with a break of 893, in which were no less than 296 spots; Cook, in the previous year, had made 936; Taylor’s famous break with Stanley of 435, were all quoted to prove that the spot-stroke spoiled the game. Some, on the other hand, maintained that, without the spot-stroke, the game became dull and uninteresting. The result of this was that Messrs. Burroughes and Watts came forward once more and offered the liberal prize of a hundred-guinea table and a cue-case valued at ten guineas for a handicap in which the spot-stroke was barred.

This handicap was extremely interesting, and tended to prove that as a rule the best spot-stroke player will generally be also be best all-round player-that is, on an ordinary fairly-made table. This handicap was entrusted to me to make, and the following account of the final heat, which appeared in Land and Water, contains my views on the game written at the time:-

“Taylor, 180, and S. W. Stanley, 200, commenced their first game at three o’clock on Saturday, the final heat being the best of two games out of three. At starting Taylor made a break of 26, thus gaining the points which he had to concede, and getting ahead of his opponent. Stanley, however, soon began to play, and that too in remarkably good form. By means of one well-played break of 50 and several small ones he gradually drew 100 points ahead of his opponent, as he reached 366 to Taylor 259. The latter, however, who had rather the worst of the luck during this run of Stanley’s, played on with good pluck. A break of 36 helped him to decrease the lead, and he reached 346 to Stanley 408. Soon after Taylor, by means of two more breaks of 25 and 26 each, got up to 428, while Stanley had in the meantime only reached 443. Here, however, Stanley got in again. A break of 34 brought him to 482 to Taylor 443, when the latter failing to score, Stanley made the game off the balls, thus winning the first match of the three by 57 points.

“The second match commenced as the former by Taylor getting the lead, he reaching 267 to Stanley 245, when the latter made a break of 51, and soon after, by means of another break of over 30, succeeded in reaching 329 to Taylor 268. Soon after however, a splendid break of 63 brought Taylor again to the fore, as he reached 342 to Stanley 337. A 36 break, however, enabled the latter to get away again, but not for long, as Taylor reached 423 to Stanley 407, and soon after the game was called 457 all. At this point Stanley made a very bad stroke, as he missed an easy hazard. Taylor, however; failed to make more than 2, and Stanley soon after by means of a 16 break won the game by 40 points, and with it Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’s handsome 100-guinea table, Taylor receiving the second prize of a fitted cue-case worth £10 There can be no doubt but that the victory of a rising young player like Stanley is beneficial to sport. Nothing does so much harm as that systematic shutting out of young men in handicaps in order that well-known influential names may be left in at the finish to make what is called a gate.

“Fortunately billiards in the present day is conducted on very different principles to what it was some years back. The strict integrity of the leading professionals coupled with the wonderful liberality of Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, has been the means by which the game now ranks as high as chess for science, and is entirely dissociated from the vice of gambling.

“In reference to Stanley’s well deserved victory, we would call attention to a letter from him we published two months ago, in which he states, ‘ I believe as a rule it will be always found that the best player at the spot-stroke is the best player after a time at the all-round game. To play the spot-stroke well requires great patience, a great deal of practice, and a great amount of nerve. Now any one who can combine all these is sure to be a good all-round player…. I believe after a certain point that the best player in a match for money will always be the one who funks the least, and not the one who can make the largest break in private, or when there is nothing on the game.’

“There is an old and somewhat vulgar saying that ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating,’ which certainly applies in the present case.”

It is certainly a curious feature in a “spot-stroke barred” handicap that the two players left in for the final heat were the two who were mostly noted for being entirely dependent on the spot-stroke for their game.

In the following week Stanley met a defeat at the hands of Timbrell, of Liverpool, for the large stake of £1,000 and on the same day Roberts, jun., in a match with Cook, at Stockton, made a break of 800 off the balls.

The next match of any moment in 1874 was one between John Roberts, jun., and J. Bennett, for £200, which took place at Bennett’s rooms in Oxford Street, on Monday, June 1st. Roberts, whose best break was 140, won the game by 432 points.

Later on, Stanley got up a handicap at Rupert Street, Leicester Square, in which the following players contended: Joseph Bennett owe 50, Taylor and Stanley scratch, F. Bennett 50, H. Evans 80, Collins 100, Shorter, Richards, and Godwin 125, J. Bennett 140, G. Hunt 175, J. Hart 200, W. Dufton 220, H. Stenning 230, J. Stammers 250, Wilson scratched. This handicap was eventually won by G. Hunt, Stanley being left in to the last heat.

One feature of the year was the visit of W. Cook, the champion, to America, where he was ill-advised enough to play Rudolph at the cannon game. It is needless to say that Cook was defeated, which called forth shrieks of exultation in some of the American papers, which came out with sensational headings, such as “All England brought to grief,” etc. Indeed the tone was almost as ludicrous as that of some of the second-rate French papers, who declared in 1865 that “at length Waterloo is avenged,” because Gladiateur won the Derby.

To the Americans, however, we owe a deep debt of gratitude, and Cook’s visit was certainly not in vain, as he brought back with him the American system of handicaps.

1875

The one great feature of the year 1875 was the introduction of billiard handicaps on the American system. With regard to these Land and Water observed at the time:-

“It seems now definitely settled that a handicap in which the eight best players will contend on the American system will take place. Thanks to the munificence of Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, who, for the third time during the past two years, have offered the sum of £100 to be given away in prizes, there can be no doubt of the handicap being a great success. One good point in the American system, which we may briefly describe, as each man plays one game with every other player, is that it necessitates a smaller number than an ordinary handicap. Hitherto sixteen has been almost invariably the number fixed on, as it avoids the necessity of having an odd man in the draw, which too often has been the means by which quite an inferior player has, by sheer luck, got into the final heat and won second prize.

“Now, eight men playing on the American system will play considerably more games than sixteen on the English, as the latter only play fifteen, whereas the former play twenty-eight at the very least, and probably more, as very likely there may be some ties. For instance, suppose two men or more win four games each, four being the greatest number of games won by any individual player-these men will have to play again in order to decide who is the winner. Another great point in favour of the eight best players being picked instead of more is that almost every match is interesting. Now, in some of the recent handicaps, when two men, neither of whom ranked among the first ten players of the day, by chance drew together, the spectators knew, to their cost, how extremely tame and uninteresting was the match. In the present instance Cook has chosen, we think, wisely, the players being Cook, Roberts, jun., Joe Bennett, Taylor, Timbrell, Stanley, Kilkenny, and Alfred Bennett. Now it is impossible to pick any two who will not make an exceedingly interesting match.

“How often, too, are people who take an interest in billiards heard to say, ‘I should like to see a match between so-and-so’-e.g., Taylor and Joe Bennett. One good point in the forthcoming handicap will be that every man can pick any particular match he likes-every one playing with every one else. Then, again, the element of luck, so often the spoiler of sport, is, by the method adopted, almost eliminated. How often do we hear the regrets of some fine player who, owing perhaps to some lucky fluke of his opponent, is knocked out in the very first game, who probably, but for the fluke in question, would have been the winner of the handicap ? In the present case, no man who did not win a single game would be audacious enough to attribute his want of success to luck only; nor, on the other hand, should a player win every game he played, could the meanest of his opponents but candidly confess that he had fairly earned his triumph. However, a meeting of the players takes place, when all preliminaries are settled. Should some players prefer to be placed with less points against their names than would otherwise be credited them, the result would prove how far their wishes are the result of conscious power, or simply one of the many instances of the proud spirit that goeth before a fall. At any rate, never has any billiard tournament taken place that will so clearly bring out the respective merits of the different men who will contend.

“Billiards, as a sport in the present day, bids fair to take a very high position. We believe this is due partly to the high honourable tone of the leading professionals, and partly to the encouragement given in the shape of prizes, such as those lately offered by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, who have done more to make billiards a recognised national amusement than any who have in their way been encouragers of the game for years past. There has never been any difficulty in finding men ready to come forward with money for a stake when a crack player has wanted backers. Various are the motives. Hundreds of men will put down money in the firm belief that they will win it back again, or for the love of being thought a sporting man, or simple vanity, but the case in which a sum of money is absolutely given away in hundreds is rare. It is much to be regretted that the example thus set is not followed by those who, with an earnest wish to encourage sport of all kinds, seem at a loss to perceive any other method open to them than that of backing their particular ‘fancy,’ too often to their own loss, and attended with the sacrifice of the honour of the ‘fancy’ in question.”

The preliminary meeting is described as follows:-

“At a meeting that took place last Tuesday at the private residence of Mr. J. Burroughes, of the firm of Burroughes and Watts, the whole of the arrangements in connection with what will undoubtedly be the great handicap of the year were definitely settled. Mr. Burroughes being unanimously voted into the chair, the meeting, which consisted of all the players, with the exception of Roberts and Alfred Bennett, besides numerous representatives of the London press, proceeded to business. The first point decided was that the handicap should commence on Monday, January 18th, at three o’clock in the afternoon, at Joseph Bennett’s well-known rooms in Oxford Street, almost adjoining Regent Circus. Two games will be played each afternoon, and two in the evening, commencing at eight. Consequently, the handicap will last seven days, and cannot be concluded before Monday, January 25. Should, however, there be any ties, they must be played off afterwards.

“The next point decided was the handicap itself, and resulted in the members of the press present being entrusted to decide the delicate question as to how many points each player should receive, it being previously determined that the champion and two ex-champions-viz., Joseph Bennett and Roberts, jun.- should all start at scratch. The members of the press having retired to another room for the purpose, there ensued what our old friend Herodotus used to call a great pushing of words. However, fortunately, the members were an odd number, and the following handicap was finally carried by four to three.

“Somewhat anxious were a few of the faces as the handicappers returned to the festive board. The feeling of honourable rivalry runs somewhat high among the upper-class professionals, and to their credit be it said that the feeling with each was that he preferred the honour of being thought well of in being allotted a few points to the mere pecuniary advantage to be derived from receiving many. After a laugh had subsided from the youthful Stanley observing in a tragic voice, ‘Gentlemen, are you all agreed upon your verdict ?’-and certainly the scene was uncommonly like the return of a jury-the handicap was announced as follows:-Cook, Roberts, J. Bennett, scratch; Taylor 100; Stanley, 120; Timbrell, 140; Kilkenny and Alfred Bennett, 160. The verdict was evidently one of ‘Guilty, my lord,’ so far as Stanley was concerned, as he was evidently annoyed at receiving twenty points more than Taylor, which fact seemed to outbalance the honour of receiving twenty more than Timbrell. This latter player was probably surprised at being handicapped to receive points from a man whom he had but recently played and beaten in a match for a stake of £1,000. However, being a full-grown man, he concealed his emotions. For our part, leaving out of the question as to who is the best player of the three and who is the worst, we think the handicappers would have shown more worldly wisdom had they placed Taylor, Timbrell, and Stanley all on the same footing, as this would have been more gratifying to the players’ feelings, and also an exceedingly interesting point in the handicap would have been the order of merit in which these three undoubtedly fine players would have placed themselves. As it is, should Timbrell beat Stanley, or both beat Taylor, much of the credit that they would otherwise have won is removed by the fact that points were given.

“After the question of the handicap was disposed of, the point next considered was in what proportions should the prizes be awarded, as, on the American system, each player gets a prize. Mr. Burroughes now announced that they proposed giving, in addition to the £100 in prizes, a gold medal to the winner of the first prize, besides which the whole of the profits of the tournament, which will probably amount to a considerable sum, would be added to the £100 and divided among the players. Joseph Bennett, also, has allowed the use of his room for the week for so small a sum that he may be almost considered as the giver of another prize. Cook also stated that he would give a gold locket, value £10, to whichever of the other players should make the largest break during: the handicap. After some little discussion, the principal difficulty being that the American system seemed to call for a more than ordinary knowledge of arithmetic, it was decided to divide the money in the following proportions:-The lowest, or rather the player who wins the least number of games, was to receive two parts, the next best three, the next four, and so on to the winner, who would receive nine parts; consequently, the whole sum of money will have to be divided into forty-four equal parts, and then distributed accordingly; or as the old-fashioned arithmetic books say-Example: Suppose the whole sum of money should amount to £220, each player will receive as follows:-The winner, the gold medal and £45, the next £40, the next £35, the next £30, the next £25, the next £20, the next £15 and the last £10. Some will probably think we have entered rather unnecessarily into a very simple and obvious calculation, but we have found so many persons who were quite unable to grasp the idea, that for their sakes we trust we may be pardoned by the more mathematical.

“But this last little difficulty was nothing to the awful problem that next presented itself, which was the order of play. It was determined that each man should play one game each day, that no man should play more than one each day, yet every man was to play every other man, and no two men to play twice together. Required: To draw up a list of four games with the names of the players for each of the seven days. A very pretty little puzzle or problem. The three rabbits with the three ears between them, and each to have two ears, was nothing to it. It was rather cruel of Mr. Burroughes to invite seven distinguished literary gentlemen to open an unknown number of bottles of excellent champagne, and then to present them with a problem that, to say the least, requires some little consideration. But the seven distinguished literary gentlemen behaved nobly under the trial. Reams of paper and bundles of pens and pencils were produced, and for a time silence reigned around.

“The scene almost recalled the Senate House at Cambridge, with Great St. Mary’s chiming the quarters apparently every five minutes. After vainly endeavouring to divide n(n -1) by Moet and Chandon, the seven distinguished literary gentlemen settled to their work, and ultimately produced a successful result.”

The handicap commenced on January with, and was, as every one had anticipated, a great success.

Roberts and Alfred Bennett were equal, each one having won five games. They played off the tie the following evening after the last game, when Roberts won easily, starting with a splendid break of 213, and ultimately winning by 140 points.

The next event of importance in 1875 was a match between Cook and Taylor for £200, the latter receiving 200 points in 1,000. Cook was in fine arm, and won by 474 points. The match was played immediately after the handicap, and on the same table, a very fine specimen supplied by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts. On a previous occasion these two players met, Cook giving 300, when Taylor won with great ease.

So complete had been the success of the first billiard tournament on the American system in London, that Messrs. Burroughes and Watts once more came forward with the offer of £100 for another one on the same system at Manchester. This was commenced on Tuesday, March 30th, and was played in the Cotton Waste Hall, Manchester, the players being the same as before, with the exception of Harry Evans being substituted for Timbrell.

The result of the handicap was an easy victory for Roberts, who won every game, in addition to which he secured a silver tankard, valued at fifteen guineas, for the best general average; while an extra prize, a fitted portmanteau, for the largest break in the handicap, was won by W. Cook, who in his game with J. Bennett made 304 off the balls.

Most assuredly Roberts’s play in this handicap was a grand performance. Up to about this period Cook and Roberts, though handicapped to play level, were scarcely considered equal. Cook’s long run of winning four matches in succession for the championship, as well as the fact of his having made the largest breaks on both an ordinary and a championship table, had caused him to be generally regarded as Roberts’s superior. After this time, however, the position of these two players became reversed, Roberts taking a decided lead, which he has steadily increased ever since.

On Friday, May 14th, Cook and Taylor met for the third time, Cook giving 300 in 1,000 for a stake of £200. In this game Taylor reached 903 to Cook’s 827, when the latter scored the game off the balls with a magnificent break of 173.

On the 24th of the same month Cook and Roberts met once again for the championship. Cook suffered a defeat, as Roberts won by 163 points in three hours and thirty-nine minutes. In this game Roberts’s best break was 49, and Cook’s 52.

In July, 1875, the two famous American players, the Dion Brothers, visited London, but their exhibitions proved a dead failure, as, in the first place, it was wrong to choose the summer, and, in the second, the English public have never yet shown any interest whatever in French billiards.

In July Stanley and F. Bennett met on a championship table for a stake of £200. After some weeks of wrangling, the game not being finished in time, and never played out, Stanley received the stakes.

Nothing of real importance occurred till the close of the year, when, on the 20th December, Roberts, jun., the champion, once more met W. Cook for another match for the championship. The result was Cook was again defeated by 135 points, the time of the game being three hours and twenty-five minutes Roberts’s best break was 85, and Cook’s 54. Unfortunately in this match considerable offence was not unnaturally taken, owing to the utter absence of any provision being made for the press, the room being so completely darkened, except the light on the table, that taking notes became impossible, and many papers failed to give any account whatever of the game. This was the last match of the year.

1876 to 1878

The year 1876 commenced with a handicap, as on January 3rd, at the Guildhall Tavern, the following men met in one on the ordinary, and not the American, system: W. Cook, scratch; T. Taylor, 110; S. W. Stanley, 100; F. Bennett, L. Kilkenny, and Alfred Bennett, 170; Shorter, Collins, Richards, and Hunt, 220; Stammers, 270. This handicap was won by L. Kilkenny, who took the first prize of £50. G. Hunt took the second prize, a fitted cue-case presented by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, while an extra prize for the best general average was won by Shorter.

On January 21st Alfred Bennett and T. Taylor met on a championship table for £200, but owing to the lateness of the hour the game was not finished. On February 21st John Roberts, the champion, played a match with Timbrell, the latter receiving 300 points in 1,000 for a stake of £600. Roberts won by 236 points.

Soon after this F. Bennett and Tom Taylor met to decide their long-postponed match on a championship table. This match was played at the Cambridge Hall, Newman Street, and resulted in the victory of Taylor by 315 points, his play being much applauded.

Cook at this period wished to play another match for the championship, but Roberts declined, as he was very shortly leaving England for Australia, and a benefit took place for him at St. James’s Hall, when he and Taylor played Cook and Stanley, a four-handed game, the former pair winning by 232 points.

The next event of importance was a handicap that took place under Cook’s management at 367, Strand, the first prize being a billiard table, presented by Messrs. Turner and Price. The handicap was as follows: Cook, scratch; Taylor, Stanley, and Timbrell, 125; F. Bennett, Kilkenny, and Alfred Bennett, 150; Richards, 170. It was won by Cook, who only lost one game-viz., that with Stanley. Next to Cook, Richards played best, winning five games, being defeated by Cook and Kilkenny. The best break in the handicap was made by F. Bennett, who in his heat with Timbrell scored 232 off the balls.

Roberts, jun., still prolonged his stay in Australia, and consequently Cook claimed the championship.

The first event of any importance in 1877 was a match at the Gaiety Restaurant, on January 18th, between Cook and Taylor, the latter receiving 300, points in 1,000. As this was the first money match that had taken place for over twelve months it excited an unusual amount of interest. Cook wont showing remarkable form, and scoring breaks of 112, 125, 115, 121, 196, etc. He made his first 500 in 1 hour 1 minute, and his second in 36 minutes, ultimately winning the game by 365 points.

This match was followed by one between J. Bennett and T. Taylor for £200, which was played on February 1st, Taylor winning by 27 points only. In the return match that followed, on the 20th of the same month, Taylor again won a most exciting contest by 21 points. Both these games were played on a championship table, specially made for the occasion by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts.

Next followed another of those popular tournaments promoted by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, who gave another £ 100 in prizes. This tournament commenced on February 27th, 1878, at the Gaiety Restaurant, the players being handicapped as follows: Cook scratch, J. Bennett, Taylor, Stanley, Timbrell, and Kilkenny each receiving 150 points, F. Bennett and Shorter receiving 200. Shorter won six games out of seven, being defeated by F. Bennett only. In his game with J. Bennett, Shorter made a fine break of 295, thus virtually winning the game off the balls, J. Bennett being beaten a love game of 500 up, a rare occurrence in billiards.

It is a curious feature, showing how men’s form changes, that J. Bennett, who afterwards defeated Cook level for the championship, should then be receiving 150 points in 500. J. Bennett shortly before this handicap defeated Stanley on a championship table for £100 by 247 points. The next month, April, was prolific in matches. Moss defeated Cook, who gave him 400 in 1,000, by 203 points, the stake being £200. Taylor gave J. Bowell 200 points in 1,000 on a championship table for £200, and won by 71 points, shortly after, on the same terms, for a stake of £100, defeating him by 14 points only.

The match of the month, however, was the one between Shorter and Taylor, the latter giving 200 points in 1,000 for a stake of £200. In this match Shorter made the famous break of 636 off the balls, including 207 spot hazards. Shorter won the game by 848 points.

On the 28th of May Cook and Roberts met once again for the championship, Roberts winning by 223 points. Owing to the refusal of Roberts to allow the usual facilities to members of the press, the match failed to receive that notice due to a match for the championship.

In the same month Taylor gave Moss 150 in 1,000 for £200, and won by 27 points. He also defeated Kilkenny in a match for £50, and Bowell once more for £100. Cook also beat the brothers Moss, the first match for £100, and the second for £200. None of these games, which were all played in Manchester, were remarkable for any great breaks.

In the following month W. Cook gave Taylor 200 points in 1,000 for £300, winning easily by 334 points. This match was played on a championship table specially provided for the purpose by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts.

On the 18th of June a very extraordinary match took place at the Gaiety Restaurant between John Roberts and Timbrell, the latter receiving 300 points in a game of 1,000 up. The Sportsman held a stake of £500 a-side. The match was played on an ordinary table, and Timbrell won by 439 points, his best break being 73, whilst Roberts never made more than 35 off the balls. This match was originally fixed for an earlier date, but Roberts, with rare courtesy, postponed the match on account of Timbrell’s ill-health.

In the next month Timbrell was not so fortunate, as Cook gave him 350 points in 1,000 for a stake of £100, and beat him easily, Cook running out with a break of 364.

The year 1877 closed with a match for the championship of Scotland, played at Glasgow on December 14th, for which Messrs. Burroughes and Watts had presented a splendid trophy in the shape of a silver cup. Green in this match, which was played on a new table by Burroughes and Watts, defeated Sala by 346 points.

The first great event of 1878 was another tournament on the American system, Messrs. Burroughes and Watts giving £100 to be divided amongst the players in addition to the proceeds.

The following were the players: W. Cook, scratch; Shorter, J. Bennett, Taylor, and Stanley, 125; Collins, Kilkenny, and Green, 170. The tournament commenced on Monday, February 4th, and was played at the Queen’s Rooms, Argyle Street, Oxford Circus. The result was a victory for Collins, who played throughout in rare form, winning six games out of seven, Taylor being the only player who defeated him. Collins made a break of 132 in his game with Cook, 92 with J. Bennett, 83 with Stanley, 111 with Shorter, 86 with Taylor, 121 with Green, and 109 with Kilkenny. The best break in this handicap was 365 by Cook in his game with Taylor. J. Bennett also made a good break of 265 in his game with Kilkenny.

The next match of any real importance in 1878 was one on the 8th of April between Stanley and Fielding for £200, Stanley giving 150 points. Messrs. Burroughes and Watts fitted up a table for the purpose at the Cotton Waste Exchange, Manchester, and Fielding won by 179 points. Roberts in the meanwhile was in India, and having declined to play Cook for the championship, Cook once more claimed the title of champion, and before himself leaving for India deposited the 150-guinea championship cup in the hands of the original donors.

On October 5th another American tournament was begun at the Westminster Aquarium, Messrs. Burroughes and Watts giving a sum of £50 in prizes. The feature of this handicap was that it was played on a championship table, heats 300 up. The players were Joseph Bennett, scratch; Collins, 25; Richards 35; A. Bowles, 40; A. Hughes, 60; G. Hunt, 60; John Bennett, 70; and R. Wilson, 80. G. Hunt carried off the first prize of £30, winning every game, a feat only once before accomplished, viz., by Roberts in the Manchester handicap. Wilson won the second prize of £10, and Joseph Bennett and Richards divided the third and fourth prizes.

This handicap was shortly followed by another one in November at the same place on an ordinary table, the players being Joseph Bennett, scratch; T. Taylor and G. Collins, 50; Richards, 75; G. Hunt, 85; A. Hughes, 90; R. Wilson, 110; A. Davis, 120. Joseph Bennett throughout the tournament, which was played on an ordinary Burroughes and Watts table (heats 500), was in rare form, and he repeated Hunt’s and Roberts’s performances of winning every game. Collins won 5 games, G. Hunt 5 games, Taylor 4, Richards 3, Davis 2, Wilson 2, and Hughes 0. J. Bennett also won the prize for the best break, making one of 213. Collins made a good break of 201, and Taylor one of 182.

The last American tournament of the year was played the second week in December at St. James’s Hall on a Burroughes and Watts ordinary table, T. Taylor presenting first prize of 50 guineas and second prize of 20 guineas, the third prize of 10 guineas being given by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, who also gave £5 for the best general average. The players were handicapped as follows:-Joseph Bennett and T. Taylor, scratch; Collins and F. Bennett, 50; Fielding and Richards, 100; G. Hunt, 110; and J. Lloyd, 150. The result of the tournament was that F. Bennett won 6 games, and consequently took first prize. Taylor and Lloyd won 5 games each, Taylor beating Lloyd in playing off the tie; Joseph Bennett won 4 games, G. Collins 3, G. Hunt 2, Richards 2, and Fielding 1 game. With this tournament the season of 1878 may be said to have closed.

1879

THE ADVENT OF WILLIAM MITCHELL – AMERICAN TOURNAMENTS – JOSEPH BENNETT AND TAYLOR – JOSEPH BENNETT AND JOHN ROBERTS, JUN.

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES in 1879 were conspicuous by their absence, but that particular year will ever be regarded as fraught with interest to lovers of billiards, as it introduced to public notice a player whose light had previously, strange to say, been concealed under a bushel. The player in question-William Mitchell, of Sheffield, better known at the time as “Bradley’s Boy”-a phenomenal exponent of the art of spot-stroke play, had, antecedently to the winter of 1879, been known to some habitues of provincial billiard rooms as a player of exceptional ability, but it may be safely asserted that never during his embryo career did he publicly give any signs of possessing such power and skill as he displayed in the Westminster Aquarium tournament of November, 1879. In that particular handicap Mitchell, whose real quality was then publicly unearthed for the first time, proved himself a veritable Simon Pure.

In the previous year billiards-in the absence of the rival champions, W. Cook and J. Roberts, jun., who were starring in India-had become stale, flat, and unprofitable to professionals generally, and had it not been for the American tournaments which (established in 1875) then became popular, high-class professional billiards might have become a dead letter in the market. These tournaments, however, stimulated as they were by the efforts of Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, who were constantly furnishing new tables and extra prizes as inducements for professional players to try their very best for honour and renown, might have failed altogether in their object but for the infusion of new blood among the players contesting them.

In November, 1878, Collins, the manager of the Westminster Aquarium tournament, introduced into his handicap a young player named A. Davies or Davis, who in private was credited with constantly making 200 and 300 off the balls. From the scratch man, Joseph Bennett, in the handicap in which he made his debt, Davies received 120 points, but he altogether failed to play up to his private reputation. Either from nervousness or incapacity, he proved an utter failure. His style was good but his execution was lamentable, and he altogether failed to hit the tastes of the critics who witnessed his performances at the Aquarium, and, later on, at the Baynard Castle.

Mitchell, however, showed himself a dark horse of quite another colour. In the first six days of the Aquarium tournament, held in November, 1879, he never lost a game, although he had for his opponents such tried men as Joseph Bennett, G. Collins, F. Bennett, D. Richards, and G. Hunt, to say nothing of the youthful player, J. Lloyd, who made so favourable an impression in Taylor’s handicap at St. James’s Hall in December, 1878.

Strange to say, in this handicap Mitchell, who had won six games off the reel against the best players left in England, succumbed on the seventh day to J. Roberts, senior. Mitchell doubtless lost his heat with the elder Roberts by a series of mishaps which, in billiards and cricket alike, may be accounted as amongst those things which, as Lord Dundreary phrases it, “no fellah can understand.” Mitchell, however, won the tournament with a record of six wins and one loss.

Before enlarging upon the events happening at the latter end of 1879, it may be as well to chronicle the matches and handicaps in the order in which they happened. The first contest worthy of note in the month of January was an American tournament held at Manchester. The prizes were £30 in value, and the heats were 300 up on an ordinary table. The eight players engaged were all men whose names were well known in the north, and at the end of eight days play the first prize was won by W. Grundy, 75 points start, who beat A. W. Morgan (85) in the final tie.

The first really important contest of the season was, however, the match for £200 between Joseph Bennett, the ex-champion, and T. Taylor. The conditions were that Bennett conceded his opponent 200 points in a game of 3,000 up, played on a championship table manufactured by Burroughes and Watts. The match did not turn out so interesting as was expected at the outset, for Taylor secured a very easy victory. The contest was fought out on the evenings of January 22nd, 23rd, and 24th. At the end of the first stage the figures on the board were registered as Taylor 950, Bennett 731. When play ceased on the second night Taylor had scored 1,923 to 1,343, and finally he won by 569 points.

On February 20th, W. Timbrell and W. Fielding contested a match of 1,000 up, level, at Manchester, on a Burroughes and Watts championship table, for stakes amounting to £200, and Fielding won by 342 points.

In the following month, on March 8th, a novel kind of American tournament, promoted by Joseph Bennett, was commenced at the St. James’s Hall. The innovation introduced into this handicap was a special table, invented by Joseph Bennett, and manufactured for the occasion by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, which was a kind of medium between the championship and the ordinary match table. It had long been felt that spot-hazard striking was monotonous, and play on a championship table was tedious in handicap competitions, and it was hoped that Bennett’s newly-designed table would obviate the disadvantages of both. As it was, the tournament proved a decided financial failure. The players were ill at ease on the hybrid table, and the play being poor all round, with the exception of Alfred Bennett’s performance, which was of a most consistent character, the whole affair, so far as the novel experiment was concerned, must be voted one of the most unsuccessful ventures ever started. The prizes were £50, and the heats 500 up. The result was that after seven days play J. Bennett (scratch), F. Bennett (receives 50 points), and A. Bennett (receives 50 points), each had won five games; T. Taylor (scratch) had won four; D. Richards (receives 80 points) and J. Lloyd (receives 80 points) had won three; G. Collins (receives 50 points) had won two; and G. Hunt (receives 80 points) had won one game only. The brothers Bennett then divided the prizes, and so this novel tournament ended. The best break during the play was A. Bennett’s 139 (44 spots).

A tournament took place at Manchester early in March on a Burroughes and Watts ordinary table. The players were W. Fielding (scratch), J. Roberts, sen. (receives 25 points), W. Grundy (receives 25 points), H. Wortley receives 55 points), J. Moss (receives 75 points), W. Moss (receives 75 points), E. Bancroft (receives 100 points), and T. Varden (receives 140 points). W. Moss won all his heats, and took the first prize of £45.

About the same time another American tournament was in progress at Bristol. In this competition D. Richards, G. Collins, John Bennett, A. Hughes, A. Davies, and F. White took part; and John Bennett won it with a record of four victories.

A fortnight afterwards the veteran ex-champion, J. Roberts, sen., won an American tournament at Manchester, in which the following players were engaged:- A. Bennett, W. Timbrell, W. Fielding, H. Wortley, W. Moss, J. Bowell, and J. Moss.

On March 26th the well-known marker and player, “Oxford Jonathan,” whose real name was Owen, died from the effects of a surgical operation. His decease to a certain extent severed a link connecting players of the past with those of the present.

On April 3rd yet another billiard tournament of transatlantic origin was commenced at the Westminster Aquarium. The heats were 500 up on an ordinary Burroughes and Watts table, and at the end of seven days play the result was that Joseph Bennett (scratch) and G. Hunt (85 points start) tied with six wins apiece; T. Taylor (scratch), D. Richards (100 points start), A. Hughes ( 130 points start), G. Collins (50 points start), and J. Lloyd (120 points start) tied with three wins each; and F. Bennett (50 points start) won two games only.

As an outcome of this competition, it may be remarked that J. Roberts, jun., the champion, who was present, having just returned from India, challenged Joseph Bennett to a match of 3,000 up on a championship table, for £200, Roberts offering to concede 200.

The match was subsequently arranged to take place on May 23rd, 24th, and 26th, and furnished one of the keenest struggles ever witnessed. On the first day, Roberts, whilst Bennett’s score was stationary at 336, took the lead. From this point a close fight occurred, each going in front alternately. When play ceased on the first evening their respective figures were:- Roberts 1,024, Bennett 939. At the finish of the second period of the match Roberts had made 1,987 and Bennett 1,971. During the last stage of the game the battle was of the most stubborn description. Bennett’s all-round play was very fine. In one break he made 14 spots, and followed this up with a break of 112. Roberts, however, played in his usual dashing and determined style, and eventually won by 20 points only, his best break being 91.

The winter season of the year opened auspiciously on November 17th with another American tournament. In this event W. Mitchell made his successful debut before mentioned. The heats were 500 up on an ordinary Burroughes and Watts table, and the players were-

J. Bennett scratch.
G. Collins receives 60 points.
F. Bennett receives 60 points.
G. Hunt receives 110 points.
D. Richards receives 110 points.
W. Mitchell receives 120 points.
J. Lloyd receives 120 points.
J. Roberts, sen receives 120 points.

Within three days, so excellent was Mitchell’s play that the whole billiard world was aroused. His spot-hazards were the talk of metropolitan billiard rooms, and when he played his heat with Joseph Bennett, which, by the way, he won by 104 points, the room was completely crowded. In fact, Mitchell’s play alone rendered this identical tournament the most successful ever held at the Aquarium or, indeed, in London.

At the end of seven days’ play the result was:

Games
Won Lost
W. Mitchell 6 1
J. Roberts, sen 5 2
Joseph Bennett 4 3
D. Richards 4 3
G. Collins 3 4
F. Bennett 2 5
G. Hunt 2 5
J. Lloyd 2 5

Practical Billiards

by Charles Dawson (Champion) : 1904

COMPARATIVELY little is known of the origin of the game of billiards, it is stated to have been derived from so many different games that it is doubtful which authority is correct, as the following extracts by various writers will show:-

Who invented the game of billiards? It has been asserted that the inventor was William Kew, who first played the game in London about 1560; but it has been shown that in France the game was played in the time of Charles VII. (1462), and it is certainly mentioned in one of the poems of Clement Marot, who died in 1544. At first the game was played with two white balls only, the red ball being introduced in the time of Louis XIV.

Billiards was said to be a pawnbroker’s pastime, and that a gentleman in that financial profession, William Kew, invented the game of billiards about the beginning of the sixteenth century. During the wet he was in the habit of taking down the three balls, and with the yard measure pushing them, billiard fashion, into the stalls. In time, the idea of a board and side pockets suggested itself. “All the young men were greatly recreated thereat, chiefly the young clergymen from St. Paul’s. Hence one of the strokes was named a ‘cannon’, having been by one of the said clergymen invented. The game was first known by the name of ‘Bill-yard,’ because William or Bill Kew did first play with his yard measure. The stick was first called a ‘Kew or kue.'”It is easy to comprehend how “Bill-yard” has been modernised into “billiards”, and the transformation of “Kew” into “cue” is equally apparent. “Mark-her”, or “marker” arose from the duties of a sentinel, who had to look out for a certain wife, who objected to her husband’s absence and sought him out. Hence was called “mark-her”.

Another account of the origin of billiards has by some writers been attributed to Henrique De Vigne, a French artist, who, in the reign of Charles IX., about the year 1571, designed tables, and drew up the earliest code of rules. It was then played with small ivory balls, a “pass”, or “iron” being fixed on the cloth, through which, at set periods, they were driven. Amongst German, Italian, and Dutch games, the new amusements soon occupied a prominent place. Very few improvements in the method of playing were carried out until the seventeenth century, when six holes, or, as they were termed, “hazards”, cut in the bed, superseded the pass, and greater skill being necessary to effect a score, billiards speedily became the rage. On the Continent a thick stick or “cue” half an inch in diameter, and held between the forefinger and thumb, was employed for striking the balls; but the “mace,” although derided by foreigners, continued the acknowledged instrument in this country, and not a few of our best players showed great expertness in wielding it. About the year 1760 cues with perfectly flat points, sometimes of ivory, were introduced, but, as may be conceived, very little adroitness resulted. Five-and-twenty years later a second cue, cut obliquely at the small end, or rounded slightly on one side, was proposed, in order to enable players to hit the ball below the centre. It could only, however, be applied for making “cramp” strokes, and obtained the name-why, we are not aware of the “jellery”. Another alteration was adopted toward the close of the century, the point of the cue being bevelled all round, thus presenting a still broader surface. Leather “wads” did not follow until about 1806, when the virtues of chalk were also found out. Lastly came the French “tip” of the present day, than which no invention connected with the mechanique of the game has rendered more signal service.

During the period when the game was played with only two balls, there were but two styles of play. The sole object of each competitor was to pocket his opponent and keep his own ball on the table, but if it accidentally ran in, the score was marked against the striker, hence the term “losing hazard”. But by the other style of play both might be holed, and a total of four thus made. The former was designated the “white winning”, and the latter the “white losing game”, each twelve up.

After the introduction of the red ball, about 1795, the mode of government underwent many reforms, the score was lengthened to sixteen, then to twenty-four up; while, though restricted to alternate strokes at the outset, facilities were also given for rapid counting. The “carambole”, or cannon, became known for the first time; and of which seven, and at the other ten, points might be made by a single shot, speedily outrivalled the old-fashioned plan. A curious clause in the specified that “whosoever shall wilfully shake the table forfeits the game” leaving it to be inferred that tables then did not boast too much solidity.

About the year 1825, John Carr, a marker at the Upper Rooms at Bath, is given the credit of first making use of the “side twist” or “screw stroke” to anything like advantage. He was accredited the “father of the side stroke”, and artful vendor of the “twisting chalk”, to the not too wise looker-on, by which he made large sums of money by its sale. He astonished them by making 22 consecutive spot strokes in a game of 100 up, and then challenged all comers, which was accepted by Edwin Kentfield, of Brighton. But Carr, through his intemperate habits, fell ill and never met.

Kentfield, a model of his profession, then assumed the title of Champion, and to his suggestions is attributed that most of the improvements in billiard tables and accessories took place, which were so altered as to make a revolution in play. This he alludes to in the book on billiards entitled, “The Game of Billiards: Scientifically explained and Practically Set Forth in a Series of Novel and Extraordinary, but Equally Practical Strokes”, published in 1839. His highest break was 196 (57 consecutive strokes), which must at the time have been a great performance, no matter what size the pocket openings were, considering the circumstances under which it was made, for when Kentfield learned his game it must not be forgotten that the cushions were made of woollen list, and the bed of the table wood, covered with coarse green baize, also the implements of play were nothing like those used at the present time. At his Subscription Rooms at Brighton he is said to have first met and tried his strength with John Roberts, Senr., after which all efforts to get him to play Roberts proved fruitless. Kentfield in his later years was let down by circumstances quite beyond his own control, and died in 1873. He saw the commencement of the modern style, but not then had anyone made 1,000 in one innings off the balls, even with the aid of the spot stroke. Cook’s break of 936 up to that time being the nearest to four figures.

Until the year 1827 wood alone had been used in the making of tables, and English players were not a little surprised towards the close of that year to find it supplanted by slate, of which the beds have since been constructed. Greater accuracy, smoother running, and more weight, were consequently added on this improvement, the only drawback being slowness. Ten years later india-rubber displaced list for cushions, and although at the outset it met with steady opposition, in consequence of the deleterious effects of frost, the difficulty was soon remedied by the adoption of vulcanised rubber, which retains its elasticity in any climate.

John Roberts, Senr., who was born on June 15th, 1823, at Liverpool, assumed the premiership in 1849, and for nearly twenty years his claim to it was unchallenged. He was originally a marker at Oldham, but in 1845, when he was twenty-two years of age, he became manager of the billiards rooms at the Union Club, Manchester. Whilst there he devoted much of his time entirely to the practice of the “spot stroke”. He was in the habit of giving big starts to all comers, but his first match of importance took place on October 18th, 1850, with Starke, the American, to whom he conceded 100 start in a game of 1,000 up, and won by 221 points. His other matches of note resulted as follows:-On October he was defeated by Starke (who received 1,500 in 3,000) by 200 points. He conceded C. Hughes 300 points in 1,000 on April 10th, and won by 445 points, and again defeated the same player, conceding 375 points in 1,000, on December 13th, 1861, by 180 points. He was beaten by J. Smith, who received 400 start in 1,000, on May 17th, 1863. After this reverse Roberts gave W. Dufton 400 in 1,000 on January 14th, 1864, and bear; him by 211 points; the following day Roberts tried to concede Bowles 300 points in 1,000, but failed, the latter just winning after an exciting game. On January 19th, he was beaten by W. Moss, who received 500 in 1,000; he defeated C. Hughes. conceding 350 in 1,000, on March 5th, by 234 points; and on May 20th, 1864 he defeated W. Dufton, conceding 350 points in 1,000 by 291 points. His best breaks up to 1867 were 188 (55 spots) against Herst, at Glasgow in 1858; 240 (including 102 consecutive cannons) against Bowles, at Oxford, in 1861; 346 (104 consecutive spots) against W. Dufton at Saville House, Leicester Square, London, in March, 1862; and 256 (78 spots) at Huddersfield, in January, 1867. Up to 1870 the title of Billiard Champion had been assumed.

William Cook, who played his first game of importance with John Roberts, Junr., in 1868, was the next player to make the most marked progress, and when a year later-and twice in one week with the same player he beat the largest break that John Roberts, Senr., had ever made, it became evident that the elder Roberts would not be left much longer in undisturbed possession of the Championship. In the latter part of 1869 he issued a challenge, resulting in articles being signed between John Roberts, Senr., and William Cook, on January 12th, 1870, to play the first match at billiards for £200 and the Championship, Joseph Bennett being appointed referee. The three principal firms of table makers (Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, Cox and Yeman, and Thurston and Company) each gave £50 towards a cup to be held by the winner, who in addition received a medal, to become the absolute property of anyone retaining it for five years against all comers. Lots were drawn as to which firm were to supply the table, and fortune favoured Messrs. Cox and Yeman.

Most of the leading players of the day, including Cook and representatives of the billiard table firms interested, met to draw up rules to govern the Championship, and decided that a table with 3 inch pockets, and with the spot 12 1/2 inches from the top cushion instead of 13 1/4 inches, should be used, and that this rule remain in force for all matches for the Championship trophy, thus instituting the “Championship Table”. Cook’s strong point being the spot hazard, his chance of success was thought to be considerably lessened by this alteration, for it completely killed all spot-stroke play, though Cook did not appear to realise this at the time. In the report of the match, which was played in the large concert room at the St. James’s Hall, on February 11th, 1870, it states that Cook, upon the first occasion that he secured position for the spot stroke (at 40) was greeted with several rounds of applause, and on Cook breaking down after making five in succession, there was a general feeling of disappointment by the large gathering of spectators present, including the Prince of Wales and numerous members of the aristocracy, and both Houses of Parliament. Roberts is described as wearing a soft felt hat, chalking bets on the floor, chaffing his friends with a jaunty air, and taking things very easily. His appearance contrasted very much with that of Cook’s, whose extreme juvenility evidently took the uninitiated by surprise, but though he headed his youthful opponent (Cook was not then twenty-one years of age) in the last hundred but one, he was finally beaten by 117 points, the game not being over until nearly two o’clock in the morning.

After winning the Championship Cook showed great improvement in his play, making the record break or 512. including 167 spot strokes, in a game of 1,000 up at the Assembly Rooms, Seymour Hotel, Totnes, South Devon against W. D. Stanley on March 4th, 1870. He, however, lost the Championship to John Roberts, Junr.. on April 14th, 1870. After this defeat he seemed to realise the difference between the ordinary and the championship table, for he issued a challenge to give any player 200 in 2,000 on an ordinary sized pocket table (3 5/8) by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts for £50 a side, which was taken up by John Roberts Senr., and played at the St. James’s Hall, April 17th, 1871. Cook ran out a winner with an unfinished break of 268 (78 spot strokes)-Cook 2,000, Roberts 1,591. This was about the last match of importance John Roberts snr., played, although he played in several tournaments and occasionally public for some years after. He, however, lived to see his son, John Roberts, Junr. become Champion-and a long way above any other player for many years-and also win the Championship Cup outright that he first played for. He died March 27th, 1893, at his residence, 13, Alice Road, Romford Road, Forest Gate, London, after a protracted illness.

On November 28th, 1870, Joseph Bennett contested and won the cup beating John Roberts, Junr. Thus in 1870 four championship matches were played and we had four Champions, viz., John Roberts, Senr., W. Cook, John Roberts, Junr., and Joseph Bennett.

Cook continued to make record after record, and on January 14th 1871, against Joseph Bennett, at the St. James’s Hall, Regent Street, London, he made a break of 752 (182 spot strokes).

He also won the Championship on May 25th, 1871, which he held till the same month in 1875. It was during this time that we saw the best of Cook’s form. He surpassed all his former efforts on November 29th, 1872, by making a break of 936 (262 consecutive spots) at his rooms, 99, Regent Street, W., against Joseph Bennett. He first introduced the “spot barred” game in the first big handicap played at the Guildhall Tavern, Gresham Street, London, on March 16th, to March 2lst, 1874, which was won by S. W. Stanley. The promoters, Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, gave a billiard table for first prize, and it was through their liberality that handicaps and tournaments became so popular and brought new players to the front. In the report of the first day’s play, in describing the “spot barred” game, it states that “a player is only allowed to put down the red ball once off the spot, into either of the top pockets; if ball be put down a second time without a further score by the same stroke, no score was allowed, and his opponent follows on, the red being placed on the on the spot”. The handicap had been made “spot barred” so as to bring the players more together, because Cook was so much better than the others at the “all-in” game. He had previously won the first handicap “all-in” played at the same place in December, 1873, making a 428 break unfinished in 500 up against L. Kilkenny, who received 130 points, in the final game, so there is little doubt that he was in front of the others at this time. The heats as before were 500 up, Mr. Cambridge, handicapping the players as follows:-First Round.- F. T. Morris received 160, beat H. Evans received 140, by 4 points; L. Kilkenny received 140, beat Joseph Bennett scratch, by four points; A. Bennett received 140, beat D. Richards received 180 by 46 points; John Bennett received 180, beat J. Roberts, Junr., scratch, by 9 points; S. W. Stanley received 200, beat G. Collins received 150, by 157 points; J. Roberts, Senr., received 140, beat W. Dufton received 200, by 75 points; T. Taylor received 180, beat W. Cook scratch. by 141 points. Second Round.-Stanley 200, beat Morris 160, by 197; A. Bennett 140, beat John Bennett 180, by 54; Kilkenny 140, beat J. Roberts Senr., 140, by 90; Taylor 180, beat F. Bennett 140, by 69. Third Round.-Stanley 200, beat Kilkenny 140, by 6; Taylor 180, beat A. Bennett 140, by 104. Final Games (two out of three).-Stanley beat Taylor by 57 and 40 respectively. Stanley’s largest break in the final games was 5], and Taylor’s 63.

Before this handicap some discussion had taken place in various papers about doing away with the spot stroke, some thinking that large breaks would soon spoil the game; but as the games played were mostly 1,000 up, it was not uncommon for a player to be asked to continue his break if he had made a good score when game was called. Most of the large breaks were compiled in this way. In the same year a Frenchman (Mons. Adrian Izar) gave exhibitions around the country of thumb and one finger against cue with considerable success. He was credited with making 662 in nine minutes at Barrow-in-Furness, which proved to show that large breaks, however made, were then popular. This kind of game was afterwards taken up by Herbert Roberts, brother to John Roberts, Junr.

About this time matches of 1,000 up, for £100 and larger sums, plentiful, and keenly contested. One singular event is worth recording: The “Sportsman”, reporting on a match played between L. Kilkenny and G. Collins on February 11th, 1874, said, “On Wednesday last the above players essayed to play their match of 1,000 up for £100 at the White Rose Tavern, Castle Street, Leicester Square, London. The first decent break was made by Collins, who ran up 61, to which his opponent replied with 73, and presently, when the former had scored 88, the numbers were called, Collins 613, Kilkenny 452, and shortly afterwards 623-510. Eventually the Yorkshireman reached 951 to 939, when Collins ran up to 950, and the landlord put the gas out, leaving Kilkenny one point ahead. The following day the players met at our office, and each agreed to draw his stake, and arrange another match shortly”. This, however, was carried out; but why the landlord took this course is not easy to understand, unless he had some interest in the game.

In 1874 Cook sailed to America, and there played several matches. On his return he introduced the first handicap played on the principle (i.e., each man plays one game with every other player) in a tournament played at Joseph Bennett’s Rooms, 315, Oxford Street London, January 25th to February 1st, 1875, in which the following players took part:-W. Cook, Joseph Bennett, and John Roberts, Junr., scratch; T. Taylor, 100 points start; S. W. Stanley, 120; Timbrell, 140; Kilkenny and A. Bennett, 160. J. Roberts and A. Bennett tied for first prize, and playing off the heat 500 up, Roberts started with a 213 break and won by 140 points. Up to this period Cook had made the largest breaks on both the ordinary and championship tables, and was generally looked upon as the best player. He, however, lost the Championship to John Roberts, Junr., on May 24th, 1875, which marked the turning point of the careers of the two players, for although Cook again held the title he never won the Championship, but unsuccessfully tried on four occasions. In the same year T. Taylor and W. Cook played two matches of 1,000 up, for £100 a side each match. The latter conceded 200 points in the first game, winning by 474 points; and 300 in the second, winning this also by 97. Tournaments and handicaps once introduced had plenty of support, and were continually played up to 1885. In 1876 Tom Taylor heat F. Bennett on a championship table by 315 points, and several tournaments were played. The following year W. Cook defeated T. Taylor (conceding 300 points in 1,000), and T. Taylor defeated Joseph Bennett two matches on a championship table, each match for £100 a side, winning both by less than 30 points. J. Roberts gave Timbrell 300 points in 1,000 for £500 a side at the Gaiety Restaurant, and was defeated by 439 points.

Up to about this period W. Cook, John Roberts, Junr., and Joseph Bennett had always played on even terms, but on the return of Roberts from India he offered to give Bennett 200 points in 3,000 on a championship table for £100 a side, and a match was arranged and played May 23rd to May 26th, 1879. Roberts took the lead early in the game when Bennett’s score stood at 336, and from this point it was a close fight, each in turn taking the lead. At the finish of the first evening the scores stood: Roberts, 1,024; Bennett, 939. The second evening: Roberts, 1,987; Bennett, 1,971; and after fine all-round play and a great struggle Bennett was finally beaten by 20 points. The winner’s best break was 91, and Bennett in one break made 14 spot strokes, and followed this with a break 112.

In November of the same year William Mitchell made his first appearance in London, winning an American tournament at the Royal Aquarium. He received 120 points start in heats of 500 up, winning 6 games and losing 1, the following players taking part:-J. Roberts, Senr., (160 start), won 5, lost 2; Joseph Bennett (scratch) and D. Richards (110 start) each won 4, lost 3; G. Collins (60 start) won 3, lost 4; F. Bennett (60 start), G. Hunt (110 start), and J. Lloyd (120 start), each won 2, lost 5.

The following month (December 16th, 1879) Mitchell made his first big break of 522 unfinished (171 spots) at the Royal Aquarium, against Joseph Bennett, in a game of 1,000 up; and with the absence of Cook, Roberts, Junr., Shorter, and Stanley, from the country, the pair played throughout the provinces. Mitchell at first received 100 points start in 1,000 up “all-in,” but soon after they were handicapped to play on even terms.

In May, 1880, Joseph Bennett played Maurice Vignaux, the French Champion, at the Royal Aquarium, four exhibition matches-two at the French cannon game on a French table. In each of these Bennett received 500 points in 1,000, and lost the first by 425, and the second by 400 points. The other two were played at English billiards, on a championship table, 600 up. Vignaux received 300 points in each game. Bennett again lost, the first by 53 and the second by 71 points.

In September, 1880, John Roberts, Junr., conceded W. Mitchell 400 points in 2,000 for £200 on an ordinary table, at the St. James’s Hall, and won by 541 points, making a break of 354 unfinished.

Joseph Bennett won the Championship in November, 1880, beating W. Cook by 51 points; and in January, 1881, he defeated T. Taylor in the Championship by 90 points, making the record break of 125 on a championship table.

Fred Shorter was the next to challenge for the Championship, and the match was fixed to be played on April 13th, 1881, at the St. James’s Hall, but Shorter forfeited at the last minute, after all the arrangements had been made for the match. As expenses would have to be paid, Bennett offered him 100 points in 1,000 up for £25 a side, and they played the same evening, a rather slow game ending in a win for Shorter by 193 points.

D. Richards next challenged for the Championship, but after a lot of paper warfare nothing came of the negotiations, for before the necessary deposits were made Bennett met with a severe accident by being thrown out of a gig and with no prospect of a speedy recovery he decided to resign the title and Championship Cup.

W. Cook, on September 23rd, 1881, at Manchester, made the record “spot barred” break-309-against Alfred Bennett, which was put together by open play all round the table;

and the following month John Roberts, Junr. (scratch), and W. Mitchell (100 start) tied for the first prize in a tournament, heats 500 up, at the Beaufort Club. Playing off, the latter won by 273 points.

On December 19th, l881, John Roberts, Junr., won a tournament at the Palais Royal (over Hengler’s Circus), Argyll Street, London, after tieing again with W. Mitchell. The following players competed in heats of 500 up, “all-in” :- Roberts, owed 120; Cook, owed 120; Mitchell. owed 10; Shorter, received 40; Taylor, 40; Stanley 40; Peall, 75; J. Lloyd, 140. Roberts made the best break (542) in the tournament, and after this success he gave Cook points for the first time, conceding 500 start in 5,000 “all-in” on an ordinary table for £500 a side, at the Palais Royal, on January 18th. 1882, and w on by 1,658 points. John Roberts, Junr., then called himself Champion of the World ” and ignored the Championship, and shortly after his defeat W. Cook challenged Roberts to play for the Championship (Joseph Bennett having retired through breaking his arm in 1881), but letter to the “Sportsman” stating that he had no intention of playing for the cup, giving out as his reason that the cup had been played for for 12 years, and would never be won under the conditions governing it.

On June 26th, 1882. W. Cook was credited with having made in practice a break of 1,362 (including 451 spot strokes) against Mr. E. Game at his rooms, 99, Regent Street, London, which was advertised daily as the record break; and, receiving 750 points, he defeated J. Roberts, Junr; in a match of 5,000 up “all-in” for £500 a side at the Public. Hall, New market, on July 7th 1882, by 968 points. In the course of the game Roberts made two consecutive breaks of 653 and 395 (129 spots) directly after the King (then Prince of Wales) arrived in the room, and about this time he was giving starts to all players at the “spot barred” and “all-in ” games.

W. Mitchell, the first player to compile a four-figure break in public, made 1,055 (including 365 spot strokes) at the Black Horse Hotel, Rathbone Place, Oxford Street, London, on October 5th, 1882, against W. J. Peall. And strange to say, on the of a return match with the same player, and at the same place, on November 8th, 1882, he made exactly same score again (1,055) with exactly the same number of spot strokes (350). He was credited with having made in a practice game at Dealtry’s Billiard Rooms, New Bond Street, Brighton, a break of 1,839 (612 consecutive spots), against Mr. R. Topping. In a letter to the “Sportsman” on March 2nd, 1883, Mitchell stated that he held the “record break”, as he did not consider breaks made in private as records. The majority of people will agree with Mitchell that only breaks made in public should stand as ” records”, neither should breaks that are continued after a game; but we must allow that up to about 1879 the usual game played was 1,000 up, therefore, the player did not get the same opportunity of making a large break in the game as in the long games that were afterwards played. However these breaks were soon beaten by W. J. Peall, who was the next player to make extraordinary breaks by the aid of the spot stroke, his first break of note being made on December 11th, 1883, at the White Horse, London, when in a game of 1,000 up, “all-in”, with F. White, who received 250 points start, he made breaks of 827 and 174 unfinished. White only scored four points in the game, and Peall had only four visits to the table. On May 19th, 1884, at Newman’s Rooms, Guildhall Street, Cambridge, he made against W. Mitchell (in a game of 1,000 up) a break of 411 unfinished, leaving his opponent’s score at 200, and on being requested to complete it, he the total to 1,989 (including 548 consecutive spots).

Early in 1884 John Roberts, Junr., organised a strong company of players to compete in an American tournament in the large provincial towns, taking North, Mitchell, Taylor, Shorter, Collins, White, Coles, and Sala. A start was made at Birmingham, and Roberts won this tournament after a tie with North, his best breaks being 407 (132 spots), 506 (143 and spots), an unfinished 525 (79 and 90 spots), and an unfinished 601 (106 spots). Mitchell won the next tournament at Sheffield after a tie with Roberts, making the largest break of 350 unfinished (106 spots) in his heat with North. Shorter won the next at Leeds. Roberts in this made 450 (147 spots), and 402 (131 spots). He next opened in Liverpool on February 26th, W. Timbrell playing in the place of Collins. Roberts won this after a tie with Shorter, making an unfinished 492 (77 spots) and 624, also unfinished, in his heat with Taylor. After each had given the opening miss Taylor did not score. North won the next tournament at Manchester, Roberts being put 25 points further back and owed 150 points in 500 up. He, however, made 612 unfinished (25 and 171 spots) in his heat with White.

Roberts next played a match with W. J. Peall at the Royal Aquarium-Peall had just previously made the record break of 1,989-conceding 2,000 points in 10,000 “all-in”. Peall made twice over 700 and once over 500, and won on June 2nd, 1884, by 598 points.

On October 17th, 1884, Roberts opened the Palais Royal with a “spot barred” tournament with ten players engaged, which was won by Mitchell. and he afterwards started giving players 3,000 points in games of 10,000, and 12,000 “spot barred”, and at the end of the year allowed his opponent the use of the spot stroke while he played “spot barred”. In these games he made new “spot barred” records, beating Cook’s break of 309 on November 27th, 1884, by making 322, and on November 28th 327 against J. North, and 360 on December 9th, against F. Bennett.

There had been some discussion previously as to the rules of billiards, and that other rules should be made, therefore a meeting was called and held at the “Sportsman” Office on February 1st, 1885, consisting, of professional players and most of the table makers, and others interested in the game, John Roberts, Junr., being in the chair. A proposal by Mr. Collis Orme and D. Richards to form an Association was so favourably decided upon, and it was also decided that the rules of billiards be revised by the following players:-John Roberts, Junr., Chairman; John Roberts, Senr., W. Cook, J. Bennett, F. Bennett, W. J. Peall, W. Mitchell, J. North T. Taylor, J. G. Sala, and G. Collins. This being the first attempt to provide a proper code of rules since 1870, it was decided that they should be the only rules recognised. The Billiard Association met week by week in a room set apart for them by Messrs. Bertram and Roberts, in the dining gallery at the Royal Aquarium until September 21st, 1885, when they were finished, and soon afterwards published.

John Roberts, Junr., now decided to play for the Championship again, after allowing Cook to hold it nearly three years. He challenged for it, and Cook not responding in the stipulated time, the cup went to Roberts; but immediately afterwards Cook challenged, and the match was played on March 30th, 31st, and April 1st, 1885, at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, (late Palais Royal), Roberts winning by 92 points. The game by consent was made 3,000 up, as nothing was stated in the rules as to the length of the game to be played for the Championship.

Previous to this match Roberts played T. Taylor at the Royal Aquarium, giving him 3,000 points in 10,000 “all-in”. Taylor made breaks of 616 (15 and 104 spots), 630 (76, 5, and 116 spots), 441 (17, 107, and 12 spots), 344 (113 spots). Roberts made 609 (199 spots), 574 twice, 570 (181 spots), 563 (44 and 135 spots), 460 (144 spots), and won on March 6th, 1885, by 1,663 points.

The next important match Roberts played after the Championship was with Cook for £200, Roberts giving 2,000 points in 12,000, Aquarium, and won on May 3rd 1885, by 2,759 points.

Joseph Bennett now challenged Roberts for the Championship, which was played at the Royal Aquarium on June 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, 1885. This was also 3,000 up, Roberts winning by 1.640 points. This match proved, however, to be the last one played for the Championship trophy, for Roberts was not called upon to defend it again, and when he had held the specified time (five years), the cup became his property in 1890. He had been exactly twenty years trying to win it.

After beating Joseph Bennett in the Championship, Roberts resumed his duty at the Billiard Hall, Argyll street, London, playing weekly games of 12,000 up, where he showed great improvement in his play, and time after time beat his own record at the “spot barred” game. In a match with Joseph Bennett, on October 22nd, 1885, he made a break of 409, and shortly afterwards in a match with T. Taylor, who received 4,000 points start in 12,000 for £50 a side, which commenced on November 16th at the same place, he cut the record again on November 20th with a break of 432 and won easily by 1,209 points.

The following week he played J North 12,000 up on even terms, allowing North to make one hundred consecutive spot strokes while he played “spot barred”. In this match North made two good breaks of 947 (with runs of 93, 54, 92, 3, and 56 spots) and 1,066 (100, 25, 6. 99, 33, and 71 spots). After an exciting finish Roberts won by only 60 points.

In a match with North, who received 4,000 points in 12,000, “spot barred”, Roberts again beat the record with 451 on December 19th, and won by 242 points.

In a similar match he played Peall. the latter, on January 26th, 1886, making the marvellous break of 320 (222 being made off the red ball alone). This was far the best performance of the kind up to this period, the largest run off the red ball previously being 156 made by Roberts.

It will be seen by these breaks that a big advance had been made at the “spot barred” game, also, the “all-in’ game had equally advanced; in fact the long games had made a wonderful improvement in the play of professional players.

On November 2nd, 1885, Peall and Mitchell commenced a game of 15,000 up, “all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium, and during the week extraordinary play was seen. Mitchell made breaks of 534 (177 spots), 1,620 (536 consecutive spots), 688 (226 spots), 456 (151 spots), 451 (137 spots), 671 (217 spots), and 617 (204 spots). On the Wednesday, the game was in progress, the late Mr. C. Howard, one of the generous friends that professional billiard players ever had, entered into the room and offered £20 to the first one to make a 1,000 break. This was secured by Peall, who made a break of 1,709 (including 18 and spots). He then offered £100 as a prize for the pair to play again, and £100 to the first player who made a 2.000 break in the game. Besides the break mentioned, Peall was responsible for breaks of 530 (173 441 (144 spots), 895 (293 spots), 1,380 (458 spots), 1,135 (372 spots), 673 (223 spots), 497, 1,257 (252 and 163 spots), and 1,150 unfinished, which made him the winner by 5,365 points. With the object of securing the £100 offered, Peall was allowed to finish his break, and just failed to make the 2,000, making the run into 1,922 (634 spots). Extraordinary as the play had been during the game, it seems almost incredible that six breaks should be made over the thousand in a week’s play, more so when one man accounts for five of them; but the time was evidently ripe for 1,000 breaks, for on the 10th of the same month T. Taylor made a break of 1,233 (405 spots) in a game Gatti’s Billiard Saloon, Villiers Street, Strand, and North on the same day made 934 (308 spots).

Also on the 27th Peall, playing at the same place against F. White, made a break of 1,003 (49. 9 7, 34. and 222 spots), and White made 1,015 on the following day of the same month.

The first Billiard Association tournament was played at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, London. Mr. George Pratt and Mr. Peter Jennings handicapped the following players in heats of 300 up, “spot barred” : John Roberts Junr., scratch; Joseph Bennett, received 175 points; J. North, 175; J. G. Sala, 225; W. M. Green, 225; H. Coles, 225; D. Richards, 225; G. Collins, 225; F. Bennett, 225; J. Lloyd, 250; and F. White. 250. J. North who was considered about the second best player, “spot barred”, won on January 15th, 1886, with nine wins out of a possible eleven.

Roberts’ next important match was with Mitchell at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, which commenced on February 8th, 1886. The late Mr. C. Howard, wishing to see Roberts play the “all-in” game again, gave a prize of £200 for the pair to compete for in a game of 15,000 up. on even terms. This caused great interest to be taken in the contest, for Roberts had been playing the “spot barred” game for nearly twelve months, and the great desire was to see how he would play the spot stroke; whilst Mitchell was in good form at the “all-in” game. Mr. Howard unfortunately died before the match could be played, but his executors, however, carried out his wishes. In this and other matches, Mitchell throughout the match played a sort of in and out game-his play was not so nearly consistent as he had shown in his previous match with Peall-for on the first day he only made one break of note-481 (29 and 118 spots)-and on the second 308 (101 spots). On the Wednesday afternoon he made one break of 321 (94 spots), and was left over two thousand points behind at the interval, but in the evening he made breaks of 745 (244 spots), 326 (106 spots), and 601 (197 spots), and at the close of play was only 575 points behind. On the Thursday he only made one break of 424 (139 spots), which enabled Roberts to finish with a lead of 1,193 points at the interval. On the afternoon of the fifth day Mitchell made one break of 335 (6 and 100 spots), and Roberts one of 362 (59 and 53 spots); in the evening Roberts made two breaks over 300, and Mitchell made a splendid break of 969 (321 spots), but at the close of play he was still left over one thousand points behind. In the afternoon of the last day Mitchell made breaks of 484 (159 spots) and 532 (175 spots), but at night Roberts had matters all his own way and won very easily by 1,741 points. The largest breaks made by Roberts during the match are as follows :- 693 (230 spots) 339 (4 and 101 spots), 430 (24 and 110 spots), 328 (12, 2, and 88 spots), 316 (16 and 79 spots), 353 (112 spots), 544 (179 spots), 616 (88 and 104 spots), 362 (59 and 53 spots) 323 (33 and 61 spots), 319 (18, 15, and 56 spots), 378 (124 spots), and 716 (47 and 184 spots).

The following week Roberts and Peall started a six days’ spot stroke match at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, for £200 given by the late Mr. Howard. The conditions were to play two hours each afternoon and evening; each player could place his ball at the beginning of each break where he choose, and the highest aggregate made in this way to win end of the week. Roberts’ highest break during the match was one of 672, and Peall’s best was 906. He led from start to finish, and won easily with the score: Peall, 16,734; Roberts, 11,924.

On April 9th, 1886, J. North, in a “spot barred” game against Roberts at the same place, made the largest break (361) that had been made by any player then, excepting Roberts. The same day Roberts made a break of 444; and on April 12th, playing against Cook, he beat all records again, making a splendid of 506. He next showed extraordinary form at the “spot barred” game. When playing against Mitchell, 12,000 up, in Derby week, he made breaks of 428, 489, 357, 352, 347 twice, 322, and nine over 200, and won by no less than 6,611 points.

Opening the season at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, in October, in a “spot barred” game with Mitchell, he again (on October 16th) beat his previous best break with 534; and on November 17th against the same player, who received 4,500 points in 12,000, he put together the extraordinary record break of 604 and won by 194 points.

Brilliant form was next shown by Peall in a game of 15,000 up, ” all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium, against G. Collins, who was allowed 5,000 points start, and he surpassed all his previous performances by making the marvellous break of 2,413 (338, 449, and 3 spots) on November 5th, 1886, also making on the same day 1,029 (138, 15, 122 and 40 spots). In this same match he made breaks of 996 (267 and 27 spots) and 1,247 (414 spots), and won by 3.388 points. After this extraordinary play on the part of Peall he challenged Roberts on November 5th, 1886, to play 15,000 points up, ” all-in”, on even terms, on an ordinary table, for £100 a side, which brought forth a reply from Roberts that he would play Peall two matches-one on the terms mentioned, and in the other he would concede Peall 4,000 points in 12,000,” spot barred”, both for the same amount – £100 a side. Peall declined the arbitrary condition and nothing came of it, and Peall claimed to be the “Champion of Ordinary Billiards”.

During a match with Roberts on November 22nd, Cook made his largest” spot barred” break of 365, which was also the largest break made by any player excepting Roberts, just beating the break of 361 made by North on December 6th, 1886.

Roberts and North commenced one of their numerous matches of 12,000 up “spot barred”. North (receiving 4,000 start) won after a close finish by 116 points; his largest break during the week being 202, and Roberts best breaks were 317, 260, 178, 244, 174, 337, 208, 222, and 297.

In a game of 15,000 up, “all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium against G. Collins, on December 15th, Peall succeeded in making another of his great breaks by compiling 1,729 (108, 275, and 183 spots).

The next great performance was by Roberts at the Billiard Hall during a match with Peall, when, on May 12th, he made a “spot barred” break of 580. In a letter written shortly afterwards to “The Sportsman” by Peall from the White Horse Hotel, Brixton Hill, S.W., which appeared on October 3rd, 1887 (the day he commenced a match with Mitchell of 15,000 up, “all-in”, on even terms at the Aquarium), he regretted that through a printer’s error he was called “Champion” simply, instead of “Champion of Ordinary Billiards”, i.e.,” all-in ” billiards with 3 5/8 pockets, and he thought it was only fair to John Roberts, Junr., “Champion”, to publicly say so. It was quite evident by this letter that about this time Roberts was content to allow Mitchell and Peall to battle for the supremacy at “ordinary billiards”, knowing well he could give either player a third of the game “spot barred”. However in this particular match Mitchell never played better, for after looking like being beaten very easily throughout the greater part of the game, he came out in fine form on the last day with consecutive breaks of 349 (113 spots), 297 (93 spots), 265 (15 and 64 spots), 141 (41 spots), 288 (93 spots), 644 (179 spots), 801 (249 spots), 349 (114 spots), 912 (304 spots), and a break of 53 unfinished, which made him winner by 1,267 points, having scored during the day 4,427 points to 1,266 by Peall. His other breaks during the game were 1,117 (369 spots), 373 (120 spots), 693 (226 spots), 728 (238 spots), 419 (138 spots), and 483 (157 spots). Peall’s largest breaks were 1,086 (353 spots), 1,159 (416 spots), 629 (202 spots), 470 (146 spots), 459 (53 and 88 spots), 464 (150 spots), 460 (150 spots), 466 (140 spots), 482 (153 spots), 483 (169 spots), 499 (6 and 143 spots), and 622 (203 spots).

In a match against Joseph Bennett at the Royal Aquarium on October 18th, Cook surpassed all his previous performances at the “spot barred” game by making a splendid break of 462, which was a long way the best break made, excepting Roberts’.

About this period, and up to the latter end of 1890, the “all-in” game received new life with the struggles between Peall and Mitchell, and the rapid advance and improvement of F. White at the “all-in” game. Matches and long games of 15,000 up between the three players were numerous, and played at regular intervals at the Royal Aquarium.

November, 1887, found Peall and Mitchell playing one of their long games, on even terms, at the Royal Aquarium, when Peall proved successful on November 12th by 858 points, making on the last day one good break of 1,256 (198, 22, and 191 spots).

The next important match was between Hugh McNeil (who made his first appearance in London in April, 1887) and D. Richards, who played 10,000 up, “spot barred”, for £100 a side. The match took place at the Marble Arch Saloon, 524, Oxford Street, London, W., when McNeil won on January 28th, 1888, by 838 points. Peall and White were next seen playing a long game at the Royal Aquarium, in the course of which White made a break of 1,054 (21 and 326 spots), and Peall on the same day made 1,547 (514 spots). On the following day (March 10th) Peall made another four figure break of 1,314 (413 spots).

The following week at the same place Mitchell and Peall commenced a game of 15,000 up for the “Spot Stroke” Championship. This proved be a good thing for Peall, who played an extraordinary game throughout, and won in the easiest possible manner on March 17th, with the score: Peall, 15,000; Mitchell, 6,753. It will be interesting to note that during the week’s play Peall, with the exception of Thursday, made a break of over a thousand on each day; and it seemed that about this time he could make a break of four figures or more off the balls whenever he chose. The following are his largest breaks in the order made during the week: 1,203 (397 spots), 1,192 (78 and 308 spots), 1,498 (89 and 408 spots), 1,125 and 2,031.

J. G. Sala and Joseph Bennett followed this with an “all-in” game at the Aquarium in which Sala, on March 20th, made a fine break of 1,012 (330 spots) and won the match easily.

On March 28th W. J. Peall came out with a challenge, and offered to give anyone 1,000 points in 15,000 up, all-in”, for £200 a side, and he afterwards gave W, Mitchell the same start (1,000 in 15,000) at the Aquarium, where he made one good break of 1,246 (54 and 394 spots), the only four figure break during the game, winning on May 19th with the scores reading: Peall, 15,000; Mitchell, 12,347.

In December, 1888, an interesting match was played between W. Mitchell F. White at the Aquarium, the latter receiving 4,000 points 15,000 up, “all-in”, which produced some fine play by both players. On December 18th Mitchell made a break of 1,310 (435 spots), and the same day White succeeded in making his largest break-1,666 (20, 108, and 400 spots). Mitchell made another big break of 1,011 (335 spots), and White, after making a splendid break of 1,281 (20 and 390 spots), won on December 22nd a very interesting match by 614 points.

After his success over Mitchell, he next played Peall, at the same place, taking a start of 4,500 points in 15,000 up, and during the game some large breaks were made. On January 2nd, 1889, White put together the respectable total in one break of 1,562 (318 consecutive spots), and Peall on January 4th made two of his useful breaks, the first one totalled 2,033 (142 and 526 spots), and the second 1,220 (72 and 330 spots), White on the same date making 1,021 (137 and 176 spots). Thus it will be seen that three breaks over a thousand had been made during the one day. Playing a sound game, White won on January 5th, by 923 points.

A match which caused a great deal of interest at the time was one of 12,000 up,” spot barred”, at the Royal Aquarium, between John Roberts, Junr., and Hugh McNeil, the latter receiving 4.500 points start, Roberts offering McNeil £100 if he succeeded in beating him. Up to the last two days McNeil looked like winning easily, and held a big advantage, but then Roberts came out in fine form, and finally won on January 12th by 981 points.

In this month Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company, the well known firm of table makers, introduced and promoted a “Championship of the World Tournament”, and presented a Silver Cup, value £100, to be played for in heats of 1,000 up, “all-in”, the cup to become the property of the first winner of three tournaments, and in addition the winner of each tournament to receive a gold medal. This was commenced at the Royal Aquarium on January 14th, the following players taking part:-W. J. Peall, H. McNeil, T. Taylor, J. Dowland, W. Mitchell, F White, G. Collins, and F. Bennett. The tournament eventually resolved itself into a fight between Mitchell and Peall when they met in their particular heat. Mitchell, however, proved to be in extraordinary form, for soon after the start of the game, with his score standing at 13, he secured position for spot play and ran right out with a splendid unfinished break of 987 (319 spots), leaving the scores: Mitchell. 1,000; Peall, 20; and he finally won the first tournament and became “Spot Stroke Champion” on January 28th, 1889.

The second Championship Tournament was won by W. J. Peall on February 25th, 1890, at the same place, the following players taking part in heats of 1,250 up:-W. Mitchell, W. J. Peall. J. Dowland F White, G. Collins. H. McNeil, H. Coles, and F. Bennett. In the heat between Peall and Mitchell, the former made breaks of 416 (137 spots) and 531 (176 spots). Scores: Peall, 1,250; Mitchell, 121.

The third Championship was also played at the Royal Aquarium, and won by W. J. Peall on May 30th, 1891. Four players only competed- W. J. Peall, W. Mitchell, J. Dowland, and C. Dawson-in heats of 2,500, up. Mitchell and Peall played off, and in the first half of the game Mitchell only scored 78 points. Peall made breaks of 773 (256 spots), 390 (7, 28, and 90 spots), and 655 unfinished (214 spots); Mitchell made a break of 650 (213 spots). Scores: Peall, 2,500; Mitchell, 776. The following year this Championship was withdrawn in favour of the “all-in Championship” (promoted by the Billiard Association) with Mitchell one win, and Peall two wins to their credit.

The month of February, 1889, found F. White and J. North playing a match of 12,000 up, “all-in”, on even terms, at the Royal Aquarium, when White, in the course of the game, made a break of 1,230 (52 and 345 spots) and won on February 16th, by 3,015 points.

The “spot barred” record was the next to go, for playing against Cook in a match at 14, Grafton Street, Bond Street. London, on March 9th, Roberts made the extraordinary break of 690, which remained the record break until the same month in 1893.

In the same month W. J. Peall conceded F. White 4,000 points start in 18,000 up,” all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium, and during the game White, on March 13th, put together the largest break during his career-1,745 (554, 3, and 18 spots); also making on the same day 1,132 (257 and 114 spots). Peall compiled one of his useful breaks on the same date, which totalled 2,107 (79, 95, and 513 spots). Thus it will be seen that three breaks over the thousand had been made during one day’s play, but two days later, however, in the same game, this remarkable performance was beaten by three consecutive breaks of over a thousand being made. Peall made 1,601 (528 spots), White followed this with 1,085 (357 spots), and Peall replied with 1,139 (373 and 2 spots). Peall won easily on March 16th by 1,728 points.

On March 25th, at Grafton Street, in a match against J. North, Roberts made another good “spot barred” break of 576, and T. Taylor made a “spot barred” break of 433 at the Royal Aquarium on November 7th, 1889, whilst playing against North. Peall, also, on November 13th, in a match against Mitchell at the same place, made a “spot barred” break of 429.

About this time Roberts gave Mitchell half the game start (10,000 points in 20,000″ spot barred “) at Grafton Street, Bond Street, and beat him.

During a match with W. J. Peall at the Royal Aquarium, on October 24th, 1890, H. McNeil made his largest “spot barred” break of 472, which at the time was the largest break made by any player, excepting Roberts.

In the same month C. Dawson made his first appearance in London as a professional player, and to play W. J. Peall at the Royal Aquarium. commencing October 27th, 1890, with a “spot barred” match of 9,000 up, Dawson receiving a start of 2,000 points. On the concluding day Peall played well, and at the interval left off in front. When the game was continued in the evening he went right away until the scores stood Peall, 8,607, Dawson, 8,306. At this point Dawson gradually crept up, but his task appeared all but useless, as finally Peall got within 15 of game, when Dawson ultimately ran out with a bleak of 169 unfinished. Dawson, 9,000; Peall, 8,985.

The following week the same players commenced a contest of 15,000 up, “all-in”, Dawson receiving 3,000 points. From the commencement of the game Peall began to play in extraordinary form, and on November 5th and 6th he beat all records by the marvellous performance of putting together a huge break of 3,304, which included runs of 93, 3, 150, 123, 172, 120, and 400 spot strokes; he also compiled breaks of 1,494, 1,637, and 1,322 in the same game. Naturally, Dawson had no chance after this extraordinary play, the full scores reading at the finish: Peall, 15,000; Dawson (receives 3,000), 5,680.

This fine display on the part of Peall put new life into billiards, as nothing else was talked about by those interested in the game but the great break. Then John Roberts surprised everybody by a challenge he issued in December 1890, to give anyone 12,000 points start in 24,000,” spot barred” (including all advertised Champions). This brought a reply from W. J. Peall to play him at ordinary billiards, 15,000 up, on even terms, started a great controversy in the sporting and other papers at the beginning of 1891, about the merits of the two players referred to and the Championship generally, which eventually ended with Roberts playing both North and Peall a match and conceding them 12,000 points start in 24,000,” spot barred”. The match between Roberts and North was played at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, and was won by Roberts on February 14th, 1891. North at this time had a reputation of being the second best player “spot barred”, and the month previous (January 9th) to the match he made his largest “spot barred” break (464) at Messrs. Thurston and Company’s Show Rooms, Strand, London, playing against Peall. North in the early part of the game held a big advantage, but he was eventually beaten by 245 points. At the finish of the game a scene was created by Charles Mitchell, the well known boxer, who was accompanied by Frank Slavin, the Australian Champion pugilist, who denounced the match as a swindle, and would only leave on the request of John Roberts himself. Great interest was taken in the match between Roberts and Peall, which was played in the same Hall, large crowds of spectators being present at each sitting. Peall, who had the best of the play throughout the game, won easily on March 28th, 1891, by 2,590 points.

The controversy in the papers on the Championship question had the effect of moving the Billiard Association to do something, for there appeared no chance of a meeting between Peall and Roberts for the Championship under the existing conditions, as the former wished to play on an ordinary table as used by the public, and Roberts wished to play on the “championship table” with 3-inch pockets, for after his big break Peall was advertised daily as ” Champion of English Billiards”, and Roberts as “Champion”.

After due consideration the Billiard Association, at a meeting on April 28th, 1891, adopted a “Standard” table for Championship contests, and decided to give Silver Cups, value £100 for competition for both styles of play – “spot barred” and “all-in”, each contest for the Championship to be for not less than £100 aside, and each Cup to become the absolute property of any player who shall (1) win it four times in succession, (2) win it six times in all, and (3) hold it for three consecutive years. Two Championship Cups were also given for amateur contests, under the same conditions, with the exception of playing for a stake. The measurements of the “Standard” table as adopted were as follows: that the “Standard” billiard table measure not less than 2 feet 9 1/2 inches. and not more than 2 feet 10 inches in height, and 12 feet long by 6 feet 1 1/2 inches wide on the bed of the slates; that the balls used be of ivory and not less than 2 1/16 inches, and not more than 2 2/32 inches in diameter. The pocket openings to measure strictly 3 5/8 inches at the fall of the slates, and that the “Standard Template” (or wood block), bearing the Billiard Association stamp, shall be fitted into each pocket opening of the table, and passed by the Committee before being used for any contest. No breaks made upon other than the “Standard” table shall be accepted as records, and that a certificate be given by the Association for “records” made on the conditions named.

A “spot barred” tournament was then arranged and played on the first “Standard” table by Messrs. Cox and Yeman at the Swallow Assembly Rooms, Swallow Street Piccadilly, London, which was won by H. Coles on February 15th, 1892. The heats were 500 up. The following prizes were given:-First, £50 second, £20; and £30 divided amongst winners of heats. Handicap and position of players:-H. Coles, received 75 points, won 6, lost 1; W. Mitchell, received 25 points, won 5, lost 2, J. 125 points, won 5, lost 2; C. Dawson, received 75 points, won 3, lost 4; T. Taylor, received 75 points, won 3, lost 4; J. Dowland, received 125 points, won 2, lost 5; W. J. Peall, scratch, and J. North, scratch, won 2, lost 5. Tie for Second Prize:-J. Lloyd, received 125 points, beat W. Mitchell, received 25, by 286 points.

“ALL-IN” CHAMPIONSHIP.

After this event the Billiard Association made great haste to bring off their Championships before the close of the season, the first one played being the “all-in” Championship, which was won by W. J. Peall on April 9th, 1892, at Messrs. Orme and Sons’ Show Rooms, Soho Square, London. on one of their tables. A condition in this Championship was that a new cloth bed of to stop the track or table caused by continued “spot” play, which, no doubt the same greatly helped the player. up.

 

FIRST ROUND

W. J. Peall 5,000, beat C. Dawson 1,699; W. Mitchell, a bye.

 

FINAL HEAT

W. J. Peall 5,000, beat W. Mitchell 1,755.

This was the only contest “all-in”, for Peall was not again challenged during the three consecutive years, and the Cup became his property

“SPOT BARRED” CHAMPIONSHIP.

Commenced on April 25th, 1892, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Thurston and Company, at their Show Rooms, Strand, London. Heats 3,000 up.

 

FIRST ROUND

H. Coles 3,000, beat W. J. Peall 2,860; W. Mitchell 3,000, heat W. Cook 2,561; J. North, a bye.

SECOND ROUND

J. North 3000, beat H. Coles 2,141.

FINAL HEAT.

W. Mitchell 3,009, beat J. North 2,697.

Second Contest

W. Mitchell beat J. North by 2,475 points in 9.000 up, for Silver Cup and £200 at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, on February 25th, 1893, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Orme and Sons. The winner’s best breaks during the game were 236, 231, and 212; the loser’s, 190 and 182. Scores: Mitchell, 9,000; North, 6,525.

Third Contest

W. Mitchell beat C. Dawson by 837 points for £200 on January 13th, 1894, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Thurston and Company, at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden, London. Mitchell made 27 breaks of over a hundred, and Dawson nineteen during the week’s play, the highest being 306, 225, and 196 unfinished by Mitchell, and 224 and 257 by Dawson. Scores:-Mitchell, 9,000; Dawson, 8,163. The Cup became the property of W. Mitchell, he having held it the three consecutive years.

In April, 1891, Roberts went on a visit to Africa and Australia, but the game did not lack interest as far as entertainment’s provided for the devotees of the game, for three distinct shows were running each afternoon and evening all the season.

Peall, after making his big break, took up his quarters at Messrs. Thurston’s Show Rooms Catherine Street, Strand, London, where he conceded Dawson 5,000 points start in 15,000` up, ” all-in”. In the course of the game the latter showed good form, making breaks of 741 (242 spots), 860 (285 spots), 1,201 (394 spots), and 631 (191 spots); but Peall with 1,408 (464 spots) and other good runs, won on April 18th, by 1,924 points, making a break of 1,782 (470, 44, and 8 spots) besides 818 (276 spots) unfinished on the last day.

The next big break of note (the first of its kind) was made by T. Taylor at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster, London, on April 24th, 1891, during a “spot barred” game of 600 points up with Hugh McNeil. The scores stood at: McNeil, 106; Taylor, 227; when the latter at 236 got the two object balls jammed in a corner pocket and ran out with 373 unfinished (182 cannons), and on being specially requested to continue his break in the evening he made it into 1,467 (729 cannons), beating all “spot barred” breaks.

The week commencing May 4th found W. J. Peall and J. Downland playing a match of 10,000 points up,” spot barred”, for £500 a side, at the Swallow Assembly Rooms, Swallow Street, Piccadilly, London. Peall conceding 2,600 points start, played in great form on the last day, making breaks of 174, 262, 410, 101, and won on May 9th by 1,341 points.

On November 16th Edward Diggle, of Manchester, made his first appearance as a professional in London, playing against D. Richards at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, and receiving 1,000 points start in 9,000, “spot barred”. He made eighteen breaks of a century or more during the week-a very fine performance-and won on November 21st, 1891, by 1,446 points.

A novel idea was tried at the Hotel Victoria, Northumberland Avenue London, on October 12th of the same year, by J. P. Mannock, who played T. Taylor two games of 400 points up on a four-pocket table, the “push stroke”, which then played a prominent part in matches, being barred. The idea was a sort of compromise between the French, American, and English games. Taylor was successful in both games, making the largest break of 46 unfinished in the last one.

In October, Dawson took over the rooms at the Royal Aquarium, where he played several “spot barred” matches of 16,000 up on even terms with H. Coles, and also with J. North (who at that time was looked upon as the second best “spot barred” player), receiving 5,000 points start in 20,000 points up. In these games Dawson began to show improved form, but it was not until 1892 that he came rapidly to the front.

On February 3rd W. Spiller won a “spot barred” tournament at the Egyptian Hall Piccadilly, London (receiving 150 points start in 700 up), winning seven games. The following players took part:-

D. Richards received 50 points won 6, lost 1; T. Taylor 50 points, won 5, lost 2; E. Diggle 50 points, won 4, lost 3; H. McNeil scratch, won 3, lost 4; G. Ryder 75 points, won 2, lost 5; J. Dowland 150 points. won 1, lost 6; W. Cook scratch, won 1, Lost 6.

After this nothing further of importance took place up to June, 1892, with the exception of the first Association tournament on a “Standard” table and Championships.

Peall and Dawson paid a visit to Paris being engaged at the Folies Bergere, Paris, for one month commencing June 1st, the table being supplied by Messrs. Thurston and Company. In a report of the game in the ‘Sportsman”, June 8th, it says:-” The opening game by Peall and Dawson, 600 points up, ‘all-in’, Dawson receiving 150 start, was won by Peall. The French visitors seemed to take but a languid interest in the proceedings. As a fact, the game was too long for them, and in proof of their complete ignorance of the of play the only applause given was when Peall in trying for a loser off the white, in addition holed his opponent’s ball. This double event was looked upon by them as a masterpiece of skill, and was highly appreciated, much to the amusement of the English professionals. The production of the long butt was also hailed with considerable enthusiasm, and when the carefully elaborated stroke was brought off tremendous cheering greeted the event”. To meet the French tastes it was arranged of 100 up, “spot barred”, and afterwards games of pyramids were only played, as no charge was made for admission to the building, the management deriving their profit from a percentage deducted from bets made on the games. It was rather a novelty for Peall and Dawson to see two of the French professionals take their stand before each game commenced, one by the side of Peall at one end of the table, and the other by Dawson’s side at the other end, the one with Peall calling out,” Who will back Mr. Peall ?” and the other with Dawson calling out,” Who will back Mr. Dawson ?” This continued as long as the people were inclined to bet to equal amounts on each man, and then the game commenced, the management taking the percentage out of the stakes held on each game.

Roberts returned to England in May and resumed his duties at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, on October 3rd, 1892, playing three games of 4,000 up, “spot barred”, with W. Cook (ex-Champion), who received 1,200 points start in each game, Roberts winning each game. The following week he commenced playing games of 12,000 points up, conceding Mitchell 4,000 start. In one of these weekly games with W. Cook, Roberts began to show wonderful form, making on November 17th a break of 668.

Soon afterwards (on November 28th), during a game with E. Diggle at Messrs. Thurston’s Show Rooms, Strand, London, W. J. Peall made the first. big “spot barred” break of 571 on a “Standard” table-a fine performance.

The following month (December 1892) Roberts came out with an offer to give anyone 8,000 points start in 24,000 up, “spot barred”, and £100 if they beat him. Mitchell took the start and played him the same month at the Egyptian Hall, where Roberts showed that he was still improving, making during the game breaks of 558, 617, and 421, and won by 415 points.

About this time Dawson began to improve very fast beating Mitchell on October 22nd 1892 at the Royal Aquarium, with 750 points start in 8,000 up, “spot barred”, by 7 points, and the following month (November 1892) his backers came out with a challenge for him to play anyone, bar Roberts. on even terms which caused a great deal of paper warfare between Dawson and Peall, but nothing came of it, for terms could not be arranged. Dawson at this time was advertised daily to play anyone, bar Roberts, for £500 or £1,000, and during a game of 3,000 up on even terms at the Royal Aquarium with W. Mitchell, on January 19th, 1893, the scores standing Dawson, 2,067; Mitchell, 950; the first named, after adding 48, worked the balls to the top of the table and at 2,115 got the balls jammed in the jaws of the top corner pocket, making 184 unfinished. On resuming in the evening Mitchell did not have a stroke, as Dawson ran with ‘333 unfinished (443 cannons).

At the same place on February 4th, Dawson be at Mitchell in a game of 8,000 points up, “spot barred”, on even terms by 751 points and again in a game under the same conditions on February 11th, after at one time being over 1,200 points behind, commencing the last evening’s play Dawson was nearly 300 points behind, but eventually won by 164 points. Dawson also beat North on even terms.

On February 27th Roberts again raised the start to his opponents, and commenced a match with Peall at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly London conceding Peall 9,000 points start in 24,000 up, “spot barred” In this game Roberts beat the “spot barred” record of 690 (made by himself in the same month in 1889) on March 2nd, 1893. Starting from a double baulk he scored the winning hazard, and at 134 was aided by a fluke, but continued in perfect style till he had compiled 737, beating Peall by 625 points.

On the 13th of the same month H. Coles set Peall’s largest “spot barred” break on a “Standard” table, making 571 unfinished in a short game of 700 up, against C. Dawson at the Royal Aquarium.

C. Dawson on March 27th made the largest “spot barred” break (698) on a “Standard” table at the Royal Aquarium in a game of 16,000 up against D. Richards.

On April 1st Dawson commenced a match with Roberts at the Egyptian Hall, receiving 9,000 points in 24,000 up, “spot barred”, for £2,000. Roberts during the game made breaks of 420, 396, 393, 317, and 314, but with 326 and several breaks over 200 Dawson won on April 18th by 1,993 points.

Dawson’s next success was in a “spot barred” tournament of 700 points up at the Royal Aquarium on May 8th, played with “Synthetic” balls (a substitute for ivory) with the results as follows:- C. Dawson, scratch, won 6, lost 1; H. McNeil, received 75 points, won 5, lost 2; H. Coles 75 points, v, on 4, lost 3; D. Richards 100 points, won 4, lost 3; J. North scratch, won 3, lost 4; J. Dowland 150 points, won 3 lost 4; J. Lloyd 150 points, won 3, lost 4; W. Mitchell scratch, won 1 lost 6.

Roberts, who for some time had been trying to arrange an international match with Frank C. Ives, of Chicago, the American Champion, sent T. Taylor to America with power to make a match and arrange conditions that would put the two players as near on equal terms as possible. A match of 6,000 points up, for £1,000, was ultimately played at the Humphrey’s Hall. Knightsbridge, London, on May 29th, to June 3rd, l893, on an English table erected by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts. With the pockets made much smaller being 3 ¼ in. only instead of 3 5/8 in; while the balls were 2 1/4 in diameter, instead of 2 1/16 in. 1,000 points to be scored each evening. At the finish of the first night’s play the scores stood:-Roberts, 1,000; Ives, 689; and on the second: Roberts, 2,001, Ives, 1,670; the latter making a break of 88. On the Wednesday evening Roberts scored at a fair pace, compiling breaks of 90, 70, 49, 36 twice 30 twice, 63, 33, 106, and 106 unfinished. Ives played fairly well (83 cannons 63 (25 cannons), 34, 90, and 30, the scores standing: Roberts, 3,000; Ives, 2,243. On resuming on Thursday evening Roberts made his unfinished break into 140, and then added 67, 49, and 139. Ives, whose highest break had been 45. Ives whose highest break had been 45 now got the balls together, worked them to the top corner pocket, and jammed the balls in the mouth of the pocket. Scoring at a tremendous rate he reached his points with an unfinished break of 1,540 (770 cannons), leaving the scores: Ives, 4,000; Roberts, 3,484 This came as a great surprise to Roberts, who seeing that Ives had an excellent position to finish the game right off. offered to give the game to Ives and play a match of 2,000 up, “jammed” stroke barred. for £1,000, but Ives declined. On the Friday evening Roberts did not have a stroke, as Ives continued and ran the break; into 2.539 (1.267 cannons). Ives, when within 5 points of his required number, in the evening, broke the balls up, but no doubt he could have continued nearly as long as he liked, but the company present became impatient and frequently shouted “Smash them up”, which he ultimately did. leaving the scores: Ives, 5.000; Roberts, 3,484. In the last evening’s play Roberts’ principal breaks were 30 and 193. Ives made 80 and 49, and once more balls “jammed”, making 848 (402 cannons), when he again broke the balls up with a four-stroke, bringing the full break to 852. and then played for safety. Ives won by 2,179 points, the final scores reading: Ives, 6,000; Roberts, 3,821.

A return match was played for £400 at the Central Music Hall, Chicago, Americas on September 18th to September 23rd, 1893, under the same conditions, with the exception that a baulk line, seven inches in length, was drawn across each of the corner pockets, inside of which two strokes could be made without driving one of the two object balls out of the baulk. Ives on the Saturday evening made the 1,000 which he required to win, while Roberts only succeeded in adding 478, the final scores standing: Ives, 6.000; Roberts 5,243. The largest breaks during the game were 432 by Ives and 166 by Roberts.

After this second defeat by Ives, a third match of 10,000 points up for £400 was arranged and played at the Lenox Lyceum. New York, America, on October 2nd to October 7th, 1893, under the same conditions with the exception that the pocket openings were 3 5/8 in. instead of 3 1/4 in. This put the two Champions on more equal terms, the conditions in the previous matches being in favour of Ives, who relied on long runs of nursery cannons along the cushions. The hazard game of Roberts’ was cramped by the size of the pockets, and the “push stroke” also being barred in these matches made a great difference to his play, for he could not play the “masse” stroke anything like the American Champion, who was an adept at this particular stroke. On Monday evening Roberts, with breaks of 106 and 191, to Ives’ best of 109, scored 1,001 to 542. On Tuesday afternoon, Ives, with runs of 244, 236, and 329, to breaks of 93 and 132 by Roberts, scored 997 points to 801, the scores reading: Roberts 1,802; Ives, 1,539 In the evening Roberts, with 91 and 128, to Ives’ best break of 116, scored 1,002 to Ives 703; score: Roberts, 2,804, Ives, 2 242. On Wednesday afternoon Roberts, with breaks of 176 and 91, had all the best of the play and scored 797 to 414, Ives’ best break being 98; score: Roberts, 3,601; Ives, 2,656. In the evening Ives treated the company present to the finest exhibition of nursery cannon play ever seen on an English table. Playing with marvellous accuracy of stroke he nursed the balls past four pockets along the cushions and reached the fifth pocket (which was a side pocket), and had made 640 by cannon play, but by playing too hard he lost position, and after adding 11 more by hazard play finally failed at a follow-on stroke, the full break being 661. Roberts answered to this with 105, 101, and 119, but Ives again got the nursery cannons, and passing the side pocket made 516. Roberts followed with 162, when Ives for the third time got the nursery cannons and scored 395, which gave him the lead for the first time Ives during the evening scored 1,946 points to Roberts 886. Score: Ives, 4,602, Roberts 4,487. On Thursday afternoon Roberts, with breaks of 95 and 110, scored 913 to Ives’ 436, leaving the score: Roberts, 5,400; Ives 5,038. In the evening, with breaks of 143, 117, and 105, Roberts scored 1 001 to 748 Ives’ best breaks being 94 and 202, the scores reading: Roberts, 6,401 Ives, 5,786. On Friday with his best break of 103 scored 799 points to Ives’ 878, the latter making a break of 586 by cannon play, taking the balls three-quarters of the way around the table. Score Roberts, 7,200; Ives, 6,664. In the evening Roberts, with breaks of 125 157, and 123, to Ives’ best of 146, scored 1,000 to Ives 513. Score Roberts, 8,200, Ives, 7,177. On the Saturday afternoon Ives made breaks and 205, and scored 927 801, leaving the scores: Roberts, 9,001; Ives, 8,104. In the of the game Ives scored 634 points, with a best break of 366, while Roberts with 130 and 127 scored the desired 999, and ran out a winner by 1,262 points, the full scores at the finish being: Roberts, 10,000; Ives, 8,738.

In the same month Roberts arranged a pool match with De Oro, the American Pool] Champion, which was played at Madison Square Gardens New York, America, in half English and half American style Two tables were placed side by side, and the played four frames or games-on each alternately In the English table, in the pyramid match. the pockets were 3 5/8 ins., and the balls 2 1/8 ins., in diameter, De Oro objecting to play with the ordinary 2 1/16 ins. English balls. In the American pool table the corner pockets were 4 1/2 ins., the centre 4 3/4 ins., cut square, and the dimensions 10 ft. by 5 ft. The balls were 2 5/16 ins. diameter quartered with different bright colours, and numbered from 1 to 15. Before striking, the player had to name the number of he was taking aim at and in the event of hitting and potting any other ball, it was replaced and counted nothing to him. The game resulted in a win for De Oro on October 21st, 1893, with the final scores reading: De Oro, 1,000; Roberts, 924. Roberts gave his opinion of the game in an interview, when he said that he should not care to make another match on such terms. American pool may be pretty, but there is too much luck and too little skill attached to it.

On September 26th, 1893, playing in a short game of 600 up,” all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium with T. Taylor, who received 100 points start, W. J. Peall scored a love game. Screwing in off the red he ran to game with a break of 600 unfinished, Taylor not having a stroke.

The next big break was made by E. Diggle on November 2nd, 1893. at Messrs. Thurston’s Show Rooms, Strand, London, in playing against Peall with “Bonzoline” balls (a substitute for ivory), when he made a “spot barred” break of 530.

Roberts on his return resumed his duties at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, where he played H. Coles, and on November 10th made a break of 571, “spot barred”, mostly compiled by short runs of nursery cannons, which showed he had benefited by his visit to America, for shortly afterwards he began to play an extraordinary game, beating the “record” time after time.

The following month C. Memmott, the Australian Champion, visited England, playing several matches with the English players. Roberts next made a “spot barred” break of 578 on January 9th, 1894, in playing against E. Diggle, who had for some time been showing improved form and was rapidly coming on.

Several challenges between Diggle and Dawson resulted in Messrs. Burroughes and Watts offering £100 for the pair to contest for, and £10 for the largest break made during the game. A match of 18,000 up, “spot barred”, on even terms, was played at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester. The best breaks by Dawson were 311 and 346. Diggle, with 319 and several breaks over 200, won on January 27th by 846 points.

Roberts next gave Peall 9,000 points start in 24,000 up,” spot barred”, at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, and won on February 10th, 1894, by 299 points, making during the game breaks of 570 and 545.

The same month Peall conceded C. Memmott 3,000 points in 15,000 up,” all-in”, at Messrs. Thurston’s Show Rooms, Strand, and won by nearly half the game on February 17th, making best breaks of 1,424 (473 spots) and 2,127 (325 and 304 spots).

On March 1st Roberts again beat the “record”, making 867 against C. Memmott, the Australian Champion, whom he conceded 10,000 points in 20,000, “spot barred”, and won by 619 points on March 8th

F. C. J. Schaefer, the Champions, visited England and gave an exhibition of American an billiards at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, on March 9th, 1894; and at the same place the following day Roberts and Dawson commenced a match of 24 000, “spot barred”, Dawson receiving 9 000 points start. During the game Roberts compiled breaks of 685, 520, 540. 467, 759, 362 and 372, Dawson making breaks of 411, 329, 207, 240, 211 and 480, and won on March 24th, by 741 points.

H. W. Stevenson made his first appearance as a professional, playing short games with J. Lloyd at the Club Lounge, Royal Aquarium, Westminster, London, on April 2nd 1894

Dawson and Diggle next contested a match of 18,00(‘ up,” spot barred”, on even terms, at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company. Diggle made several breaks over 200 and one of 300, Dawson, making 342, 401, and 306, won on April 14th by 910 points.

About this time breaks of 600, “spot barred”, were made frequently by Roberts. who, no doubt, was playing better than ever, for during a match with E. Diggle at the Gentlemen’s Concert Hall, Manchester, on May 3rd and 4th, 1894, he surpassed all his previous performances. On the first named date Roberts was in extraordinary form, as nothing came wrong to him. He soon passed his previous “record” break of 867, and when he had reached the 1,000 wild cheering was kept up for several minutes Roberts having to bow his acknowledgement several times. the enthusiasm had subsided, he went on and added 33 more points, when play was adjourned, leaving the break 1,033 unfinished. The next day the hall was crowded with spectators, who gave Roberts a great reception on making his appearance. When at last he could continue his break, he played a little slower than usual, and finally he failed at a red winning hazard, which was played a trifle short of strength. A tremendous burst of enthusiasm acknowledged the great break, which amounted to 1,392, and secured for him the prize of £100 offered by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts if he succeeded in making a 1,000 break. Diggle, who received 9,000 points start in 24,000, “spot barred”, made on the last evening a break of 422 and Roberts, besides his great break, made breaks during the game of 794, 771, and 330 unfinished, winning on May 11th by 436 points.

The following week Roberts and Dawson commenced a match under the same conditions at Ginnett’s Circus, Newcastle-on-Tyne. Roberts best breaks during the game were 321, 387, 627. 341, 394, 582, 500 and 327, Dawson. making breaks of 408, 352, 437, 310 and 374, won on May 26th by 4,239 points.

Another great “spot barred” break was made by Roberts on June 5th at the Hengler’s Circus, Glasgow, in playing a game of 12,000 up against Diggle, who received 4,500 start, when he compiled 1,017. In the same game he made breaks of 559 and 770 unfinished, winning on June 9th by 397 points.

The next two breaks of importance by Roberts were 615 made in June against the same player at the Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh. and 505 at Dundee.

On June 14th Peall and Dawson met to play two games of 500 up, one “all-in” and the other “spot barred”, at the Old White Horse, Brixton, London. Dawson secured the “spot barred” game by 237 points, and in the “all-in” game ran out with a break of 499 unfinished, leaving the scores: Dawson, 500; Peall, 22.

In September, 1894, W. D. Courtney, the Amateur Champion, made his debut as a professional player at Roberts Rooms, 99, Regent Street, London, playing against H. W. Stevenson, who conceded him 1,000 points in 9,000 up, “spot barred”, Courtney winning by more than his points (1,378) on September 29th.

On October 20th a challenge appeared from W. Mitchell (who was in good form in the matches with Roberts) to play anyone, bar Roberts, 5,000, 10,000, or 20,000, “spot barred”, on even terms (Dawson preferred), for £100 to £500 a side on a “Standard” table. Dawson who was not satisfied with his defeat by Mitchell in the “Spot Barred” Championship in January, 1894, took the challenge up, and articles were signed to 20,000 points up, for £250 a side, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Blackfriars Street, Manchester, on December 31st, 1894, to January 12th, 1895. Before the event Dawson conceded H. W. Stevenson 5,000 points in 20,000, “spot barred”, at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London, and won by 1,918 points on November 17th; he also beat Peall on even terms, 18,000 up, “spot barred”, at the same place on December 8th, by 278 points, and Diggle by 559 points on December 22nd at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester, in a game of 18,000, “spot barred”, on even terms, after being at one time nearly 1,500 points behind.

On December 31st to January 12th, 1895, Roberts and Diggle played a match of 24,000, “spot barred”, Diggle 9,000 points start, at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London. Starting on January 4th with his score at, 13,629, Diggle continued to score till he had reached 14,614, when he broke down at a long red winner, the break amounting to 985-the largest “spot barred” break made on a “Standard” table, which included sequences of 21, 25, 41 and 37 cannons, made without working the balls a foot away from the top cushion. After the applause from the spectators had died away, Roberts added 13 points, which was his only turn at the table for the afternoon. The next afternoon Diggle scored his necessary 625 points in five turns, making a break of 480, including 168 cannons, Roberts only scoring 94 points during the afternoon. Diggle also made a break of 404, and eventually won by 4,054 points.

On the same dates Mitchell and Dawson played their match of 20,000 up, “spot barred”, for £500 at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester. Mitchell’s best breaks during the game were 208, 200, 239 and 241. Dawson, whose breaks were 246, 215, 351, 258, 201 and 273, won by 3,130 points.

At the same Hall during a match with Diggle on January 15th, Roberts only scored 29 points in one afternoon, while Diggle (who received 9,000 start in 24,000) was compiling 625 in five turns to the table. Roberts made a “spot barred” break of 802 on the last day, and Diggle a break of 455, when he won by 5,603 points.

On January 26th, Roberts, conceding Mitchell 9,000 points in 24,000 up, “spot barred”, on a “Standard” table at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London, made a break of 619; and on February 23rd, 739, when he won by 31 points.

The following week at the same Hall he commenced a match Peall on the same conditions, breaks of 742, 674, 414, and on the last afternoon of the match made an unfinished 138 into 578, and added 156. 386 and 36 unfinished, scoring 1,000 points while Peall was only able to subscribe 17 points to his total. Roberts winning on March 9th by 2,272 points.

At the same Hall Roberts conceded Dawson 8,000 start in 24,000, “spot barred”, and won by 2.891 points on March 23rd, making breaks of 563, 545, 526, 591 and 419.

Diggle at the same place beat Dawson in a match of 18,000 up, “spot barred”, on a “Standard” table, on April 13th, by 762 points, making a break of 583.

The billiard season of 1895-1896 commenced very early, Roberts playing exhibition matches at his rooms, 99, Regent Street, London, and introducing the pneumatic billiard cushions which were fixed on tables of his manufacture.

On October 1st, 1895, the first number of the ” Billiard Review edited by John Roberts (Champion), was published, in which an article by William Mitchell appeared, entitled, ‘ The odious push stroke. in which he said:-” It seems to me that there is infinitely more reason in barring the push than there is in barring the spot, for the latter is undoubtedly a billiard stroke, while I am not disposed to allow that the push has any claim to be so called”. This, no doubt, laid the foundation for abolishing the ” push stroke”, which was promptly taken up by the sporting Press until it was carried out. Articles and correspondence appeared in the principal newspapers from day to day, amateurs as well as professionals giving their opinions, but Roberts still continued to play the usual game, and in a match with Peall at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, he conceded Peall 9,000 points in 24,000, “spot barred”, and won on October 26th, making breaks during the game of 610, 609, 453 and 252 unfinished.

On the same date C. Memmott, the Australian Champion, who received 50 points start, won a tournament of 700 up, “spot barred”, at the Argyll hall, Argyll Street, London (in which “Bonzoline” balls were used), winning five games and losing one. H. Coles, who received 50 points and W. D. Courtney, received 100 points, each won 4 games and lost 2 dividing second prize. J. North (scratch), won 3, lost 3; H. W. Stevenson (received 50 points), won 2, lost 4; T. Taylor (received 100 points), won 2, lost 4; J. Lloyd (received 130 points), won 1, lost 6. During the progress of the tournament, Coles, Memmott, Courtney, and Lloyd appealed for a foul when the “push stroke” was used by their opponents, which appeal was allowed by the referee (appointed by the “Sportsman”). Several games in the tournament were subsequently contested, “push barred” whilst in others, the two players agreed to the “go as you please” style of progression.

On Monday November 18th, Eugene Carter (the American player) opened at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London, playing J. P. Mannock and other professionals at American billiards, which, no doubt, helped to increase the agitation against the “push stroke”. In one of his games with C. Memmott (the Australian Champion), Carter made a break of 563 on December 5th (counting one for each cannon). At each entertainment Carter played fancy strokes, and gave a novel display with little ivory halls. He had a long successful season in London, and he afterwards visited the provinces.

Diggle beat Dawson in a match of 9.000, “spot barred”, by 2,586 points, on November 23rd, at the Castle hotel, Swansea, South Wales, making during the game breaks of 527, 360, and 548.

About this time W. Spiller, who was running exhibition games at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Dean Street, Soho, London, was playing a fine game, for in a match of 18,000,” spot barred”, with Dawson, who conceded 2,000 points, he time after time beat his own record, making during the game breaks of 480, 395, 267, 248, 308, 364, 329, 255, 247 and 255. Dawson made breaks of 517, 482, 429, 470, 350 and nine over 200, and won on December 14th by 2,723 points.

Roberts in playing W. Hardy, of Manchester, at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, made on November 21st a “spot barred” break of 841

The same month the Billiard Association gave £100 for a handicap of 700 points up “spot and push stroke barred”, played on the English principle (i.e., when a player loses his heat he takes no further part in the handicap), which came off at Messrs. Peall and Walder’s, 95, New Bond Street, London, and resulted as follows:-T. Taylor (received 125 points) beat H. Coles (received 70) by 21 points; J. North (scratch) beat J. P. Mannock (received 140) by 7 points; H. W. Stevenson (received 70) beat J. H. Whittle (received 320) by 138 points; W. J. Peall (scratch) beat C. Memmott (received 65) by 48 points; G. Collins (received 160) beat J. Dowland (received 160) by 125 points; J. Lloyd (received 140) had a walkover allowed, for Mitchell (scratch) was playing Roberts a match in which the “push stroke” was allowed; W. J. Peall beat H. W. Stevenson by 105 points; T. Taylor beat G. Collins by 124 points; J. Lloyd beat 4_ North by 302 points; Peall beat Taylor by 218 points; Lloyd, who drew a bye, played Peall in the final heat of 1,400 up, with the start doubled, receiving 280 points, and won on December 14th by 121 points.

Roberts during the progress of his games continued to make breaks of over 600 at frequent intervals, and W. Spiller breaks of over 300 in his games.

During a game of 9,000, “spot barred”, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Blackfriars Street, Manchester, against D. Richards (who received 1,500 points start), E. Diggle, on February 8th1896, made a break of 612, and won on the same date by 1,846 points.

About this time it became necessary for players taking part in a match (under the rules in force) to stipulate whether the game should be played “all-in” or “spot barred”, with the “push stroke” barred,” jammed stroke “. barred, etc., to avoid any disputes when the game commenced. Mitchell, in the meantime, still kept up the crusade against the “push stroke” by repeated offers to play any player, bar Roberts. with the “push stroke” barred.

On February 10th E. Diggle and C. Dawson commenced a match of 18,000 up, “spot barred”, at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London. In the articles signed it was expressly stipulated that the “push stroke” should be allowed. From the very first stage of the the “Sportsman” commenced a crusade against the “push stroke”. The reports of the play read after the following style:-” Diggle was the first to get fairly to work with a remarkably nice break of 140, in which the push was only once utilised. Dawson caught and passed him with runs of 92, 79, and 148. In all these breaks the push was far too conspicuous. A 219 again, unfortunately disfigured by several fouls”. Diggle during the game made a break of 629, which was described as follows:-” His all-round play was so admirable that it was a pity he could not the temptation of constantly pushing when playing his sequences of cannons”; and also that “a break was a good one but for one or two very pronounced pushes”, or “the push was very strongly in evidence”. In a break, most of the “push strokes” were counted and reported as fouls. Naturally, Roberts took offence at the “push stroke” being put down as a foul in these reports, and during the progress of the game got Dawson to support him by signing a letter that he sent to them which appeared in their issue of February 14th, 1896, over the joint signatures of the three players, protesting against this delicate point laws being decided by “a clique of sporting journalists and second-class professional players”. This, no doubt, made the opposition to the “push stroke” stronger, for in “The Sportsman” of February 19th an article appeared to the effect that:” The push has been and will be, described in these columns as a foul stroke, because it is one and that-in the rules of the Billiard Association-rules that were drawn up by a Committee of twelve of the leading players of the day, of which Committee Roberts himself was the chairman-the act of ‘accelerating the progress of a ball’ is declared to constitute a foul stroke”. Diggle won the match on February 22nd by 2,006 points, and little notice afterwards was given by the Press to a big break made by the aid of the “push stroke”, which eventually killed it. Roberts, in the “Billiard Review” of March said:-“I do most emphatically deny that a properly played push stroke is a foul under any existing rule. No one would, I think, care to say that the masse is a foul stroke, and yet in making the stroke the cue travels over a portion of the ball in much the same manner that the cue travels over the ball in a legitimate push stroke.

After all this controversy Roberts decided to play a match “push and spot barred” with W. Mitchell, who received 7,000 points start in 21,000 up, which commenced at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London on March 23rd, and during the game he made breaks of 480, 315 and 377, winning by 196 points on April 4th.

The following fortnight at the same Hall he played Dawson on the same conditions, winning by 184 points. His best breaks during the game were 335, 301, 342, 331, and 368.

On the same dates Diggle and Mitchell played a match of 16,000 up,” spot and push barred”, on even terms, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Blackfriars Street, Manchester, which Mitchell won by 4,506 points.

On March 19th, 1896, W. Spiller made his largest “spot barred” break of 529 against H. W. Stevenson, at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Dean Street Soho, London, and at the same Hall against Dawson on March 28th made a break of 419.

During the week commencing April 27th, at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London, in short games of 500 up. “all-in”, Peall playing against Dawson twice scored a love game by screwing in off the red in playing the first stroke in the game, and making a break of 500 unfinished.

Roberts complained of the meagre attendance’s during the two games played “push barred”, and again began playing., the old game with the “push stroke” allowed, commencing a match at the Egyptian Hall against Diggle, who received 8,000 points start in 24.000, which was won by Diggle on May 2nd by 713 points.

On November 16th, 1896, a match of 9,000 points up, “spot barred”, commenced between J. Mack (of Manchester) and W. Spiller at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Deansgate, Manchester, Mack receiving 2,250 points start. About this time Mack was playing a fine game, for during the evening of November 18th he scored his points in four turns, Spiller only scoring 68 points. His breaks during the day were 109, 197, 283 and 224 unfinished, and continuing it the following day he made the break into 429. He also made another good run of 297 and won by 2,916 points. Spiller’s best breaks during the game were 251, 174, and 360.

Most of the players were now engaged playing the “spot barred” game, with the “push stroke” allowed, though W. Mitchell frequently challenged to play anyone, bar Roberts, with the “push stroke” barred. The objection to the “push stroke” by the sporting Press seemed to have relaxed somewhat for at the commencement of 1897 the Championship controversy between Peall and Roberts was revived, which resulted in Roberts conceding Peall 12,000 points in 24,000, “spot barred”, at the Egyptian Hall, the match commencing on February 15th, 1897. Roberts during the game made breaks of 703 on February 25th, and 707 the following day, Peall eventually winning by 310 points on February 27th.

A return match was arranged at the same Hall, on the same conditions, from April 5th to April 19th Peall again being successful by 627 points.

Hugo Kerkan, the German Champion, on March 29th gave exhibitions of French billiards at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Dean Street, London, with J. P. Mannock, but he did not have a very long run, for after the first week the attendance was only moderate.

During a week’s play at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London, Dawson and Peall (who played each afternoon and evening) contested 500 points up, “spot barred”, and 500 up “all-in”, on even terms. Dawson scored a love game on May 13th, making a break of 498 unfinished (114 and 47 spots); score: Dawson, 500 ; Peall, 0. In the “spot barred” game the score stood: Dawson, 500; Peall, 84.

On October 11th, 1897, Roberts introduced lady players at the Egyptian Hall with matches between Miss G. Fairweather and Miss L. Collins. They played three games of 1,500 up, “spot barred”, the first on even terms. Score: Miss Fairweather, 1,500; Miss Collins, 683; largest break by winner, 33. Second game:-Miss Collins received 350 start. Score: Miss Fairweather, 1,500; Miss Collins, 941; largest break by winner, 40. Third game:-Miss Collins received 500. Score: Miss Fairweather, 1,500; Miss Collins, 1,050.

Dawson beat Roberts in a match at the same Hall on November 1st to November 13th with 7,500 start in 24,000, “spot barred”. The principal breaks by Roberts during the game were 590, 480, 491, 421, eleven over 300, and the same number over 200. Dawson’s best were 340, 331, 325, and nine over 200. Score: Dawson, 24,000; Roberts, 23,622.

H. W. Stevenson, who had been showing marked improvement in his game, issued a challenge to play any player, bar Roberts, Diggle, and Dawson, which was immediately taken up by W. Mitchell. The pair played 18,000 points up, “spot barred”. at the Argyll Hall. Argyll Street, London, for £200, on January 31st to February 12th, 1898. Mitchell at the commencement took a long lead and though Stevenson repeatedly got close with good breaks during the game he could not pass Mitchell, who won easily by 1,605 points. Stevenson made breaks during the game of 319, 310, 352, 489, 319, 250: Mitchell, 304, 225, 222, 356 253, 269.

On February 14th, Roberts decided to again play the “spot and push barred” game (which soon afterwards became the recognised game, the players gradually adapting themselves to the altered conditions), conceding Mitchell 5.500 points in 21,000 up. at the Egyptian Hall. In this Roberts made a break of 526, but the match did not finish, as Mitchell was taken unwell with the scores: Mitchell 13.257; Roberts, 13,059.

C. Memmott and F. Weiss (the Australian Champions) played a match of 9,000 up, “spot barred”, at the Argyll Hall, Memmott being allowed to use the “push stroke” whilst Weiss played “push barred”. Memmott’s best breaks during the game were 251 223, 256, 226; Weiss 265, 282. Score: Weiss, 9.000; Memmott , 8,378.

Roberts and Weiss commenced a match of 21,000 up “spot and push barred”, at the Egyptian Hall, on March 13th on a “Standard” table (which was officially tested and passed by the Committee of the Billiard Association), Weiss receiving 6,500 start. Roberts’ best breaks during the game were 285, 230, 225, 327, 222, 297, 319, 357, 219, 223, 222; Weiss 247, 220, 203. The match resulted in a draw with the scores: Weiss. 20,108; Roberts, 19,737.

Dawson and Weiss contested a game of l8,000 up,” spot and push barred”, on March 28th to April 9th, Weiss receiving 2,000 points start, on a “Standard” table at the Argyll Hall, Dawson winning by 1,866 points. The winner’s best breaks were 287, 337, 267, 215, 310, 316, 202, 349, 309; Weiss 210, 293, 201, 272, 225

203.

The best breaks made, “spot and push barred”, to the end of the season were by Roberts at the Egyptian Hall:-549 against J. G. Sala, March 11th; 609 against C. Harverson, April 4th; 679 against E. Diggle April 13th.

In a match with J. Mack at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Manchester, E. Diggle made breaks of 425 on March 30th, and 559 on April 7th.

At the same firm’s show rooms, at Birmingham, C. Dawson made a break of 572 on April 21st against F. Bateman.

By this time it became evident that something would have to be done with respect to the rules in force, and the Billiard Association set to to revise their existing rules, which were published in October, 1898. The principal alterations were that,” If the striker ‘push’ his ball, or strike it more than once, he cannot score, such spotting of the red ball which, “after spot twice in consecutive strokes by the same player, and not in conjunction with any other score, it shall be placed on the centre spot”. This at once destroyed the monotonous spot stroke, and did away with the continuous controversy respecting same as far as professional players were concerned. Matches and tournaments were now played under the new revised rules, Diggle being the first player to make a record break of 412 on November 22nd, 1898, in playing against Stevenson in a match of 18,000. points up (the latter receiving 2,000 points start) on a “Standard” table at Messrs. Orme and Sons’ Show Rooms, Soho Square, London. This break. however was beaten in the same game by Stevenson, who put together 582 on November 25th, the match resulting in a draw with the scores: Diggle 17,351; Stevenson, 17,073.

On November 28th the Billiard Association commenced an English handicap at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London giving for first prize – £50, second prize £20, third and fourth £10 each. which was won by J. North who received 80 points start in 500 points up. First Round :- H. Barr (200 start) 500, beat C. Dawson (scratch) 275; C. Popkins (240 start) 500, beat W. Mitchell (40 start) 272; J. North (80 start) 500, beat B. Elphick (170 start) 424; H. W. Stevenson (50 start) 500, beat J. Lloyd (125 start) 495; M. Inman (200 start) 500, beat M. C. Clark (190 start) 480; A. W. Morgan (170 start) 500, beat W. Critchell (210 start) 455. Second Round:-W. Spiller (90 start) a bye W. J. Peall (40 start) absent; J. Dunn (170 start) 500, beat F. Dixon (250 start) 418; G. Collins (170 start) 500. beat W. Hardy (150 start) 426; F. Copping (190 start) 500, beat C. Harverson (90 start) 257; J. P. Mannock (140 start) 500, beat W. Cook (170 start) 409; H. Barr (200 start) 500, beat C. Popkins 240 start) 483; J. North (80 start) 500, beat H. W. Stevenson (50 start) 222; J. Dunn (170 start) 500, W. Spiller (90 start) 431. Third Round:-M. Inman (200 start) 500, beat A. W. Morgan (170 start) 390; G. Collins (170 start) 500, beat F. Copping (190 start) 483. Semi-finals:-H. Barr (200 start) 500, beat J. P. Mannock (140 start 452, J. North (80 start) 500, M. Inman (200 start) 335; J. North (80 start) 500, beat H. Barr (200 start) 466; J. Dunn (170 start) 500, beat G. Collins (170 start) 482. Final (best two out of three games):-J. North (80 start) beat J. Dunn (170 start), the first by 37 and the second by 166 points.

On December 17th, 1898 Roberts made a break of 527 on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Cox and Yeman, at the Egyptian Hall, London, against W. Mitchell; and on the 28th of the same month he commenced a big American tournament at the same Hall, 14 players competing in heats of 600 points up (under revised rules), for prizes value £410 (“Bonzoline” balls being used). W. Mitchell with a start of 175 points won on January 11th, 1899, taking first prize of £200, having won 11 games and lost 2; J. G. Sala (200 start) second prize of £60, won 10, lost 3; E. Diggle (150 start) third prize, £23, won 10, lost 3. Diggle and Sala played off for first and second prize, the latter winning. The following players divided according to heats won:-H. W. Stevenson (200 start) won 8, lost 5; T. Aiken (260 start), W. J. Peall (200 start), J. Roberts (scratch), and F. Bateman (260 start), each won 7, lost 6; W. Osborne (260 start) won 6, lost 7; F. Copping (260 start) and C. Harverson (225 start) won 5, lost 8; J. Mack (240 start) won 4, lost 9; T. Taylor (240 start) won 3, lost 10; W. D. Courtney (240 start) won 1, lost 12.

C. Dawson on January 14th, 1899, beat J. North for the first Champion ship played under the revised rules of billiards, promoted by the Billiard Association, who drew up rules to govern all future competitions for the Championship (see page 186). Up to the season 1898-99, John Roberts had pretty well held complete sway, till the agitation promoted by the Press against the “push stroke” compelled him to play under the revised rules. Under these new conditions, and consequent upon his taking composition balls into use, assertions were ripe as to his play deteriorating, and after countless challenges Dawson’s partisans (backed up by the Billiard Association) issued a challenge for Dawson to play Roberts 18,000 up level for £100 a side, the whole of the gate money to go to the winner, the game to be played in a neutral hall and ivory balls to be used. This brought an acceptance from Roberts, and articles were signed at “The Sportsman” Office in November of 1898, to play during the month of March, 1899. Then for a time nothing was talked of in the billiard world but the Roberts and Dawson match, and as the date agreed upon approached greater interest became centred in the game.

Dawson. in meantime, was showing good form. In a match of 9,000 up against J. Mack at the Exchange Hotel, Fennel Street, Manchester, February 20th to February 25th, 1899, he was successful in conceding 4,000 points start, and won by 261, making during the game breaks of 125, 211, 114, 131, 114, 116, 169, 140, 114, 129, 246, 148, 105, 170, 123, 160, 317, 180. Mack made breaks of 156, 123, 124, 100, 119, 187.

Roberts soon afterwards, at Messrs. Orme and Sons’ Show Rooms, whilst playing against Diggle on March 3rd, 1899, made a break of 597, which was of greater magnitude than any other since the revised rules had come into force. This strengthened the opinions of his patrons, who simply swore by him, as they had always seen him conceding about one third of the game, and how strong this feeling ran is best told by the following little story of J. P. Mannock, the well-known teacher:-During the first part of the match when Dawson was leading, one of Roberts’ supporters approached him in his room at the Hotel Victoria, and inquired “Who do you think will win this match – Roberts or Dawson? When told that he thought the latter would win, he replied, “Well, he can’t. Nobody will ever beat Roberts!” Mannock suggested that Roberts was not so young as he used to be, and that “Anno Domini” would beat him. “Bah !” said Roberts’ barracker,” I didn’t mean any of your foreign players, I mean an Englishman! ”

A number of difficulties arose with respect to the hall to play in, and whether “Bonzoline” or ivory balls were to be used. After it was settled that the latter should be used, the selection of the hall was got over (though the articles signed stipulated for a neutral hall) by Dawson, after consulting his backer, agreeing to a proposition made by Roberts, to play half the match at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, and the other half at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London. The match commenced on March 20th, 1899, at the former hall, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company, before a large attendance. At the finish of the day’s play, Roberts was leading by 110 points. On the following afternoon Dawson scored 859 points in sixteen visits to the table, to 189 points made by Roberts, and secured a lead of 784 at the finish of the second day’s play which enabled him to hold the lead until the Saturday evening only 280 points separated them. Roberts on the day named put together 1,923 points with breaks of 329, l 51, 129, 114, 101, and 115 unfinished, to 1,120 points scored by Dawson. the scores reading at the end of the first week’s play Roberts, 9,001; Dawson, 8,721. The breaks made by the leader, besides the above mentioned, during the first week were, 125, 126, 105, 119, 130, 111, 172, 140, 168, 169, 182, 124, 105, 1 :32, 180, 143, 118, 266. Dawson made breaks of 342 (the highest in the match), 152, 150, 278, 132, 128, 156, 104, 138, 122, 138, 127, 264,. 186, 126,, 132, 112, 126, 112, 121. Directly after Roberts had reached his points, workmen commenced to take down the table, which was then put up at the Egyptian Hall. From the commencement of operations at his headquarters. Roberts began to gain ground, for when a halt was called on Thursday night, prior to the adjournment for Good Friday, he was actually leading by 2,078 points. His best breaks up to this period were 124, 272, 155, 121, 108, 136, 285, 126, 110, 112, 148, 316, 106, 236, 144. Dawson’s best were 170, 185, 104, 101, 164, 165. On the Saturday afternoon Dawson scored 1,275 points to Roberts 748, making breaks of 112, 212, 94 and 243. to Roberts’ 85, 94, 131. In the evening Dawson again did well, scoring 1,495 whilst Roberts was reaching his points, a total of 2,770 points for the day, reducing the lead of Roberts’ to 807. Dawson’s breaks in the evening were 83, 45, 104, 228, 80, 65, 185, 155, 136 and 126, to Roberts’ 80, 102, 89, 75, 79, 57 and 42 unfinished. Commencing on the Monday afternoon Roberts only added a few to his unfinished break, but with breaks of 188, 115 139 unfinished scored his points whilst Dawson was putting together 268. In the evening Roberts raised his break to 213, and with breaks of 108, 207, and 212, won by 1.814 points.

During the game H. W. Stevenson challenged the winner to play on level terms, but shortly afterwards (on Nov 15th, 1899) he commenced a match with Roberts at the Hengler’s Circus, Glasgow, receiving 6,000 points start in 21,000. Result: Stevenson, 21.000; Roberts, 20,149.

In a match between F. Bateman and C. Dawson at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts New Street, Birmingham, the latter on April 19th, 1899, made a break of 536, and on October 21st of the same year, playing in a match with J. Mack at the Argyll Hall, on a table duly certificated as one of “Standard” pattern, he beat the existing record (597 by Roberts) under the revised rules by making a break of 722.

On November 13th, J. P. Mannock and C. Dawson played short games at the Argyll Hall, advertised as “descriptive billiards”, the former describing or declaring each stroke to be played and pointing out as near as possible what position would be left stroke named had been played. The public did not take kindly to the new idea and it only had a short run.

The next important event v as the Billiard Association handicap, 500 points up (played on the English “knock-out” principle), which commenced on November 20th at Messrs. Thurston and Company’s, Catherine Street, Strand, London. The prizes offered were: First, £50 second, £20, third and fourth, £10 each. First Round:-H. Shephard (120 start) beat J. North (owes 30) by 29 points; H. W. Stevenson (owes 30) beat W. Critchell (160 start) by 92 points; C. Harverson (50 start) beat J. Dowland (100 start) by 146 points; B. Elphick (110 start) beat G. Collins {100 start) by 114 points; C. Popkin (180 start) beat A. W. Morgan (120 start) by 121 points; F. Harwood (130 start) beat J. Dunn (100 start) by 72 points W. Hardy (100 start) beat F. Bennett (170 start) by 121 points; C. Dawson (owes 100) heat J. Ayres (130 start) by 172 points; J. Sharod (160 start) beat J. P. Mannock (80 start) by 76 points. Second Round:- F. Copping (130 start) beat W. J. Peall (scratch) by 161 points; J. Lloyd (70 start) beat M. C. Clark (150 start) by 252 points; H. Barr (120 start) beat M. Inman (100 start) by 107 points; H. Clark (160 start) beat H.. Shephard (120 start) by 37 points; C. Harverson (50 start) beat B. Elphick (110 start) by 249 points, Harverson making a break of 212 unfinished; C. Dawson (owes 100) (160 start) by 259 points; H. W. Stevenson (owes 30) beat C. Popkin (180 start) by 226 points F. Harwood (130 start) beat W. Hardy (100 start) by 117 points. Third Round :- F. Copping (130 start) beat J. Lloyd (70 start) by 212 points; H. Barr (120 start) beat H. Clark (160 start) by 141 points, C. Dawson (owes 100) beat C. Harverson (50 start) by 194 points, Harverson making a break of 135, and Dawson 100 and 315 unfinished, F. Harwood (130 start) beat H. W. Stevenson (owes 30) by 149 points. Semi-final Round:- H. Barr (120 start) beat F. Copping (130 start) by 94 points; C. Dawson (owes 100) beat F. Harwood (130 start) by 166 points. Final Heats (best two out of three games):-C. Dawson (owes 100) beat H. Barr (120 start) by 185 the first game, and by 97 points the second game, winning the handicap on November 27th, 1899.

Playing against F. Bateman at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, New Street, Birmingham on December 7th, 1899, H. W. Stevenson made a break of 591

About this time Dawson issued a challenge to give Mitchell 1,000 start or Stevenson 2,000 start, in 18,000 up for £100 a side. Mitchell promptly replied and the match was played on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts at the Egyptian Hall, January 22nd to February 3rd, 1900. Dawson taking the lead at 2,481, left off with a good lead at the half-way stage, his principal breaks being 341, 263, 256, 247, 227, 212, 230, 251 and nineteen other breaks over the century. Mitchell made breaks of 225, 224, 212 and eighteen more over the hundred, the scores reading: Dawson 9,001; Mitchell, 8,307. The second half of the game saw Dawson playing in great form, and he won easily by 1,931 points, running to game with an unfinished break of 421 (the largest in the match). His other breaks were 405, 321 and twenty-one over the century. Mitchell compiled twenty-seven over the hundred, including 209, 203, 215 and 254.

Roberts then surprised everybody by making an announcement that he was about to play Stevenson and Diggle a “test” match, each on the terms of his challenge (after he defeated Dawson), to give any player 5,500 points in 21,000 up (with “Bonzoline” balls) with the intention to furnish a line of comparison of his play with those of his most capable contemporaries. (which those with any knowledge of the difference between a composition ball and ivory must know did nothing of the kind, when his opponents were used to playing with ivory only), and it was no surprise to see Stevenson lose his game by over 5,000 points. Shortly after these matches. Roberts went abroad, seen very little in England since.

In November 1900, H. W. Stevenson, who had improved wonderfully in his play accomplished a remarkable feat in a game of 18,000 up (on level terms) against Diggle at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester. On the tenth day of the match he was 1,116 points behind Diggle when play and he put together 2,532 points whilst Diggle was scoring 822, including a fine break of 586, thus finishing up at night with a lead of 544, and finally winning by a margin of 987 points.

During the same week (November 12th to November 17th) Dawson gave M. Inman a start 10,000 at the Argyll Hall. On the Friday evening he scored 1,476 points to Inman 358, his principal contributions realising 149, 108, 441, 41, 59, 389 and 58 unfinished, to Inman’s best break of 128, eventually winning by 258 points.

The following month he gave C. Harverson 3,300 points start in 10,500, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester, making a break on December 11th of 540, and winning after an exciting game by 23 points.

On January 26th, 1901 H. W. Stevenson beat E. Diggle in a match of 9,000 (conceding 1,000 points) by 943 at the Gresham Restaurant, West Nile Street, Glasgow.

The most interesting events of the season were the two Championship games played between Dawson and Stevenson, the Amateur Championship and Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Tournament (see index). the matches of note to the end of the season were between Harverson and Inman, J. Mack and T. Reece, the latter players contesting 18,000 up for £100 a side, on February 11th to February 23rd, at the Socialists’ Hall, Oldham, Mack leading at the end of the first week’s play with the score: Mack, 9,000; Reece, 7,989. The best breaks were 126, 113, 123, 120, 101, 122, 129, 166, 164. Reece made the largest break ((338)) in the match, and also others of 106, 165, 140, 152, 101, 153, 124. During the second week the leader, who made his best break (271) in the match, won easily, the final scores reading: Mack, 18,000; Reece, 14,772. His other best breaks were 173, 141, 108, 132, 118, 140 and 127, the loser making breaks of 122, 148, 159, 101, 103 154, 129, 109, 168, 114.

The following week C. Harverson and M. Inman commenced a match at the Argyll Hall 8,000 points up, the latter receiving 1,000 start for £75 a side, which was a great game from start to finish, Inman lost most of his start very early in the game, the scores at the finish of the afternoon’s play on the second day reading: Inman, 2,114; Harverson (in play), 2,000. However, he never lost courage, and, finally, after a keen and great struggle, ran to game with an unfinished break of 182 (the last 129 of which were made off the red ball), a winner by 248 points. His other breaks during the game were 119, 112, 113, 154, 180, 174, 108, 117, 107, 101. The loser’s highest breaks were 118, 124, 157, 101, 131. 100, 111, 112, 129, 119, 112, 145 and 132.

C. Dawson in a match against F. Lawson at the Surrey Street Music Hall Sheffield conceding 4,500 points in 10,000 up, on April 15th to April 20th, made breaks of 376, 421 and 448, and won by 766 points.

The same month saw a match commenced in which H. W. Stevenson concede 2,000 points in 18,000 up to E. Diggle, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, The Parsonage, Manchester, the latter, who made breaks of 455 and 326 (twice) during the game, winning with the scores reading : Diggle, 18,()00; Stevenson, 11,758.

The commencement of the 1901-02 season saw C. Dawson and E. Diggle giving exhibitions of their skill in different towns in the United [kingdom, and with J. Roberts also being away in Australia, billiards (with the exception of a couple of tournaments) were rather dull for a time in London.

On October 5th H. W. Stevenson (who had previously challenged Dawson for the Championship) issued a challenge to play anyone in the world (Dawson preferred) three games, each of 18,000 up, level. for £100 a side each game, to be played in London, Manchester, and Glasgow, as he was anxious to prove who was the better player. Whether this challenge intended as an advertisement prior to the Championship is not known, but when it became evident that the Championship would not be played, as Dawson declined to play on the date selected by the Association- November 11th-the latter body declared Stevenson Champion on that date. Notwithstanding this, however, Dawson had accepted his offer to play the three matches named. He (Stevenson) then stated that he would only play Dawson on level terms if he played for the Championship, otherwise he would give Dawson or any other player 1,000 in 18,000, for any sum from £100 to £500 a side. After a continued paper warfare, articles were signed to play three matches of 18,000 up, each for £100 a side, on level terms, the first to be played in London and to commence on March 3rd 1902, one week to intervene between each match.

On October 12th, 1901, Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall, Leicester Square, London, was opened with an American Tournament promoted by the Billiard Association, who gave £100 in prizes. The heats were 500 up. H. W. Stevenson (scratch) and W. J. Peall (100 start) won six each out of seven, and in playing off the tie, the former made a bleak of 242 and secured first prize. The other players taking part were: W. Mitchell (50 start), F. Bateman (80 start), J. North (80 start), C. Harverson (100 start), W. Cook (160 start), and M. Inman (160 start).

Nothing sensational was done by Diggle or Dawson in their games until they arrived at Liverpool, when playing at the Eberle Street Hall, the latter on December 13th, 1901, made a break of 579, and the following week (December 20th) Diggle made a break of 519 at the Cambridge Hall Sheffield The two players named commenced a match of 18,000 up at the Argyll Hall on January 6th, 1902, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company. Diggle, who received 2,000 points start, caused rather a sensation, for on the evening of January 10th he made a remarkable break of 205. In this break, after a few strokes, Dawson’s ball covered the billiard spot, and, Diggle, instead of playing the usual cannon, continued playing the winning hazard off the pyramid spot into the four pockets (the two middle and the two top corner pockets). Although an objection was raised, and the revised rules were produced, nothing at that time was in them to prevent the stroke, and he made fifty-six consecutive hazards in this way before breaking down-a wonderful performance. Dawson, who won by 699 points, made breaks during the game of 484 and 555.

The same month C. Harverson and M. Inman commenced a match of 16,000 up, on level terms, for £75 a side, on January 20th to February 1st at Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall. Again the game was well contested, some of the sessions being greatly prolonged. Harverson during early part of the match went right away and looked like winning easily, but Inman struggled on gamely in his usual way. The last few days’ play was very close and exciting, the players constantly passing and re-passing each other. When Inman appeared to have the game in hand an unusual occurrence happened-whilst playing, the spot fell out of his ball. He requested a new set, which were duly provided, but he broke down after a bad stroke. Harverson then ran right out with an unfinished bleak of 225, a winner of a marvellous game by 163 points-a great performance.

On February 10th, H. W. Stevenson and C. Harverson commenced a match at Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall, the latter being in receipt of 3.000 points in 9,000. Stevenson on February 11th made a break of 541, and won by 196 points.

On February 24th to March 1st, Dawson and contested 9,000 points up (Diggle 1,000 start) at C. Poundsbery’s Billiard Hall, 114, Western Road, Hove, Brighton. On the Wednesday afternoon Dawson made a break of 455, but Diggle reached his points with an unfinished break of 75. On restarting, he continued playing all the evening, and left off with a magnificent unfinished break of 742-(this achievement is without precedent under the revised new rules)-his opponent never having a stroke during the evening’s play. Continuing the next afternoon, February 27th, 1902, he carried the break to 791 before breaking down at an easy winning hazard, thus beating all records. The following appeared under the report of the break in “The Sportsman” :- “The above performance of Diggle’s was a marvellous one, no matter upon what class of table it was accomplished; but in justice to both players and table-makers, it is only right to point out that no break can be accepted as a record unless it has been made upon a table that has been previously tested and passed as a ‘Standard’ by representatives of the Billiard Association.” – ED. The Sportsman.

The first of the three great matches between Stevenson and Dawson commenced on March 3rd at the Argyll Hall on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company. One of the conditions (introduced for the first time) stipulated that two plain white balls should be used, a spot being marked on one in order to distinguish them. Dawson started very well, leaving off with a lead of over 500 points after the first session. The sitting in the evening was terribly prolonged and lasted until 11.45 p.m. before Stevenson, who scored 1,287 to Dawson 689, reached his points with a lead of 54, and from this point to the finish took a commanding lead. On Thursday and Friday, March 6th and 7th, he played an extraordinary game, making his necessary 750 points on the first named afternoon in six innings. an average of 125. His breaks were 47, 116, 62, 411 and 97 unfinished. In the evening he scored his points in thirteen innings with breaks of 101 (full), 86, 220. 240, 98 and 75 unfinished. On the Friday he even played better, scoring 750 in four innings in the afternoon (an average of 187) and breaks of 109 (full), 190, 185, 81 and 260 unfinished. Remarkable as was the exhibition given by Stevenson in the afternoon. few thought it possible that he would do better in the evening. but this he actually did, making successive breaks of 418 (full), 99. 13 and 481 (unfinished), .averaging 250 for three completed innings, whilst scoring 750 points-a marvellous display. The following afternoon he carried his unfinished break to 521, and at the half-way stage was leading by 3,767 points. Although Dawson on the Monday afternoon following scored 1,455 points to Stevenson 750, the latter was too far in front to be caught, and he eventually won by 3,806. During the match the winner, besides the big 259, 249, 245 (twice), 240, 237. 223. and forty-five of one hundred and over. Dawson’s son’s best breaks were 389, 299, 298, 288, 281, 258, 254, 227, and twenty-seven of one hundred and over. The following is an extract from the “Sportsman”, March 17th, 1902, under the heading, “Comparative form of the players” :- “This result is as it should be, for no unbiased critic who has closely watched the billiards of the past two weeks could leave Argyll Hall and say Dawson was the better player. That he is determined and plucky, that he knows not defeat until the end of the game, that he is a very fine player, indeed, there is no doubt, but that he is not the equal of Stevenson as a player is also unquestionable. When Dawson was Champion of his profession he was proclaimed as such in the columns of the ‘Sportsman’, recognise his great abilities as a player. However, at that time Stevenson was climbing the ladder, slowly, it is true, but with certainty. Their battle at the Gaiety for the Championship was convincing, for in that game Stevenson showed his capabilities in a manner that surprised all, beating his opponent in a match of 9,000 up by 2,594. It is true that later in the season Dawson turned the tables by over 3,000 and regained his lost honours, but by that time the form was known, and possibly the Huddersfielder knew what he was doing when, after being challenged for the Championship at the beginning of this season, he allowed the title to go by default. The match that concluded on Saturday in no way whatever could have affected the Championship, yet more than Stevenson proved that he is the Champion. Yet, as he has ousted Dawson from the position, so there may be another coming along to him, and, perhaps, beat him, and should that occur Stevenson, like Dawson, will have to take second place with as good grace as he can. Stevenson knows full well that one cannot take a life long lease of any championship”. Afterwards these matches were described as a “mere test of endurance” in the columns of the same paper under “Vigilant’s Note-Book”, but nothing was heard of this definition before Dawson won the next two matches.

The second match was played at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, March 24th to April 7th (no play on Good Friday), on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Cox and Yeman. Again at the beginning Stevenson went right away, and at one time during the first week was leading by over 1,500 points. When the half-way stage was reached he held a lead of 976. His best breaks up to this period were 575. 225, 216, 202, 220 unfinished, and sixteen of one hundred or more. Dawson’s best were 373, 333, 312, 205 and fifteen of one hundred or more. During the latter half Dawson struggled on and gradually closed up the leeway, and for the first time during the game held foremost position after a break of 196. The totals at this stage were called: Dawson, 11,898; Stevenson 11,853; and although Stevenson got within eighteen points of the leader when the scores stood Dawson, 14,507; Stevenson, 14,489; he was never caught, and finally won by 910 points. The following breaks in the order made were accomplished by the winner during the second week: 174, 198, 131, 166, 172, 383, 123, 271, 112, 249, 131, 109, 100. 106, 174, 196, 137, 123, 241, 127, 186, 206, 319, 142, ‘289,. 130. 146, 141. 127, 115, 124, 108, 182. Stevenson’s best breaks were 232 (full), 168, 209. 403, 121, 156, 167, 100, 183, 234, 135, 101, 146, 170, 107, 292. 102, 105. 114, 105, 112, 244, 118, 249.

The third and deciding match was played at the Argyll Hall, London, April 14th to April 26th, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company. On the first afternoon, Stevenson breaks of 70, 144, 202, 85 and 160 unfinished, scored 751 to 276, Dawson making breaks of 47 and 135. In the evening he made breaks of 177 (full), 56, 57, 63, 100 and 252 unfinished, to Dawson’s best breaks of 94, 51. 197, 97 and 144 leaving off with the scores: Stevenson, 1,501: Dawson, 1,010. The following afternoon Dawson at the close of play actually led by points, making breaks of 125, 151, 148, 200, 225, 92 and 167 to Stevenson’s breaks of 295 (full), and 58. In the evening Dawson again increased lead to over 900. On the Saturday afternoon Stevenson scored 1,062 points in five innings, and put together 1,209 points to 679 by Dawson, and again took the lead when the score of the last named stood at 9,798. When play started on the following Thursday afternoon the scores stood: Stevenson (in play), 13,467; Dawson, 12,959, the former with a lead of 508. Dawson played up well during the day, the scores at the adjournment reading: Dawson, 15,003; Stevenson, 14,279. From this point to the finish he further increased his lead, and finally won the rubber by 1,169 points. The winners best breaks during the game were 284, 266, 235, 233, 225, 215, 219, 200 and forty-three of one hundred or over. Stevenson made 423, 328, 296, 295, 285, 263, 220 (twice), 216, 210 (twice), 202 and twenty two of one hundred or over.

After these matches Diggle and Dawson again became partners playing several exhibition games in the provinces.

The most important breaks to the end of the season were by Stevenson at the Palace Billiard Rooms, Hope Street, Glasgow, in playing against T. Aiken on May 13th. when he made a break of 537, and by Dawson, 524 made against Diggle on May 30th at the Royal Albert Hall, Jarrow.

The season 1902-03 started very early, Stevenson showing great form in a match of 9,000 up, conceding W. Osborne 4,000 start at the George Hotel, Leicester, September 22nd to September 27th. During the game he made breaks of 471 and 422, and just proved successful, and shortly afterwards whilst playing against Bateman at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester, he made a break of 492 (playing with “Bonzoline balls)

Dawson, after being beaten easily by T. Reece, of Oldham. who received a start of 3,500 in Manchester commenced a four [two] weeks’ engagement at the Grand Hall, London, on September 29th, conceding W. Cook 7,000 points start in 18,000 up, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Thurston and Company. Dawson who made two breaks during the game of 425 and 514, won by 182 points. Cook’s three-figure breaks during the game numbered twenty-seven. viz., nineteen between 100 and 200 seven between 200 and 300, and one over 300.

Following this match, Dawson gave C. Wilkinson, of Wakefield, 4,000 points in 9,000 and again proved successful by 205 points. Wilkinson, who made his first appearance before a London audience, played well indeed, making breaks of 120, 100, 163, 142, 129, 127 and 111.

The following week Dawson played a return match with T. Reece, conceding 3,500 points in 9,000, and on the first day (October 20th) Dawson made a break of 541 and eventually won by 327 points. Reece during the game made breaks of 146, 102, 105, 140, 141, 139, 100, 108, 213, 115, 125, and 207.

Dawson next contested three games of 3,000 points up, during the week November 3rd to November 8th. at the Albion Hotel, Leeds, conceding W. Nichol 1,500 points start in each winning all three, and making breaks of 402 on the Tuesday, and 605 on the Saturday.

On the following Monday commented an American Tournament at the Grand Hall, promoted by the Billiard Association. Heats, 500 up. T. Reece (150 start) and C. Harverson (150 start) won seven games each, and lost two. Playing off the tie (which was arranged 1,000 up, level), Harverson won on November 22nd by 315 points. The following players also competed:-H. W. Stevenson (scratch) won 6, lost 3; W. Osborne (180 start) won 5, lost 4; Alec Taylor (220 start) won 5, lost 4; W. J. Peall (100 start) won 4, lost 5; M. Inman (130 start) won 4, lost 5; W. Cook (150 start) won 3, lost 6; J. Mack (150 start) won 2, lost 7; W. Holt (240 start) won 2, lost 7.

Stevenson and Diggle then contested a game of 4,500 up (the latter receiving 500 points start) at the Corn Exchange, Maidstone, Diggle winning on November 26th by 812 points.

A challenge issued by C. Harverson to take 6,000 points in 18,000 from either Dawson or Stevenson for £50 a side, resulted in a match on the terms named being played at the Argyll Hall on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company, on December 8th to December 20th. between C. Dawson and C. Harverson for £75 a side. Harverson on the first three days of play actually scored more points than Dawson, the scores at the close of Wednesday evening standing: Harverson, 9,002; Dawson, 2,980; and at the half-way stage: Harverson, 12,001; Dawson, 8,257 The leader’s best breaks were 122, 113, 105, 112 (twice), 177, 104, 103 and 148. Dawson’s best were 133, 114, 110, 152, 106, 125, 117, 327, 140, 113, 333 127, 122, 118, 134, 207, 107, 103, 268. During the second half Dawson, gradually but surely began to gain on the leader, and when the last day’s play was entered upon he was only nine points behind, and he finally won a well contested game by 439 points. His breaks during the second half were: 125, 228, 103, 122, 266, 166, 115, 109, 103, 251, 305, 144, 164, 113, 137, 154, 211, 101, 119, 235, 190, 100, 158, 179, 110, 290, 183, 275 and 153. Harverson’s best were: 103, 135, 137 (twice), 101, 111, 174, 114, 192, 109 and 146.

The same fortnight Stevenson and Diggle played a game of 18,000 up at Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall, Diggle receiving 2,000 points start. Stevenson at the commencement of the second and week caught and passed his opponent, the scores reading: Stevenson, 10,502; Diggle, 10,330; and again he was leading by over 500 points on the following Friday afternoon; but Diggle played up with great determination and won by 953 points. The winner’s best breaks throughout the game were: 367, 309, 254 (twice), 252, 251, 242, 241, 233, 227, 225 (twice), 245, 217, 207, 205 and thirty-four of one hundred or more. Stevenson made breaks of 423, 442, 492, 372, 336, 333, 280, 281, 272, 286, 261, 258, 244, 250, 239, 225, 221, 218, 203, and thirty-two of one hundred of more.

The following fortnight Stevenson conceded F. Bateman 4,500 points in a game of 16,500 up, at the Grand Hall. The latter showed improved form, and complied breaks of 366, 270, 340, 323, 308, winning on January 3rd, 1903, by 537 points.

E. Diggle, in playing a match with C. Dawson at Hotel, Leeds, made a break of 594 on January 2nd, 1903.

The next important match commenced on January 5th at the Grand Hall between M. Inman and T. Reece for £100 a side, 16,000 up, on level terms. Inman at the beginning of the game gradually drew away and at the half-way stage the scores read: Inman, 7,907; Reece, 7,344. The game was well contested throughout, the two men playing very keenly, and on the fourth day a remarkable series of consecutive safety misses were given, Inman giving sixteen and Reece fifteen; also during the match in another session he gave ten consecutive safety misses to nine by Reece. At one time Inman was leading by four figures, but Reece responded gallantly, closing up the leeway and getting within eight points of the leader on the last night, the score at this period being called: Inman, 15,521; Reece, 15,513. After a desperate struggle home from this point, Inman won by 312 points. The best breaks by the winner during the game were: 110, 100, 109, 104, 169, 189, 110, 121, 112, 117, 103, 101, 137, 116, 146, and 117. Reece’s best breaks were 210 (twice), 118, 125, 102, 145, 107, 184, 107, 160, 171, 139, 228, 158, 132, 185, 132, 215, 130, 111, 165, 187, 183, 126, 167, 140 and 143.

Stevenson and Diggle should have commenced a match of 18,000 up, the latter with 2,000 points start, the same fortnight, at the Gresham Restaurant, West Nile Street, Glasgow, but the former was ill the first two days. However, on the Wednesday the players started as though each had run to his points overnight, when the respective totals should have read: Diggle (2,000 start), 4,666; Stevenson, 3,000. Diggle again played well and won easily by 1,167 points, scoring some 500 points less than the start given on the ten days’ actual play.

During an exhibition match at the Criterion Hotel, Shrewsbury, on February 2nd, H. W. Stevenson made a break of 588 in playing against T. J. Watkins; and on the 10th of the same month C. Dawson, playing against :E. Diggle, made a break of 607 at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, New Street, Birmingham.

At Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall C. Harverson and M. Inman played their match of 16,000 up, on level terms, for £50 a side, on February 2nd to February 14th. Inman drew away on the first day with a good lead. Harverson, however, with breaks of 102, 107, 127. and 147, on the Tuesday evening scored 1,103 points to Inman 441, leaving off with a lead of 183. and from here to the finish steadily gained, the scores at the half-way stage reading: Harverson, 8,001; Inman 6,662. After a most protracted game, the average duration of play being six hours a day, Harverson won easily by 1,447 points. The winner s best breaks during the game were: 172, 112, 110, 111, 141, 135, 160, 147, 101, 191, 118, 110 (twice), 111. 114. 106, 125, 140. 120, 137, 126, 119, 174, 118, 265, 123 and 132. The loser made breaks of 110, 141, 145, 176, 194, 200, 111, 177, 100, 122 105, 106, 108, 148.

During the fortnight February 16th to February 28th, at the same Hall, H. W. Stevenson conceded W. Cook 7,000 points start in 18,000. The latter took a strong lead from the commencement, showing much improved form, and made several breaks of over two hundred, his highest being 366. Although Stevenson on the last day made breaks of 534, 305, 111, 110, and 157, Cook with a splendid break of 238 unfinished won easily by 2,606 points.

The week following the Championship (see page 190) Dawson and Diggle commenced a game of 9,000 up (the latter 1,000 start) at Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall. The report of the first afternoon’s play in “The Sportsman” commenced:- “The inseparables, the Damon and Pythias of the professional billiard world, Dawson and Diggle, are again together. They were separated for a week whilst Dawson was taking the Championship from Stevenson but Diggle could not bear the parting, and as a result he was a constant visitor to the National Sporting Club”. Diggle, who had been Dawson’s partner and trial horse prior to his big matches with Stevenson, brought about the above remarks. In “The Sportsman”, under notes, “The game in 1902″, read:-” During the year Dawson and Diggle were showing together in the provinces; but, so far as the results of the matches are concerned, no interest whatever attaches, for being continually pitted against each other, their games became very monotonous indeed. They were quite inseparable; in fact, except for that period when Dawson was engaged with Stevenson, he rarely met any other player except Diggle. As the two players named were inseparable to the end of the season, I will give the games of most interest played by them”.

On April 4th W. Cook, in a benefit match with J. Lloyd (the beneficiare) at the Grand Hall, made a break of 476 (his highest on record).

At the above Hall Diggle and Dawson commenced a match of 16,500 up, the former receiving 1,750 start, April 6th to April 18th (no play Good Friday). Diggle on the third day made a break of 527, and during the game compiled breaks of 390, 337, 312, and 301, to Dawson’s best break of 394, winning very easily. The scores at the close of the match were: Diggle (1,750), 16,500; Dawson, 11,270. On the Saturday evening Mr. Harry Young (representing the “World of Billiards”) presented Diggle, on behalf of his admirers, with a magnificent gold watch, made by Messrs. Kendal and Dent, as an appreciation of his great form during the game.

The following fortnight (April 20th to May 2nd) the same players contested a game of 18,000 up (Diggle receiving 2,000 points start), at the City Hall, Eberle Street, Liverpool on a table by J. Ashcroft, of Liverpool. Throughout the game was full of interest as both players showed great form. Dawson on the first Saturday evening, in six visits to the table, including breaks of 64, 137 589 and 246, scored 1,042 points, the scores at the half-way stage reading Diggle. 9,421 : Dawson, 8,467. During the second half Diggle made a break of 432, and finally won easily by 1,118 points. His other breaks during the game were: 324, 308, 269, 243, 238 (twice), 237, 228, 224, 223, 213, 206 and forty-eight of one hundred or more. Dawson, besides the big break, made 473, 376, 344, 318, 300, 278, 276, 264, 255 (twice), 252, 250, 239, 231, 213, 220, 245, 236 and thirty-eight of one hundred or more.

One week intervened, and then the above players commenced their last match of the season. a start of 1,000 in 18,000 up, at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, New Bridge Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne, on May 11th to May 23rd, 1903. Both players again showed great form and big breaks were plentiful; on the second day Dawson made a break of 468 and Diggle one of 523. After a fine game Dawson eventually won by 692 points. Besides the breaks mentioned the other breaks made during the game by the winner were: 415, 397, 320, 315, 301, 284, 270, 237, 235, 226, 215, 208, 200, and forty-one of one hundred or more, and by Diggle 334, 315, 301, 290, 280, 248, 238, 231, 230, 202, 200, and thirty-two of one hundred or more. It may be interesting to note that Diggle and Dawson have competed against each other in thirty-five matches under the old rules, with the “push stroke” allowed, Diggle winning nineteen and Dawson sixteen. Under the present rules they have played forty-three matches, Dawson winning twenty-six and Diggle seventeen They played one drawn game of 18,000 up at the Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh, on November 9th, 1901, when the final scores were: Dawson, 17,148; ‘Diggle, 16,920. Stevenson and Dawson, besides the Championship games and the three money matches also contested the following games (under old rules):-October 1st to October 6th, 1894, at Argyll Hall, twelve games of 700 up, Stevenson receiving 150 start; result, Dawson won nine, Stevenson three. Same month, October 15th to October 17th, at Argyll Hall, six games, 700 up, Stevenson 150 start; result, Dawson won five games, Stevenson one. At the same Hall they contested 20,000 up, Stevenson 5,000 start, November 5th to November 17th, 1894; result, Dawson 20,000, Stevenson 18,082. November 20th, 1894, at the Constitutional Club, West Norwood, London, 500 up, “spot barred”, Stevenson 100 start; result, Dawson 500, Stevenson 366. 500 up, “all-in”, Stevenson 100 start; result, Dawson 500, Stevenson 288. November 4th to November 16th, 1895, at Argyll Hall, 18,000 up, Stevenson 2,000 start; result, Dawson 18,000, Stevenson 16,866. March 9th to March 14th, 1896, at Messrs. Thurston’s, Catherine Street, Strand, London, 9,000 up, Stevenson 1,500 start; result, Dawson 9,000, Stevenson 8,355. And under the present rules:-The final heat in Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Tournament, Dean Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, February 27th to March 11th, 1899, 18,000 up, Stevenson receiving 3,500 start; result, Stevenson 18,000, Dawson 15,838. December 24th to December 29th, 1900, Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ American Tournament, Dean Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, three games 3,000 up, Dawson owes 500, Stevenson scratch-Christmas Day (no play) intervening, the games had to be played in five days-Stevenson winning all three; the first, Stevenson 3.000, Dawson 2,462; second, Stevenson 3,000, Dawson 2,532; third, Stevenson 3,000, Dawson 2,280.

Billiards (1899)

by Joseph Bennett

HISTORICAL.

ACCORDING to the latest authority (Murray. ” A New English Dictionary,” 1887), Billiards is so named from ” billard, ‘a cue,’ originally ‘a stick with curved end; ‘ diminutive of bille, piece of wood, stick.” Other derivations are balyards (a game played with balls and yards or sticks, Johnson), and billard (French bille, ball and suffix ard, Todd).

The origin of the game of Billiards is even more obscure than its etymology. In the Nouveau Dictionnaire, the game is said to have been invented by the French. Some ascribe the invention to Henrique Devigne, an artist, who flourished in the time of Charles IX., about 1571. Bouillet, Dictionnaire Universel des Sciences, magnanimously hands back the invention to the English. He says:-” The game of Billiards appears to be derived from the game of bowls. It was very anciently known in England, where perhaps it was invented. It was brought into fashion in France by Louis XIV., whose physicians recommended this exercise to him after eating. “Dr. Johnson argues that the game is probably English, Todd is of opinion that it is French; the Acadesmie des Jeux says:- “It would appear that Billiards was invented in England.”

Strutt (“Sports and Pastimes”) believes that Billiards is merely the game of paille-rnaille transferred from the ground to the table. He gives an engraving of paille-rnaille, which he calls “a curious ancient pastime,” bearing some analogy to bowling, and adds, “hence, I make no doubt, originated the game of Billiards.” But if the game with arch and king, figured in the cut, is the same as that described in the Academie des Jeux as nouveau unaille comme un billard, the inference should be that this form of pall-mall was suggested by Billiards, instead of the reverse.

The authorities are agreed only on one point, that nothing is known about Billiards prior to the middle of the sixteenth century.

Spenser is the earliest known English writer who refers to the game. In “Mother Hubberd’s Tale” (1591), he speaks of “all thriftles games that may be found” * * * “with dice, with cards, with balliards.”

It is well known that Billiards is mentioned by Shakespeare in “Anthony and Cleopatra” (1606).

Before the introduction of Billiards, the fashionable game on a board was shovel-board, the shovel-board being then as indispensable to the mansions of the opulent as the billiard-table is now. As soon as Billiards came into favour shovelboard was superseded, or rather relegated to the lower orders.

The earliest account of the game of Billiards in English is probably that in “The Compleat Gamester, by Charles Cotton” (1674). The author says: “The gentile, cleanly, and most ingenious game at Billiards had its first original from Italy [in another place he says from Spain], and for the excellency of the recreation is much approved of and plaid by most nations in Europe, especially in England, there being few towns of note therein which hath not a publick billiard table, neither are they wanting in many noble and private families in the country for the recreation of the mind and exercise of the body.”

The form of a billiard-table, says Cotton, is oblong, that is, something longer than it is broad. It has been stated, but on insufficient authority, that Billiards was sometimes formerly played on a round or square table. Strutt says that at the commencement of the last century the billiard-table was square, with only three pockets situated on one of the sides. He gives as his authority the “School of Recreation, 1710” (the correct date is 1701); but the engraving therein is only a poorly-executed copy of the one in Cotton, published nearly thirty years earlier.

It will be seen that here six pockets are inserted, and that the square appearance of the table is due to bad drawing.

In Cotton’s time the bed of the table was made of oak, and the cushions were stuffed with “fine flox or cotton.” The pockets were either nets, as now, or wooden boxes; but these, Cotton says, are “nothing near so commendable as the former.” Maces (called “masts”) only were used, made of ” brazile, lignum vitae, or some other weighty wood,” and tipped with ivory. The balls were generally of ivory, but some-times of wood.

The peculiarity of the game at this time consisted in the use of a small arch of ivory, called the “port,” which was placed where the pyramid spot now stands, and of an ivory peg or “king,” placed on a corresponding spot at the other end of the table (see cut). Only two balls were used, and the game played was the white winning-game (single pool), five up by day-light, three up by candle-light. In addition to the lives (or “ends”) as they were called, certain scores appertained to passing the port or to touching the king.

In the early part of the eighteenth century, Cotton’s “Compleat Gamester” was incorporated with Seymour’s “Court Gamester,” the two being published together under the former title. In the fifth edition of this work (1734), “French Billiards” is added: “So called from their manner of playing the game, which is only with masts and balls, port and king being now wholly laid aside.” It appears from the rules that cue-playing was permitted, but, for many years after; only good players were allowed to strike with flat-ended wooden cues, the proprietors of rooms insisting on the use of the mace for fear of damage to the cloth. “French Billiards” was essentially single pool. The leader had to give a miss from the stringing-line (baulk) beyond the middle pocket, after which the game proceeded as at pool: holing the adversary’s ball, winning two; holing the striker’s ball, losing two; hence the names winning and losing hazards. A miss lost one and a coup three. The game was twelve up.

Hoyle, who died in 1769, did not write on Billiards; but in editions of Hoyle, published shortly after his death, Billiards is introduced.

In addition to the “common game,” which is the same as French Billiards described by Seymour, the losing-game (i.e., a game in which a player gains by making a losing-hazard), the winning and losing game, caramboles (cannons), and hazards are now (1775) first mentioned. The losing-game is explained to be “the common game nearly reversed. * * * In putting yourself in, you win two; by putting your adversary in, you lose two; but if you pocket both balls, you get four.” The winning and losing game is a combination of the two former games, all hazards made reckoning to the striker.

Carambole, which was the precursor of Billiards as now played in England, was played with three balls, two white and one red; the red or caram (now corrupted into cannon) ball being placed on the pyramid spot. The players led from the centre of the stringing-line or baulk, which occupied a quarter of the table, instead of about a fifth as at present. The first had to play-on the red ball. Winning-hazards and cannons (called caramboles or carroms) counted for the striker, and a baulk (now first so called) compelled the next striker to play up the table, or out of baulk, as at present. When the red was holed it was re-spotted, the white balls when holed were placed on and played from the baulk spot. The players struck alternately. It does not appear whether a score was followed by another stroke. In subsequent editions of Hoyle, carambole is said to have been “lately introduced from France,” and thence probably arose the belief that Billiards is a game of French origin. Curiously enough, the French have of late years entirely discarded pockets, playing only cannons; and what was formerly the French game is now called the English game.

The game of Hazards was the forerunner of pool. Any number might play up to six, more than six being objected to as likely to cause confusion. This was probably due to the fact that the game of hazards was played with white balls numbered, and not with coloured balls. A player might play on any ball as at selling pool. If he made a winning-hazard, he received the sum played for per hazard from the owner of the ball pocketed. A miss forfeited half the price of a hazard. Nothing is said about losing-hazards or a pool. The strokes were taken by each player in turn. Up to this time the idea of a player’s following a successful stroke is not mentioned as having entered into the scheme of any of the Billiard games.

Other editions of Hoyle followed up to 1800, in which the games mentioned are similarly treated About this period, the relative merits of cue and mace play began to be carefully considered. It seems that foreigners played almost entirely with the cue, but that in England the mace was the prevailing instrument. According to Beaufort’s Hoyle (1788), “the mace is preferred for its peculiar advantage which some professed players have artfully introduced under the name of trailing [or raking], that is, following the ball with the mace to such a convenient distance from the other ball as to make it an easy hazard. The degrees of trailing are various, and undergo different denominations among the connoisseurs at this game, viz., the shove, the sweep, the long-stroke, the trail, and the dead trail or turn-up, all which secure an advantage to a good player according to their various gradations.” In some games trailing was not allowed except by agreement, and a rule was introduced to prevent a player trailing from walking after the ball.

White (“A practical Treatise on the Game of Billiards,” 1807) says that the cue is now “by far the most universally in use,” and that it is “invariably preferred [to the mace] by all good players.” He also informs us that “Until very lately the games commonly played were the white winning and the winning carambole * * *; but the winning and losing carambole game is now become so popular, that it may at present be properly called the common game at Billiards.” The players in White’s time followed a successful stroke; but, at the winning carambole game, players might agree to play alternately or to follow their scores,-the latter mode of play being almost exclusively adopted.

Up to this time the development of the game had been very slow, owing to the poorly-constructed tables and to the general use of the mace. About the beginning of this century; the introduction of cue-playing and the refinements of leathern tips, chalk, and side-stroke, caused almost a revolution in the science of Billiards. To these must be added a few years later the improvements in tables: slate beds being substituted for oak and marble about 1827, and india-rubber cushions for flock and list about 1835.

So long as the point of the cue was flat and unyielding, if the ball was not struck precisely in the centre the consequence was a miss cue. The first step in the direction of enabling players to strike otherwise than in the centre, was the invention of the “Jeffery” about 1790. This was a cue cut obliquely at the point; and cues thus bevelled were occasionally used for striking the ball below the centre. The next step was slightly to round the tip of the cue, which was said to diminish the chance of missing if the balls were not struck truly in the centre. About 1807 the leathern tip was invented by a professional player, a Frenchman, named Mingaud. He was a great master of the game at the beginning of this century, and it is said that his frequent disappointment at the cue’s sliding off the ball caused him to set his wits to work, and ultimately to devise the tip.

The tip being once added to the cue, side-stroke soon followed as a matter of course. It is remarkable how near players were, for some time, to the discovery of side-stroke without actually finding it. White, as late as 1818, seems to have had no idea of side-stroke. He recommends the player commencing the game to give a miss up the table and back into baulk, and not as now with side off the side cushion At the same time he cautions players when striking first at the cushion that it requires a delicacy [accuracy] of stroke to get the correct angle of reflection. This arises, he says, from the particular manner in which the point of the instrument [cue] is applied to the ball; but it does not seem to have occurred to him that it arises from striking the ball on the side.

Side-stroke, as we now understand it, appears to have been discovered by a man named Bartley, who early in this century was the proprietor of billiard-rooms at the Upper Rooms at Bath. He had a marker named Carr. Bartley and Carr, when business was slack, used to amuse themselves by placing the red ball in the centre of the table, and endeavouring to make the losing-hazard into the middle pocket from baulk, without bringing the red into baulk. This stroke would not be possible on modern fast tables without a masse stroke; but it could be done on the old-fashioned slow wooden tables with coarse cloth and list cushions. Even on these, only Bartley was able to make the stroke; and at last he imparted to Carr the valuable information that it was done by striking the ball low and on one side.

The idea being communicated to Carr he improved on it, and acquired great power in executing side-strokes. It may be said of him that he was the first systematically to apply the principles of the side-stroke in practice.

Carr is reported to have kept the secret to himself, but nevertheless to have made it a source of profit by an ingenious swindle. When pressed as to his peculiar powers, he produced boxes of twisting-chalk, which he said he had invented. These were nothing but pill-boxes filled with ordinary chalk, which he sold for half-a-crown a box. This is Mr. Mardon’s version; but it is possible that Carr might really have discovered the necessity for chalking the tip in order to prevent the cue from slipping when putting on side and screw. If so, the secret would be cheaply purchased for half-a-crown. Chalk is such a matter-of-course now-a-days, one is apt to overlook the fact that prior to Carr’s time the naked cue was used to strike with. White, who was contemporary with Carr, observes that the point of the wood should be made rough with a file, or rubbed over with chalk. From this we may conclude that the practice of chalking was not then general; and it seems likely that side-stroke and chalk came into use simultaneously.

About this time we first hear of the spot-stroke. A billiard-table keeper named May is said to have been a proficient at the spot-stroke, though a nervous hazard striker. He played the best amateurs the go-back game, fifty up, and generally won through his command over this particular stroke. It seems only to have been played by screwing back and by crossing; and not by returning from the slow list cushion, as is now done from the india-rubber one.

CHAPTER 1
BILLIARD RECORDS.

The earliest authentic record of a billiard break is about the year 1825, when Carr, playing a match with the “Cork Marker,” at the Four Nations Hotel in the Opera Colonnade, won three heats of 100 up. In He second heat he made 22 spot-hazards. After this display, Carr was backed against all metropolitan players for a hundred guineas a side.

Edwin Kentfield (better known by his sobriquet of “Jonathan”), proprietor of subscription billiard-rooms at Brighton, responded to the challenge. Owing to Carr’s illness, the match was never played; and, as no one came forward to dispute the laurels with Kentfield, he remained master of the situation until 1849.

Kentfield’s forte was losing-hazards and gentle strengths. His largest break was 196 points, and his largest spot-break 57 hazards. He was also unrivalled at the one-pocket game.

Bedford, a keeper of billiard-rooms at Brighton, was reckoned among the best players at this date. He was celebrated for winning-hazards. His greatest break was 159.

In 1845, John Roberts, a Liverpool man, became the manager of the rooms at the Union Club, Manchester. This famous player said he saw the spot-stroke gave so great an advantage to whoever could perform it with anything like certainty, that for six months he practised it incessantly, spending hundreds of hours over it. Roberts attributed his superiority, as shown by the number of points he could give all comers, mainly to his mastery over the spot. He was, however, a splendid all-round player, and his physical power gave him great command over forcing strokes. His largest break was 346, including 104 consecutive spot-hazards.

In 1849, Roberts went to Brighton to challenge Kentfield for the championship. Kentfield, it is said, declined to play, and in consequence Roberts became champion, and so remained until 1870. In 1850 he beat the American champion, Starke at the American (four-ball) game; but in 1862 he found in Berger a superior at the French (cannon) game.

About 1868 it was rumoured that John Roberts, jun., William Cook, and Joseph Bennett were closely approaching Roberts’ old form. In 1860 Cook cut the record in a series of breaks, made in exhibition matches, his best being 388 (119 spots) and 394 (112 spots). He then (1870) challenged Roberts for the championship.

Up to this date the championship had always gone to the holder by default. Now followed a series of matches, tabulated on the next page.

Year Date Winner Loser Points won by Time
1870 Feb 11 W. Cook J. Roberts sen. 117 5h 0m
Apr 14 J. Roberts jnr W. Cook 478 3h 4m
May 30 J. Roberts jnr A. Bowles 246 4h 10m
Nov 28 Jos. Bennett J. Roberts jnr 95 4h 45m
1871 Jan 30 J. Roberts Jnr Jos. Bennett 363 3h 23m
May 25 W. Cook J. Roberts jnr 15 3h 50m
Nov 21 W. Cook Jos. Bennett 58 4h 23m
1872 Mar 4 W. Cook J. Roberts jnr 201 3h 27m
1874 Feb 24 W. Cook J. Roberts jnr 216 3h 10m
1875 May 24 J. Roberts jnr W. Cook 163 3h 42m
Dec 20 J. Roberts jnr W. Cook 135 3h 35m
1877 May 28 J. Roberts jnr W. Cook 223 3h 18m
1880 Nov 8 Jos. Bennett W. Cook 51 4h 8m
1881 Jan 12-13 Jos. Bennett T. Taylor 90 4h 52m
1881 Apr 13 Jos. Bennett F. Shorter (forfeited)
1884 Dec J. Roberts jnr W. Cook (forfeited)
1885 Mar 30,31 Apr 1 J. Roberts jnr W Cook. 92 11h 23m.
1885 June 1-4 J. Roberts jnr Jos Bennett 1640 6h 10m.

The match of February 11, 1870, was 1200 up. All the others up to 1881, were 1000 up. The 1885 matches were 3000 up,

All the matches, from 1870 to 1881, were played at St James’s Hall, except that of May 24, 1875, which was played at the Criterion. The match of March-April, 1885, was played at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street; that of June, 1885, at the Aquarium Westminster.

REMARKS.

All the matches from 1870 to 1885 were played for a silver cup, valued at £120, under the following conditions:-The champion to play any challenger a game of 1000 up, on a table with three-inch pockets, for £100 a side, at two months’ notice. Should any one win all his championship matches during five years, the cup to become his property.

1878, May 2.-Cook challenged. No one covered his deposit, so he assumed the title of champion, but resigned on leaving England. During the absence of Cook and Roberts in India, the title remained in abeyance.

1881, September.-Bennett met with a severe accident (breaking his arm), and resigned. Cook then styled himself champion, and was allowed to hold the trophy until he forfeited to Roberts in December, 1884.

1881-82.-Roberts was averse to playing on a championship table. In the winter of 1881-82, he offered the odds of 500 in 5000, to all comers, on an ordinary table. Cook accepted, and was defeated. Roberts then called himself champion of the world

1885, June 1, 2, 3, 4.-Roberts made breaks of 147 and 155 (best on record in a championship match on a three-inch pocket table); also spot breaks of 15 and 16 spots (best on record in a championship match). His was also the fastest time in a championship match; he scored at the rate of 1000 in 2h 3m. to 2h. 4m., averaging 486 to 487 per hour.

After the June match of 1885, Roberts was not challenged. Consequently, in December, 1889, he became the owner of the cup through lapse of time.

There had been, for some years, a growing feeling in the billiard world against championship tables. It was said that the three-inch pocket, with spot twelve-and-a-half inches from the cushion, had been proposed in order to give Roberts, sen., a better chance, in the first match for the championship in 1876, than he would have had on an ordinary table. Cook was at that time known to be very formidable at the spot-stroke. Of course, Cook had to be consulted; he offered no objection, and hence the championship table. This table, in the opinion of many players, is open to various objections.

After the championship, on small pocket tables, lapsed in favour of Roberts, jun., owing to effluxion of time (December, 1889), the three-inch pocket went out of use, except by special agreement.

In exhibition matches, Roberts confined himself principally to the spot-barred game, and, by common consent, held the title of spot-barred champion on an ordinary table. Peall challenged Roberts at the all-in game; and, as Roberts refused to play, Peall claimed to be all-in champion on an ordinary table.

In 1885, a number of players who had formed a Billiard Association, issued a set of laws of billiards. Exhibition matches, after this, were generally played under Association laws, and the championship laws were discarded.

The Association made no sign with regard to championships until January, 1891; and, indeed, it is difficult to see how they could have done so much earlier, while Roberts was liable to be challenged on a championship table under the old laws.

The question of supremacy between Roberts and Peall being still undecided, it was eventually resolved by the Billiard Association, in November, 1891, to institute a championship on a table approved by that body, to be called a “Standard” table. The pockets were fixed at 3 5/8 in. at the fall, the height of the shoulder, and the shape, being regulated by a model or template submitted to and approved by the Association. At the same time the distance of the baulk line from the bottom cushion was fixed at twenty-nine inches; the diameter of the half-circle at twenty-three inches; and the distance of the billiard spot (called in this work the losing or red spot), from the top cushion, at twelve-and-three-quarter inches. The height of the table from the floor to the top of the cushions to be not less than 2 ft. 9½  in., and not more than 2 ft. 10 in. The diameter of the balls to be not less than 2 1/16 in., and not more than 2 3/32 in. No breaks to be accepted as records in future, unless played on a “Standard” table.

This was a move in the right direction; but, as the spot-barred and the all-in players could not agree, it was finally decided to have two championships on standard tables, one to be all-in, and to be called the Billiard Championship; the other to be spot-barred, and to be called the Spot-barred Championship; the two to rank as equal. The following are the principal conditions:-The game to be 5000 up for the billiard championship; 4000 up for the spot-barred. Matches to be played for £100 a side, within four months of challenge. (Cups to be provided by the Association, and to become the property of a player winning four times in succession, or six times in all, or holding for three consecutive years.

The matches for these championships did not attract much attention, nor were they productive of any record breaks. On April 9, 1892, Peall won the first of the series, all-in, beating C. Dawson and W. Mitchell. The best break, by the winner, was 2099 (305 and 393 spots). Peall won both his matches easily. No one has since challenged; Peall is therefore billiard champion, all-in (1894).

On April 25 to May 3. 1892, the spot-barred championship was played for by Mitchell, Peall, North, Cook, and Coles. Mitchell won. North challenged Mitchell (Feb. 20 to 25, 1893), and Mitchell won very easily. Dawson challenged Mitchell (Jan. 8 to 13, 1894). The game (9000 up) was won by Mitchell by 837 points. Mitchell thus became spot-barred champion (1894). This seems rather absurd while Roberts’ challenge was still open (1896) to play any man in the world, at standard English billiards, for £1000 a side, spot-barred, and to give 8000 points in 24,000.

In October, 1898, the Billiard Association issued revised laws, barring the spot and the push strokes, and shortly afterwards announced an open championship under the new rules. The terms of the competition were as follows-Game to be 9000 up, played on a “standard,’ table; each competitor to stake £20, the winner to take three-fourths of the stakes, the gold medal of the Association, and £100 per annum (guaranteed by the Association for three years) so long as he should hold the championship; the second to have one-fourth of the stakes, the gate-money (after deducting expenses) to be shared equally between the first and second man. The entry for the first championship under these conditions was disappointing, C. Dawson and J. North being the only competitors. The match was played at the Gaiety. Saloon, Strand, on January 9 to 14, 1899, and resulted in an easy victory for Dawson, by 4285 points. Dawson is, therefore, the world’s champion under the new rules.

INDIVIDUAL RECORDS.

After becoming champion in 1870, Cook several times cut the record. On November 29,1873 (exhibition match, St. James’s Hall), he made 936 (270 and 19 spots). In a match for £400 v. W. Moss, Cook made 156 on a championship table (at the time the record by one point, but since beaten). On January 26,1882 (practice v. amateur), Cook made his largest break, 1362 (451 spots). Scores made in practice do not reckon as records.

J. Roberts, jun., seldom plays all-in on an ordinary table, and his record is only 722 (239 spots) v. Mitchell, 15,000 up, even, for £200 (Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, Feb. 8 to 13,1886). On a champion-ship table (spot 12 3/4 in. from cushion), 10,000 up, v. Peall (receiving 2000), for a cup value £100 (at the Billiard Hall, March 29, 188,), Roberts made 283 (8, 10, 28, and 28 spots). His best breaks on a championship table, with spot 12½ in. from cushion, were at the Egyptian Hal], Piccadilly, in a match v. Richards, March 10 to 20, 1889, 15,000 up, Roberts giving 5000, for £400. In this match he made breaks of 215, 224, and 225; also 165 (50 spots, best on record On a championship table, with spot 12½ in. from cushion). On a championship table he has also scored, without any long break, 1000 in 1h. 45m (fastest thousand on record on a championship table).

The match was exhibition, v. Cook, best of three games of 4000 up, Roberts giving 1000 each game, at the Egyptian Hall, January 12 to 17, 1891.

Roberts’ records are mainly to be looked for in the spot-barred game, at which he is unequalled. He has scored breaks of over five hundred, spot-barred, between forty and fifty times. Twice he has scored over five hundred a second time in one day. Many of his spot-barred breaks are over six hundred, and two are over one thousand. It would be tedious to give details of each of these breaks. The two largest are-1017, at Hengler’s Circus, Glasgow (Roberts v. Diggle), on June 5, 1894; and 1392 (best on record), at the Concert Hall, Manchester (Roberts v. Diggle), the week previously. At the Gentleman’s Concert Hall, Manchester, v. Diggle, exhibition, commencing May 15, 1892, Roberts made a break of 608, and next day scored 234 (78 hazards) off one ball only (at that time best on record in a spot-barred game). This beat Peall’s previous record of 222 (74 hazards off one ball), v. Roberts, at the Billiard Hall, January 27, 1886, by four red-hazards. It has, however, since been beaten by Roberts playing v. Sala, at the Egyptian Hall, on December 9, 1898, when he scored 372 off the red (124 hazards), spot-barred, the present record.

In May and June, 1893, Roberts played the American Champion, Ives, 6000 up, even, spot and push strokes barred, at Humphrey’s Hall, Knightsbridge. After four days’ play, Ives worked the balls to a corner of the table, and made 1267 cannons (total break 2039), and with another break of 862 (402 cannons), won easily. These breaks are not accepted as records, the pockets being 3¼ in., and the balls 2¼ in. It was stated in some reports that Ives got the balls jawed in the pocket. This has been denied, and it does not seem possible to jaw two 2¼ in. balls in a 3¼ in. pocket.

A second match was played on a compromise table, at the Central Music Hall, Chicago, in September, 1893, corner cannons being barred by a corner baulk. No very large breaks were made. Ives won.

A third match was played on a standard table, with 2¼ in. balls, at the Lenox Lyceum, New York, October 2 to 7, 1893. Roberts won by 1262 points, notwithstanding a fine display by Ives, who made breaks of 651, 586, 515, and several of over three hundred, chiefly by cannons. These breaks do not count as records, the balls being 2¼ in.

W. Mitchell has not infrequently made breaks of over 1000. On September 23, 1880 (practice v. amateur), he scored 1839 (612 spots). Practice games, of course, do not rank as records. His best record break is 1620 (536 spots), v. Peall, November 2 to 7, 1885 at the Aquarium, Westminster.

W. J. Peall has made about thirty breaks of over 1000 (including several of over 2000, and one of over 3000). At the Aquarium, Westminster, v. Mitchell, 15,000 up, even, for a prize of £50, presented, he made five breaks of over 1000 including 1922 (634 spots). At the same place, November 1 to 6, 1886, v. G. Collins, 15,000 up, Collins receiving 5000, exhibition, Peall scored a break of 2413 (338 and 449 spots). At the same place, January 13 to 20, 1889, v. F. White, 15,000 up, White receiving 5000, for £400, Peall made a break of 2170 (721 consecutive spots, best consecutive spot break on record). At the same place, v. C. Dawson, 15,000 up, Dawson receiving 3000, exhibition, Peall in 2h. 40m. scored 3304 (93, 3, 150, 123, 172, 120, and 400 spots, best all-in break on record). He has also made 142, 146, and 184 screw-back spot strokes (best on record). On a championship table, spot 12¾ in. from top cushion, he made 445 (128 spots). This does not rank as a record on a championship table, as the spot should be 12½ in. from the cushion.

F. White has not infrequently made breaks of over 1000. His best is 1745 (554, 3, and 18 spots).

T. Taylor has scored 1233 (406 spots), and several other fine breaks, including one of 1467 (729 cannons, the balls being jawed in a pocket). Opinions differ as to receiving breaks off jawed balls as records. Independently of this, Taylor’s break was not made in a game. The game was 600 up, exhibition, and, having run out from 236 off the jawed balls, Taylor was requested to finish his break.

J. North’s best break, considering the conditions, is 1066 (100, 25, 6, 99, 33, and 71 spots). North was limited to 100 consecutive spots.

E. Diggle holds the record cannon break, 115 cannons, the balls not being jawed. This beats Roberts’ previous best by seven cannons. Diggle’s break was played on Jan. 3, 1894, at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, in a match of 24,000 up, spot-barred, for £200, v. Roberts (Diggle receiving 9000).

In the spot-barred game the best breaks (bar Roberts’) are-Diggle, 530; Peall and Coles, each 571; Dawson, 698; and H. W. Stevenson, 660 (all on standard tables); Dawson’s was played on March 27, 1893, in a match v. Richards. Stevenson’s was played on Jan. 14, 1898, in a match v. Roberts, at the Egyptian Hall.

In 1898 professional matches were principally played push- and spot-barred.

Roberts v. Sala, Egyptian Hall, March 12: Roberts made a break of 549, push- and spot-barred.

On April 4, at the Egyptian Hall, v. Harrison, he made 609, push- and spot-barred.

On April 15, at the Egyptian Hall, v. Diggle, he made 679, push- and spot-barred (best on record).

On April 7, 1898, at Messrs. Burroughes & Watts’ Saloon, Manchester (E. Diggle v. J. Mack), Diggle made 569 push- and spot-barred.

On April 21,1898, at Messrs. Burroughes & Watts’ Saloon, Birmingham (C. Dawson v. Bateman), Dawson made 572 under like conditions.

Under the revised laws of the Billiard Association, which came into operation on Oct. 1, 1898, the push and spot strokes are barred. Several players, playing under these laws, have made breaks exceeding 500.

On Nov. 25, 1898, at Messrs. Orme’s Saloon, Soho Square, London (H. W. Stevenson v. Diggle), Stevenson made 582.

– On Jan. 25, 1899, at Messrs. Burroughes & Watts’ Saloon, Dean Street, London (Diggle v. Duncan), Diggle made 510.

On Jan. 28, 1899, at the Egyptian Hall (Roberts v. Stevenson), Roberts made 548.

On Feb. 14, 1899, at Messrs. Burroughes & Watts’ Saloon, Dean Street, London (Stevenson v. Diggle), Stevenson made 544.

On March 3, 1899, at Messrs. Orme & Son’s Saloon, Blackfriars Strett, Manchester (Roberts v. Diggle), Roberts made 597.

On Oct. 21, 1899, at the Argyll Hall (C. Dawson v. J. Mack), Dawson made a break of 722-the record break under the Association Rules, beating J. Roberts’ previous record of 597 by 125 points.

Billiards – Badminton Library (1906)

by Major William Broadfoot

JUST as there were ‘brave men before Agamemnon,’ so, doubtless, were there good billiard players prior to Kentfield ; but we hear very little about them. One of the few whose name has been handed down to posterity is John-generally known as Jack-Carr. He was originally marker for Mr. Bartley, the proprietor of the billiard-tables at the Upper Rooms at Bath. When business there was slack, Mr. Bartley and Carr used occasionally to amuse themselves by placing the red ball on the centre spot, and attempting to screw off it into one of the middle pockets without bringing the red ball back into baulk. Such a stroke would be easier under the conditions then existing of slow list cushions and rough baize cloths than it is now, and for a long time Mr. Bartley was the only person who could accomplish it. At last he confided to Carr that he did it by striking his own ball upon its side. It seems pretty cleat, therefore, that Mr. Bartley was the inventor of the side stroke end screw; but he appears to have made very little practical use of his great discovery; whereas Carr, who soon outstripped his instructor in proficiency at this particular stroke turned his knowledge to excellent account, and fairly astonished and mystified the frequenters of the billiard-room at Bath by the ease and certainty with which he brought off apparently impossible strokes. They were naturally anxious to learn the secret, and, after Carr had artfully roused their curiosity to its highest pitch by remaining obstinately silent on the subject for a considerable time, he gravely informed them that his wonderful powers were entirely due to the use of a certain ‘ twisting chalk’ that he had recently invented, and had then on sale. The demand for small pill-boxes filled with powdered chalk at half-a-crown per box was naturally enormous, and for a long time the wily marker reaped a rare harvest. If, as some have supposed, this was the first introduction of the custom of chalking the tip of a cue, the half-crowns were well invested; but, unfortunately, the weight of evidence goes to show that chalk had been in common use for this purpose for some time prior to Carr’s smart stroke of business, and that he economically filled his valuable pill-boxes by grinding up some of the chalk provided by Mr. Bartley for the use of his customers.

What with the brisk sale of the famous ‘twisting chalk,’ and the immense advantage that his knowledge of the power of screw gave him over all rivals, Carr must have been making a great deal of money about this time. Unhappily for his own prosperity, however, he was a desperate and confirmed gambler, and all that he made out of ivory in one form was lost through ivory in another He never could resist ‘flirting with the elephant’s tooth,’ and every shilling that he made was promptly lost at hazard. At last, fairly tired out by incessant losses scarcely broken by a single run of luck, and discontented with circumstances immediately connected with his professional pursuits, he determined to leave England and try his fortune in Spain. It might have been imagined that the latter country would have proved anything but a happy hunting-ground, and that the Dons, on falling victims to Carr’s powers of screw, might have taken it into their heads to lay down their cues and to finish the game with knives. However, the Bath marker was evidently an excellent man of business, and the Spanish billiard-rooms proved veritable El Dorados to him. He made a tour of the principal towns, and succeeded in easily beating everyone with whom he played. The feats he performed by means of the ‘side twist ‘-as the screw stroke was formerly termed-amazed all who saw him play, and he managed to amass a considerable sum. Still, the old passion was as strong as ever, and once more proved his downfall. Spain was even more amply furnished with gambling houses than England, and, as Carr’s usual ill luck pursued him, all his doubloons vanished even more rapidly than they had been acquired; he was compelled to return home, and finally landed at Portsmouth almost in rags. ‘Whether’-to use Mr. Mardon’s own words, and it is to his excellent book that I am indebted for much of my Information as to these early exponents of the game-‘players of those days were less particular than persons of the present period is not for me to determine; but it is no less strange than true that, even in so deplorable a garb, he no sooner made his appearance at the billiard-table than he met with a gentleman willing to contend.’ In the ‘gentleman willing to contend,’ Carr, in his hour of direst need, must have found a very foolish person, for no man of average sense would have lost seventy pounds to an individual whose appearance loudly proclaimed that he did not possess the same number of pence, and who, therefore, could not possibly have paid had the issue of the games gone the other way.

The denouement of this little episode fully confirms this idea. Quitting the room with the money in his pocket, Carr immediately proceeded to get himself fully rigged out in ‘a blue coat, yellow waistcoat, drab small-clothes, and top-boots.’ A little advice from the local Polonius was evidently sadly needed; the attire was probably ‘costly’ and may have been ‘rich,’ but it was certainly ‘expressed in fancy,’ and decidedly ‘gaudy.’ Arrayed in all this magnificence, Carr paid another visit to the same billiard-room on the following day, when he again encountered his victim. The latter being, according to Mr. Mardon, ‘a fine player and devoted to the game,’ lost no time in challenging the stranger to play. This match naturally resulted as the other had done, and Carr again won a considerable sum. When play was over the gentleman remarked that ‘ he was truly unfortunate in having met with, on succeeding days, two persons capable of giving him so severe a dressing. Carr, making himself known, thanked the gentleman for the metamorphosis his money had occasioned, and wished him a good morning.’

In 1825, Carr played a match against ‘the Cork Marker,’ at the Four Nations Hotel, in the Opera Colonnade. The latter was considered a very fine player in his day, and it is curious that no one seems to have known his name, for he is invariably alluded to under this somewhat vague designation. They played three games of 100 Up, and, although Carr won all three, he was evidently encountering a foeman worthy of his steel, as ‘the Cork Marker’ reached 92 in the first game, and 75 in the third. In the second, however, he only got to 49, as Carr suddenly astonished the spectators by making twenty-two consecutive spot-strokes. This was naturally considered a most extraordinary feat, and, as an offer was at once made to back Carr against all comers for a hundred guineas a-side, he can fairly lay claim to being considered the first champion of billiards, or, at any rate, the first whose claim to the title rests upon anything like a solid foundation. Pierce Egan, in his ‘Annals of Sporting and Fancy Gazette,’ writes of him as the ‘ father of the side-stroke ;’ and though, as I have previously narrated, Mr. Bartley was the discoverer of the stroke, Carr was undoubtedly the first man who realised its importance and turned it to practical account.

I have been unable to satisfy myself whether Bedford and Pratt, two fine players who flourished in the first half of the nineteenth century, were contemporaries of Carr, or belonged to a somewhat later period ; this, however, is a matter of small consequence. According to Mr. Mardon, ‘each was celebrated for quietude of demeanour and elegance of style,’ end Bedford was ‘graceful and unassuming, excelling in winning hazards, whilst all [strokes?] are made without apparent effort;’ his best break was 159. The same author gives the following amusing anecdote of Pratt, which will well bear repetition:

One evening’s when most persons were enjoying their claret by the fireside, a gentleman presented himself in the billiard-room, where Pratt was seated alone. To a request whether he was desirous of playing, he replied in the affirmative. The lights were placed, and the parties took their stations at the table. ‘What game, sir, would you wish to play?’ ~ I will play,’ replied the stranger, ~ the game of loo up; and, as it is my desire that you should be rewarded for your trouble, I will play for sixpence !’ The game commenced; and, after the gentleman had once or twice struck the balls, he left his opponents ball near the red, which, fortunately for Pratt, being on the spot, he continued to hole in the two corner pockets four-and-thirty times, beating his liberal antagonist a love game, 100 up!

To return, however, to Carr. His challenge was soon taken up by Edwin Kentfield, of Brighton (better known as Jonathan); but Carr fell ill, and the proposed match never came off. Kentfield then assumed the title of champion, his claim to which was not disputed for four-and-twenty years. There is no doubt that Edwin Kentfield, who died in 1873, was very superior to most of his profession. He was a man of refined tastes, passionately devoted to horticulture, with which he was thoroughly conversant, and he had the shrewdness to see that the tables and all the accessories of the game which were in use when he began to play were very crude and imperfect, the tables having list cushions, wooden beds, and coarse baize coverings. He spent many years in improving tables, cushions, balls, cues, etc., and, thanks to his energy, and to the acumen of Mr. John Thurston-the founder of the present well-known firm of billiard-table makers, who thoroughly believed in Kentfield, and was always ready to support his views and carry out his suggested improvements-the old order of things was gradually superseded by rubber cushions, slate beds, and fine cloths.

All the newest improvements were naturally to be found in Kentfield’s Subscription Rooms at Brighton, the appointments of which were wonderfully perfect, considering the date. In 1839 he published ‘The Game of Billiards: Scientifically Explained and Practically Set Forth, in a Series of Novel and Extraordinary, but Equally Practical, Strokes.’ In his well written and modest preface, Kentfield alludes to the ‘many alterations and improvements that have been successfully introduced, and which have so greatly contributed to the state of perfection to which this noble amusement has at length arrived.’ Compared with the tables that were in vogue before Messrs. Kentfield and Thurston began their improvements, their joint production did doubtless seem wonderfully perfect; yet this extract reads curiously in 1896, in the face of the extraordinary developments of everything connected with the game that have taken place within the last ten or fifteen years.

Kentfield was acquainted with the spot stroke, and played it well, considering the then existing conditions. He devotes a very short chapter in his book to it, and describes four different methods by which it can be made. There are now nine entirely different strokes which may be brought into use in the course of a long spot break; but doubtless, in his day, several of the varieties of the stroke were absolutely impossible, owing to the comparative slowness of the tables. He did not, however, approve of the spot stroke, nor consider it billiards, and on this point was evidently of the same mind as the younger Roberts, who has recorded his opinion that a constant succession of big spot breaks ‘would very soon kill the popularity and destroy the artistic position billiards has attained.’ The thoroughly genuine nature of Kentfield’s feelings on the subject may be judged from the fact that he caused the pockets of the tables in his rooms at Brighton to be reduced to three inches, in order to prevent spot strokes being made; and this, unless he materially increased the charge for each game, must have meant a considerable annual pecuniary loss to him. The table on which Kentfield constantly played is thus described: ‘The table in the Subscription Room is extremely difficult. It is, perhaps, the fastest in England, and has pockets of the smallest dimensions (three inches). The spot for the red ball is barely twelve inches from the lower cushion; the baulk circle only eighteen in extent. On many tables the spot is thirteen inches from the cushion; the baulk twenty-two.’ It seems singular that, quite thirty years before the first championship table was manufactured, Kentfield should have put up almost a facsimile of it in his Brighton rooms; but probably John Roberts, senior, saw it there, possibly played upon it, and derived from it the idea of the table on which, in 1870, the championship was decided.

It is almost impossible, after this lapse of time, to form any trustworthy opinion as to the real strength of Kentfield’s game, and it would be manifestly unfair to draw comparisons between him and any player of more recent date than the elder John Roberts. Let us first take the evidence of Mr. Mardon on the subject; and I may here remark that Mr. Mardon’s book -which was a very great improvement on any of its predecessors dealing with billiards-appears to have been primarily written with the view of giving immortality to the author’s great game of 500 up with a Mr. Porker. This was played in Kentfield’s rooms. Mr. Porker, who conceded a start of 25 points, reached 495 to 475, and then Mr. Mardon ran out. A break of as, even at the end of a game, does not seem such a very startling feat; still, it was evidently considered as such in those days, and a diagram is given of each of the nine strokes which were comprised in this historical effort. One or two of these were somewhat singularly played according to modern ideas. In one of them, for example, the red ball was near the left top pocket, into which it was very easy to screw, and his opponent’s ball was nicely placed about the middle of the table Instead of making the losing hazard with a slow screw, which would have just brought the red ball down to the white, and left a capital chance of a good break, Mr. Mardon had a regular bang at it, doubled the red ball right down the table and up Again, and, probably more by luck than judgement, finally left it almost in the jaws of the right-hand top pocket. This, however, is ‘another story,’ and I am keeping Mr. Mardon waiting an unconscionably long time in the witness-box to give his testimony as to Kentfield’s abilities as a player. He writes:

“Were I to relate all the extraordinary performances of Mr. Kentfield at the period when list cushions and pockets of large dimensions were in vogue, the reader would imagine I was bordering on romance. On one occasion, when playing the winning game, 21 up, Mr. Kentfield gave his opponent 18 points, and won sixteen successive games. In playing the winning and losing game, 24 up, he won ten games, his adversary never scoring I The games were thus played: Mr. Kentfield, in playing off, doubled the red ball for one of the baulk corner pockets, placing his own ball under the side cushion. His opponent played to drop it into the corner pocket, failed, and left on each occasion a cannon; that was made, and the games were all won off the balls ~ At another time he was playing the non-cushion game, 16 up. On going off he twisted his ball into the corner pocket from the red and won in that manner six games, his adversary not having a stroke ! Desirous of ascertaining how many games of 24 up could be played within the hour, he commenced the task with a player of considerable eminence; (*) and they completed thirty games within the specified time. Forty seven games of 100 up were also played in eight and a half hours. In a match that did not exceed two hundred games, he beat his opponent eighty-five love games.”

Even allowing that the ‘player of considerable eminence’ (**) was out of form, and that Kentfield had the table virtually to himself, 720 points in an hour was amazing ; and even the longer test, which works out at the rate of about 550 points per hour, does not compare at all badly with the rate at which our best players score at the present day; so it seems curious that a performer of such ability should have continued for years playing games of 2I and 24 up, in which, as was almost sure to be the case, his opponent frequently never had a stroke. When John Roberts, senior, was fast coming into note as a great player, and people were beginning to compare his powers with those of Kentfield, Mr. Mardon thus expressed his opinion on the subject:

(*)        If a man wants to play fast he would surely select the worst-not the best-player as antagonist.-W. B.

(**)      It is difficult to believe in the possibility of scoring over 700 points in an hour with the imperfect implements then in use; half that number is probably nearer the truth.-W. B.)

I have been given to understand, within the last few months, that Mr. Roberts, superintendent of the billiard-rooms at the Union Club in Manchester, is considered by his friends of that neighbourhood to be equal to any player in England · and, in order to afford me an opportunity of judging of his skill, balls have been placed in situations of considerable difficulty, and I have been assured that hazards thus presented came quite within his power of cue I have also been informed that, in playing a game of 100 up, his opponent, aware of, and dreading, his ability, ran a coup at 96 love, hoping, by so prudent and cautious a proceeding, to ensure winning the game. Mr. Roberts, playing from the baulk circle, twisted into one of the corner pockets from the ball upon the spot, and made from a break so unpromising 102 points from the red ball alone ~ Admitting, however, this information to be correct, still, wonderful and surprising execution does not constitute either a sterling or a successful player; and when I take into consideration the advantages to be derived from playing the game called ‘One pocket to five,’ and learn that Mr. Kentfield has played upwards of fifty thousand games with one gentleman alone, I cannot but imagine that an experience so great, united with his matchless skill, must not only elevate him above all other players, but fully entitle him to the paramount laudatory remarks with which his name will be found to be associated. When I call to mind, and reflect upon the wonderful execution displayed while playing the commanding game over the table, and the game of one pocket to one pocket commanded, I have no hesitation in saying that on such occasions hit power of cue has gone beyond what even the imagination could embrace. I have seen him, like a man inspired, accomplish stroke after stroke, hazards and cannons, against which I, with my knowledge of the game, would have laid fifty to one ~ From his cue I have witnessed that which I am confident I shall never see again; and, although luminaries may shine forth in other spheres Mr. Kentfield, the electric light of mine, must, I think, dim their lustre and keep them in the shade.

The only other witness I shall call is John Roberts, sen who has left on record his opinion that Kentfield ‘played a very artistic game, but possessed very little power of cue. He depended on slow twists and fancy screws, and rarely attempted a brilliant forcing hazard. He gave misses, and made baulks whenever they were practicable, and never departed from the strict game.’ This was not written until many years after all rivalry between the two men had ceased, and may, therefore, probably be accepted as a calm and unprejudiced opinion. At first sight it is difficult to reconcile the entirely opposite views of Mr. Mardon and Roberts with regard to Kentfield’s power of cue. The truth probably lies between the two extremes, for the former’s judgement may have been slightly warped by intense admiration for his idol, whereas Roberts was possibly comparing Kentfield’s power of cue with his own, which was almost phenomenal. The highest break that Kentfield ever made was one of 196, and his best spot break 57 consecutive hazards. It may be taken for granted that neither of these breaks was made on his three-inch pocket table; nevertheless, they may still be regarded as very excellent performances. If, however, there are diverse views as to Kentfield’s powers as a player, I have only been able to discover one opinion as to his merits as a man. Whether or not we may feel inclined to accept the dictum that genius is ‘an infinite capacity for taking pairs,’ I think there is little doubt that Edwin Kentfield was a genius at billiards, whilst in other respects it is quite certain that he set a brilliant example to the players who followed him.

During the last few years of Kentfield’s long and peaceful career, the fame of John Roberts was rapidly growing, especially in and near Manchester, and it became evident that at last, for the first time for four and twenty years, the champion would be called upon to defend his title. Roberts was born on June I7, 1826, and, as is bound to be the case with a really great player, had a cue in his hand long before he was tall enough to reach the table properly. Indeed, he was only nine years old when he began to play upon an old-fashioned table by Gillow, with a wooden bed and list cushions. This was at the old Rotunda, Bold Street, Liverpool, and he showed such remark able aptitude for the game that in six months he could gee points to most ordinary players. His precocious ability appears to have been unknown to his father, until one day the two played three or four games together, and the youngster won by many points. Instead of being delighted with this display of juvenile talent, the old man, who was possibly a bad loser, concluded that his son must have been devoting far too much time to the game, and, lacking the shrewdness to perceive the possibilities that lay before so skilful a lad, apprenticed him to a carpenter. The boy stuck to this trade for a couple of years; but his passion for billiards remained as strong as ever, and at the end of that time he ran away, thenceforth devoting himself entirely to what was unquestionably his proper vocation. His first engagement was as marker at Oldham, and it is evident that he must have improved very rapidly while there, for he could not have been more than fourteen years old when he played home and home matches with ‘Pendleton Tom,’ a professional player with considerable local reputation, and beat him in both. When he left Oldham he obtained a situation in Glasgow, and in 1844 played a match against John Fleming, a well-known billiard-table maker of that day, for £100 a-side; and here he met with his first reverse of any importance. They were playing 500 up, and when the game was called ~ 485 all,’ Fleming tried for a cannon and missed it, but fluked a six stroke and went out. Roberts then defeated Tom Broughton of Leeds, and this appears to have been his last match of any note during his sojourn in Glasgow. This ended in 1845, when he became manager of the billiard-rooms of the Union Club at Manchester, a position which he retained for seven years. This was very fortunate for him, as he no doubt had far more opportunities for practice than he had ever previously enjoyed, and it was while there that he learnt the spot stroke. The popular idea that he invented the stroke is, of course, an entire fallacy, for Kentfield, Carr, Pratt, and others were in the habit of playing it. It was taught to Roberts by Mr. Lee Birch, a member of the Union Club, who had seen it played in London, and, being one of the best amateur players of the day, soon mastered it to the extent of being generally able to make a dozen or fifteen consecutive hazards. It is curious, by the way, how many amateur players attain this standard of excellence and never get any farther. If a man can habitually make this number of spot strokes, nothing but steady practice is required to enable him to make runs of fifty, seventy, a hundred, or even more; yet not one in a thousand has the resolution or perseverance to take this necessary practice. With Roberts it was entirely different. He at once realised that the stroke must give an enormous advantage to any man who could play it with something like certainty. For six months, therefore, he devoted himself almost entirely to it, and spent hundreds of hours at the top of the table.

When a man who united a natural genius for the game with indomitable perseverance thus set himself to master a particular stroke, there could be only one result, and I should fancy it was then-strong in the confidence engendered by his ability to play this deadly stroke-that he first conceived the idea of boarding Kentfield in his den, and challenging his long-undisputed supremacy. Mr. Mardon’s account of the first meeting of the rivals is as follows: ‘Arriving in Brighton, Roberts called on Kentfield. He informed him at once, in a manly, straightforward manner, who he was, and expressed a desire of playing a friendly game. He neither sought disguise nor secrecy, and would willingly have shown the strength of his game to all who might have approached. Kentfield, on the other hand, was very desirous of avoiding publicity, and, taking Roberts into an adjoining room, locked the door and began a game.’ Then follow a few more lines in Mr. Mardon’s usual rather high-flown style, the meaning of which, translated into the vulgar tongue, is that Roberts speedily discovered that his opponent was not really doing his best. This did not at all suit the man who had come from Manchester on a voyage of discovery, and Mr. Mardon tells us that he thus expressed his opinion on the subject ‘This, Mr. Kentfield, cannot be your game; to play such as this I can give forty in a hundred. If you are withholding your powers for the purpose of obtaining a bet, I am willing to recommence the game and to play you for five pounds.’ Those who knew the elder Roberts intimately may possibly accept this as the general purport of his remarks, but will entirely decline to believe that he did not express himself in far more vigorous and forcible language. As, however, Mr. Mardon states that the door of the room was locked, and that no one was present excepting the two principals, he could only have written his account of the scene from hearsay, and it differs considerably from Robert’s own version of the interview. This, given in ‘Roberts on Billiards,’ runs as follows:

“I remember perfectly my first meeting with Kentfield, better known as ‘Jonathan.’ It was in the beginning of 1849, at Brighton, where I went on purpose to see him play. On entering his rooms I met John Pook, the present proprietor of the Cocoa-tree Club who was at that time his manager. After sending up my name, Kentfield came in and inquired my business. I told him that I was admitted to be the best player in Lancashire, whence I had come to find out if he could show me anything. He inquired if I wanted a lesson. I told him I did not, and asked him how many in 100 would be a fair allowance from a player on his own table to a stranger, provided they were of equal skill. He replied ‘ 15 ;’ I told him I thought no would be nearer the mark`, but I was contented to try at evens. He said: ‘If you play me, it must be for some money’ on which, not to be frightened, I pulled out a £100 note, and told him I would play him ten games of 100 up for £10 a game. He laughed, and said I was rather hasty; and eventually we knocked the balls about, and then commenced a friendly 100 on level terms. He had the best of the breaks, and won by 40. In the second game I pulled out a few north-country shots and won by 30, but he secured the third. Then he put down his cue, and asked if I was satisfied he could beat me. I said: ‘No on the contrary, if you can’t play better than this, I can give you 20 in 100 easily.’ He replied: ‘Well, if you wont to play me, you must put down a good stake.’ I asked how much, and he answered £1,000. I said: ‘Do you mean £1,000 a-side ?’ Upon which he told me he thought I was a straightforward fellow, and he would see what could be done. He then sent Pook back to me, and I explained to him how things stood. He replied: ‘You may as well go back to Lancashire; you won’t get a match on with the governor.’

Accepting Robert’s version of this historical meeting, one is forced to the conclusion that, if one of the two was not trying to win, it certainly was not Kentfield; for when a man loses two games out of three on level terms, and then calmly tells his victorious opponent that he can easily give him 20 in 100, it is certain that the loser must have been keeping a very big bit up his sleeve. Evidently Kentfield was fully alive to this, for all efforts to get him to make a match proved fruitless.

The fact of the matter undoubtedly was that Kentfield, who was many years the senior of the pair, felt that the coming man was too strong for him, realised that he had everything to lose and very little to gain by risking a contest, and preferred the title of ‘retired champion ‘ to that of ‘ex-champion.’

John Roberts, therefore, attained the first position in the world of billiards in 1849, and in the following year, whilst he was still manager of the billiard-rooms at the Union Club, Manchester, played a great match of 1,000 up with Starke, an American. The latter was a remarkably fine nursery cannon player, and, getting the run of the balls in the early part of the game, reached 600 to 450, thus securing a formidable lead. Then it was that Roberts first reaped the reward of all the time and patience he had expended on the practice of the spot stroke. Wisely abandoning the all-round game, he devoted his energies to getting position at the top of the table; a break which included thirty-nine consecutive ‘spots’ took him to the front again, and another fine run of thirty-six red hazards gave him an easy victory. In a letter to ‘Bell’s Life’ on the subject of this match, one of the best contemporary judges of the game gave it as his opinion that ‘Kentfield showed good judgement in declining a match with Roberts, for, had they played upon a neutral table, he would have been defeated to a certainty.’ Even Mr. Mardon completely altered his mind with regard to the respective merits of the two players, and to his second profession of faith he probably remained steadfast until the day of his death; for, as comparatively recently as the early part of 1874, he wrote a letter to the ‘Sporting Life’ on the subject of billiards, in which he strongly maintained the superiority of old John over his son, William Cook, and Joseph Bennett.

It is doubtful whether, at the period of which I am now writing, the title of champion was of much pecuniary value to its possessor. He could only get an occasional match for money by giving a very long start, whilst such things as exhibition games seem to have been of very rare occurrence. In glancing over the files of ‘Bell’s Life’-the only sporting paper then in existence-say from 1850 to 1860, one cannot fail to be struck with the way in which billiards is practically ignored; in fact, it was some time before I could find any allusion to the game. At last, in the issue dated February 22, 1852, I discovered the following announcement: ‘A silver snuff-box will be given by the proprietor of the Shakespeare’s Head, Wych Street, Strand, to be played for by eight of the best players in London, on Tuesday next, at six o’clock. A gentleman from the country will be in attendance to play any man in London for from £25 to £50 the same night.’ The most rigid examination of the issue of the following week-in those days sportsmen had to content themselves with one sporting paper, which came out once a week-failed to discover the smallest record of the doings of ‘eight of the best players in London’ on that Tuesday evening, and the destination of the silver snuff-box might have been for ever lost to posterity but for the appearance of the following challenge: ‘Mr. John Dufton will play Mr. Farrell, the winner of the snuff-box at the Shakespeare’s Head, Wych Street, on Tuesday last, a match at billiards, from 100 to 1,000 Up, for £10 or £20 a-side. Money ready any evening at the above-named place.’ It is probable that the challenger was a relation of the well-known William Burton, ‘tutor to the Prince of Wales,’ as he always proudly styled himself, though I must candidly confess that I had never previously heard either of him or of Farrell, entitled as each may have been to rank amongst the eight best players in London. It was not, however, the battle for the snuff-box that interested me. I was anxious to know how the countryman fared on his adventurous crusade, and had a suspicion that he may have turned out to have been no less a personage than the champion himself, this being just the sort of little joke that John Roberts always enjoyed. However, my curiosity on this point had to remain unsatisfied, and I ceased to be surprised that it should be so when I found that in the same issue of ‘Bell’s Life’-which in those days was supposed to devote a good deal of its space to events of general interest other than sporting-the death of Tom Moore, the sweetest singer Ireland ever produced, was dismissed in exactly five lines !

In this same year (1852) Roberts resigned the management of the billiard-rooms at the Union Club, which he had held for seven years, and took the Griffin Hotel in Lower Broughton, a suburb of Manchester. Soon after this he played two more matches with Starke at the American game, each of them being for £100 a side. It is noteworthy, as marking the rapid manner in which he had ‘come on’ in his play, that whereas, only two years previously, Starke had played him upon even terms, and at one stage of the game looked very much like beating him, it was now thought good enough to back Roberts to give a start of 300 in 1,000. This proved rather too big a concession; nevertheless, little mistake had been made in estimating the respective merits of the two men, for in the return match, in which the start was reduced to 275, the champion won very easily. The billiard history of the next few years is singularly uneventful, and there appear to have been few players good enough to have any chance with Roberts, even when allowed a long start. He, however, did not retain the Griffin Hotel very long, and, after leaving it, took billiard rooms in Cross Street, Manchester. He must have been living there in 1858, when he played a match with John Herst in Glasgow, in the course of which he made a break of 186, which included a run of 55 consecutive spot strokes. Herst was a brilliant winning-hazard striker, and played in very pretty and finished style. Great things were expected of him, and there is every reason to suppose that these expectations would have been realised, but he died almost at the outset of his career. In 1861 Roberts at length left Manchester, to become lessee of Saville House, Leicester Square, and he had not been there many weeks when he played a match with Mr. Downs, an amateur, to whom he conceded a start of 700 in 1,000. In the course of this game, which he won by 93 points, he made two very fine breaks of I95 (53 ‘spots’) and 200 (64 ‘spots’), and scored his thousand points in 2 hours 11 minutes, an excellent performance, notwithstanding the fact that he must have had the table virtually to himself. A rather curious episode occurred in the course of this game. Mr. Downs, in lieu of giving the customary miss at the beginning of the play, ran a coup, expecting that Roberts would give a miss, and very probably calculating that, with his big start, to give three and receive one was really judicious. The champion, however, instantly grasped the situation, and, without a moment’s hesitation, played hard at the red, and sent it and his own ball flying to the other end of the room. In those days there was no penalty for knocking a ball off the table, so Mr. Downs’s carefully calculated and promising scheme of running a succession of coupe and receiving a series of misses was summarily nipped in the bud. It was at Saville House in March 1862 that Roberts made his famous break of 346, mainly composed of a series of 104 spot hazards. William Dufton was his opponent, and Roberts won the game in the remarkably fast time of an hour and three-quarters. This break was more than a nine days’ wonder, and never before or afterwards did Roberts make 300 off the balls in public-a feat that is now well within the compass of plenty of men who do not play well enough to get a couple of engagements per season in exhibition matches.

Two of the most prominent players in the ‘fifties ‘and early Sixties’ were Alfred Bowles and Charles Hughes. Roberts considered the former to be the best player he ever met, and records that ‘no one yet has ever held me at the points as Bowles used to do.’ The points alluded to were 300 in 1,000; but it must not be forgotten that these remarks were written before William Cook, John Roberts, jun., and Joseph Bennett had come to the front. I never saw Bowles play until he challenged the younger Roberts for the championship and suffered an easy defeat. This was in May 1870, when the Brighton man had possibly seen his best day. He played a steady, old-fashioned game, but was hopelessly out-classed by young John, and, though he could play the spot stroke well, of course he had no opportunity of doing so on a championship table. From what I saw of the play of the two men, I should unhesitatingly place Charles Hughes before Bowles; but it would be ridiculous, with the very limited opportunities I had of forming an opinion, to oppose my judgement to that of Roberts; and certainly the results of two matches that were played in the early part of 1864 point strongly to the superiority of Bowles. In January of that year Roberts gave Bowles 300 in 1,000 for £100 a-side – in those days £100 a-side meant £100 a-side, not that each man went through the solemn farce of staking his money, and received it back again at the end of the game, whatever the result might be-and was beaten by I09 points; whilst, two months later, the champion conceded Hughes 350 in 1,000, and beat him by no fewer than 243 points. There can be no doubt, however, that Hughes improved wonderfully between the date of this match and 1869, when he sailed for Australia. The weak point in his game was an irresistible inclination to go out for fancy cannons. He would be apparently well set for a really good break when he would neglect a comparatively simple shot for some elaborate cannon off three or four cushions, which he would either just miss or perhaps bring off, with the result of leaving the balls in an almost impossible position for a further score. He was gradually, however, getting over this propensity towards the close of his career, and undoubtedly played a very good game indeed at the time that he left England. Just prior to sailing he ran into the last three of a great professional handicap which took place at the ‘Nell Gwynne,’ Strand, in which, together with Cook and Roberts, jun., he started at scratch, whilst the champion owed 50 points, and, as there were as many as forty players engaged, this was a capital performance. He also won a handicap of 200 up, which was played to celebrate the opening of the Bentinck Club, upon the site of which the Vaudeville Theatre now stands. In this he received a start of 30 points, the champion owed 20, whilst his son and Cook had 20 each. The best thing he ever did, however, was accomplished in the last game he played in England. He sailed from Liverpool, and, as Roberts had gone down to see him off, the pair took advantage of the opportunity to play 1,000 Up at the ‘Golden Lion,’ Deansgate, Manchester. Roberts, as usual, gave a start of 300, and had reached 736 against 794, when Hughes went out with a break of 206, which included 62 consecutive ‘ spots.’ Being asked to finish the break, he added 21 more red hazards, and this 269 was a bigger run than anyone had put together since the champion had made his famous 346 about seven years previously. I can find no record of Hughes’s achievements in Australia, but he did not long survive his arrival in that country. As has been the case with too many other fine players, he lacked the resolution and strength of mind to take proper care of himself, and the lavish colonial hospitality which was thrust upon him at every turn speedily killed him.

In the limited space at my disposal it is manifestly impossible to follow the game closely, year by year, and I think the better plan will be to give a sketch of all the principal players, including some account of the most important matches that have taken place since 1870, at nearly all of which I have been fortunate enough to have been present. In ‘ Roberts on Billiards,’ which was written towards the close of the author’s twenty-one years’ tenure of the championship, the names Charles Hughes, John Herst, Joseph Bennett, William Cook, and John Roberts, jun., as candidates for the title of second-best player, and adds, ‘probably the two best are William Cook and my eldest son.’ The first and second I have already dealt with; the other three, who kept the championship entirely between them during fifteen years, naturally demand more extended notice, as their doings really form the greater part of the history of billiards from 1870 onwards. Before coming to them, however, it will be better to dispose of what Roberts terms the third class, in which he includes William Dufton, L. Kilkenny, W. D. Stanley, W. E. Green, George Mulberry, Alfred Hughes, George Davis, W. C. Hitchin, Tom Morris, Harry Evans, and John Smith, ‘to any of whom I have been in the habit of allowing 350 in I,000.’ Of these, I never saw Stanley- who, I fancy, was an elder brother of D. Richards and S. W. Stanley-Mulberry, Davis, Hitchin, or Smith play, and will not, therefore, write anything about them. With respect to Dufton, I feel bound to say that, in my opinion, he was a much overrated man. As I saw him perform for the first time in 1866, when it is possible that he may have been going off, I should have hesitated to write so plainly, had not my view of his lack of ability been fully confirmed by one who constantly played with him, and for whose judgement I have the highest respect. His long ‘jennies,’ on the making of which his reputation almost entirely rested, are now easily within the compass of any professional player, and he would never have made the name he did but for confining his play almost entirely to exhibition games with Roberts. These exhibition matches would naturally have lost much of their attraction if the champion had invariably won, so Dufton had his share of successes, and came to be regarded as being able to play Roberts with 350 points in 1,000; whereas it is perfectly certain that a start of half the game would not have brought them together when the Scratch man was doing his best. L. Kilkenny kept pace fairly well with the remarkable development of the game that took place between 1870 and 1880 and managed to hold his own with a reasonable start from the rising stars. He possessed little power of cue and no brilliancy of execution, but played a sound, steady game, and, before spot-barred games became so universal, could generally be relied upon for a pretty good run of ‘spots’ when he obtained a favourable position. Deprived of the strongest part of his game, however, he soon fell out of the ranks. Alfred Hughes was a player of no class compared with his brother Charles, and Tom Morris, a left-handed man, with a somewhat flashy style, was only moderate. Harry Evans, on the contrary, was a thoroughly sound performer, who played an excellent all-round game, and, if he did not go out for gallery strokes, seldom or never missed an ordinarily simple one. Soon after his arrival in Australia he suddenly came out as quite a phenomenal spot-stroke player, though he had never so distinguished himself in England, and he held the championship of that colony for many years, till quite recently deprived of it by Charles Memmott.

About 1866 John Roberts, jun., William Cook, and Joseph Bennett began to draw away from the ruck of billiard-players and it did not require much foresight to predict that old John would shortly find a dangerous rival or two, though it was difficult at the time to believe that anyone would have the temerity to meet him upon even terms. In the October of that year a great four-handed match took place, the champion and Dufton attempting to give 200 in 1,000 to Charles Hughes and Joseph Bennett for £200 a-side, an attempt in which they failed lamentably, being beaten by no fewer than 344 points. Though Hughes scored 497 points during the game, whilst Bennett only contributed 281, the major portion of the credit of the victory must be given to the latter, who, till 1905, was the only surviving member of the quartette. Always remarkable for his fine generalship and wonderful knowledge of the game, Bennett never displayed these qualities to more advantage than on this occasion. He played in front of Roberts, and, although he made a few breaks of twenty or thirty, his sole mission was never to allow the champion a fair opening.

Directly he had a stroke which it was not three to one on his making, he at once abandoned the break, and either put down the white and left a double baulk or else gave a miss. Robert’s game, in fact, was so utterly cramped from start to finish that it was a remarkable feat on his part to make 488 points during the evening. In the meantime Hughes was thoroughly enjoying himself. Having only Dufton to follow him, and well knowing that it did not much matter what sort of a game he left on, he went out for everything, brought off all sorts of fancy cannons, and scored the fastest of the party. Poor Dufton’s show was a very lamentable one. From the style of game that Hughes was playing, he naturally left any number of good openings, but all that Dufton could total during the evening was 136. By Bennett’s clever strategy the four-handed match was virtually reduced to a single-handed battle between Hughes and Dufton, and this could only have had one result, even had they played upon level terms.

It was at the end of 1868 that William Cook and John Roberts, jun., between whom there was destined to be such keen rivalry for the next twelve or fifteen years, played their first match for money, Cook being at that time just nineteen years of age and his opponent two years older. The match took place at the Bentinck Club, and produced a very large amount of speculation. It is quite needless to give any description of the game, which Roberts won by 92 points, but it is noteworthy that his best breaks-at the all-in game, be it remembered-were 120 and 99, whilst Cook’s highest effort only reached 92. This contrasts very curiously with the state of affairs early in 1896, when, in a spot-barred game of 1,000 up, it would be quite safe to back a player of the calibre of D. Richards or H. W. Stevenson to make three breaks of upwards of a hundred each. In spite of this defeat, Cook’s friends did not lose faith in him, and, in his inmost heart, I believe that Roberts, sen., always rated Cook’s play at a higher level than that of his son. I remember having a chat with the old man on this subject at the Bentinck Club. Young John had just beaten Cook pretty easily in their heat of the handicap with which the opening of the club was celebrated, and this, coupled with his recent success in the match just referred to, led me to remark that there could be little doubt as to who would be future champion. ‘I’m not so sure of that,’ said the veteran with a shake of the head; ‘we’ve not seen the best of Cook yet.’ Before the end of that year his opinion was amply justified. In March a return match was played, in which, though the breaks on both sides were very small, Cook beat Roberts, jun., by 323 points, and when the former began playing again after the summer recess the improvement he exhibited was simply extraordinary. His beautiful delicacy of touch was more striking than ever, and he ‘nursed ‘ the balls with even more than his old skill; but in his anxiety to secure position he did not so frequently miss the immediate stroke, which had formerly been the weak point in his game. Then he had attained a proficiency in playing the spot stroke that entirely eclipsed anything that had previously been witnessed in this line, and three times in one week, with young Roberts as an opponent, he made upwards of three hundred off the balls. Two of these breaks-35I at the Royal Hotel, Dale Street, Liverpool, and 359 at the Prince of Wales’s Hotel, Moss Side, Manchester-beat the champion’s 346, which for seven years had been considered quite unapproachable. After this, Cook seldom played two games of 1,000 up without making a break of 300 in one of them, and left his old rival, John Roberts, jun., completely in the rear. There could only be one end to this series of remarkable performances, and in the autumn of 1869 Cook issued a challenge to play the champion, on or before January 1, 1870, a game of 1,000 or 2,000 up, level, for £500 a-side. Some little time elapsed before the two men came to terms, and it was decided by a committee of the leading players of the day that matches for the championship should be played on a table with three-inch pockets, and with the spot 12 1/2  inches from the top cushion, instead of 13 1/4 inches, the then customary distance. As Cook was a member of the committee which decided on this radical alteration in the table, it seems strange that he did not protest strongly against a measure which nearly every expert at once realised must deprive him of the strongest feature of his game -the spot stroke-but the reason was that he apparently did not realise the fact. Cook was then barely twenty-one years of age, but he ought to have had sufficient experience to have saved him from such a mistake. Before he had been playing on the new table for an hour, his error must have been brought home to him in very unpleasant fashion.

Just as the great battle at Farnborough between Sayers and Heenan was read about and eagerly discussed by all sorts and conditions of men who had previously professed the greatest disgust for prize-fighting, so the match between the veteran and his pupil excited intense interest, even amongst people who could scarcely define the difference between a winning and losing hazard. The then Prince of Wales was present at St. James’s Hall, and, as no such scene had ever previously been witnessed at a billiard match, and may never be seen again, I need not apologise for reproducing part of a sketch of the memorable night contributed by myself at the time to one of the last numbers of the famous old ‘ Sporting Magazine,’ which ceased to exist at the end of 1870: “For the last five or six years the champion has made no very long break nor any great number of successive ‘spots,’ whilst his son, Joseph Bennett, and Cook, especially the last-named, have frequently put together a very big score off the balls. People at last began to realise the idea that the title of ‘second-best player in England’ would not long satisfy one or two of the colts, and were not altogether surprised when Cook challenged his old master for £500 a-side. Roberts took a long time to reply to this cartel, and it was believed that another walk-over would take place-for as yet there had never been a match for the championship; but at length he made up his mind for one effort to retain his place, and they agreed to play on February 11. Prior to that day a meeting of the leading professionals was held. Rules were drawn up for future contests . . . and some important alterations were made in the construction of the tables to be used in matches for the championship, with what results we shall presently see.

The match was played in the large concert room at St. James’s Hall.

Just before eight o’clock the spectators settled down into their places, and the scene was a truly remarkable one. The table, which looked very small in such a huge hall, was of course placed in the centre, and, about three yards from it, a cordon was formed by a scarlet rope, so that a ‘clear course’ was secured for the combatants, even if ‘no favour’ could not be guaranteed. Outside this rope the tiers of benches began, and sloped up to the galleries. Every seat was occupied, and the galleries themselves accommodated a very large number of spectators, many of whom had provided themselves with opera glasses, a new concomitant to a billiard match, but a very necessary one on this occasion. Shortly after eight o’clock the calls of ‘time’ became very loud and impatient, and, with a view of creating a diversion, someone who appeared to have the chief management of the affair began to weigh the balls. He spun out this operation in very clever fashion, and kept the people quiet for nearly ten minutes; but at last they grew tired of seeing him hold up the scales, and remain immovable, apparently wrapped in astonishment that the balls should exactly balance each other, and the noise became worse than ever. At length the two men appeared, without their coats, and apparently ‘eager for the fray.’ They were received with uproarious applause, which seemed to delight Roberts immensely.

At the beginning of the game caution prevailed, and the tight pockets puzzled both men. At 127 Cook made six ‘spots,’ the longest run of the evening but the new-fashioned table seemed to have quite destroyed his pet stroke. The red ball required to be played with the greatest care, or it did not go in, and, owing, we imagine, to the change in the locality of the spot, it seemed almost impossible to secure position for the second stroke, even if the first came off. Both men had several tries at it; but they could make nothing of their old friend, and the last half of the match was practically played ‘spot hazard barred.’ The contrast in the style of the two was very noticeable, Robert’s being as clumsy and awkward as Cook’s was pretty and elegant, the latter playing, as someone near us observed, a very genteel stroke.’ The men were very level at about 450, and then the champion got in, with Cook’s ball and the red almost touching each other, and quietly dribbled them down the table, making six or seven very pretty cannons in succession. He followed this up with a regular ‘gallery’ stroke, potting the red at railroad pace, and making a cannon off two or three cushions, which brought down the house. A break of 22 by Roberts made his score 494 against 495. The announcement of ‘ 517 all’ produced great cheering; however, 44 and 49 by Cook soon placed him in front again, and, as soon as he passed 600, there was a short interval.

The men soon came back, Roberts decorated with a cross, ‘wearing it for the last time,’ as one of Cook’s backers grimly remarked. A magnificent ‘all round’ 80 took the young one to 785. The knowledge of strength shown in this break was truly wonderful, and there was a thin ‘ loser’ in it which even Roberts felt compelled to applaud. There was soon a gap of a couple of hundred points between them, and the champion kept looking up mournfully at the figures at the end of the hall. He never lost heart, however, and, laying himself down to his work, began to creep up again. Cook’s score stood still for some little time, and the old man’s backers got very excited. Roberts now made 62, his longest break during the game, and two or three other good runs brought him close to Cook, whom he passed, the score being called 1,041 to 1,037 in favour of Roberts: but a 31, finished with a double baulk, placed Cook well in front again, and, when his score stood at 1,133, he made a horribly fluky cannon, and ran right out, with a succession of the easiest and prettiest strokes we ever saw, a winner by 117 points.

Here I prefer to take leave of John Roberts, sen.; for, although he occasionally played in public for several years after, he never again exhibited anything approaching his best form. It almost seemed as though he had wound himself up for one great effort to retain his supremacy, and that he never recovered from the consequent reaction; added to which he was then forty-four years of age, and had consequently seen his best day. In his prime he was a man of extraordinary strength of constitution, and performed several feats of endurance which probably no professional player of the present day could approach. Perhaps the most remarkable of these was accomplished in 1846, when he had rooms in Glasgow, and an amateur, who was in the habit of frequenting them, made a match to play him on the following conditions: Roberts was to concede sixty points in each hundred, mark the game, hand the rest, spot the red, take the balls out of the pockets, &c., and in fact do the work of both player and marker. They were to continue playing until one of them stopped voluntarily or through exhaustion; but I have been unable to ascertain whether or not they were allowed to eat and drink during the progress of the match, though the probability is that there were no restrictions in this respect. The stakes were ten shillings per game: whoever gave in first was to forfeit £25 and all claim to anything he might have won. Roberts was at that time in full play, and doing strong work round the table for several hours in each day; but his opponent could not have been far behind him in this respect, and must have been a remarkably game man into the bargain, for he struggled on for forty-three consecutive hours before Nature gave way, and he fainted from exhaustion. In that time no fewer than I25 games were played, and Roberts won a good stake, every penny of which he had certainly earned. Differing entirely from Kentfield in this respect, he possessed extraordinary power of cue and a wonderfully strong wrist, which enabled him to perform all sorts of curious feats, such as knocking both balls off the table and making them reach the end of a long room before touching the floor. His worst fault was a too flashy style of play, and I shall always believe that he would just have beaten Cook in the great match for the championship if he had kept himself a little quieter during the game; but he could not resist incessantly chaffing his friends, chalking bets on the floor, &c. Comparison between Robert’s form and that of the leading players of the present day would be most unfair to the old man. Had he lived fifty years later than he did, and enjoyed all the advantages of the improvements that have been made in the accessories of the game, as well as the opportunities that leading players enjoy of constant practice, it is certain that he would have been found right in the front rank. He had a real genius for the game, and was a great player.

Immediately after winning the championship Cook had a very busy time of it. He played John Roberts, jun., the best of twenty-one games of pyramids, the result being that, after they had won nine games each, Roberts secured the next two and won the match, which virtually decided the championship at pyramids. Then Cook toured for a few weeks, and, in the course of an exhibition game with S. W. Stanley at Totnes, made the hitherto unparalleled break of 512. On April I4, 1870, just two months after he had wrested the championship from the elder Roberts, Cook lost it to Roberts, jun. The length of the game was wisely reduced from 1,200 points to 1,000, and Cook was beaten by very nearly half the game. This is one of the few contests for the championship that I did not witness, and I have never been able to understand the result; for, although Roberts won by 478 points, and scored his thousand in three hours and four minutes, which was the fastest time recorded for a three-inch-pocket table until the last match ever played for the championship fifteen years later, a 47 was the best break he made during the whole evening. Of course, it must be remembered that the winner had the table virtually to himself, for Cook must have been utterly and hopelessly out of form. Six weeks later, Alfred Bowles, of Brighton, a contemporary of Roberts, sen., challenged the winner. It is probable that Bowles, though I believe he is still alive, had then passed his best day, for the result of his plucky challenge was disastrous. He played a good, sound old-fashioned sort of game, devoting himself chiefly to runs of losing hazards in the middle pockets, but had not the smallest pretensions to meet a man of the class of Cook or Roberts on even terms, and never possessed the least chance all through the game. The next challenger, however, was of very different calibre, and the battle between Roberts–as I have now taken leave of the father, it is needless to constantly repeat the distinguishing ‘ junior’-and Joseph Bennett was about the most obstinately contested of the entire series. It lasted for four hours and three-quarters, and Bennett, with repeated safety misses and double baulks, at last fairly wore down his formidable opponent, and won by 95 points. Thus ended 1870, a truly remarkable year, which not only witnessed the first match ever played for the championship, but in which the title was actually held by four different men.

To trace the progress of the game minutely from this point to the present time, and to attempt even to mention the principal matches that have been played, would occupy too much space, and I must, therefore, content myself with giving slight sketches of the chief players from 1870 to 1895, alluding to a few of the most remarkable matches. At the earliest possible moment-the two months which were allowed when the conditions governing contests for the championship were drawn up-Roberts played a second match with Bennett, and had no difficulty in regaining his title, as he won by 363 points in the very fast time of three hours twenty-two minutes. Cook was the next challenger, and, although he only got home by I5 points-a really nominal victory-this was the beginning of his marked superiority to any other player, and for exactly four years all efforts to wrest the championship from him proved futile. On November 29, 1872, during an exhibition match at his rooms in Regent Street, he made the previously unheard of break of 936, which included no fewer than 262 consecutive spot hazards. This break was, of course, made on an ordinary table. From 1871 to 1875 was undoubtedly the very zenith of Cook’s career. During those four years he stood right out by himself, and could defeat all comers on any class of table. The strongest point of his game was unquestionably his wonderful delicacy of touch. Brilliant forcing hazards, and winning hazards made at railroad speed, so irresistibly fascinating to the gallery, possessed little attraction for him, and he was the first man who seemed fully to realise what might be done by delicately nursing the balls and bringing them together’ time after time, with perfect strength. Even when at his best, however, he was never too consistent a player; there were occasions when he was completely ‘off,’ and, if he happened to be caught on one of these days, quite a second-rate performer could beat him easily. His personal popularity was simply unbounded, and it would have taken a remarkably strong nature to have resisted all the temptations to which he was exposed. No man ever lost a finer chance of an exceptionally brilliant and successful career. He must have made much money, but when the end came, it found him penniless. I have no wish, however, to dwell on his weaknesses, amiable as most of them were; rather let me record to his credit that no professional billiard-player has ever possessed a higher character for unimpeachable honesty, and that, in his prosperous times, he was never known to turn a deaf ear to appeals for assistance.

It is quite time, however, to introduce the third and only other man that ever held the championship cup presented by the leading billiard-table makers in 1870. I refer, of course, to Joseph Bennett, who was three or four years older than Roberts, and was playing in public before either Cook or his great rival. He rapidly acquired a wonderful knowledge of the game, for he was barely eighteen when he was engaged at Leeds to play and teach. During his stay there he played his first important match. It was with W. Moss; the game was 1,000 up for £100 a-side, and Bennett won by upwards of 500 points. Possibly this success induced him to turn his thoughts Londonwards again; at any rate, he shortly afterwards returned there. His first metropolitan match was with Dufton; then he played a couple with Herst, winning one and losing the other; but it was the great four-handed match in which he and Charles Hughes so decisively beat old Roberts and Dufton that first brought him into prominent notice.

Whether Bennett, as a player, was ever quite the equal of Cook or Roberts it is unnecessary to discuss here. He beat each of them in turn for the championship-performances with which he had reason to be contented. In early life Bennett’s health was indifferent, and his nervous and highly strung temperament was by no means in his favour. One of his peculiarities was that, when in training for a championship or other important match, he would never play with anyone, but invariably shut himself up in a room alone, and played one ball against the other, or simply practised one or two special strokes by the hour together. His contention was that a man required all his nervous energy for the match itself, and ought not to waste any of it in practice. There was, doubtless, something in his theory, for few men have ever shown to more advantage ‘in the pit ;’ and it was sheer pluck and determination that enabled him to defeat Cook for the championship, as his opponent held a long lead when within a couple of hundred of home. A very severe accident in the summer of 1881 caused Bennett to resign the championship, and, though he completely recovered from its effects, he wisely gave up playing in public. He will be better remembered as a teacher than as a player, for he virtually devoted his whole life to instruction, and with remarkable success.

In December 1873 Messrs. Burroughes & Watts promoted the first of a series of handicaps, with which they afterwards became so much identified. The important effect that these handicaps had upon the game is scarcely calculable, and, thanks to the liberality of the promoters, several players who afterwards took prominent positions, but might otherwise never have been heard of, were first introduced to public notice. These handicaps gave such men exactly the chance they needed. The following sixteen players took part in this handicap:-W. Cook, J. Roberts, jun., Joseph Bennett, T. Taylor, F. Bennett, S. W. Stanley, Harry Evans, W. Dufton, J. Roberts, sen., T. Morris, A. Hughes, John Bennett, L. Kilkenny, Alfred Bennett, G. Collins, and Stammers. It was won from scratch by Cook, who beat Kilkenny (130 points start) – the heats were 500 up, all in-in the final, winding up with a splendid break of 428; and this appears to be a favourable Opportunity for giving brief sketches of some of the players who took part in it, six or seven of whom are no longer living.

‘ Master’ Stanley, as he was always designated in print for the first year or two after he began to play in public, was certainly one of the most precocious youths that ever handled a cue, and could not have been more than sixteen when he began to take his own part in good company. The spot hazard was the strongest point of his game, and I shall never forget the style in which he used to dash round the top of the table, getting ready to play the next stroke long before the red ball had reached the pocket. When it failed to drop in, even if it was a couple of inches wide of the pocket, his invariable look of blank astonishment was intensely comic.

Tom Taylor came forward about 1872, just at the time that Stanley was becoming well known! and many were the hotly contested battles between them. Never were two lads more evenly matched. Stanley was a shade the better of the pair at the spot stroke, but Taylor was a little superior all round the table. Tom, like most billiard-players, had a pet stroke. When he had opened a game with a miss in baulk, and his opponent had followed with the answering miss under one of the side cushions, he would invariably play at the red ball for the cannon off two cushions, and bring it off three times out of four. This is a stroke that is never played nowadays, and yet, when unsuccessful, it rarely leaves anything on, which is more than can be said of the cannon off the white ball, the customary game at present. A gamer player than Tom Taylor was never seen. No matter what the state of the score might be, he never ceased struggling; to be apparently hopelessly in rear only seemed to improve his play, and from time to time he would pull a game out of the fire in really marvellous fashion With the exception of Roberts and Collins, Taylor is the only one of the sixteen players in the great handicap at the Guildhall Tavern in December 1873 who was playing regularly in 1896.

Fred, Alfred, and John were all younger brothers of Joseph Bennett. John, although he occasionally took part in handicaps, was a player of no class, and died in November 1886; but Fred and Alfred worthily upheld the family reputation as billiard players some twenty years (c.1876) ago, though they seldom now play in public (Alfred Bennett died shortly after these lines were in type – ie. 1906) It is difficult to say which was the better of the two when they were in their prime, for both played the spot well and were good all round; but perhaps Fred was the more brilliant, and might have taken a high position if he had been fonder of the game, and devoted himself more assiduously to it.

L. Kilkenny was another remarkably sound exponent of the game as it was played twenty years (c.1876) ago. He, too, was good on the ‘spot,’ and when this stroke went out of fashion it practically killed his game; for Roberts and Richards, neither of whom ever liked the stroke, are the only two of the old school who are playing better now than they did in the ‘seventies. Kilkenny was about the last man that would have been taken for a professional billiard-player; indeed, clad in correct clerical costume, he would have made a model country vicar. He was always exceptionally quiet, unassuming, and well behaved, and ought to have done well; but for some reason or another he missed his chances and died in poverty.

George Collins always played quite a game of his own. I have seen him make numerous long runs of spot strokes, but they were invariably put together in the most unorthodox style. His own ball was rarely within eighteen inches of the red, and he would incessantly leave himself the most difficult hazards, which he brought off again and again in the most marvellous fashion. In a spot break of 300 he would have to play more awkward shots than Taylor or Stanley would leave for themselves in ten breaks of the same number, and very much the same thing was noticeable in his all-round play. He would constantly succeed in ‘gallery’ shots, but never seemed to trouble him and his apparent lack of any knowledge of playing for position was a fatally weak point in his game. It was magnificent, but it was not billiards, and in his best day Collins always played the game of an exceptionally good amateur rather than that of a professional of late years he has had comparatively little practice, and has naturally fallen off in consequence.

As long as he remained in England, Harry Evans was always recognised as a sound third-rate all-round player, who was practically of no use on the ‘spot,’ and it was a great surprise to all who had known him over here when, soon after he had settled down in Australia, he gained great fame as a spot stroke player, made some really remarkable breaks, and held the championship there for many years; indeed, it is only comparatively recently that he was deprived of it by Charles Memmott.

With the exception of Roberts, sen., Tom Morris was many years older than any other player who took part in the first great handicap. His game was indifferent, as was that of A. Hughes and Stammers.

Early in 1874 the first agitation against the spot stroke took place, though it was not until twelve or thirteen years later that the stroke was virtually abandoned. It occasioned a good deal of surprise when the final heat of the first spot-barred handicap lay between Taylor and Stanley, two players whose game was popularly supposed to depend almost entirely upon their proficiency in the spot stroke. Yet there was really nothing remarkable about this result, for there is a great deal of truth and good sense contained in a letter from Stanley, which was published in ‘Land and Water’ about a couple of months before the handicap was played. In it he wrote: ‘I believe, as a rule, it will be found that the best player at the spot stroke is the best player, after a time, at the all-round game. To play the spot stroke well requires great patience, a great deal of practice, and a great amount of nerve. Now, anyone who can combine all these is sure to be a good all-round player.’ Cook paid a visit to America in 1874, where he was ill advised enough to tackle Rudolph at the cannon game, with the inevitable result; still, it was impossible to regret that he had taken the trip, for he brought back with him the American system of handicaps, which at once became so popular in this country that scarcely a dozen really important handicaps on the old ‘knock-out’ principle have been played in the last twenty years. It seems hardly necessary to explain that, in an American handicap, each player has to meet every one of the others, and the winner of the largest number of games takes the first prize. The immense advantage of this system is that the element of luck is as nearly as possible eliminated, and that, presuming the play to be fair and straightforward all through, the best man on the handicap terms will win. Messrs. Burroughes & Watts took up the experiment warmly, and presented £100 in prizes. I formed one of the committee appointed to frame the handicap and to arrange the order of play, and I well remember the difficulty we had over the latter task, which will be fully appreciated by anyone who has attempted a similar one. It must be remembered that, as this was the first affair of the kind which had taken place in England, we had no precedents to guide us, and though it may seem very simple to arrange a list of eight men, so that each shall play against a different opponent on every one of seven days, let anyone who has had no experience in the matter sit down with a pencil and paper and try it. The handicap was as follows: Cook, Roberts, and J. Bennett, scratch; Taylor, 100 points start; Stanley, 120; Timbrell, 140; Kilkenny and A. Bennett, 160. William Timbrell has not previously figured in these pages, and may be dismissed in a very few lines. He was a Liverpool player, who had already been credited with, and to the best of my belief actually did make, a break of 893, which included a sequence of 296 ‘spots.’ On his own table in Liverpool he may occasionally have done great things, which, however, he failed to repeat in London. The moment he began to play in public every atom of nerve seemed to leave him, and on the numerous occasions on which I saw him play he never showed even third-rate form. Roberts and A. Bennett tied for first prize with five games each, and in playing off the former secured a very easy victory.

On May 24, 1875, Cook lost the championship, which he had held for exactly four years, to Roberts, and the match was a very noteworthy one, as it marks the turning point in the careers of the two men. Up to that period Cook had been generally considered rather the better of the pair, but from the date of this match Roberts asserted his superiority, which became more and more marked in each succeeding year. In 1876 D. Richards, an elder brother of S. W. Stanley, ran second to Cook in an American Tournament. Richards is the doyen of all the professional players before the public in 1896, and is a fine player. As in the case of Roberts, increasing age only appears to improve his game, and there is not the smallest doubt that when he had reached his ‘jubilee ‘ he was playing infinitely better than he had ever done in his life. Nursery cannons form the strong point of his game, and he certainly plays them beautifully and with remarkable delicacy of touch, though it must be admitted that no one makes more use of the push stroke than he does. About the most noteworthy events of 1877 were two matches on a championship table between Joseph Bennett and Tom Taylor, both of which the latter won, though only by twenty-seven and twenty-one points respectively. Bennett had gone very much off in his play just about that time, or Taylor would not have been matched with him on even terms, and in the following year the two were both handicapped to receive a start of I50 in 500 from Cook in an American Tournament that was played at the Gaiety Restaurant. One of the eight men engaged in it was Fred Shorter, who had a start of 200, and had done very little previously. Never did a young player so suddenly make a reputation, and Some of his performances during the tournament were most extraordinary. In his heat with Joseph Bennett, the latter gave a miss in baulk, Shorter followed by placing his ball under one of the side cushions. and Bennett went out for a cannon which he missed by the merest hair’s breadth. This left a nice game on for Shorter, who speedily worked his way to the top of the table, and went clean out with the spot stroke, thus winning a love game. There is a little story relating to this heat which must be fairly well known, but is good enough to bear repetition. Of course, the game only lasted about a quarter of an hour, and, as we were going out of the room an old gentleman, desiring, I suppose, to make what he considered a soothing remark to the beaten man, said: ‘How do you do, Mr. Bennett ? You did not seem quite in your usual form today.’ This to a man who had only been allowed two strokes- with one of which he gave a miss in baulk, and with the other as nearly as possible brought off a most difficult cannon- was almost too much. I shall never forget the expression of Bennett’s face, but language failed him to make a suitable reply. Shorter did not treat Cook quite as unkindly as this; still, the latter only scored twelve when he played his heat with the new man on the following day, and most of the other players in the tournament were served in somewhat similar fashion.

A consequence of his beating Taylor was a match which I arranged between them, Shorter to receive 200 in 1,000. An incident that occurred early in this game gives an excellent idea of Shorter’s coolness and self-possession. One of his friends was seated next to me at the spot-end of the table, and thoughtlessly struck a match to light a cigar without watching for a favourable opportunity to do so. Shorter had just worked his way to the spot, and the sudden flash catching his eye caused him to miss the pocket by about six inches. He came round to us and said quietly, ‘Please don’t do that again; I can get on the “spot” whenever I like, and stay there as long as I like, still it isn’t worth while to throw away a chance.’ This was no idle boast, for when the game stood at 444 to I52 in his favour he put his opponent’s ball into one of the top pockets with a brilliant stab shot from baulk, and, his own remaining in perfect position behind the red, he ran right out, winning the match by 848 points. His break of 556 was for many years the largest made in a match for money. On being asked to continue it, he ran it up to 636, including 207 consecutive spot hazards. Just at that time I firmly believe that Shorter had no equal on an ordinary table; indeed, I offered to match him to play Cook 1,000 up, level, if the latter would stake £500 to £200, but the proposal was politely declined. Unfortunately, Shorter’s prospects of ever attaining a position at the head of his profession were marred by the fact that he had no liking for the game. It was the most difficult thing in the world to get him to do any practice. When he afterwards took part in tournaments, his first two or three games were generally devoted to playing himself into form, so that his big breaks towards the end of the week came too late to give him any chance of success. His constitution was never a strong one, and, as he could not be persuaded to take any reasonable care of himself, symptoms of consumption showed themselves in 1884. A voyage to Australia was recommended as the best chance of saving his life, but the remedy came too late, and he died at Deniliquin in August 1885. On a match between Roberts and Timbrell at the Gaiety Restaurant, Timbrell receiving 300 in 1,000 and winning by 449 points, it is not necessary to dwell. It was played on an ordinary table, spot stroke in, but Roberts never made more than 35 off the balls, whilst Timbrell’s best break was 73.

The year 1879 was remarkable for the first appearance in London of William Mitchell. The ‘Sheflielder,’ as he has always been called, though, as a matter of fact, he was born in Derbyshire, had long been known in the provinces as a player of exceptional ability; but few were prepared for the form he showed on the occasion of his London debut in an American Tournament at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster, when he won six consecutive games and took the first prize. This he followed up by securing another tournament at the Baynard Castle, and then he was taken on a provincial tour by Joseph Bennett, in the course of which he made many very remarkable breaks. Four years later, in a match of 3,000 up with Cook

for a stake of £I,000, Mitchell at last cut Shorter’s record in a money game with a brilliant 739 (55 and I89 ‘spots’). Prior to this, however, when practising at Brighton, he had made a break of 1,839, composed almost entirely of 6I2 consecutive spot strokes. This was generally discredited at the time, but subsequent events showed Mitchell to be well capable of such a performance. When at his best, Mitchell never played a long game without making two or three four-figure breaks, and it was probably his own fault that Peall eventually became his master at the ‘all-in ‘ game. He played the ‘spot ‘ at a tremendous pace, and has never had an equal in one particular stroke- that of going all round the table and regaining position. A somewhat delicate constitution has always been against him, but his gameness is quite on a par with that of Roberts and Taylor. There has never been a more brilliant hazard striker; and, strange as it appears, considering that for many years the spot stroke was the backbone of his game, he was always seen to great advantage on a three-inch pocket championship table. When at his best, his all-round game is always a singularly free and attractive one to watch, and few players could surpass him in a push-barred game.

It was in 1880, the year after Mitchell had taken London by storm, that his great spot-stroke rival, W. J. Peall, made his first appearance as a professional. Rumours had long been flying about as to the big breaks he was in the constant habit of making when playing as an amateur, and his appearance at the Royal Aquarium in an all-in American Tournament was watched with great interest. He and R. Wilson received the limit of I75 points start in 500 from Joseph Bennett and W. Mitchell, who were at scratch. Peall, however, disappointed expectation at first, though playing sometimes brilliantly in exhibition games. He did not show to advantage when a stake was at issue, but in time he acquired confidence. In May 1884 he won an exhibition game with Mitchell at the Aquarium in four breaks exclusive of his initial miss, scoring 1,000 points in forty-four minutes, which still remains the fastest time on record. Later in the same month the same pair were giving an exhibition game at Cambridge, and Peall made a wonderful break of 1,989, which included 548 consecutive spot strokes, though as all of this break, with the exception of the first 411, was made after the game was over, it is questionable whether it should be counted as a record. Fortunately for Peall, he can well afford to dispense with this 1,989; for at the Royal Aquarium on November 5 and 6, 1890, he completely eclipsed it with a phenomenal break of 3,304, all made inside the game, and comprising runs of 93, 3, 150, 123, 172, 120, and 400 spot strokes. I have no hesitation in giving these records of breaks made almost entirely on the ‘spot,’ for though the tables on which most of them were made may have been comparatively easy, there is no sort of doubt that the breaks were genuine in other respects. With spot-barred breaks, however, the case is very different, and I prefer to write very little about them. In matches where no money has really been at stake, although each party to them had solemnly deposited his £50, or £100, or £200, as the case might be, it was clearly to the interest of each man to have as many big breaks made as possible, for the reports of these were likely to improve the ‘gate.’ Most of these big spot-barred breaks are composed largely of nursery cannons, and some of these long runs of nursery cannons which are credited to different players were never really made at all. Either a cannon was scored which was not made, a very difficult thing for a marker to detect, considering the express speed at which some professional players rattle up these ‘nurseries,’ or the player, when his ball was in contact with one of the others, calmly proceeded with his run of close cannons, instead of having the red and his opponent’s ball spotted and playing from baulk. This is something of a digression, but it seemed necessary to explain why I have written so little about ‘records.’ They are easily to be ascertained by anyone who is interested in them, and can be taken for what they are worth. From these great performances of Peall’s it may be easily gathered that his nervousness had entirely left him, and, after he had once acquired confidence, there never was a more consistent and trustworthy performer. Whatever any of us may fancy Mitchell might have done, there is no getting away from what the latter has actually accomplished, and, as a spot-stroke player, he has never had an equal. For a long time past he has been ready and willing to meet anyone at the ‘all-in’ game, and is entitled to call himself champion of English billiards. It might have been imagined that the virtual disappearance of the spot stroke would have completely disposed of his pretensions to a place in the front rank, but, so far from this being the case, he was for a considerable period second only to Roberts as a spot-barred player. Short stature has always precluded the possibility of his being a very stylish player, but the extreme deliberation which rather detracted from his play years ago has to a great extent disappeared. His name has always been associated with all that is honourable and straightforward, and no member of his profession is more universally and deservedly respected.

No match for the championship had taken place for nearly three years and a half when Joseph Bennett challenged either Roberts or Cook to play for it. The former waived his claim and left Cook to meet Bennett on November 8, 1880. This match was one of the most interesting and exciting I ever witnessed. Bennett, who was favoured with a good deal of luck in the early part of the game, did not fail to take the fullest advantage of his opportunities, and, at the interval, held a lead of 122 points, a very big advantage indeed on a small pocket table. The interval, however-like luncheon time in an important cricket match-often used to produce a marked change in the aspect of affairs, and soon after resuming play Cook put in a fine break of 107, passed his opponent at 795, and entered the last hundred with a substantial lead. The contest then seemed all over, but Bennett, playing up with any amount of coolness and resolution, won by 5I points. This was about the first time that I noticed unmistakable signs of Cook’s nerve failing him; he missed two or three easy strokes just when points were most wanted, and I doubt if he was ever quite the same player again.

Cook and Roberts sailed for India immediately after this match, and Taylor at once challenged Bennett for the championship. The match came off on January I2 and I3, 1881, at St. James’s Hall, and though, soon after starting, Bennett made a break of 125, the highest that had then been recorded in a match for the championship, Taylor stuck to him in his usual dogged fashion, and was only beaten by go points. Shorter was the next aspirant, but failed to make good his final deposit, so Bennett received forfeit. An off-hand match, however, for £25 a side took place between the two on the table on which they ought to have played for the championship. Bennett, who conceded a start of 100 in 1,000, was defeated by 193, and as he soon afterwards met with the unfortunate gig accident to which I have previously alluded, this was about his last appearance as a player, all his energies being subsequently devoted to teaching. I must not omit to mention that in September of this year, during an exhibition game with Alfred Bennett, Cook made a spot-barred break of 309, the longest then on record. It was without the semblance of a fluke, and was a far finer performance than it looks to be on paper, for the ‘top of the table game’ was then unknown, and it was put together by open play all round the table.

In January 1882, Cook, for the first time, took points from Roberts, who gave him 500 in 5,000, all in, for £500 a-side, and won by no fewer than 1,658 points; the winner’s best break was 430 (5, 11, and 107 ‘spots’). A return match was played for a similar stake at Newmarket during the July week, and was witnessed by the Prince of Wales and a large and aristocratic company. This time Cook’s start was increased to 750, and he won by 918. His highest break was one of 412; Roberts had two consecutive runs of 653 and 395

Very early in I 883 John North, who possessed a high reputation in Wales and the western counties, made his first appearance in London. This was in a spot-barred American Tournament at the Albert Club, and a more trying ordeal for a comparative novice cannot well be imagined, for, as is very truly stated in ‘Billiards, by W. Cook,’ in allusion to North’s debut:

“It is comparatively easy to perform in an ordinary tournament or match, where the least noise or interruption to the player is instantly checked; . . . but billiards at the Albert Club is a different thing altogether. Betting on the game, and often on individual strokes, is carried on without let or hindrance, and that a stranger to London should have displayed consistently good form under such trying circumstances was conclusive evidence that he had plenty of nerve and self-possession.”

 

North won this tournament, but it cannot be said that he has ever fulfilled his early promise. Fit and well, and at his best, he is an undoubtedly fine player; but his style, never a pretty one, becomes terribly ugly and jerky when he is out of form. Towards the close of the year 1883 Roberts offered to give any man in the world 500 in 5,000, all-in, or 200 in 3,000 spot barred. There was no response, and I only mention the fact to show how the status of certain players has altered in the last ten years. Few people would now care to pit Roberts against Peall on even terms at the all-in game; whereas his supremacy at the spot-barred game, to which he has entirely devoted himself, is so complete, that his offer of such a start as 200 in 3,000 reads almost ludicrously.

At the end of the year J. G. Sala, a Scotch player of considerable repute, appeared in London for the first time in an American Tournament. On his day he was a fine spot-stroke player; indeed, his feat of making 186 consecutive screw-back red hazards into the same pocket remained a record for years, when it was completely wiped out by Charles Memmott, who made 4I3 similar strokes in succession in a match in Australia. Sala was, however, by no means strong at the all-round game. In 1884 Roberts took a company consisting of Mitchell, Taylor, Shorter, North, Collins, White, Coles, and Sala for a provincial tour, and organised tournaments in Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester, where some really magnificent play took place. Writing the names of these players reminds me that I have said nothing of Harry Coles and Fred White. The former originally came from Birmingham, and made no particular mark for some years after arriving in London, though he was always regarded as a sound and consistent player. Perhaps his form was never rated quite as highly as it deserved to be, for there was nothing in the least ‘ flash’ about his style, and he never appeared to be playing nearly as well as he really was, in this respect being the exact opposite of Richards. The virtual abolition of the spot stroke, however, gave him his opportunity, and he improved very rapidly indeed, until about 1892, when I saw him make upwards of 500 off the balls, twice within a few days at the Aquarium, he was playing a really fine game, and only wanted a short start from players of the class of Peall and Dawson. About the year 1876 White was regarded by some few people as a promising youngster, but for a long time his health was very indifferent, and never gave him a real chance of doing himself justice. When he became stronger he played brilliantly for a brief period, making spot-stroke breaks of upwards of a thousand on two or three occasions in matches; but as he depended almost entirely on the spot stroke, and was very weak as an all-round player, little or nothing has been seen of him of recent years, though it is gratifying to know that he has done exceedingly well in pursuits unconnected with billiards.

It may be interesting to record that the first game of 10,000 up ever played was begun at the Aquarium on May 24, 1884. It was between Roberts and Peall, ‘all in,’ and the latter, who received a start of 2,000, won by 589 points. Once started these long games became very popular. They were soon extended to as many as 24,000 Up, which took no less than a fortnight to play, and the spot stroke was invariably barred. I am not sure that the change was a judicious one, for it is by no means so interesting to witness a couple of hours’ play in the middle of a long match, with one of the players possibly hopelessly in the rear, as it is to see a game begun and finished at a single sitting. The last matches ever played for the championship took place in 1885, when Roberts defeated Cook and Joseph Bennett in turn, each game being 3,000 up. The champion at this time was suffering from an attack of rheumatic gout, which prevented him from touching a cue for a week prior to the match with Cook, and made it very difficult for him to hobble round the table; but he won by 92 points. Bennett suffered defeat by more than half the game. It is only fair to state that Bennett was so unwell that he could scarcely hit a ball on the first and second days, but the one-sided nature of the contest was in a great measure atoned for by the splendid exhibition given by Roberts. He made breaks of 155 and 147, the largest ever put together in a match for the championship; and also scored sixteen successive spot strokes, the largest consecutive number ever made in a championship match. A notable ‘all-in ‘ match of 15,000 up on even terms between Roberts and Mitchell was played in February 1886; Roberts, who certainly had the better of the luck, winning by 1,741 points. His longest breaks were 693 (230 spot strokes), 544 (179), 616 (88 and 104), 722 (230), and 716 (47 and 184) Mitchell’s highest efforts were 745 (244), 601 (197), 969 (321), and 532 (175). The result was particularly instructive, as it showed that, though Mitchell was at his very best just then, and in full practice at the spot, whereas Roberts had not played the stroke in public for months previously, the champion was still able to assert his supremacy at the all-in game. In the following week Roberts and Peall began a six days’ spot-stroke match. The conditions were that they should play four hours per day, each man to place his ball where he chose. at the beginning of a break, and the highest aggregate scorer at the end of the week to be the winner. Peall had matters all his own way from the outset, end eventually totalled 16,734 against Robert’s 11,925; it was a terribly wearisome affair and attracted very few spectators. Later in the year Peall challenged Roberts to play 15,000 up, all in, on even terms, and as Roberts declined the offer then, and whenever it has been renewed, Peall, as already remarked, has certainly been entitled to claim the championship at English billiards ever since that date.

Since 1886 genuine matches for money have gone greatly out of fashion, and we have had to content ourselves with battles for more or less fictitious ‘purses,’ varied by an occasional tournament. The great feature of the past few years has been the wonderful play of Roberts, who, although he was born on August 15, 1847, has made greater improvement during the past few seasons than any of the younger players, and was never better than he is at present. Everyone who is interested in the game should see him play, which will give a better idea of his inimitable skill than pages of description.

The young players who have come most prominently to the front since about 1888 are Hugh McNeill, Charles Dawson, Edward Diggle, H. W. Stevenson, and William Spiller. At one time McNeill, who is a left-handed player, was generally regarded as the ‘coming champion.’ He was the first to grasp something of the champion’s style, and certainly played the ‘top of the table game’ better than any of his contemporaries. Roberts had a very high opinion of him, and long ago said that he ‘would be a splendid player if he would only keep steady.’ A very severe illness unfortunately obliged the young Scotchman to give up playing for a long period. Dawson’s improvement was rapid, and well maintained for several seasons His form is generally very consistent, and would be even more so if he were less sensitive when luck seems to be against him.

Diggle is now generally regarded as one of the most promising of the younger men. He is by no means a pretty player, and does not appear to have the least idea of making a bridge Sometimes playing through his forefinger, sometimes between his first and second finger, and in various other extraordinary fashions; but, bridge or no bridge, he keeps on scoring.

Stevenson is by far the youngest of the professional players, being still under age at the time of writing, and there are great possibilities before him, for he has a beautiful delicate touch, strongly resembling William Cook in that respect. It has been amply proved during the season of 1895-6 that Spiller only needed the requisite public practice to make him a fine player, and, though he performs in somewhat loose and haphazard style, he continually runs up long breaks. Nor must I forget Charles Memmott, a remarkably game and capable performer, and equally good at the all-in or spot-barred game. J. P. Mannock is a player who would have come into prominent notice long ago had he appeared more in public.

The game is just now in a somewhat curious state. It was never so popular in clubs, and where there was one house possessing a private table a dozen years ago, there are now twenty; but the public support of billiards is fitful. There is no doubt that exhibition matches have been terribly overdone during the last few seasons, and some genuine battles are sadly needed to revive the fading interest in the doings of professional players. It may, I think, be taken for granted that the push stroke-which has been abused to such an extent that a big cannon break is only put together by means of a number of glaring fouls-is doomed. Probably, indeed, the table of the near future will have smaller pockets with the spot a little nearer to the top of the table than it is at present. There will then be no occasion to bar any fair stroke, for such gigantic breaks from the spot-stroke as have been made by Peall and Mitchell would be a sheer impossibility. The barring of any fair stroke makes the game a bastard one, and I feel certain that an alteration in the tables, such as I have indicated, would make billiards far more interesting to watch than it is at present, and would, therefore, prove of the greatest benefit to professional players.

SYDENHAM DIXON.

The history of the development of the modern game of billiards is scarcely complete without reference to the games between Roberts and Frank Ives, the American champion, because the capabilities of the cannon game, even on a table with pockets, were so conclusively shown. Since then, cannons have played a conspicuous part in most long spot-barred breaks; and although cushion nurseries, specially when very close, are so open to objection that some restriction is probable, yet it is certain that as pockets are made more difficult, cannons will become more important. Indeed, this would seem to lead ultimately to the adoption of the cannon game and the abandonment of pockets; a consummation to be regretted, for winning and losing hazards are attractive features in the English game.

In the summer of I 893 the champions met at Knightsbridge and played on a table with 3 1/2 in. pockets and with balls 2 1/4 in. in diameter. At first Roberts had the advantage, but afterwards Ives cornered the balls, making 1,267 cannons in a break of 2,539, and 402 cannons in a break of 852, and won with ease. At the end the game stood, Ives, 6,000; Roberts, 3,821.

Neither player could be expected to show his best form under the circumstances, for compromise in the matter of tables and balls cannot be satisfactory; but the power and control possessed by Ives were a revelation to most of our experts. Putting the great break on one side, he was easily able to run up very long scores by means of a series of cannons played almost perfectly, without the push stroke or suspicion of a foul, and with but slight recourse to the masse.

During December 1895 Eugene Carter, another American player, has been giving exhibitions at the Argyll Hall, and those who are capable of judging cannot fail to have realised from his performances how important the cannon is likely to be in the English game of the immediate future.

To the various professionals who have been mentioned the names should be added of Green, the veteran Scotch player, who has often performed very well in London, and whose game is sound, if old-fashioned; and of Lloyd, who won the first prize at the Association Tournament held in December, 1895, after a most determined struggle with Peall The games during this tournament were played spot and push strokes barred.

More detailed notice of John Roberts and his remarkable breaks (1) would have been made here were he not so frequently alluded to in other parts of the book, for the history of the modern game is mainly the history of his career and that of his father. The elder revolutionised the game by the cultivation of the spot stroke, whilst the younger has advanced its interests by virtually abandoning that mode of play. Each of them for long was without a rival on even terms, and the respect entertained for the play of the younger Roberts is, we trust, evident by the references elsewhere to his opinions and practice.

SINCE the beginning of 1896, when the foregoing pages were written, various events have happened which it is desirable to record in order to continue the history of the game to the commencement of the year 1906. The juniors of ten years ago have attained a higher position, younger people having taken their place; and the seniors, Roberts excepted, have more or less withdrawn from public play. Death too has been busy in the professional ranks: Sala, a good fighter and champion of Scotland; McNeill, a promising player and Sala’s successor; North, a dangerous opponent, better than his style indicated; Bennett, ex-champion, and a well-known teacher; Ives, a genius at his game, and at the top of his profession in America; Spiller, a charming player to watch, a master of close cannons; Carter, a prominent American player and great showman; are all gone. D. Richards, Peall, Tom Taylor, and other well-known names are now seldom seen in announcements of matches: but on the other hand some new names are to be found, notably, Harverson., Weiss, Aiken, champion of Scotland, and Inman; their doings will hereafter be mentioned.

(1) Roberts twice in 1894, during exhibition games, exceeded 1,000 in spot-barred breaks, making 1.017 and 1,392.

During the first years of the decade under review the chief attraction in the billiard world was undoubtedly to be found in the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, where Roberts was in the habit of playing other celebrities and manoeuvring the close finishes which delighted the public and produced a good gate. As shows the games were most attractive, and people cared little whether the stakes were real or fictitious. But he carried giving points to other players too far, specially perhaps in the great game with Peall from February 15 to 27, 1897, when he gave 12,000 out of 24,000. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ held the stakes and appointed the referee, and the game was an immense success; peers, Cabinet Ministers, MP’s and ladies were present in numbers, every available seat being taken throughout. Peall won by 310 points, and the representative of the ‘Daily Telegraph ‘ handed him a cheque for £1,000 on account of the stakes, but the gate was more than double that sum, and Roberts did not lose by the match.

But the younger players were improving, thanks in a great measure to the practice they had with Roberts, and it was not to be expected that all of them would continue to accept considerably more points than the difference in play warranted. Moreover there was going on at this time a controversy between Roberts and the Billiard Association, a body inclined to claim for itself more importance than the great player was disposed to concede, which was often distinctly amusing. Hard words were not spared, and the ability of the champion to give the customary large starts was questioned. This led to a challenge by Dawson to play Roberts 18,000 even for £200 and the whole of the receipts. After prolonged Correspondence Roberts accepted, half the game to be played in Argyll Street and half in the Egyptian Hall. The game lasted from March 20 to April 3, 1899, and both men played below their usual form; during the first week Dawson scored 8,721 to Roberts’  9,001, and at the end of the second week Roberts won by 1,814 points, thus maintaining his position as the best player, but clearly showing that the starts usually given at the exhibition games were excessive.

After this game Dawson was generally accepted as next best to Roberts, and rightly so, for in turn he defeated his adversaries and won the championship promoted by the Billiard Association. In January 1900 he played what is believed to have been a genuine money match with William Mitchell, giving that redoubtable antagonist 1,000 in 18,000, and winning with a very fine unfinished break of 421 by no less than 1,931 points.

In April Stevenson, having defeated Diggle by 2,900 in a game of 9,000, played Dawson for his championship, but lost by 2,225 points.

Meanwhile Roberts went on a tour to Australia, where he met Weiss, a slow, steady, but undoubtedly fine player, who, having defeated Memmott, had become champion of Australia; Roberts gave 4,000 in 14,000 and won by 451, Weiss’ best break being 2 I 5. They played again before long, Weiss receiving 7,000 in 21,000 and winning by 891; of his play the ‘ Sydney Referee’ remarked:-‘He plugged away solidly and safely until the winning stroke was made, and then walked away as unconcernedly as if he was accustomed to beating the billiard champion of the world every day in the week. Those familiar with the winner’s play will recognise the fidelity of this description.

In London, towards the end of 1900, Inman’s play attracted attention. His style was ungainly and unfinished, but he was a careful player, never giving away a chance and cramping his opponent when nothing better could be done; he had plenty of confidence and has won many hard-fought games. Kerkau, too, a German player of remarkable skill, credited with a break of 3,843 cannons on a 10-ft. table, visited us about this time. He is to Germany what Ives was

to America, and, if we are not mistaken, he has since then exceeded that great break

Early in January 1901 Stevenson defeated Dawson for the championship in spite of a fine break by the latter of 534; but in April Dawson had his revenge, making the usual 9,000 to Stevenson’s 5,796, thus winning by 3,204 points. The always interesting contests between Dawson and Diggle were continued. In the early days the men were wonderfully equal, and then for a time Diggle seemed to be unquestionably the next best player to Roberts, with whom he had much practice, both in London and elsewhere; but latterly Dawson forged ahead and found himself able to give his rival a substantial start. Thus he gave 3,000 in 21,000 in January and won by 581; but this implies no deterioration in Diggle’s play, for about the same time, playing with Reece, he made a break of 510, and in March another of 457. The fact is that his game suffered more than that of many other players by the abandonment of the push stroke, and will take longer to recover the effects of that change.

The season 1900-1 was rather a poor one as regards billiards; of the best players probably Stevenson was making most progress. As he got older he gained confidence and began to believe that he was at least Dawson’s equal, and that in a contest luck would turn the scale.

Next season (1901-2) this was tested. Three matches of 18,000 each, level, were arranged; Stevenson won the first at the Argyll Hall, with Reece as referee, by 3,806 points. This considerable margin was mainly the result of remarkable play during a few days when Stevenson practically monopolised the table and established a lead of 3,374 points. The second match was played at Manchester, and at first it looked as if a similar result was to follow, for half-way Stevenson led by nearly 1,000; but Dawson’s courage and ability turned the scale and he won a well-deserved victory by 910 points. The third match was played in the Argyll Hall, and after a well contested game Dawson won by 1,169 points, thus securing the rubber. The result, however, did not affect Stevenson as holding the championship promoted by the Association, a position he had acquired because Dawson declined to play on the date fixed by that body. But it had the comical result of the champion being defeated on even terms and still retaining the title – rather anomalous surely.

These were the most important matches of the season, but there were others genuine and interesting, among which one between Harverson and Inman, won by the former after a very close contest with the excellent break of 225 unfinished, was an admirable performance. T. Aiken also distinguished himself in a match with T. Rae of 18,000 for the championship of Scotland; he won this in hollow fashion by 8,135 points, making eighteen breaks over 100, his best being 245. He also easily defeated Stevenson, who gave him 6,000 out of 18,000 by over 2,000, and took good places in handicaps in London and Manchester.

Of the season 1902-3 little need be recorded. Harverson again defeated Inman by 1,447 points in an even game of 16,000; Dawson beat Stevenson for the championship after a great fight: he started badly but caught Stevenson, who, despite a break of 417-a most commendable effort on the last day-lost the game by 300 points. Dawson, Stevenson and Diggle were the best players in the absence of Roberts, and probably in the order named, whilst Harverson, Inman and Aiken had materially improved.

The season 1903-4 was opened, so far as notable games are concerned, by Dawson and Diggle; the latter received 1,000 in 18,000 and lost by 626. A game, interesting chiefly because Crystalate balls were used, was played by Harverson and Bateman. Both made good breaks, which are, perhaps, the best testimony the balls can have; Harverson made fourteen over 100 each, Bateman also making 210, 201, &c. A tournament which included pyramids was played, the performers being Dawson, Diggle, Mitchell, Harverson, Peall, Reece, Inman, Cook, Osborne, and Mack. Osborne, who received 150, tied with Harverson, who received 100 in 500, for the billiards; in playing off, the former won. Dawson won the pyramids; Reece, Harverson, and Osborne coming next. Inman maintained his character as a hard fighter; he defeated Harverson, who gave 1,000 in 16,000, by 735 points, and not long after beat Reece by 1,595 in a game of the same length on even terms. Towards the end of the season Dawson and Stevenson played another set of test-matches at Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Glasgow. Stevenson won the first by 1,884 points; the second game, remarkable for large breaks, notably one of 788 points by Stevenson, was won by Dawson with a margin of 870; the third, a close game, during which Stevenson led till near the end, was secured by Dawson, who, making a break of 398 on the last afternoon, won by 743 points.

Roberts returned from his tour and resumed play early in 1904-5. He had not, it is believed, shown remarkable form whilst away, and certain writers in the sporting press, considering the improvement of the younger men and the deterioration of play due to increasing age, eagerly discounted his performances. These at first were disappointing to his admirers, for he completely failed to give Aiken 3,000 in 9,000, losing the game by 2,250 points; he also lost a game to Reece, but played better than with Aiken; and soon after, giving Harverson 2,250 in 9,000 at Manchester, he won by 567. No doubt the change from Indian and Colonial tables and surroundings, and the long want of play with professional antagonists, told against him at first, for he has since shown improved form, at times recalling his best play of former years; witness his break of 821, and an unfinished 433 made in Glasgow when playing with Duncan in January 1905.

This state of affairs, and the certainty of large receipts, led to an arrangement whereby Dawson and Stevenson should compete, the winner to meet Roberts and receive 2,000 points n 18,000. Meanwhile Roberts got the practice he required; he lost, however, two games of 18,000 to Inman, to whom he gave 5,500 start, and one of the same length to Aiken, in which he gave 5,000 points.

During the season a tournament on the American system, managed by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, was in progress; the firm gave liberal prizes and the games were keenly contested. These tournaments are specially interesting not merely because spectators may see a variety of games played by carefully-selected men, but also because the handicap affords a reasonable guide to the relative merits of the players as they were estimated at the time. Thus the entries were Dawson and Stevenson, scratch; Harverson received 2,250; Bateman 2,500; Inman, Reece, and Cook 2,750 each in games of 9,000. Stevenson won his game with Dawson by 1,169 points, and Harverson, beating Inman, gained the first prize. Two more games were played by Stevenson and Dawson, each winning one by a somewhat similar proportion of points. Thus the rivals were still fairly close in merit, though of the two Stevenson had shown greater signs of improvement; he won the game which entitled him to meet Roberts by I,690 points with an average of 38.56 against Dawson’s 35.09. The game with Roberts was unquestionably important because of the large receipts sure to be forthcoming. It was played at the Caxton Hall, Westminster, the management being in the capable hands of Mr. Courtney, and was commenced on May 22, 1905. Stevenson received 2,000 in 18,000, and began well, carrying all before him for three days; but on the fourth there came a marvellous change. During the afternoon Roberts scored 1,291 to his opponent’s 434, and in the evening 876 to 516, and by the end of the week the scores were: Stevenson (received 2,000), 9,767; Roberts, 9,000. During the second week Roberts gained the lead, but he soon lost it and eventually the match by 1,520 points. His average throughout the game was 29-66, Stevenson’s being 2867. The match, save from a financial aspect, was far from satisfactory; it was played too late in the season and the heat was excessive. The conduct of some of the spectators was undoubtedly reprehensible, for in the earlier part of the game they permitted a justifiable sympathy with the old favourite to outrun the bounds of propriety and of fair play due to his antagonist. This led to something like organised applause for Stevenson in the latter stages. Everything of that kind should be discouraged and no match of importance should ever be played in hot weather or in over-heated rooms; the players cannot do themselves justice, some men of course suffering more than others, and for spectators a crowded and overheated hall is not an ideal place for spending a summer afternoon or night.

The season 1905-6 is in full swing whilst these notes are being written. If the previous one ended late, this one began early, most of the professionals having got to work in September.

A tournament was commenced in October at Messrs. Burroughes & Watts’ room, Soho Square, in which the players are: Roberts, scratch; Diggle receives 1,250; Mitchell, 1,750; Harverson, 2,000; Weiss, 2,000; Reece, 2,500; Inman, 2,500; and T. Aiken, 2,500. So far the games have been interesting to watch and Inman has again shown his skill and caution; he is a greatly improved player. Diggle too has played magnificently though not consistently; his break of 427 in the game with Roberts was a marvel of accuracy. A great contrast to a most meritorious 326 previously made by Roberts; for the younger player performed with mechanical precision, the same strokes recurring over and over again, made the same way with the same strength and the same result. Whereas Roberts “more suo” was soon more or less in difficulties, from which as of old he extracted himself by marvellous strokes to the unbounded delight of the spectators, who deservedly applauded both men.

Aiken also has played well; in fact so far all have done so, though it has been found necessary to substitute Cook, a son of William Cook, ex-champion, for Mitchell. Cook is a graceful player who has made a speciality of nursery cannons. –

Another feature, besides tournaments, in this season is the number of youthful prodigies who are advertised; some are not so very young, and no doubt in the future more will he heard of the survivors.

To attempt to place the players who are before the public at the beginning of 1906 in order of merit, would be a task as difficult as it would be unpleasing and unprofitable; but in a general way it may be said that Roberts still commands greater receipts at a match or exhibition than any other player. He is an excellent showman and a great favourite of the public. His game too stands by itself, and appeals far more strongly to the average amateur than the more deadly and more mechanical scoring of Dawson, Diggle, or Stevenson. These three stand at the head of their profession, if we place Roberts on the retired list, which is reasonable as far as warfare is concerned, though for exhibition purposes we hope to see him for many a day and often. They are closely followed by Weiss, Harverson, Inman, Aiken, Reece, Bateman, Cook, and others. It is unnecessary to say more. Every season brings changes, some players deteriorate or die; others improve; and again, recruits enter the ranks yearly. Manufacture of tables and implements has to keep pace with play, for players owe much to good materials.

The question of a suitable hall for important matches has not yet been settled; it should be large and capable of being comfortably fitted for its patrons. For tournaments and exhibition games the rooms at Burroughes & Watts, Soho Square, at Thurston’s, Leicester Square, and presumably (for we have not yet seen it) at Cox & Yeaman’s, Brompton Road, are probably sufficient.

December 1905.

Billiards for Everybody (extracts from the 7th edition, c.1923)

by Charles Roberts

Page 67

JOHN ROBERTS, SENIOR, THE FATHER OF BILLIARDS (CHAMPION 1849-70)

John Roberts Senior

What a debt of gratitude billiard players or all ranks owe to the subject of this sketch, who raised the game of billiards from a pastime devoted to the select upper classes to its present popularity, giving pleasure and amusement to hundreds of thousands of the younger generation. At an early age leaving home to make his way in the world to the time of his defeat by his own pupil and best friend, Mr. Cook, at St. James’ Hall, in 1870, the life of John Roberts, sen., is an object lesson of what can be done by dauntless perseverance and natural talent at any game. He knew nothing of billiards when he started out at eleven years old, but by steady and constant practice, allied to firm determination, he managed to become Champion of England, and to held that proud position for twenty-one years.

After having seen all the great players of the present day, I am firmly convinced that, all conditions equal, he was as great as the best of them without any exception. It must be remembered in making this remark that billiard tables in those days were very

Page 68

different from the present. Low cushions were unknown, and I certainly think the pockets were more difficult.

 

Page 69

Again, where our present Champions play twice daily seven months of the year, the Champion of 1860 played at the most about twice a week, and then always conceding from 300 to 350 start in 1,000 up. As a matter of fact he was as far in front of his contemporaries as the present John Roberts was in 1890, and may truthfully be said never to have been extended for twenty years. His power of cue was simply marvellous, and I have never seen any present day player who could hit a ball like him. Amongst some of his supporters and patrons at the subscription rooms, Old Saville House, where the Empire Theatre now is, were Lord Drumlanrigg, Squire Obeldestone, Mr. Geo. Payne, Admiral Rous, and many others of the old school of sportsmen. He made heaps of money there, and, it may also be observed, lent, or rather gave, a greater portion of it away. No man about town ever wanted money from him without getting it, and, although presumably lent; it is to be feared he never saw a good portion of it back. As an instance of a special feat of endurance at billiards, he is reported to have played off and on for six nights without going to bed. No mean performance this, considering he had to play his best to please his patrons. Berger, the then celebrated French cannon and trick player, was engaged to play a week with Roberts at Saville House, and the engagement proved most remunerative, a guinea being charged for admission. Many and true are the tales known of his

Page 70

generosity-people of those days would probably call it foolishness. Here is one I can vouch for. He lent £500 to start a certain firm of billiard table makers who still flourish greatly. When he visited Australia his quaint and independent manner just suited the free-hearted colonists, and he left there the idol of the billiard public.

He often played before the miners in those days, who could then well afford to pay their guinea for admission.

With his unlucky defeat by his pupil, W. Cook, commenced the reverses of fortune. I say unlucky advisedly, as in the first place, for some reason or other, the game was made 1,200 instead of 1,000 up. At 1,000 the Old Champion led by 1 point. Secondly, I have been told that in the last two hundred Cook had the most extraordinary luck, actually making several flukes in his last break.

The papers of the period in their reports say so, and there does not seem to be much doubt about it. Roberts’s behaviour after the match was characteristic of the man, and in my humble opinion was heroic. Immediately Cook made the winning stroke, and with the undoubted loss of thousand of pounds and his independence facing him, the brave old Champion stepped quickly up to his young opponent, and, warmly taking him by the hand, congratulated him on his victory. There was a deep silence for a minute at this almost unexampled piece of generosity, and then

Page 71

the pent-up feelings of the huge and aristocratic audience testified their approval in thunders of applause and shouts of ” Bravo, Roberts,” ” English pluck,” ” A true Englishman,” etc.

Thus ended the greatest contest for the championship of billiards of that day, graced by the presence of Royalty-supported by the best blue blood of England. The attendance numbered upwards of 1,000, and the receipts reached nearly £1,200.

Things were none too bright for some time after this, although his son quickly avenged his father’s defeat. The old Champion played exhibition matches with Cook several times after this, finally returning to Manchester, where he resided many years. On the supposition that he had lost his form entirely, he was handicapped to receive points in an American Tournament promoted by John Bowles, of Manchester, at Moss Side. Amongst the players, if memory serves me, were A. Bennett, the Champion of the Midlands, Timbrell of Liverpool, and the celebrated Billy Moss, of Manchester.

The old Champion won every game, and of course the first prize, and it was my opinion that he could have won on scratch. A remarkable instance of his iron nerve, which his eldest son inherits, was given in his bout with Moss. Moss wanted 27 to win with the cue object balls over the middle pockets, and Roberts wanted about 80. The game, owing to the late hour, had to be postponed to the following day,

Page 72

and there was a good deal of betting on the result. Coming up to play the next day, I said to Roberts, “Moss is sure to get this 27 with the balls in this position.”

” He may not,” said Roberts, ” and if he does not I have a chance.”

Moss, who was possibly nervous, did not get them. I think he made about 15, and, breaking down, the old Champion sent up 50, winding up with a safety miss.

A duel of generalship followed, but the latter was a past master at this business, and with a little unfinished break just won a game in which the odds were 50 to 1 against him.

In Cassell’s Saturday papers I noticed some few years back an anecdote describing his playing with an umbrella. I never saw him use an umbrella, but I well remember a walking stick he used to play with. There was nothing at the end of it. It was simply smooth and flat and filed level. His performances with this article were simply marvellous. He could screw, twist and put side on a ball in a wonderful manner, and it took a very good player in those days to beat Roberts with his walking stick. I have seen him make fifty with it several times, and this was considered a really good break then. The veteran and his curious cue soon became famous in Cottonopolis billiard rooms, and there was always plenty of fun when he asked people how many they would give

Page 73

him-he, of course, playing with the walking stick. Those who had been through the ordeal discreetly remained silent, whilst their friends followed suit to their amusement. It did seem rather absurd for an old gentleman to suddenly lift the stick he had walked into the room with and challenge people to play him billiards with it, and it took a really good amateur to beat him.

Returning to London in 1879, the old Champion gave his last great performance, and for ever silenced the class of people who always worship the rising sun, and averred he had no chance against younger competitors.

In a handicap promoted by the Royal Aquarium Company the bright particular star proved to be the Yorkshire cueist Billy Mitchell, who was drawing all London to see him play the spot stroke. Mitchell’s supporters had taken £100 to £1 he won every heat, and this he accomplished up to the time of his meeting John Roberts. A tremendous house witnessed this concluding heat, myself amongst the number. The subject of our sketch received 125 start, I think, whilst Mitchell figured was scratch. The latter was at work at once, and reached 350 to the veteran’s 250. From this point to the end of the heat Mitchell never scored again, and the old Champion, tackling the spot in the most superb and confident manner, went out in about three breaks. The delight and astonishment of the spectators no pen can describe. Old gentle-

Page 74

men, wild with enthusiasm at their old favourite showing them his best form, threw their hats in the air, and the cheering lasted long and loud for over five minutes, the veteran bowing in his own peculiar manner. Amongst the audience were G. Ulyett and T. Emmett, the celebrated Yorkshire cricketers of that day, and they warmly congratulated the winner, and also begged him to accept a substantial present.

Mitchell finished first and John Roberts second and what a second! It would have done the cold-hearted audience of today good to have been there. It is very hard to think, but such was the case, and the truth shall be told, that the latter and declining days of this most generous man, whose great fault was that he only valued money for the good he could do others with it, were not spent in luxury or even a modest competence. No, although he had never said nay to the best friend, or even an enemy, with his decaying powers he was soon forgotten, and billiard firms, whom he had helped to raise to affluence, hardly took the trouble to send a wreath of flowers to his funeral. Truly may he have said to himself, “And this is fame !” Is it not Lord Lytton who remarks in one of his novels that a good-hearted may is a fool? It is so, possibly; but there are some noble natures who are the salt of the earth and who cannot help their generosity. Can it be said of them ?

A stroke of paralysis heralded the approach of death, and the most popular billiardist of his day died

Page 75

on March 27, 1893. Three balls over his tombstone at the City of London Cemetery, Ilford, are significant of the game he so passionately loved, and I must conclude with the hope that this poor tribute to his worth will perpetuate the memory of one of England’s greatest billiard champions.

Introduction

Advances in the game of billiards and the equipment used to play the game occurred very much in parallel. This brief history is intended to chronicle the links between the two and give an appreciation of some of the difficulties encountered by early players.

1600

Although there are many theories about the origin of billiards, the only indisputable fact is that virtually nothing is known for certain about the game before the 17th century. The earliest detailed account comes in “The Compleat Gamester” by Charles Cotton in 1674. In this book Cotton says that billiards was being played throughout Europe and was especially popular in England where there were few towns without public tables. A diagram in this book shows an oblong table with six pockets, being essentially the same proportions as modern tables, although probably smaller in size.

The Mace was quickly discarded after the introduction of the leather tip.

In the 17th century the game of billiards was very different to the modern game, being played with only two balls which were pushed along the table by a “Mace” (also known as a “mast”) By the end of the 17th century, balls were generally made from ivory which had largely replaced the wooden balls previously used. An ivory arch, called a “port” was positioned on the table at the pyramid spot and an ivory peg called a “king” on a corresponding spot at the other end of the table. The main purpose of the game was to pot the opponent’s ball and keep your own out of the pocket, which became a “hazard”. Additional scores or forfeits associated with passing through the arch or hitting the “king”. A game consisted of 5 up by daylight, or 3 up by candlelight.

The game was initially played on a bare wooden board, with cloth covering for tables beginning to appear from around 1660.

1700

By 1734 the 5th edition of Cotton’s book records that the “port” and “king” were no longer in use and that cues were being used in addition to the mace.

In 1775, a publication called Hoyle’s Games, makes reference to the introduction of a red ball to a version of the game played in Continental Europe. This was called Carambole, with the red being the “carom”. This was later corrupted to the modern term “cannon”. The game was played with the red placed on the Pyramid spot. The players led from the baulk spot and it was not permitted to play back into baulk, as with the present rules. Both red and white balls were re-spotted when potted, but a player did not continue after making a score, so the concept of making a “break” was unknown at this time. The introduction of the red ball is credited by Hoyle as coming from France where they also played on a table with six pockets. The French eventually discarded pockets in favour of the cannon game in the late 19th century.

 

1800

The red ball started to become popular in the English game shortly before the start of the 19th century and by 1810 the three ball game had superseded the other variations in England, to the extent that it was regarded as the “common game” of billiards. In the English game, pocketing the opponent’s ball was known as a “winning hazard” and as a player lost points by pocketing his own ball, this was termed the “losing hazard”. The game later developed into a version which was exactly opposite to the “winning” game, where only losing hazards and cannons were counted. By this time a player could follow a successful shot with another attempt and “breaks” began to be recorded. The two variations of billiards combined in the early part of the 19th century, becoming the basis for the modern game and this version was known for a long time as “the winning and losing game”.

The early part of the 19th century also saw the development of billiards in America, initially along similar lines to the English game. Although while the English were adopting the three ball game, the Americans were developing a version of the cannon game which used four balls. This type of game was popular in America for most of the century.

Wooden bed tables were of a much lighter construction than modern tables.

At the turn of the 19th century, billiard tables usually had solid wood beds generally made from oak, about 1″ thick and in three pieces. However, examples of marble and parquet oak beds were also known. The wooden tables were of a much lighter construction than their modern counterparts, having more the appearance of a dining table with slim elegant lines. This was not really surprising as billiard tables at this time were made by cabinet-makers, who used the materials and styles known to them from furniture manufacture.

The cushions were stuffed with various materials, the most common of which was List, a waste product of cotton manufacture. Also used were horse hair, cotton, and felt. All these substances produced a hard pad, like the arm of a stuffed chair. Due to the slowness of these cushions, one of the principal scoring stokes was the jenny into the middle pocket, which could be repeated with relative ease into the same pocket. The game at this time was usually 21 up.

Table lighting was usually by natural daylight. In the evening oil lamps would be used, suspended above the table. As these lamps would invariably cast a shadow on the table, visibility could not have been very good. One type of oil in common use well into the 20th century was Colza Oil, which was made from the seed of a wild cabbage.

The woollen cloth used to cover billiard tables at the turn of the 19th century was of a course commercial grade of the type used for clothing. Spots were generally marked on the table by hammering brass nails into the bed.

By 1800, ivory balls had already been in use for about 100 years and would be the only type of ball used for English championship matches throughout the 19th century. The best balls were made from African ivory which was considered to be of more even density than Indian ivory. Inconsistent density meant that a weight difference could occur even between a set of balls cut from the same tusk. This was considered so significant that balls were usually weighed before the start of an important match, this criteria being considered more important than the size, which could therefore vary within a “matched” set of balls. As with any tooth, the elephant tusk had a nerve which ran through its centre. This resulted in a hole which could be quite significant in balls cut from near the base of a tusk. Because of this, only the small tusks of female elephants were considered suitable. Holes created by the nerve would usually be plugged with ebony and become the “spot”. Due to the general inconsistency of the spot ball and the tendency for it to “kick” when the ebony contacted the ivory of the object ball, it was considered to be a disadvantage to play with it. In addition to these problems, the porous ivory could also change shape during the course of a game as it absorbed moisture from a humid atmosphere. It was therefore common to see players when shooting from the baulk, carefully placing their ball so that the “poles” of the central nerve were exactly horizontal. This would minimise the effects of any distortion.

The cue, which had totally superseded the mace in the billiard rooms of France, Germany and Italy eventually started to gain popularity in England around the turn of the century. The development of the cue had occurred in continental Europe, with England being virtually the last billiard playing nation to abandon the mace. The first stage in its development was the use of the thin handle of the mace to strike balls near the cushion and from this, specifically designed cues were developed for the playing of all types of shot. These had plain wooden ends which were square cut and would therefore allow only central striking of the cue ball if a miscue was to be avoided. Most billiard room proprietors would only allow the use of cues by the best players, as the likelihood of a miscue and consequential damage to the cloth was great with an inexperienced player.

The first step in enabling players to strike other than the centre of the cue ball came with the invention of the “Jeffery”. This cue was cut obliquely at the point and enabled a player to strike the ball below the centre. Next to be introduced was a slightly rounded tip which helped to avoid a miscue if the player was slightly inaccurate with his centre ball striking.

It is generally accepted that the leather tip was invented by a French cavalry officer Msr. Mingaud in 1807 during a period of imprisonment for his political views. However, it is also claimed in America that W. Lake, the son of a shoemaker, also made the invention at around the same period. Whatever the source, this simple development enabled the evolution of the modern game as perhaps no other single factor.

 

1810

Tools of the trade in 1818. Mace (top), balls of various sizes, a cue and a wooden bed billiard table.

White records in his book A Practical Treatise on the Game of Billiards, that the cue was the most widely used implement and is preferred by all the best players. The form of the cue was much the same as it is today except that it was generally lighter, being made from a single piece of wood.

 

1820

The mace was rarely seen after 1820, except for use by lady players on private tables. However the end of the cue was still deliberately shaped to be used in the manner of a mace, for the convenience of playing shots which were otherwise out of reach. Another variation was a “cue butt” (or quarter butt) which was the same style as a cue, but rather longer and much heavier. It was “tipped” with a leather pad and used in playing up the table to double onto balls in baulk. This implement was very good for ensuring that no unintentional side would be imparted to the cue ball. The “half-butt” was a six-foot version of the “cue-butt” and for those really distant shots, an even longer implement was used, imaginatively called the “long-butt”. All of these aids would be seen, together with cues, in any billiard room throughout the 19th century.

Rests were commonly available for billiards, although the “butt” was more commonly used. The rest came into its own during games of pyramids and pool where the number of balls on the table could cover the approach of a butt stroke. The “cross” headed rest was the most popular design, but grooved heads were also common.

Long before the advent of the leather tip, chalk had been well-known amongst the better players as an aid to preventing miscues. However, when the two were combined, the effects of applying “side” to the cue-ball began to be appreciated by all levels of players. In 1828, Thurston’s started to supply coloured chalk (blue). Prior to this, white chalk was the only type used, and indeed was still was universally used throughout the 19th century.

It is easy to imagine that the two-piece cue is a relatively modern invention, but as far back as 1829 these were being supplied by Thurston’s.

 

1830

In 1830, Thurston’s introduced a 2″ billiard ball which began to replace the smaller 1 7/8″ balls then in use.

By this time, cues, which had previously been made from a single piece of wood (usually Ash) began to appear spliced with a decorative wood at the butt. The style rapidly became fashionable amongst the members of London clubs. These were generally heavier woods, although Thurston record the manufacture of an Ash cue with a bamboo butt in 1832. Around the same time, superior cue cases made from polished mahogany, designed to hold two or more cues, were also being made to order.

In 1833 we find the first record of the use of lead in the butt of a cue to increase the weight. Even so, most cues would be between 14 – 16 oz. Very light by today’s standards.

In 1835 Thurston’s managed to sell their first slate-bed table, having begun experimenting with the material some eight years earlier. The slate was between 7/8″ to 1″ thick, which was based on the thickness of the wooden beds at that time. Thurston’s were not the first to have tried a slate bed table. They had originally been introduced in Dublin, but they “soon fell into disrepute” and the venture failed.

Warming pans, filled with hot water, were required for early rubber cushions.

Thurston’s were the first English billiard table manufacturer to introduce rubber cushions. Their first sale being to the officer’s mess of the 42nd Royal Hussars in Corfu on 16th May 1835. These were fitted as a modification to an existing table. However, like slate beds, rubber cushions were not new concept. There is reference to them having been tried in Belgium, but were considered unsuccessful due to them hardening in cold weather. That particular problem stems from the use of pure natural rubber. It’s advantage was that it provided great speed under ideal conditions, a ball which had previously travelled four lengths of the table when fully struck, would now travel six or seven lengths. The ball also rebounded at a truer angle. Natural rubber however, had one significant drawback – it would go hard as he temperature dropped and had to be heated before play was possible. By 1838 Thurston’s had addressed this problem by developing specially shaped warming pans which could be filled with hot water. The first such set was supplied with a table erected in Windsor Castle for Queen Victoria on 16th October 1838. Prior to this the remedy had been the careful use of a hot iron, or to remove the cushions from the table and stand them by the fire to warm up.

 

Early strip-rubber cushion.

Early rubber cushions were made of laminated strips in an inverted “L” shape. This overhang ensured that the impact on the ball was above the centre and threw it down onto the table, so that it did not bounce off the bed, even when played with force.

In 1839 the problem with rubber hardening in cold temperatures was solved by an American inventor, Charles Goodyear, who produced rubber which was heat-treated with sulphur in a process which he called “Vulcanising”.

Even by 1839, leather cue tips were still not commercially available in England. The “Champion” of the day, Edwin Kentfield, advocated that the best tips should be cut from an “old harness or strap” with “soft sole leather or saddle flaps” also being an excellent source.

 

1840

By 1840 slate beds started to be produced in greater numbers, largely due to improvements in quarrying techniques which brought down prices. Prior to this only a few tables or individual slates had been sold in England.

On 6th September 1845, Thurston’s obtained a patent to apply the vulcanising process to the rubber cushions of billiard tables. The first set of such cushions was supplied to Queen Victoria and fitted to her table at Windsor Castle on 15th October 1845. However, the vulcanising process resulted in a much slower cushion and Thurston’s still had problems selling them to an unwilling public who had now become used to the speed of natural rubber.

 

1850

Around 1850 gas lighting generally began to replace oil lamps in the towns, but the country areas where it was not available, oil or paraffin lamps would remain for some years. Even with this new innovation, for the next twenty years daylight would still be considered to provide the best playing conditions. Private billiard rooms were recommended to be illuminated by means of a skylight to avoid shadows being cast by side lighting from windows”.

By this time cloth being produced was much finer, allowing the ball to take a truer course and travel more quickly. West of England cloth was generally regarded as the best.

Spots at this time were made from small circular pieces of black plaster which were firmly affixed to the cloth. These could cause the ball to jump and were not used for professional matches where the position of the spots were marked with chalk.

 

1860

By 1868 the thickness of slate beds had started to increase with Burroughes & Watts tables using slates between 1″ – 1½” thick and either four of five in number. Even so, problems were still being encountered with sag, and a distinct rumbling noise as the ball rolled across the surface. From this date slate beds began to be produced in thicker sections in an attempt to overcome these problems. High quality tables now began to have slates from 1½” – 2″ thick, and some examples of 2½” are known. As a direct result of the increased weight, the number of sections used was now always five. The increased weight of the slate also meant that a more substantial wooden structure was required to provide the support. The number of legs was now never less than eight, and for the 2½” slates these were of massive proportions. After much trial and error, an optimum thickness of 1¾” was eventually accepted as standard.

The first reference to gas lighting of a professional billiard match occurred in 1868. The invention of the gas “mantle” around this time improved illumination even further.

1868 also saw a major development in the game when American John Wesley Hyatt from New York, developed the composite billiard ball made from Cellulose Nitrate Camphor & ground animal bone. Hyatt’s formula was patented as “Celluloid” and was used for a wide range of products from piano keys to false teeth. This was the first “composition” billiard ball to go into commercial production and it was made by Hyatt’s company, the Albany Ball Co. The early formula was rather unstable and had an unfortunate tendency to create a mild explosion if struck too hard. The balls would also pick up dirt very easily and did not have the same elasticity of ivories.

With no common standard, the positioning of the spots on a billiard table was not an exact science with variations occurring from table to table. The position of the billiard spot was usually 12½” – 12¾” from the top cushion (currently 12¾”) and the “D” would be 9½” – 10″ in radius. (currently 11½”)

 

1870

With no single authority to control the development of the game, a wide variety of minor rule variations came to be applied in almost every public Billiard Room. This state of affairs may have been tolerable in the early part of the 19th century, but as the game grew in popularity the necessity for a common set of rules became overwhelming. The first pressures came from amateur players and with heavy wagers becoming common, individual disputes were referred to the sporting press. By the 1870’s, the Sportsman newspaper had become regarded as the main authority for settling these arguments. In some cases, a committee of leading professionals would be convened to respond to a dispute which involved a particularly heavy wager. Amongst the letters received by this newspaper came this, perhaps not too serious request for clarification of the rules of Pool :

“Sir – During a game an excitable friend of mine played out of turn, with the wrong ball, at the wrong ball, used the rest instead of his cue and at the same time made a foul by touching another ball with his arm. What ought to be done under these circumstances ?” The editor, probably suspecting the sincerity of the enquiry, responded “Have his head shaved and a strong poultice applied to the back of his head.”

By 1870 it was usual to appoint a Referee for important matches, by agreement between the players. The referee, often a leading player himself, would be the arbiter in the event of a dispute. He would be seated close to the table, near the spot end, not being required to take any part in proceedings unless called upon to do so. A Marker would be employed to watch the play, call the scores and post them on the scoreboard. In addition a boy would retrieve the balls and hand the rest to the players. At this time, the non-striker was responsible for claiming fouls made by his opponent, although this role eventually fell to the Marker.

There was no standard for the size of pocket openings on the billiard table, but by general consent, most tables were made with pockets 3 5/8″ wide at the fall for what became known as “ordinary” tables, although variations in most public rooms meant that pockets of 3½” and 3¼” were also commonly found.

The first specialist break-building stroke of any significance was the repeated potting of the red from the billiard spot. This was known as the “spot stroke”. By 1870 the leading players were making regular century breaks by this means and as a direct result, the first attempt was made to limit scoring at billiards. This was done by the introduction of the “championship” table which had the pocket openings reduced to 3″. This type of table was primarily used in professional championship matches, but also appeared in many billiard rooms, as a test for the patrons. This may also be the source of the common misconception that “billiard tables” have tighter pockets than “snooker tables”.

By this time the size of ball had increased to a nominal 2 1/16″ which is the current size of balls in use today. However, due to the need to turn ivories occasionally to restore their shape, an original set would usually be supplied 1/32″ oversize, by way of an allowance.

Cues were generally between 55″ and 59″ in length and 11oz.-17oz. in weight. Ash was still the most popular wood. The diameters of tips were most common in the range of 9-12 mm, although both smaller and larger tip diameters were known. Tips had been developed to protect the wood from impact damage and were now layered, with a hard base made from shoe leather topped with softer calf cheek. One calf’s head producing only enough leather to make 150 tips. The best tips were all imported from France. “Extensions” to the tip of the cue, made from ivory or horn were known in the last quarter of the 19th century. These were applied to help avoid the problem of a cue become gradually shorter due to regular re-tipping as they could be easily replaced after an unacceptable degree of wear had occurred.

In a bold innovation, Marsden & Saffley (Liverpool) started to manufacture tables with a cast iron frame and with beds of cast concrete the late 1870’s. They were reputedly the “fastest table on record”, but the venture failed after about 3 years, possibly due to the weight of the final construction.

 

1880

Until this time professional matches had generally been played over a single evening and were between 1,000 and 1,500 up. As the playing conditions improved, so did the proficiency of the top players with the spot-stroke. Now games began to be extended to make allowance for this ability. Billy Mitchell became the first player to achieve a 1,000 break in public whilst playing W. J. Peall in a match of 5,000 up at the Black Horse Hotel, Rathbone Place, on 5th October 1882. His break was 1,055 mainly made up from 350 consecutive spots.

W. J. Peall

In 1883 a fast table would travel six lengths. However, the vulcanised rubber cushions would still change their speed to some extent depending upon temperature, and would become noticeably faster after the gas table lighting had been turned on.

Around the mid-1880s the popularity of coloured chalk suddenly increased and became the innovation of the billiards world, although white chalk continued to be used by many players and public rooms.

In 1885 a group of professional players joined with representatives from the leading billiard table manufacturers to take over from the Sportsman newspaper and form the game’s first governing body. This was called the Billiards Association of Great Britain and Ireland, and its first act was to publish a common set of rules. Amongst these rules was one which specified that only the tip of the cue could be used to strike the ball. The mace had long been discarded, but this rule also spelt the end for the “butt” in public rooms. The Baulk line was also set at 29″ (current measurement) having previously been 28½”

On 5th November 1886, William Peall set a new milestone in the game by making a break of 2,413. The first player to exceed two thousand.

 

1890

By the 1890’s power distribution networks began to make electric lighting a possible alternative to gas. Electric light bulbs had been developed to a practical level of efficiency some 10 years earlier, but would remain too expensive for general use until mass-production techniques in the early 1930’s reduced the cost of bulbs. Because of the expense, where electric lighting appeared, it was common for only a single bulb to be used. The Billiards Year Book 1910 comments “Of all lights electric is the best. It is steady and bright and does not heat the room or foul the atmosphere. If gas is used with ordinary burners a ring of three jets to each light is preferable to a large single jet as it gives a steadier light. With incandescent burners only one jet is needed for each of the six lights.”

Over three full sessions, on 5th & 6th November 1890, William Peall exploited the spot-stroke to compile an incredible record break of 3,304 (total playing time 2 hrs. 40 min) at the Royal Aquarium, London, in a match of 15,000 up.

In 1892 the Billiard Association standardised the dimensions of a billiard table. Templates for pocket openings were introduced and standardised at 3½” which is the size currently in use today. [This dimension is often referenced as being 3 5/8″, but it was later discovered that this was an error due to incorrectly measuring the template]. This also meant the end for the “Championship Table” although this had rarely been used for professional matches for many years and had become widely regarded as a failed experiment.

Edward Diggle

By 1893 Hyatt had overcome the problems with the composition billiard ball and his new formula was marketed under the name of “Bonzoline”. The Bonzoline Manufacturing Co. Ltd was established in England to sell these balls. However, the reputation of his earlier attempt remained linked to the new ball and initially there was some resistance from the public. Although a source of major controversy at the time, in hindsight there was little doubt that the new ball was superior in all respects to ivory, having more accurate manufacturing tolerances and a consistent density which ensured true running. Although slightly heavier [c.5½oz.] than ivory [c.5oz.] they threw at a wider angle. Whilst the composition ball became increasingly popular at an amateur level, it failed to displace ivories in England as long as they were used by professionals and endorsed by the Billiard Association. This attitude from the hierarchy of the game persisted well into the 20th century when it was eventually overtaken by the groundswell of amateurs who had never played with ivories due to their scarcity and expense. In the colonies however (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India) the composition ball was used almost exclusively since their earliest introduction to those countries.

On 3rd January 1894 Edward Diggle set a record of 115 consecutive cannons in a match of 24,000 up against John Roberts up at the Egyptian Hall, London.

John Roberts Jnr.

In May 1894, John Roberts set a new record with the first ever break over 1,000 to be made without the aid of the spot-stroke (1,392). The match was played at the Gentleman’s Concert Hall, Manchester. Roberts was the only English professional who played consistently with composition balls, ivories being the first choice of all other players.

By this time most professional players were restricting the spot-stroke by applying their own rules. However, on 1st October 1898 the Billiard Association, for the first time, formalised a rule which was intended to restrict break-making. Following the lead of the professionals, they restricted the spot-stroke so that only two consecutive pots could be made from the billiard spot before the ball was placed on the centre. After this date, rule changes intended to stop big scoring became a common feature in the progress of the game.

Towards the end of the century, as a compromise to the composition ball, an attempt was made to manufacture a ball from ivory powder bound with camphor and shellac which was moulded under hydraulic pressure. This attempt did not prove successful and was discarded after a few years. Other attempt to make composition balls from various substances were also tried, but none matched the success of Hyatt’s Bonzoline ball.

 

1900

The upright stance was still normal in 1900.

The early style of play for billiards was developed from the use of the mace, which demanded an upright stance. This was continued to be recommended as the ideal stance for using the cue, right up to the turn of the century, and all the early players adopted this style. The low sighting adopted for modern day billiards seems to have been introduced through the amateur ranks from the turn of the century. However, low sighting along the cue was sufficiently uncommon in 1910 for one journalist to remark of the then Amateur Champion, Major Fleming, “he bends so low over the table as almost to touch his cue with his face.”

In 1900, George Birt, one of the three brothers who ran the Albany Ball Co. in America, came to England where he met Percy Warford-Davies and the following year they began to produce the “Crystalate” ball, in direct competition to Bonzoline. This was marketed in England by the Endolithic Co. Ltd. By the beginning of the 20th century most cues were still being made from Ash and the better ones were spliced with a heavier wood such as Ebony to form the butt. Unspliced cues were available for half the price of spliced cues, but were generally considered to be much inferior.

Thursday 8th November 1900 sees the first reference to the substitution of a yellow ball for the spot white in billiards. Prior to the commencement of a match involving W. J. Peall at the Agricultural Hall, Mr. George Brand, vice-president of the Billiard Association played one of the spectators with a new set of balls which comprised white, red and spot yellow. The experiment was reported in the Sportsman the following day and was generally received with favour. However, the change was considered too radical at the time and the idea was dropped.

An example of an oval table.

In 1905 there began a brief fashion for unusually shaped tables. Orme & Sons introduced an oval billiard table, while Thurston’s began to make Octagonal shaped tables.

1907 saw the brief reign of the “pendulum cannon” in English billiards. Skilfully bring the balls together near a pocket, where they would be retained in an “anchor” position, the professionals vied to see who could make the biggest break, and matches were specially arranged for this purpose. The “honour” went to Tom Reece who between 3rd June and 6th July 1907 made and incredible break of 499,135. In September of the same year the stroke was barred by the Billiard Association.

On 24th May 1909, John Roberts introduced the time limit match to professional billiards, playing for exactly two hours, afternoon and evening, over the 12 days of his match against William Cook Jnr; at the Lisle Street Saloon, London. This concept was regarded as something of a failure, and it took some years to become popular.

 

1910

George Gray

1910 saw the arrival in England of a young Australian called George Gray who came with a reputation for red ball play. He made his first 1,000 break within weeks of his arrival and continued with a further 22 beaks over 1,000 in the course of 31 matches during the 1910-11 season. In a beak of 1,340 in January 1911, he made a sequence of no less than 289 centre pocket in-offs before being compelled to play for the top pocket. The highest of his breaks was 2,196 unfinished against Cecil Harverson, made at the Holborn Hall, London. George Gray played exclusively with Crystalate balls during this period. After this, red-ball play would become the most popular method of break-building, especially amongst the amateur players.

In 1912 Albany and Endolithic came to an arrangement to jointly market each other’s balls with Bonzoline being made in America and Crystalate in Tunbridge, Kent. Although based on Hyatt’s formula, the Crystalate ball was still not as popular as Bonzoline.

As late as 1915 gas lighting was still being used for billiard tables, but by this time was considered “old fashioned” with electric lighting being found in all major towns and cities.

 

1920

By 1920 ivory billiard balls were practically unknown in all the large billiard halls and most of the clubs. This was essentially due to the spiralling cost which, at three guineas for a set, put them out of reach for ordinary players. When the Crystalate ball was endorsed by the Billiards Association for their Amateur championships in 1926, it led to it becoming the most popular make, overtaking Bonzoline and eventually replacing all others.

The best American chalks of this time were not made from chalk at all, but mainly Silica (Sand) bound with “Aloxite” and compressed under an hydraulic pressure of 15 tons. “Chalks” with essentially the same formula are still used today.

In 1923 Thurston’s introduced the “Janus” cotton billiard cloth. This became the standard surface for professional play until the War. Unlike a woollen cloth, it had no nap, so could be laid in either direction and even turned without affecting it’s characteristics. It was also claimed that the cloth could be taken off and washed.

The 1928-29 season saw the English professionals switch to playing exclusively with composition balls and although ivory balls continued to be made and used in private games, their days were numbered from this point.

In the late 1920’s the single light-shade over the billiard table was first introduced, being the inception of Mr. Geo. Skidmore of Wednesbury, an old cricketer and billiards lover.

In December 1929, Walter Lindrum made a break of 3,262 against Willie Smith at the Memorial Hall, Farrington Street, London, becoming the first person to pass the three-thousand mark since William Peall in 1890.

 

1930

The early 1930’s saw the first synthetic resin ball being sold in England by the Composition Billiard Ball Supply Co under the trade name of “Vitalite”. The “composition” balls available at that time were essentially made from powdered bone, (cow’s shinbone) bound together with cellulose nitrate. This new ball was one of the first to use a solid plastic resin. Other manufacturers of this type of ball in Germany and France, also began to import into the English market at this time. Initially unsuccessful, they were reintroduced towards the end of the decade.

In January 1932, Walter Lindrum made a record break of 4,137 in a match against Joe Davis at Thurston’s match room. Upon the completion of the break, Davis congratulated his great rival and immediately settled down to establish a further record by playing out the remainder of the time with a break of 1,131, which he carried to 1,247 in the evening.

In the News of the World Gold Cup Tournament in February 1933, Walter Lindrum scored a break of 1,041, which included 529 consecutive close cannons. The break involved nursing the balls 2¼ times around the table.

This period saw the highest standards ever achieved in English billiards, which may well have continued had not the War intervened. After this the professional game died out almost completely and the Age of the Amateur began. With many of the best cuemen now turning their attention to snooker perhaps we will never see performances like this again.

Advances in cloths, balls, cushions and accessories, have continued throughout the 20th century bringing us to the conditions we enjoy today. Hopefully, this brief chronicle will give a flavour of how the game has developed along with with the associated equipment and facilities, which we now take for granted.

Practical Billiards

by Charles Dawson (Champion) : 1904

COMPARATIVELY little is known of the origin of the game of billiards, it is stated to have been derived from so many different games that it is doubtful which authority is correct, as the following extracts by various writers will show:-

Who invented the game of billiards? It has been asserted that the inventor was William Kew, who first played the game in London about 1560; but it has been shown that in France the game was played in the time of Charles VII. (1462), and it is certainly mentioned in one of the poems of Clement Marot, who died in 1544. At first the game was played with two white balls only, the red ball being introduced in the time of Louis XIV.

Billiards was said to be a pawnbroker’s pastime, and that a gentleman in that financial profession, William Kew, invented the game of billiards about the beginning of the sixteenth century. During the wet he was in the habit of taking down the three balls, and with the yard measure pushing them, billiard fashion, into the stalls. In time, the idea of a board and side pockets suggested itself. “All the young men were greatly recreated thereat, chiefly the young clergymen from St. Paul’s. Hence one of the strokes was named a ‘cannon’, having been by one of the said clergymen invented. The game was first known by the name of ‘Bill-yard,’ because William or Bill Kew did first play with his yard measure. The stick was first called a ‘Kew or kue.'”It is easy to comprehend how “Bill-yard” has been modernised into “billiards”, and the transformation of “Kew” into “cue” is equally apparent. “Mark-her”, or “marker” arose from the duties of a sentinel, who had to look out for a certain wife, who objected to her husband’s absence and sought him out. Hence was called “mark-her”.

Another account of the origin of billiards has by some writers been attributed to Henrique De Vigne, a French artist, who, in the reign of Charles IX., about the year 1571, designed tables, and drew up the earliest code of rules. It was then played with small ivory balls, a “pass”, or “iron” being fixed on the cloth, through which, at set periods, they were driven. Amongst German, Italian, and Dutch games, the new amusements soon occupied a prominent place. Very few improvements in the method of playing were carried out until the seventeenth century, when six holes, or, as they were termed, “hazards”, cut in the bed, superseded the pass, and greater skill being necessary to effect a score, billiards speedily became the rage. On the Continent a thick stick or “cue” half an inch in diameter, and held between the forefinger and thumb, was employed for striking the balls; but the “mace,” although derided by foreigners, continued the acknowledged instrument in this country, and not a few of our best players showed great expertness in wielding it. About the year 1760 cues with perfectly flat points, sometimes of ivory, were introduced, but, as may be conceived, very little adroitness resulted. Five-and-twenty years later a second cue, cut obliquely at the small end, or rounded slightly on one side, was proposed, in order to enable players to hit the ball below the centre. It could only, however, be applied for making “cramp” strokes, and obtained the name-why, we are not aware of the “jellery”. Another alteration was adopted toward the close of the century, the point of the cue being bevelled all round, thus presenting a still broader surface. Leather “wads” did not follow until about 1806, when the virtues of chalk were also found out. Lastly came the French “tip” of the present day, than which no invention connected with the mechanique of the game has rendered more signal service.

During the period when the game was played with only two balls, there were but two styles of play. The sole object of each competitor was to pocket his opponent and keep his own ball on the table, but if it accidentally ran in, the score was marked against the striker, hence the term “losing hazard”. But by the other style of play both might be holed, and a total of four thus made. The former was designated the “white winning”, and the latter the “white losing game”, each twelve up.

After the introduction of the red ball, about 1795, the mode of government underwent many reforms, the score was lengthened to sixteen, then to twenty-four up; while, though restricted to alternate strokes at the outset, facilities were also given for rapid counting. The “carambole”, or cannon, became known for the first time; and of which seven, and at the other ten, points might be made by a single shot, speedily outrivalled the old-fashioned plan. A curious clause in the specified that “whosoever shall wilfully shake the table forfeits the game” leaving it to be inferred that tables then did not boast too much solidity.

About the year 1825, John Carr, a marker at the Upper Rooms at Bath, is given the credit of first making use of the “side twist” or “screw stroke” to anything like advantage. He was accredited the “father of the side stroke”, and artful vendor of the “twisting chalk”, to the not too wise looker-on, by which he made large sums of money by its sale. He astonished them by making 22 consecutive spot strokes in a game of 100 up, and then challenged all comers, which was accepted by Edwin Kentfield, of Brighton. But Carr, through his intemperate habits, fell ill and never met.

Kentfield, a model of his profession, then assumed the title of Champion, and to his suggestions is attributed that most of the improvements in billiard tables and accessories took place, which were so altered as to make a revolution in play. This he alludes to in the book on billiards entitled, “The Game of Billiards: Scientifically explained and Practically Set Forth in a Series of Novel and Extraordinary, but Equally Practical Strokes”, published in 1839. His highest break was 196 (57 consecutive strokes), which must at the time have been a great performance, no matter what size the pocket openings were, considering the circumstances under which it was made, for when Kentfield learned his game it must not be forgotten that the cushions were made of woollen list, and the bed of the table wood, covered with coarse green baize, also the implements of play were nothing like those used at the present time. At his Subscription Rooms at Brighton he is said to have first met and tried his strength with John Roberts, Senr., after which all efforts to get him to play Roberts proved fruitless. Kentfield in his later years was let down by circumstances quite beyond his own control, and died in 1873. He saw the commencement of the modern style, but not then had anyone made 1,000 in one innings off the balls, even with the aid of the spot stroke. Cook’s break of 936 up to that time being the nearest to four figures.

Until the year 1827 wood alone had been used in the making of tables, and English players were not a little surprised towards the close of that year to find it supplanted by slate, of which the beds have since been constructed. Greater accuracy, smoother running, and more weight, were consequently added on this improvement, the only drawback being slowness. Ten years later india-rubber displaced list for cushions, and although at the outset it met with steady opposition, in consequence of the deleterious effects of frost, the difficulty was soon remedied by the adoption of vulcanised rubber, which retains its elasticity in any climate.

John Roberts, Senr., who was born on June 15th, 1823, at Liverpool, assumed the premiership in 1849, and for nearly twenty years his claim to it was unchallenged. He was originally a marker at Oldham, but in 1845, when he was twenty-two years of age, he became manager of the billiards rooms at the Union Club, Manchester. Whilst there he devoted much of his time entirely to the practice of the “spot stroke”. He was in the habit of giving big starts to all comers, but his first match of importance took place on October 18th, 1850, with Starke, the American, to whom he conceded 100 start in a game of 1,000 up, and won by 221 points. His other matches of note resulted as follows:-On October he was defeated by Starke (who received 1,500 in 3,000) by 200 points. He conceded C. Hughes 300 points in 1,000 on April 10th, and won by 445 points, and again defeated the same player, conceding 375 points in 1,000, on December 13th, 1861, by 180 points. He was beaten by J. Smith, who received 400 start in 1,000, on May 17th, 1863. After this reverse Roberts gave W. Dufton 400 in 1,000 on January 14th, 1864, and bear; him by 211 points; the following day Roberts tried to concede Bowles 300 points in 1,000, but failed, the latter just winning after an exciting game. On January 19th, he was beaten by W. Moss, who received 500 in 1,000; he defeated C. Hughes. conceding 350 in 1,000, on March 5th, by 234 points; and on May 20th, 1864 he defeated W. Dufton, conceding 350 points in 1,000 by 291 points. His best breaks up to 1867 were 188 (55 spots) against Herst, at Glasgow in 1858; 240 (including 102 consecutive cannons) against Bowles, at Oxford, in 1861; 346 (104 consecutive spots) against W. Dufton at Saville House, Leicester Square, London, in March, 1862; and 256 (78 spots) at Huddersfield, in January, 1867. Up to 1870 the title of Billiard Champion had been assumed.

William Cook, who played his first game of importance with John Roberts, Junr., in 1868, was the next player to make the most marked progress, and when a year later-and twice in one week with the same player he beat the largest break that John Roberts, Senr., had ever made, it became evident that the elder Roberts would not be left much longer in undisturbed possession of the Championship. In the latter part of 1869 he issued a challenge, resulting in articles being signed between John Roberts, Senr., and William Cook, on January 12th, 1870, to play the first match at billiards for £200 and the Championship, Joseph Bennett being appointed referee. The three principal firms of table makers (Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, Cox and Yeman, and Thurston and Company) each gave £50 towards a cup to be held by the winner, who in addition received a medal, to become the absolute property of anyone retaining it for five years against all comers. Lots were drawn as to which firm were to supply the table, and fortune favoured Messrs. Cox and Yeman.

Most of the leading players of the day, including Cook and representatives of the billiard table firms interested, met to draw up rules to govern the Championship, and decided that a table with 3 inch pockets, and with the spot 12 1/2 inches from the top cushion instead of 13 1/4 inches, should be used, and that this rule remain in force for all matches for the Championship trophy, thus instituting the “Championship Table”. Cook’s strong point being the spot hazard, his chance of success was thought to be considerably lessened by this alteration, for it completely killed all spot-stroke play, though Cook did not appear to realise this at the time. In the report of the match, which was played in the large concert room at the St. James’s Hall, on February 11th, 1870, it states that Cook, upon the first occasion that he secured position for the spot stroke (at 40) was greeted with several rounds of applause, and on Cook breaking down after making five in succession, there was a general feeling of disappointment by the large gathering of spectators present, including the Prince of Wales and numerous members of the aristocracy, and both Houses of Parliament. Roberts is described as wearing a soft felt hat, chalking bets on the floor, chaffing his friends with a jaunty air, and taking things very easily. His appearance contrasted very much with that of Cook’s, whose extreme juvenility evidently took the uninitiated by surprise, but though he headed his youthful opponent (Cook was not then twenty-one years of age) in the last hundred but one, he was finally beaten by 117 points, the game not being over until nearly two o’clock in the morning.

After winning the Championship Cook showed great improvement in his play, making the record break or 512. including 167 spot strokes, in a game of 1,000 up at the Assembly Rooms, Seymour Hotel, Totnes, South Devon against W. D. Stanley on March 4th, 1870. He, however, lost the Championship to John Roberts, Junr.. on April 14th, 1870. After this defeat he seemed to realise the difference between the ordinary and the championship table, for he issued a challenge to give any player 200 in 2,000 on an ordinary sized pocket table (3 5/8) by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts for £50 a side, which was taken up by John Roberts Senr., and played at the St. James’s Hall, April 17th, 1871. Cook ran out a winner with an unfinished break of 268 (78 spot strokes)-Cook 2,000, Roberts 1,591. This was about the last match of importance John Roberts snr., played, although he played in several tournaments and occasionally public for some years after. He, however, lived to see his son, John Roberts, Junr. become Champion-and a long way above any other player for many years-and also win the Championship Cup outright that he first played for. He died March 27th, 1893, at his residence, 13, Alice Road, Romford Road, Forest Gate, London, after a protracted illness.

On November 28th, 1870, Joseph Bennett contested and won the cup beating John Roberts, Junr. Thus in 1870 four championship matches were played and we had four Champions, viz., John Roberts, Senr., W. Cook, John Roberts, Junr., and Joseph Bennett.

Cook continued to make record after record, and on January 14th 1871, against Joseph Bennett, at the St. James’s Hall, Regent Street, London, he made a break of 752 (182 spot strokes).

He also won the Championship on May 25th, 1871, which he held till the same month in 1875. It was during this time that we saw the best of Cook’s form. He surpassed all his former efforts on November 29th, 1872, by making a break of 936 (262 consecutive spots) at his rooms, 99, Regent Street, W., against Joseph Bennett. He first introduced the “spot barred” game in the first big handicap played at the Guildhall Tavern, Gresham Street, London, on March 16th, to March 2lst, 1874, which was won by S. W. Stanley. The promoters, Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, gave a billiard table for first prize, and it was through their liberality that handicaps and tournaments became so popular and brought new players to the front. In the report of the first day’s play, in describing the “spot barred” game, it states that “a player is only allowed to put down the red ball once off the spot, into either of the top pockets; if ball be put down a second time without a further score by the same stroke, no score was allowed, and his opponent follows on, the red being placed on the on the spot”. The handicap had been made “spot barred” so as to bring the players more together, because Cook was so much better than the others at the “all-in” game. He had previously won the first handicap “all-in” played at the same place in December, 1873, making a 428 break unfinished in 500 up against L. Kilkenny, who received 130 points, in the final game, so there is little doubt that he was in front of the others at this time. The heats as before were 500 up, Mr. Cambridge, handicapping the players as follows:-First Round.- F. T. Morris received 160, beat H. Evans received 140, by 4 points; L. Kilkenny received 140, beat Joseph Bennett scratch, by four points; A. Bennett received 140, beat D. Richards received 180 by 46 points; John Bennett received 180, beat J. Roberts, Junr., scratch, by 9 points; S. W. Stanley received 200, beat G. Collins received 150, by 157 points; J. Roberts, Senr., received 140, beat W. Dufton received 200, by 75 points; T. Taylor received 180, beat W. Cook scratch. by 141 points. Second Round.-Stanley 200, beat Morris 160, by 197; A. Bennett 140, beat John Bennett 180, by 54; Kilkenny 140, beat J. Roberts Senr., 140, by 90; Taylor 180, beat F. Bennett 140, by 69. Third Round.-Stanley 200, beat Kilkenny 140, by 6; Taylor 180, beat A. Bennett 140, by 104. Final Games (two out of three).-Stanley beat Taylor by 57 and 40 respectively. Stanley’s largest break in the final games was 5], and Taylor’s 63.

Before this handicap some discussion had taken place in various papers about doing away with the spot stroke, some thinking that large breaks would soon spoil the game; but as the games played were mostly 1,000 up, it was not uncommon for a player to be asked to continue his break if he had made a good score when game was called. Most of the large breaks were compiled in this way. In the same year a Frenchman (Mons. Adrian Izar) gave exhibitions around the country of thumb and one finger against cue with considerable success. He was credited with making 662 in nine minutes at Barrow-in-Furness, which proved to show that large breaks, however made, were then popular. This kind of game was afterwards taken up by Herbert Roberts, brother to John Roberts, Junr.

About this time matches of 1,000 up, for £100 and larger sums, plentiful, and keenly contested. One singular event is worth recording: The “Sportsman”, reporting on a match played between L. Kilkenny and G. Collins on February 11th, 1874, said, “On Wednesday last the above players essayed to play their match of 1,000 up for £100 at the White Rose Tavern, Castle Street, Leicester Square, London. The first decent break was made by Collins, who ran up 61, to which his opponent replied with 73, and presently, when the former had scored 88, the numbers were called, Collins 613, Kilkenny 452, and shortly afterwards 623-510. Eventually the Yorkshireman reached 951 to 939, when Collins ran up to 950, and the landlord put the gas out, leaving Kilkenny one point ahead. The following day the players met at our office, and each agreed to draw his stake, and arrange another match shortly”. This, however, was carried out; but why the landlord took this course is not easy to understand, unless he had some interest in the game.

In 1874 Cook sailed to America, and there played several matches. On his return he introduced the first handicap played on the principle (i.e., each man plays one game with every other player) in a tournament played at Joseph Bennett’s Rooms, 315, Oxford Street London, January 25th to February 1st, 1875, in which the following players took part:-W. Cook, Joseph Bennett, and John Roberts, Junr., scratch; T. Taylor, 100 points start; S. W. Stanley, 120; Timbrell, 140; Kilkenny and A. Bennett, 160. J. Roberts and A. Bennett tied for first prize, and playing off the heat 500 up, Roberts started with a 213 break and won by 140 points. Up to this period Cook had made the largest breaks on both the ordinary and championship tables, and was generally looked upon as the best player. He, however, lost the Championship to John Roberts, Junr., on May 24th, 1875, which marked the turning point of the careers of the two players, for although Cook again held the title he never won the Championship, but unsuccessfully tried on four occasions. In the same year T. Taylor and W. Cook played two matches of 1,000 up, for £100 a side each match. The latter conceded 200 points in the first game, winning by 474 points; and 300 in the second, winning this also by 97. Tournaments and handicaps once introduced had plenty of support, and were continually played up to 1885. In 1876 Tom Taylor heat F. Bennett on a championship table by 315 points, and several tournaments were played. The following year W. Cook defeated T. Taylor (conceding 300 points in 1,000), and T. Taylor defeated Joseph Bennett two matches on a championship table, each match for £100 a side, winning both by less than 30 points. J. Roberts gave Timbrell 300 points in 1,000 for £500 a side at the Gaiety Restaurant, and was defeated by 439 points.

Up to about this period W. Cook, John Roberts, Junr., and Joseph Bennett had always played on even terms, but on the return of Roberts from India he offered to give Bennett 200 points in 3,000 on a championship table for £100 a side, and a match was arranged and played May 23rd to May 26th, 1879. Roberts took the lead early in the game when Bennett’s score stood at 336, and from this point it was a close fight, each in turn taking the lead. At the finish of the first evening the scores stood: Roberts, 1,024; Bennett, 939. The second evening: Roberts, 1,987; Bennett, 1,971; and after fine all-round play and a great struggle Bennett was finally beaten by 20 points. The winner’s best break was 91, and Bennett in one break made 14 spot strokes, and followed this with a break 112.

In November of the same year William Mitchell made his first appearance in London, winning an American tournament at the Royal Aquarium. He received 120 points start in heats of 500 up, winning 6 games and losing 1, the following players taking part:-J. Roberts, Senr., (160 start), won 5, lost 2; Joseph Bennett (scratch) and D. Richards (110 start) each won 4, lost 3; G. Collins (60 start) won 3, lost 4; F. Bennett (60 start), G. Hunt (110 start), and J. Lloyd (120 start), each won 2, lost 5.

The following month (December 16th, 1879) Mitchell made his first big break of 522 unfinished (171 spots) at the Royal Aquarium, against Joseph Bennett, in a game of 1,000 up; and with the absence of Cook, Roberts, Junr., Shorter, and Stanley, from the country, the pair played throughout the provinces. Mitchell at first received 100 points start in 1,000 up “all-in,” but soon after they were handicapped to play on even terms.

In May, 1880, Joseph Bennett played Maurice Vignaux, the French Champion, at the Royal Aquarium, four exhibition matches-two at the French cannon game on a French table. In each of these Bennett received 500 points in 1,000, and lost the first by 425, and the second by 400 points. The other two were played at English billiards, on a championship table, 600 up. Vignaux received 300 points in each game. Bennett again lost, the first by 53 and the second by 71 points.

In September, 1880, John Roberts, Junr., conceded W. Mitchell 400 points in 2,000 for £200 on an ordinary table, at the St. James’s Hall, and won by 541 points, making a break of 354 unfinished.

Joseph Bennett won the Championship in November, 1880, beating W. Cook by 51 points; and in January, 1881, he defeated T. Taylor in the Championship by 90 points, making the record break of 125 on a championship table.

Fred Shorter was the next to challenge for the Championship, and the match was fixed to be played on April 13th, 1881, at the St. James’s Hall, but Shorter forfeited at the last minute, after all the arrangements had been made for the match. As expenses would have to be paid, Bennett offered him 100 points in 1,000 up for £25 a side, and they played the same evening, a rather slow game ending in a win for Shorter by 193 points.

D. Richards next challenged for the Championship, but after a lot of paper warfare nothing came of the negotiations, for before the necessary deposits were made Bennett met with a severe accident by being thrown out of a gig and with no prospect of a speedy recovery he decided to resign the title and Championship Cup.

W. Cook, on September 23rd, 1881, at Manchester, made the record “spot barred” break-309-against Alfred Bennett, which was put together by open play all round the table;

and the following month John Roberts, Junr. (scratch), and W. Mitchell (100 start) tied for the first prize in a tournament, heats 500 up, at the Beaufort Club. Playing off, the latter won by 273 points.

On December 19th, l881, John Roberts, Junr., won a tournament at the Palais Royal (over Hengler’s Circus), Argyll Street, London, after tieing again with W. Mitchell. The following players competed in heats of 500 up, “all-in” :- Roberts, owed 120; Cook, owed 120; Mitchell. owed 10; Shorter, received 40; Taylor, 40; Stanley 40; Peall, 75; J. Lloyd, 140. Roberts made the best break (542) in the tournament, and after this success he gave Cook points for the first time, conceding 500 start in 5,000 “all-in” on an ordinary table for £500 a side, at the Palais Royal, on January 18th. 1882, and w on by 1,658 points. John Roberts, Junr., then called himself Champion of the World ” and ignored the Championship, and shortly after his defeat W. Cook challenged Roberts to play for the Championship (Joseph Bennett having retired through breaking his arm in 1881), but letter to the “Sportsman” stating that he had no intention of playing for the cup, giving out as his reason that the cup had been played for for 12 years, and would never be won under the conditions governing it.

On June 26th, 1882. W. Cook was credited with having made in practice a break of 1,362 (including 451 spot strokes) against Mr. E. Game at his rooms, 99, Regent Street, London, which was advertised daily as the record break; and, receiving 750 points, he defeated J. Roberts, Junr; in a match of 5,000 up “all-in” for £500 a side at the Public. Hall, New market, on July 7th 1882, by 968 points. In the course of the game Roberts made two consecutive breaks of 653 and 395 (129 spots) directly after the King (then Prince of Wales) arrived in the room, and about this time he was giving starts to all players at the “spot barred” and “all-in ” games.

W. Mitchell, the first player to compile a four-figure break in public, made 1,055 (including 365 spot strokes) at the Black Horse Hotel, Rathbone Place, Oxford Street, London, on October 5th, 1882, against W. J. Peall. And strange to say, on the of a return match with the same player, and at the same place, on November 8th, 1882, he made exactly same score again (1,055) with exactly the same number of spot strokes (350). He was credited with having made in a practice game at Dealtry’s Billiard Rooms, New Bond Street, Brighton, a break of 1,839 (612 consecutive spots), against Mr. R. Topping. In a letter to the “Sportsman” on March 2nd, 1883, Mitchell stated that he held the “record break”, as he did not consider breaks made in private as records. The majority of people will agree with Mitchell that only breaks made in public should stand as ” records”, neither should breaks that are continued after a game; but we must allow that up to about 1879 the usual game played was 1,000 up, therefore, the player did not get the same opportunity of making a large break in the game as in the long games that were afterwards played. However these breaks were soon beaten by W. J. Peall, who was the next player to make extraordinary breaks by the aid of the spot stroke, his first break of note being made on December 11th, 1883, at the White Horse, London, when in a game of 1,000 up, “all-in”, with F. White, who received 250 points start, he made breaks of 827 and 174 unfinished. White only scored four points in the game, and Peall had only four visits to the table. On May 19th, 1884, at Newman’s Rooms, Guildhall Street, Cambridge, he made against W. Mitchell (in a game of 1,000 up) a break of 411 unfinished, leaving his opponent’s score at 200, and on being requested to complete it, he the total to 1,989 (including 548 consecutive spots).

Early in 1884 John Roberts, Junr., organised a strong company of players to compete in an American tournament in the large provincial towns, taking North, Mitchell, Taylor, Shorter, Collins, White, Coles, and Sala. A start was made at Birmingham, and Roberts won this tournament after a tie with North, his best breaks being 407 (132 spots), 506 (143 and spots), an unfinished 525 (79 and 90 spots), and an unfinished 601 (106 spots). Mitchell won the next tournament at Sheffield after a tie with Roberts, making the largest break of 350 unfinished (106 spots) in his heat with North. Shorter won the next at Leeds. Roberts in this made 450 (147 spots), and 402 (131 spots). He next opened in Liverpool on February 26th, W. Timbrell playing in the place of Collins. Roberts won this after a tie with Shorter, making an unfinished 492 (77 spots) and 624, also unfinished, in his heat with Taylor. After each had given the opening miss Taylor did not score. North won the next tournament at Manchester, Roberts being put 25 points further back and owed 150 points in 500 up. He, however, made 612 unfinished (25 and 171 spots) in his heat with White.

Roberts next played a match with W. J. Peall at the Royal Aquarium-Peall had just previously made the record break of 1,989-conceding 2,000 points in 10,000 “all-in”. Peall made twice over 700 and once over 500, and won on June 2nd, 1884, by 598 points.

On October 17th, 1884, Roberts opened the Palais Royal with a “spot barred” tournament with ten players engaged, which was won by Mitchell. and he afterwards started giving players 3,000 points in games of 10,000, and 12,000 “spot barred”, and at the end of the year allowed his opponent the use of the spot stroke while he played “spot barred”. In these games he made new “spot barred” records, beating Cook’s break of 309 on November 27th, 1884, by making 322, and on November 28th 327 against J. North, and 360 on December 9th, against F. Bennett.

There had been some discussion previously as to the rules of billiards, and that other rules should be made, therefore a meeting was called and held at the “Sportsman” Office on February 1st, 1885, consisting, of professional players and most of the table makers, and others interested in the game, John Roberts, Junr., being in the chair. A proposal by Mr. Collis Orme and D. Richards to form an Association was so favourably decided upon, and it was also decided that the rules of billiards be revised by the following players:-John Roberts, Junr., Chairman; John Roberts, Senr., W. Cook, J. Bennett, F. Bennett, W. J. Peall, W. Mitchell, J. North T. Taylor, J. G. Sala, and G. Collins. This being the first attempt to provide a proper code of rules since 1870, it was decided that they should be the only rules recognised. The Billiard Association met week by week in a room set apart for them by Messrs. Bertram and Roberts, in the dining gallery at the Royal Aquarium until September 21st, 1885, when they were finished, and soon afterwards published.

John Roberts, Junr., now decided to play for the Championship again, after allowing Cook to hold it nearly three years. He challenged for it, and Cook not responding in the stipulated time, the cup went to Roberts; but immediately afterwards Cook challenged, and the match was played on March 30th, 31st, and April 1st, 1885, at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, (late Palais Royal), Roberts winning by 92 points. The game by consent was made 3,000 up, as nothing was stated in the rules as to the length of the game to be played for the Championship.

Previous to this match Roberts played T. Taylor at the Royal Aquarium, giving him 3,000 points in 10,000 “all-in”. Taylor made breaks of 616 (15 and 104 spots), 630 (76, 5, and 116 spots), 441 (17, 107, and 12 spots), 344 (113 spots). Roberts made 609 (199 spots), 574 twice, 570 (181 spots), 563 (44 and 135 spots), 460 (144 spots), and won on March 6th, 1885, by 1,663 points.

The next important match Roberts played after the Championship was with Cook for £200, Roberts giving 2,000 points in 12,000, Aquarium, and won on May 3rd 1885, by 2,759 points.

Joseph Bennett now challenged Roberts for the Championship, which was played at the Royal Aquarium on June 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, 1885. This was also 3,000 up, Roberts winning by 1.640 points. This match proved, however, to be the last one played for the Championship trophy, for Roberts was not called upon to defend it again, and when he had held the specified time (five years), the cup became his property in 1890. He had been exactly twenty years trying to win it.

After beating Joseph Bennett in the Championship, Roberts resumed his duty at the Billiard Hall, Argyll street, London, playing weekly games of 12,000 up, where he showed great improvement in his play, and time after time beat his own record at the “spot barred” game. In a match with Joseph Bennett, on October 22nd, 1885, he made a break of 409, and shortly afterwards in a match with T. Taylor, who received 4,000 points start in 12,000 for £50 a side, which commenced on November 16th at the same place, he cut the record again on November 20th with a break of 432 and won easily by 1,209 points.

The following week he played J North 12,000 up on even terms, allowing North to make one hundred consecutive spot strokes while he played “spot barred”. In this match North made two good breaks of 947 (with runs of 93, 54, 92, 3, and 56 spots) and 1,066 (100, 25, 6. 99, 33, and 71 spots). After an exciting finish Roberts won by only 60 points.

In a match with North, who received 4,000 points in 12,000, “spot barred”, Roberts again beat the record with 451 on December 19th, and won by 242 points.

In a similar match he played Peall. the latter, on January 26th, 1886, making the marvellous break of 320 (222 being made off the red ball alone). This was far the best performance of the kind up to this period, the largest run off the red ball previously being 156 made by Roberts.

It will be seen by these breaks that a big advance had been made at the “spot barred” game, also, the “all-in’ game had equally advanced; in fact the long games had made a wonderful improvement in the play of professional players.

On November 2nd, 1885, Peall and Mitchell commenced a game of 15,000 up, “all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium, and during the week extraordinary play was seen. Mitchell made breaks of 534 (177 spots), 1,620 (536 consecutive spots), 688 (226 spots), 456 (151 spots), 451 (137 spots), 671 (217 spots), and 617 (204 spots). On the Wednesday, the game was in progress, the late Mr. C. Howard, one of the generous friends that professional billiard players ever had, entered into the room and offered £20 to the first one to make a 1,000 break. This was secured by Peall, who made a break of 1,709 (including 18 and spots). He then offered £100 as a prize for the pair to play again, and £100 to the first player who made a 2.000 break in the game. Besides the break mentioned, Peall was responsible for breaks of 530 (173 441 (144 spots), 895 (293 spots), 1,380 (458 spots), 1,135 (372 spots), 673 (223 spots), 497, 1,257 (252 and 163 spots), and 1,150 unfinished, which made him the winner by 5,365 points. With the object of securing the £100 offered, Peall was allowed to finish his break, and just failed to make the 2,000, making the run into 1,922 (634 spots). Extraordinary as the play had been during the game, it seems almost incredible that six breaks should be made over the thousand in a week’s play, more so when one man accounts for five of them; but the time was evidently ripe for 1,000 breaks, for on the 10th of the same month T. Taylor made a break of 1,233 (405 spots) in a game Gatti’s Billiard Saloon, Villiers Street, Strand, and North on the same day made 934 (308 spots).

Also on the 27th Peall, playing at the same place against F. White, made a break of 1,003 (49. 9 7, 34. and 222 spots), and White made 1,015 on the following day of the same month.

The first Billiard Association tournament was played at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, London. Mr. George Pratt and Mr. Peter Jennings handicapped the following players in heats of 300 up, “spot barred” : John Roberts Junr., scratch; Joseph Bennett, received 175 points; J. North, 175; J. G. Sala, 225; W. M. Green, 225; H. Coles, 225; D. Richards, 225; G. Collins, 225; F. Bennett, 225; J. Lloyd, 250; and F. White. 250. J. North who was considered about the second best player, “spot barred”, won on January 15th, 1886, with nine wins out of a possible eleven.

Roberts’ next important match was with Mitchell at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, which commenced on February 8th, 1886. The late Mr. C. Howard, wishing to see Roberts play the “all-in” game again, gave a prize of £200 for the pair to compete for in a game of 15,000 up. on even terms. This caused great interest to be taken in the contest, for Roberts had been playing the “spot barred” game for nearly twelve months, and the great desire was to see how he would play the spot stroke; whilst Mitchell was in good form at the “all-in” game. Mr. Howard unfortunately died before the match could be played, but his executors, however, carried out his wishes. In this and other matches, Mitchell throughout the match played a sort of in and out game-his play was not so nearly consistent as he had shown in his previous match with Peall-for on the first day he only made one break of note-481 (29 and 118 spots)-and on the second 308 (101 spots). On the Wednesday afternoon he made one break of 321 (94 spots), and was left over two thousand points behind at the interval, but in the evening he made breaks of 745 (244 spots), 326 (106 spots), and 601 (197 spots), and at the close of play was only 575 points behind. On the Thursday he only made one break of 424 (139 spots), which enabled Roberts to finish with a lead of 1,193 points at the interval. On the afternoon of the fifth day Mitchell made one break of 335 (6 and 100 spots), and Roberts one of 362 (59 and 53 spots); in the evening Roberts made two breaks over 300, and Mitchell made a splendid break of 969 (321 spots), but at the close of play he was still left over one thousand points behind. In the afternoon of the last day Mitchell made breaks of 484 (159 spots) and 532 (175 spots), but at night Roberts had matters all his own way and won very easily by 1,741 points. The largest breaks made by Roberts during the match are as follows :- 693 (230 spots) 339 (4 and 101 spots), 430 (24 and 110 spots), 328 (12, 2, and 88 spots), 316 (16 and 79 spots), 353 (112 spots), 544 (179 spots), 616 (88 and 104 spots), 362 (59 and 53 spots) 323 (33 and 61 spots), 319 (18, 15, and 56 spots), 378 (124 spots), and 716 (47 and 184 spots).

The following week Roberts and Peall started a six days’ spot stroke match at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, for £200 given by the late Mr. Howard. The conditions were to play two hours each afternoon and evening; each player could place his ball at the beginning of each break where he choose, and the highest aggregate made in this way to win end of the week. Roberts’ highest break during the match was one of 672, and Peall’s best was 906. He led from start to finish, and won easily with the score: Peall, 16,734; Roberts, 11,924.

On April 9th, 1886, J. North, in a “spot barred” game against Roberts at the same place, made the largest break (361) that had been made by any player then, excepting Roberts. The same day Roberts made a break of 444; and on April 12th, playing against Cook, he beat all records again, making a splendid of 506. He next showed extraordinary form at the “spot barred” game. When playing against Mitchell, 12,000 up, in Derby week, he made breaks of 428, 489, 357, 352, 347 twice, 322, and nine over 200, and won by no less than 6,611 points.

Opening the season at the Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, in October, in a “spot barred” game with Mitchell, he again (on October 16th) beat his previous best break with 534; and on November 17th against the same player, who received 4,500 points in 12,000, he put together the extraordinary record break of 604 and won by 194 points.

Brilliant form was next shown by Peall in a game of 15,000 up, ” all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium, against G. Collins, who was allowed 5,000 points start, and he surpassed all his previous performances by making the marvellous break of 2,413 (338, 449, and 3 spots) on November 5th, 1886, also making on the same day 1,029 (138, 15, 122 and 40 spots). In this same match he made breaks of 996 (267 and 27 spots) and 1,247 (414 spots), and won by 3.388 points. After this extraordinary play on the part of Peall he challenged Roberts on November 5th, 1886, to play 15,000 points up, ” all-in”, on even terms, on an ordinary table, for £100 a side, which brought forth a reply from Roberts that he would play Peall two matches-one on the terms mentioned, and in the other he would concede Peall 4,000 points in 12,000,” spot barred”, both for the same amount – £100 a side. Peall declined the arbitrary condition and nothing came of it, and Peall claimed to be the “Champion of Ordinary Billiards”.

During a match with Roberts on November 22nd, Cook made his largest” spot barred” break of 365, which was also the largest break made by any player excepting Roberts, just beating the break of 361 made by North on December 6th, 1886.

Roberts and North commenced one of their numerous matches of 12,000 up “spot barred”. North (receiving 4,000 start) won after a close finish by 116 points; his largest break during the week being 202, and Roberts best breaks were 317, 260, 178, 244, 174, 337, 208, 222, and 297.

In a game of 15,000 up, “all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium against G. Collins, on December 15th, Peall succeeded in making another of his great breaks by compiling 1,729 (108, 275, and 183 spots).

The next great performance was by Roberts at the Billiard Hall during a match with Peall, when, on May 12th, he made a “spot barred” break of 580. In a letter written shortly afterwards to “The Sportsman” by Peall from the White Horse Hotel, Brixton Hill, S.W., which appeared on October 3rd, 1887 (the day he commenced a match with Mitchell of 15,000 up, “all-in”, on even terms at the Aquarium), he regretted that through a printer’s error he was called “Champion” simply, instead of “Champion of Ordinary Billiards”, i.e.,” all-in ” billiards with 3 5/8 pockets, and he thought it was only fair to John Roberts, Junr., “Champion”, to publicly say so. It was quite evident by this letter that about this time Roberts was content to allow Mitchell and Peall to battle for the supremacy at “ordinary billiards”, knowing well he could give either player a third of the game “spot barred”. However in this particular match Mitchell never played better, for after looking like being beaten very easily throughout the greater part of the game, he came out in fine form on the last day with consecutive breaks of 349 (113 spots), 297 (93 spots), 265 (15 and 64 spots), 141 (41 spots), 288 (93 spots), 644 (179 spots), 801 (249 spots), 349 (114 spots), 912 (304 spots), and a break of 53 unfinished, which made him winner by 1,267 points, having scored during the day 4,427 points to 1,266 by Peall. His other breaks during the game were 1,117 (369 spots), 373 (120 spots), 693 (226 spots), 728 (238 spots), 419 (138 spots), and 483 (157 spots). Peall’s largest breaks were 1,086 (353 spots), 1,159 (416 spots), 629 (202 spots), 470 (146 spots), 459 (53 and 88 spots), 464 (150 spots), 460 (150 spots), 466 (140 spots), 482 (153 spots), 483 (169 spots), 499 (6 and 143 spots), and 622 (203 spots).

In a match against Joseph Bennett at the Royal Aquarium on October 18th, Cook surpassed all his previous performances at the “spot barred” game by making a splendid break of 462, which was a long way the best break made, excepting Roberts’.

About this period, and up to the latter end of 1890, the “all-in” game received new life with the struggles between Peall and Mitchell, and the rapid advance and improvement of F. White at the “all-in” game. Matches and long games of 15,000 up between the three players were numerous, and played at regular intervals at the Royal Aquarium.

November, 1887, found Peall and Mitchell playing one of their long games, on even terms, at the Royal Aquarium, when Peall proved successful on November 12th by 858 points, making on the last day one good break of 1,256 (198, 22, and 191 spots).

The next important match was between Hugh McNeil (who made his first appearance in London in April, 1887) and D. Richards, who played 10,000 up, “spot barred”, for £100 a side. The match took place at the Marble Arch Saloon, 524, Oxford Street, London, W., when McNeil won on January 28th, 1888, by 838 points. Peall and White were next seen playing a long game at the Royal Aquarium, in the course of which White made a break of 1,054 (21 and 326 spots), and Peall on the same day made 1,547 (514 spots). On the following day (March 10th) Peall made another four figure break of 1,314 (413 spots).

The following week at the same place Mitchell and Peall commenced a game of 15,000 up for the “Spot Stroke” Championship. This proved be a good thing for Peall, who played an extraordinary game throughout, and won in the easiest possible manner on March 17th, with the score: Peall, 15,000; Mitchell, 6,753. It will be interesting to note that during the week’s play Peall, with the exception of Thursday, made a break of over a thousand on each day; and it seemed that about this time he could make a break of four figures or more off the balls whenever he chose. The following are his largest breaks in the order made during the week: 1,203 (397 spots), 1,192 (78 and 308 spots), 1,498 (89 and 408 spots), 1,125 and 2,031.

J. G. Sala and Joseph Bennett followed this with an “all-in” game at the Aquarium in which Sala, on March 20th, made a fine break of 1,012 (330 spots) and won the match easily.

On March 28th W. J. Peall came out with a challenge, and offered to give anyone 1,000 points in 15,000 up, all-in”, for £200 a side, and he afterwards gave W, Mitchell the same start (1,000 in 15,000) at the Aquarium, where he made one good break of 1,246 (54 and 394 spots), the only four figure break during the game, winning on May 19th with the scores reading: Peall, 15,000; Mitchell, 12,347.

In December, 1888, an interesting match was played between W. Mitchell F. White at the Aquarium, the latter receiving 4,000 points 15,000 up, “all-in”, which produced some fine play by both players. On December 18th Mitchell made a break of 1,310 (435 spots), and the same day White succeeded in making his largest break-1,666 (20, 108, and 400 spots). Mitchell made another big break of 1,011 (335 spots), and White, after making a splendid break of 1,281 (20 and 390 spots), won on December 22nd a very interesting match by 614 points.

After his success over Mitchell, he next played Peall, at the same place, taking a start of 4,500 points in 15,000 up, and during the game some large breaks were made. On January 2nd, 1889, White put together the respectable total in one break of 1,562 (318 consecutive spots), and Peall on January 4th made two of his useful breaks, the first one totalled 2,033 (142 and 526 spots), and the second 1,220 (72 and 330 spots), White on the same date making 1,021 (137 and 176 spots). Thus it will be seen that three breaks over a thousand had been made during the one day. Playing a sound game, White won on January 5th, by 923 points.

A match which caused a great deal of interest at the time was one of 12,000 up,” spot barred”, at the Royal Aquarium, between John Roberts, Junr., and Hugh McNeil, the latter receiving 4.500 points start, Roberts offering McNeil £100 if he succeeded in beating him. Up to the last two days McNeil looked like winning easily, and held a big advantage, but then Roberts came out in fine form, and finally won on January 12th by 981 points.

In this month Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company, the well known firm of table makers, introduced and promoted a “Championship of the World Tournament”, and presented a Silver Cup, value £100, to be played for in heats of 1,000 up, “all-in”, the cup to become the property of the first winner of three tournaments, and in addition the winner of each tournament to receive a gold medal. This was commenced at the Royal Aquarium on January 14th, the following players taking part:-W. J. Peall, H. McNeil, T. Taylor, J. Dowland, W. Mitchell, F White, G. Collins, and F. Bennett. The tournament eventually resolved itself into a fight between Mitchell and Peall when they met in their particular heat. Mitchell, however, proved to be in extraordinary form, for soon after the start of the game, with his score standing at 13, he secured position for spot play and ran right out with a splendid unfinished break of 987 (319 spots), leaving the scores: Mitchell. 1,000; Peall, 20; and he finally won the first tournament and became “Spot Stroke Champion” on January 28th, 1889.

The second Championship Tournament was won by W. J. Peall on February 25th, 1890, at the same place, the following players taking part in heats of 1,250 up:-W. Mitchell, W. J. Peall. J. Dowland F White, G. Collins. H. McNeil, H. Coles, and F. Bennett. In the heat between Peall and Mitchell, the former made breaks of 416 (137 spots) and 531 (176 spots). Scores: Peall, 1,250; Mitchell, 121.

The third Championship was also played at the Royal Aquarium, and won by W. J. Peall on May 30th, 1891. Four players only competed- W. J. Peall, W. Mitchell, J. Dowland, and C. Dawson-in heats of 2,500, up. Mitchell and Peall played off, and in the first half of the game Mitchell only scored 78 points. Peall made breaks of 773 (256 spots), 390 (7, 28, and 90 spots), and 655 unfinished (214 spots); Mitchell made a break of 650 (213 spots). Scores: Peall, 2,500; Mitchell, 776. The following year this Championship was withdrawn in favour of the “all-in Championship” (promoted by the Billiard Association) with Mitchell one win, and Peall two wins to their credit.

The month of February, 1889, found F. White and J. North playing a match of 12,000 up, “all-in”, on even terms, at the Royal Aquarium, when White, in the course of the game, made a break of 1,230 (52 and 345 spots) and won on February 16th, by 3,015 points.

The “spot barred” record was the next to go, for playing against Cook in a match at 14, Grafton Street, Bond Street. London, on March 9th, Roberts made the extraordinary break of 690, which remained the record break until the same month in 1893.

In the same month W. J. Peall conceded F. White 4,000 points start in 18,000 up,” all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium, and during the game White, on March 13th, put together the largest break during his career-1,745 (554, 3, and 18 spots); also making on the same day 1,132 (257 and 114 spots). Peall compiled one of his useful breaks on the same date, which totalled 2,107 (79, 95, and 513 spots). Thus it will be seen that three breaks over the thousand had been made during one day’s play, but two days later, however, in the same game, this remarkable performance was beaten by three consecutive breaks of over a thousand being made. Peall made 1,601 (528 spots), White followed this with 1,085 (357 spots), and Peall replied with 1,139 (373 and 2 spots). Peall won easily on March 16th by 1,728 points.

On March 25th, at Grafton Street, in a match against J. North, Roberts made another good “spot barred” break of 576, and T. Taylor made a “spot barred” break of 433 at the Royal Aquarium on November 7th, 1889, whilst playing against North. Peall, also, on November 13th, in a match against Mitchell at the same place, made a “spot barred” break of 429.

About this time Roberts gave Mitchell half the game start (10,000 points in 20,000″ spot barred “) at Grafton Street, Bond Street, and beat him.

During a match with W. J. Peall at the Royal Aquarium, on October 24th, 1890, H. McNeil made his largest “spot barred” break of 472, which at the time was the largest break made by any player, excepting Roberts.

In the same month C. Dawson made his first appearance in London as a professional player, and to play W. J. Peall at the Royal Aquarium. commencing October 27th, 1890, with a “spot barred” match of 9,000 up, Dawson receiving a start of 2,000 points. On the concluding day Peall played well, and at the interval left off in front. When the game was continued in the evening he went right away until the scores stood Peall, 8,607, Dawson, 8,306. At this point Dawson gradually crept up, but his task appeared all but useless, as finally Peall got within 15 of game, when Dawson ultimately ran out with a bleak of 169 unfinished. Dawson, 9,000; Peall, 8,985.

The following week the same players commenced a contest of 15,000 up, “all-in”, Dawson receiving 3,000 points. From the commencement of the game Peall began to play in extraordinary form, and on November 5th and 6th he beat all records by the marvellous performance of putting together a huge break of 3,304, which included runs of 93, 3, 150, 123, 172, 120, and 400 spot strokes; he also compiled breaks of 1,494, 1,637, and 1,322 in the same game. Naturally, Dawson had no chance after this extraordinary play, the full scores reading at the finish: Peall, 15,000; Dawson (receives 3,000), 5,680.

This fine display on the part of Peall put new life into billiards, as nothing else was talked about by those interested in the game but the great break. Then John Roberts surprised everybody by a challenge he issued in December 1890, to give anyone 12,000 points start in 24,000,” spot barred” (including all advertised Champions). This brought a reply from W. J. Peall to play him at ordinary billiards, 15,000 up, on even terms, started a great controversy in the sporting and other papers at the beginning of 1891, about the merits of the two players referred to and the Championship generally, which eventually ended with Roberts playing both North and Peall a match and conceding them 12,000 points start in 24,000,” spot barred”. The match between Roberts and North was played at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, and was won by Roberts on February 14th, 1891. North at this time had a reputation of being the second best player “spot barred”, and the month previous (January 9th) to the match he made his largest “spot barred” break (464) at Messrs. Thurston and Company’s Show Rooms, Strand, London, playing against Peall. North in the early part of the game held a big advantage, but he was eventually beaten by 245 points. At the finish of the game a scene was created by Charles Mitchell, the well known boxer, who was accompanied by Frank Slavin, the Australian Champion pugilist, who denounced the match as a swindle, and would only leave on the request of John Roberts himself. Great interest was taken in the match between Roberts and Peall, which was played in the same Hall, large crowds of spectators being present at each sitting. Peall, who had the best of the play throughout the game, won easily on March 28th, 1891, by 2,590 points.

The controversy in the papers on the Championship question had the effect of moving the Billiard Association to do something, for there appeared no chance of a meeting between Peall and Roberts for the Championship under the existing conditions, as the former wished to play on an ordinary table as used by the public, and Roberts wished to play on the “championship table” with 3-inch pockets, for after his big break Peall was advertised daily as ” Champion of English Billiards”, and Roberts as “Champion”.

After due consideration the Billiard Association, at a meeting on April 28th, 1891, adopted a “Standard” table for Championship contests, and decided to give Silver Cups, value £100 for competition for both styles of play – “spot barred” and “all-in”, each contest for the Championship to be for not less than £100 aside, and each Cup to become the absolute property of any player who shall (1) win it four times in succession, (2) win it six times in all, and (3) hold it for three consecutive years. Two Championship Cups were also given for amateur contests, under the same conditions, with the exception of playing for a stake. The measurements of the “Standard” table as adopted were as follows: that the “Standard” billiard table measure not less than 2 feet 9 1/2 inches. and not more than 2 feet 10 inches in height, and 12 feet long by 6 feet 1 1/2 inches wide on the bed of the slates; that the balls used be of ivory and not less than 2 1/16 inches, and not more than 2 2/32 inches in diameter. The pocket openings to measure strictly 3 5/8 inches at the fall of the slates, and that the “Standard Template” (or wood block), bearing the Billiard Association stamp, shall be fitted into each pocket opening of the table, and passed by the Committee before being used for any contest. No breaks made upon other than the “Standard” table shall be accepted as records, and that a certificate be given by the Association for “records” made on the conditions named.

A “spot barred” tournament was then arranged and played on the first “Standard” table by Messrs. Cox and Yeman at the Swallow Assembly Rooms, Swallow Street Piccadilly, London, which was won by H. Coles on February 15th, 1892. The heats were 500 up. The following prizes were given:-First, £50 second, £20; and £30 divided amongst winners of heats. Handicap and position of players:-H. Coles, received 75 points, won 6, lost 1; W. Mitchell, received 25 points, won 5, lost 2, J. 125 points, won 5, lost 2; C. Dawson, received 75 points, won 3, lost 4; T. Taylor, received 75 points, won 3, lost 4; J. Dowland, received 125 points, won 2, lost 5; W. J. Peall, scratch, and J. North, scratch, won 2, lost 5. Tie for Second Prize:-J. Lloyd, received 125 points, beat W. Mitchell, received 25, by 286 points.

“ALL-IN” CHAMPIONSHIP.

After this event the Billiard Association made great haste to bring off their Championships before the close of the season, the first one played being the “all-in” Championship, which was won by W. J. Peall on April 9th, 1892, at Messrs. Orme and Sons’ Show Rooms, Soho Square, London. on one of their tables. A condition in this Championship was that a new cloth bed of to stop the track or table caused by continued “spot” play, which, no doubt the same greatly helped the player. up.

 

FIRST ROUND

W. J. Peall 5,000, beat C. Dawson 1,699; W. Mitchell, a bye.

 

FINAL HEAT

W. J. Peall 5,000, beat W. Mitchell 1,755.

This was the only contest “all-in”, for Peall was not again challenged during the three consecutive years, and the Cup became his property

“SPOT BARRED” CHAMPIONSHIP.

Commenced on April 25th, 1892, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Thurston and Company, at their Show Rooms, Strand, London. Heats 3,000 up.

 

FIRST ROUND

H. Coles 3,000, beat W. J. Peall 2,860; W. Mitchell 3,000, heat W. Cook 2,561; J. North, a bye.

SECOND ROUND

J. North 3000, beat H. Coles 2,141.

FINAL HEAT.

W. Mitchell 3,009, beat J. North 2,697.

Second Contest

W. Mitchell beat J. North by 2,475 points in 9.000 up, for Silver Cup and £200 at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, on February 25th, 1893, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Orme and Sons. The winner’s best breaks during the game were 236, 231, and 212; the loser’s, 190 and 182. Scores: Mitchell, 9,000; North, 6,525.

Third Contest

W. Mitchell beat C. Dawson by 837 points for £200 on January 13th, 1894, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Thurston and Company, at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden, London. Mitchell made 27 breaks of over a hundred, and Dawson nineteen during the week’s play, the highest being 306, 225, and 196 unfinished by Mitchell, and 224 and 257 by Dawson. Scores:-Mitchell, 9,000; Dawson, 8,163. The Cup became the property of W. Mitchell, he having held it the three consecutive years.

In April, 1891, Roberts went on a visit to Africa and Australia, but the game did not lack interest as far as entertainment’s provided for the devotees of the game, for three distinct shows were running each afternoon and evening all the season.

Peall, after making his big break, took up his quarters at Messrs. Thurston’s Show Rooms Catherine Street, Strand, London, where he conceded Dawson 5,000 points start in 15,000` up, ” all-in”. In the course of the game the latter showed good form, making breaks of 741 (242 spots), 860 (285 spots), 1,201 (394 spots), and 631 (191 spots); but Peall with 1,408 (464 spots) and other good runs, won on April 18th, by 1,924 points, making a break of 1,782 (470, 44, and 8 spots) besides 818 (276 spots) unfinished on the last day.

The next big break of note (the first of its kind) was made by T. Taylor at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster, London, on April 24th, 1891, during a “spot barred” game of 600 points up with Hugh McNeil. The scores stood at: McNeil, 106; Taylor, 227; when the latter at 236 got the two object balls jammed in a corner pocket and ran out with 373 unfinished (182 cannons), and on being specially requested to continue his break in the evening he made it into 1,467 (729 cannons), beating all “spot barred” breaks.

The week commencing May 4th found W. J. Peall and J. Downland playing a match of 10,000 points up,” spot barred”, for £500 a side, at the Swallow Assembly Rooms, Swallow Street, Piccadilly, London. Peall conceding 2,600 points start, played in great form on the last day, making breaks of 174, 262, 410, 101, and won on May 9th by 1,341 points.

On November 16th Edward Diggle, of Manchester, made his first appearance as a professional in London, playing against D. Richards at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, and receiving 1,000 points start in 9,000, “spot barred”. He made eighteen breaks of a century or more during the week-a very fine performance-and won on November 21st, 1891, by 1,446 points.

A novel idea was tried at the Hotel Victoria, Northumberland Avenue London, on October 12th of the same year, by J. P. Mannock, who played T. Taylor two games of 400 points up on a four-pocket table, the “push stroke”, which then played a prominent part in matches, being barred. The idea was a sort of compromise between the French, American, and English games. Taylor was successful in both games, making the largest break of 46 unfinished in the last one.

In October, Dawson took over the rooms at the Royal Aquarium, where he played several “spot barred” matches of 16,000 up on even terms with H. Coles, and also with J. North (who at that time was looked upon as the second best “spot barred” player), receiving 5,000 points start in 20,000 points up. In these games Dawson began to show improved form, but it was not until 1892 that he came rapidly to the front.

On February 3rd W. Spiller won a “spot barred” tournament at the Egyptian Hall Piccadilly, London (receiving 150 points start in 700 up), winning seven games. The following players took part:-

D. Richards received 50 points won 6, lost 1; T. Taylor 50 points, won 5, lost 2; E. Diggle 50 points, won 4, lost 3; H. McNeil scratch, won 3, lost 4; G. Ryder 75 points, won 2, lost 5; J. Dowland 150 points. won 1, lost 6; W. Cook scratch, won 1, Lost 6.

After this nothing further of importance took place up to June, 1892, with the exception of the first Association tournament on a “Standard” table and Championships.

Peall and Dawson paid a visit to Paris being engaged at the Folies Bergere, Paris, for one month commencing June 1st, the table being supplied by Messrs. Thurston and Company. In a report of the game in the ‘Sportsman”, June 8th, it says:-” The opening game by Peall and Dawson, 600 points up, ‘all-in’, Dawson receiving 150 start, was won by Peall. The French visitors seemed to take but a languid interest in the proceedings. As a fact, the game was too long for them, and in proof of their complete ignorance of the of play the only applause given was when Peall in trying for a loser off the white, in addition holed his opponent’s ball. This double event was looked upon by them as a masterpiece of skill, and was highly appreciated, much to the amusement of the English professionals. The production of the long butt was also hailed with considerable enthusiasm, and when the carefully elaborated stroke was brought off tremendous cheering greeted the event”. To meet the French tastes it was arranged of 100 up, “spot barred”, and afterwards games of pyramids were only played, as no charge was made for admission to the building, the management deriving their profit from a percentage deducted from bets made on the games. It was rather a novelty for Peall and Dawson to see two of the French professionals take their stand before each game commenced, one by the side of Peall at one end of the table, and the other by Dawson’s side at the other end, the one with Peall calling out,” Who will back Mr. Peall ?” and the other with Dawson calling out,” Who will back Mr. Dawson ?” This continued as long as the people were inclined to bet to equal amounts on each man, and then the game commenced, the management taking the percentage out of the stakes held on each game.

Roberts returned to England in May and resumed his duties at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, on October 3rd, 1892, playing three games of 4,000 up, “spot barred”, with W. Cook (ex-Champion), who received 1,200 points start in each game, Roberts winning each game. The following week he commenced playing games of 12,000 points up, conceding Mitchell 4,000 start. In one of these weekly games with W. Cook, Roberts began to show wonderful form, making on November 17th a break of 668.

Soon afterwards (on November 28th), during a game with E. Diggle at Messrs. Thurston’s Show Rooms, Strand, London, W. J. Peall made the first. big “spot barred” break of 571 on a “Standard” table-a fine performance.

The following month (December 1892) Roberts came out with an offer to give anyone 8,000 points start in 24,000 up, “spot barred”, and £100 if they beat him. Mitchell took the start and played him the same month at the Egyptian Hall, where Roberts showed that he was still improving, making during the game breaks of 558, 617, and 421, and won by 415 points.

About this time Dawson began to improve very fast beating Mitchell on October 22nd 1892 at the Royal Aquarium, with 750 points start in 8,000 up, “spot barred”, by 7 points, and the following month (November 1892) his backers came out with a challenge for him to play anyone, bar Roberts. on even terms which caused a great deal of paper warfare between Dawson and Peall, but nothing came of it, for terms could not be arranged. Dawson at this time was advertised daily to play anyone, bar Roberts, for £500 or £1,000, and during a game of 3,000 up on even terms at the Royal Aquarium with W. Mitchell, on January 19th, 1893, the scores standing Dawson, 2,067; Mitchell, 950; the first named, after adding 48, worked the balls to the top of the table and at 2,115 got the balls jammed in the jaws of the top corner pocket, making 184 unfinished. On resuming in the evening Mitchell did not have a stroke, as Dawson ran with ‘333 unfinished (443 cannons).

At the same place on February 4th, Dawson be at Mitchell in a game of 8,000 points up, “spot barred”, on even terms by 751 points and again in a game under the same conditions on February 11th, after at one time being over 1,200 points behind, commencing the last evening’s play Dawson was nearly 300 points behind, but eventually won by 164 points. Dawson also beat North on even terms.

On February 27th Roberts again raised the start to his opponents, and commenced a match with Peall at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly London conceding Peall 9,000 points start in 24,000 up, “spot barred” In this game Roberts beat the “spot barred” record of 690 (made by himself in the same month in 1889) on March 2nd, 1893. Starting from a double baulk he scored the winning hazard, and at 134 was aided by a fluke, but continued in perfect style till he had compiled 737, beating Peall by 625 points.

On the 13th of the same month H. Coles set Peall’s largest “spot barred” break on a “Standard” table, making 571 unfinished in a short game of 700 up, against C. Dawson at the Royal Aquarium.

C. Dawson on March 27th made the largest “spot barred” break (698) on a “Standard” table at the Royal Aquarium in a game of 16,000 up against D. Richards.

On April 1st Dawson commenced a match with Roberts at the Egyptian Hall, receiving 9,000 points in 24,000 up, “spot barred”, for £2,000. Roberts during the game made breaks of 420, 396, 393, 317, and 314, but with 326 and several breaks over 200 Dawson won on April 18th by 1,993 points.

Dawson’s next success was in a “spot barred” tournament of 700 points up at the Royal Aquarium on May 8th, played with “Synthetic” balls (a substitute for ivory) with the results as follows:- C. Dawson, scratch, won 6, lost 1; H. McNeil, received 75 points, won 5, lost 2; H. Coles 75 points, v, on 4, lost 3; D. Richards 100 points, won 4, lost 3; J. North scratch, won 3, lost 4; J. Dowland 150 points, won 3 lost 4; J. Lloyd 150 points, won 3, lost 4; W. Mitchell scratch, won 1 lost 6.

Roberts, who for some time had been trying to arrange an international match with Frank C. Ives, of Chicago, the American Champion, sent T. Taylor to America with power to make a match and arrange conditions that would put the two players as near on equal terms as possible. A match of 6,000 points up, for £1,000, was ultimately played at the Humphrey’s Hall. Knightsbridge, London, on May 29th, to June 3rd, l893, on an English table erected by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts. With the pockets made much smaller being 3 ¼ in. only instead of 3 5/8 in; while the balls were 2 1/4 in diameter, instead of 2 1/16 in. 1,000 points to be scored each evening. At the finish of the first night’s play the scores stood:-Roberts, 1,000; Ives, 689; and on the second: Roberts, 2,001, Ives, 1,670; the latter making a break of 88. On the Wednesday evening Roberts scored at a fair pace, compiling breaks of 90, 70, 49, 36 twice 30 twice, 63, 33, 106, and 106 unfinished. Ives played fairly well (83 cannons 63 (25 cannons), 34, 90, and 30, the scores standing: Roberts, 3,000; Ives, 2,243. On resuming on Thursday evening Roberts made his unfinished break into 140, and then added 67, 49, and 139. Ives, whose highest break had been 45. Ives whose highest break had been 45 now got the balls together, worked them to the top corner pocket, and jammed the balls in the mouth of the pocket. Scoring at a tremendous rate he reached his points with an unfinished break of 1,540 (770 cannons), leaving the scores: Ives, 4,000; Roberts, 3,484 This came as a great surprise to Roberts, who seeing that Ives had an excellent position to finish the game right off. offered to give the game to Ives and play a match of 2,000 up, “jammed” stroke barred. for £1,000, but Ives declined. On the Friday evening Roberts did not have a stroke, as Ives continued and ran the break; into 2.539 (1.267 cannons). Ives, when within 5 points of his required number, in the evening, broke the balls up, but no doubt he could have continued nearly as long as he liked, but the company present became impatient and frequently shouted “Smash them up”, which he ultimately did. leaving the scores: Ives, 5.000; Roberts, 3,484. In the last evening’s play Roberts’ principal breaks were 30 and 193. Ives made 80 and 49, and once more balls “jammed”, making 848 (402 cannons), when he again broke the balls up with a four-stroke, bringing the full break to 852. and then played for safety. Ives won by 2,179 points, the final scores reading: Ives, 6,000; Roberts, 3,821.

A return match was played for £400 at the Central Music Hall, Chicago, Americas on September 18th to September 23rd, 1893, under the same conditions, with the exception that a baulk line, seven inches in length, was drawn across each of the corner pockets, inside of which two strokes could be made without driving one of the two object balls out of the baulk. Ives on the Saturday evening made the 1,000 which he required to win, while Roberts only succeeded in adding 478, the final scores standing: Ives, 6.000; Roberts 5,243. The largest breaks during the game were 432 by Ives and 166 by Roberts.

After this second defeat by Ives, a third match of 10,000 points up for £400 was arranged and played at the Lenox Lyceum. New York, America, on October 2nd to October 7th, 1893, under the same conditions with the exception that the pocket openings were 3 5/8 in. instead of 3 1/4 in. This put the two Champions on more equal terms, the conditions in the previous matches being in favour of Ives, who relied on long runs of nursery cannons along the cushions. The hazard game of Roberts’ was cramped by the size of the pockets, and the “push stroke” also being barred in these matches made a great difference to his play, for he could not play the “masse” stroke anything like the American Champion, who was an adept at this particular stroke. On Monday evening Roberts, with breaks of 106 and 191, to Ives’ best of 109, scored 1,001 to 542. On Tuesday afternoon, Ives, with runs of 244, 236, and 329, to breaks of 93 and 132 by Roberts, scored 997 points to 801, the scores reading: Roberts 1,802; Ives, 1,539 In the evening Roberts, with 91 and 128, to Ives’ best break of 116, scored 1,002 to Ives 703; score: Roberts, 2,804, Ives, 2 242. On Wednesday afternoon Roberts, with breaks of 176 and 91, had all the best of the play and scored 797 to 414, Ives’ best break being 98; score: Roberts, 3,601; Ives, 2,656. In the evening Ives treated the company present to the finest exhibition of nursery cannon play ever seen on an English table. Playing with marvellous accuracy of stroke he nursed the balls past four pockets along the cushions and reached the fifth pocket (which was a side pocket), and had made 640 by cannon play, but by playing too hard he lost position, and after adding 11 more by hazard play finally failed at a follow-on stroke, the full break being 661. Roberts answered to this with 105, 101, and 119, but Ives again got the nursery cannons, and passing the side pocket made 516. Roberts followed with 162, when Ives for the third time got the nursery cannons and scored 395, which gave him the lead for the first time Ives during the evening scored 1,946 points to Roberts 886. Score: Ives, 4,602, Roberts 4,487. On Thursday afternoon Roberts, with breaks of 95 and 110, scored 913 to Ives’ 436, leaving the score: Roberts, 5,400; Ives 5,038. In the evening, with breaks of 143, 117, and 105, Roberts scored 1 001 to 748 Ives’ best breaks being 94 and 202, the scores reading: Roberts, 6,401 Ives, 5,786. On Friday with his best break of 103 scored 799 points to Ives’ 878, the latter making a break of 586 by cannon play, taking the balls three-quarters of the way around the table. Score Roberts, 7,200; Ives, 6,664. In the evening Roberts, with breaks of 125 157, and 123, to Ives’ best of 146, scored 1,000 to Ives 513. Score Roberts, 8,200, Ives, 7,177. On the Saturday afternoon Ives made breaks and 205, and scored 927 801, leaving the scores: Roberts, 9,001; Ives, 8,104. In the of the game Ives scored 634 points, with a best break of 366, while Roberts with 130 and 127 scored the desired 999, and ran out a winner by 1,262 points, the full scores at the finish being: Roberts, 10,000; Ives, 8,738.

In the same month Roberts arranged a pool match with De Oro, the American Pool] Champion, which was played at Madison Square Gardens New York, America, in half English and half American style Two tables were placed side by side, and the played four frames or games-on each alternately In the English table, in the pyramid match. the pockets were 3 5/8 ins., and the balls 2 1/8 ins., in diameter, De Oro objecting to play with the ordinary 2 1/16 ins. English balls. In the American pool table the corner pockets were 4 1/2 ins., the centre 4 3/4 ins., cut square, and the dimensions 10 ft. by 5 ft. The balls were 2 5/16 ins. diameter quartered with different bright colours, and numbered from 1 to 15. Before striking, the player had to name the number of he was taking aim at and in the event of hitting and potting any other ball, it was replaced and counted nothing to him. The game resulted in a win for De Oro on October 21st, 1893, with the final scores reading: De Oro, 1,000; Roberts, 924. Roberts gave his opinion of the game in an interview, when he said that he should not care to make another match on such terms. American pool may be pretty, but there is too much luck and too little skill attached to it.

On September 26th, 1893, playing in a short game of 600 up,” all-in”, at the Royal Aquarium with T. Taylor, who received 100 points start, W. J. Peall scored a love game. Screwing in off the red he ran to game with a break of 600 unfinished, Taylor not having a stroke.

The next big break was made by E. Diggle on November 2nd, 1893. at Messrs. Thurston’s Show Rooms, Strand, London, in playing against Peall with “Bonzoline” balls (a substitute for ivory), when he made a “spot barred” break of 530.

Roberts on his return resumed his duties at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, where he played H. Coles, and on November 10th made a break of 571, “spot barred”, mostly compiled by short runs of nursery cannons, which showed he had benefited by his visit to America, for shortly afterwards he began to play an extraordinary game, beating the “record” time after time.

The following month C. Memmott, the Australian Champion, visited England, playing several matches with the English players. Roberts next made a “spot barred” break of 578 on January 9th, 1894, in playing against E. Diggle, who had for some time been showing improved form and was rapidly coming on.

Several challenges between Diggle and Dawson resulted in Messrs. Burroughes and Watts offering £100 for the pair to contest for, and £10 for the largest break made during the game. A match of 18,000 up, “spot barred”, on even terms, was played at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester. The best breaks by Dawson were 311 and 346. Diggle, with 319 and several breaks over 200, won on January 27th by 846 points.

Roberts next gave Peall 9,000 points start in 24,000 up,” spot barred”, at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, and won on February 10th, 1894, by 299 points, making during the game breaks of 570 and 545.

The same month Peall conceded C. Memmott 3,000 points in 15,000 up,” all-in”, at Messrs. Thurston’s Show Rooms, Strand, and won by nearly half the game on February 17th, making best breaks of 1,424 (473 spots) and 2,127 (325 and 304 spots).

On March 1st Roberts again beat the “record”, making 867 against C. Memmott, the Australian Champion, whom he conceded 10,000 points in 20,000, “spot barred”, and won by 619 points on March 8th

F. C. J. Schaefer, the Champions, visited England and gave an exhibition of American an billiards at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, on March 9th, 1894; and at the same place the following day Roberts and Dawson commenced a match of 24 000, “spot barred”, Dawson receiving 9 000 points start. During the game Roberts compiled breaks of 685, 520, 540. 467, 759, 362 and 372, Dawson making breaks of 411, 329, 207, 240, 211 and 480, and won on March 24th, by 741 points.

H. W. Stevenson made his first appearance as a professional, playing short games with J. Lloyd at the Club Lounge, Royal Aquarium, Westminster, London, on April 2nd 1894

Dawson and Diggle next contested a match of 18,00(‘ up,” spot barred”, on even terms, at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company. Diggle made several breaks over 200 and one of 300, Dawson, making 342, 401, and 306, won on April 14th by 910 points.

About this time breaks of 600, “spot barred”, were made frequently by Roberts. who, no doubt, was playing better than ever, for during a match with E. Diggle at the Gentlemen’s Concert Hall, Manchester, on May 3rd and 4th, 1894, he surpassed all his previous performances. On the first named date Roberts was in extraordinary form, as nothing came wrong to him. He soon passed his previous “record” break of 867, and when he had reached the 1,000 wild cheering was kept up for several minutes Roberts having to bow his acknowledgement several times. the enthusiasm had subsided, he went on and added 33 more points, when play was adjourned, leaving the break 1,033 unfinished. The next day the hall was crowded with spectators, who gave Roberts a great reception on making his appearance. When at last he could continue his break, he played a little slower than usual, and finally he failed at a red winning hazard, which was played a trifle short of strength. A tremendous burst of enthusiasm acknowledged the great break, which amounted to 1,392, and secured for him the prize of £100 offered by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts if he succeeded in making a 1,000 break. Diggle, who received 9,000 points start in 24,000, “spot barred”, made on the last evening a break of 422 and Roberts, besides his great break, made breaks during the game of 794, 771, and 330 unfinished, winning on May 11th by 436 points.

The following week Roberts and Dawson commenced a match under the same conditions at Ginnett’s Circus, Newcastle-on-Tyne. Roberts best breaks during the game were 321, 387, 627. 341, 394, 582, 500 and 327, Dawson. making breaks of 408, 352, 437, 310 and 374, won on May 26th by 4,239 points.

Another great “spot barred” break was made by Roberts on June 5th at the Hengler’s Circus, Glasgow, in playing a game of 12,000 up against Diggle, who received 4,500 start, when he compiled 1,017. In the same game he made breaks of 559 and 770 unfinished, winning on June 9th by 397 points.

The next two breaks of importance by Roberts were 615 made in June against the same player at the Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh. and 505 at Dundee.

On June 14th Peall and Dawson met to play two games of 500 up, one “all-in” and the other “spot barred”, at the Old White Horse, Brixton, London. Dawson secured the “spot barred” game by 237 points, and in the “all-in” game ran out with a break of 499 unfinished, leaving the scores: Dawson, 500; Peall, 22.

In September, 1894, W. D. Courtney, the Amateur Champion, made his debut as a professional player at Roberts Rooms, 99, Regent Street, London, playing against H. W. Stevenson, who conceded him 1,000 points in 9,000 up, “spot barred”, Courtney winning by more than his points (1,378) on September 29th.

On October 20th a challenge appeared from W. Mitchell (who was in good form in the matches with Roberts) to play anyone, bar Roberts, 5,000, 10,000, or 20,000, “spot barred”, on even terms (Dawson preferred), for £100 to £500 a side on a “Standard” table. Dawson who was not satisfied with his defeat by Mitchell in the “Spot Barred” Championship in January, 1894, took the challenge up, and articles were signed to 20,000 points up, for £250 a side, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Blackfriars Street, Manchester, on December 31st, 1894, to January 12th, 1895. Before the event Dawson conceded H. W. Stevenson 5,000 points in 20,000, “spot barred”, at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London, and won by 1,918 points on November 17th; he also beat Peall on even terms, 18,000 up, “spot barred”, at the same place on December 8th, by 278 points, and Diggle by 559 points on December 22nd at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester, in a game of 18,000, “spot barred”, on even terms, after being at one time nearly 1,500 points behind.

On December 31st to January 12th, 1895, Roberts and Diggle played a match of 24,000, “spot barred”, Diggle 9,000 points start, at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London. Starting on January 4th with his score at, 13,629, Diggle continued to score till he had reached 14,614, when he broke down at a long red winner, the break amounting to 985-the largest “spot barred” break made on a “Standard” table, which included sequences of 21, 25, 41 and 37 cannons, made without working the balls a foot away from the top cushion. After the applause from the spectators had died away, Roberts added 13 points, which was his only turn at the table for the afternoon. The next afternoon Diggle scored his necessary 625 points in five turns, making a break of 480, including 168 cannons, Roberts only scoring 94 points during the afternoon. Diggle also made a break of 404, and eventually won by 4,054 points.

On the same dates Mitchell and Dawson played their match of 20,000 up, “spot barred”, for £500 at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester. Mitchell’s best breaks during the game were 208, 200, 239 and 241. Dawson, whose breaks were 246, 215, 351, 258, 201 and 273, won by 3,130 points.

At the same Hall during a match with Diggle on January 15th, Roberts only scored 29 points in one afternoon, while Diggle (who received 9,000 start in 24,000) was compiling 625 in five turns to the table. Roberts made a “spot barred” break of 802 on the last day, and Diggle a break of 455, when he won by 5,603 points.

On January 26th, Roberts, conceding Mitchell 9,000 points in 24,000 up, “spot barred”, on a “Standard” table at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London, made a break of 619; and on February 23rd, 739, when he won by 31 points.

The following week at the same Hall he commenced a match Peall on the same conditions, breaks of 742, 674, 414, and on the last afternoon of the match made an unfinished 138 into 578, and added 156. 386 and 36 unfinished, scoring 1,000 points while Peall was only able to subscribe 17 points to his total. Roberts winning on March 9th by 2,272 points.

At the same Hall Roberts conceded Dawson 8,000 start in 24,000, “spot barred”, and won by 2.891 points on March 23rd, making breaks of 563, 545, 526, 591 and 419.

Diggle at the same place beat Dawson in a match of 18,000 up, “spot barred”, on a “Standard” table, on April 13th, by 762 points, making a break of 583.

The billiard season of 1895-1896 commenced very early, Roberts playing exhibition matches at his rooms, 99, Regent Street, London, and introducing the pneumatic billiard cushions which were fixed on tables of his manufacture.

On October 1st, 1895, the first number of the ” Billiard Review edited by John Roberts (Champion), was published, in which an article by William Mitchell appeared, entitled, ‘ The odious push stroke. in which he said:-” It seems to me that there is infinitely more reason in barring the push than there is in barring the spot, for the latter is undoubtedly a billiard stroke, while I am not disposed to allow that the push has any claim to be so called”. This, no doubt, laid the foundation for abolishing the ” push stroke”, which was promptly taken up by the sporting Press until it was carried out. Articles and correspondence appeared in the principal newspapers from day to day, amateurs as well as professionals giving their opinions, but Roberts still continued to play the usual game, and in a match with Peall at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, he conceded Peall 9,000 points in 24,000, “spot barred”, and won on October 26th, making breaks during the game of 610, 609, 453 and 252 unfinished.

On the same date C. Memmott, the Australian Champion, who received 50 points start, won a tournament of 700 up, “spot barred”, at the Argyll hall, Argyll Street, London (in which “Bonzoline” balls were used), winning five games and losing one. H. Coles, who received 50 points and W. D. Courtney, received 100 points, each won 4 games and lost 2 dividing second prize. J. North (scratch), won 3, lost 3; H. W. Stevenson (received 50 points), won 2, lost 4; T. Taylor (received 100 points), won 2, lost 4; J. Lloyd (received 130 points), won 1, lost 6. During the progress of the tournament, Coles, Memmott, Courtney, and Lloyd appealed for a foul when the “push stroke” was used by their opponents, which appeal was allowed by the referee (appointed by the “Sportsman”). Several games in the tournament were subsequently contested, “push barred” whilst in others, the two players agreed to the “go as you please” style of progression.

On Monday November 18th, Eugene Carter (the American player) opened at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London, playing J. P. Mannock and other professionals at American billiards, which, no doubt, helped to increase the agitation against the “push stroke”. In one of his games with C. Memmott (the Australian Champion), Carter made a break of 563 on December 5th (counting one for each cannon). At each entertainment Carter played fancy strokes, and gave a novel display with little ivory halls. He had a long successful season in London, and he afterwards visited the provinces.

Diggle beat Dawson in a match of 9.000, “spot barred”, by 2,586 points, on November 23rd, at the Castle hotel, Swansea, South Wales, making during the game breaks of 527, 360, and 548.

About this time W. Spiller, who was running exhibition games at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Dean Street, Soho, London, was playing a fine game, for in a match of 18,000,” spot barred”, with Dawson, who conceded 2,000 points, he time after time beat his own record, making during the game breaks of 480, 395, 267, 248, 308, 364, 329, 255, 247 and 255. Dawson made breaks of 517, 482, 429, 470, 350 and nine over 200, and won on December 14th by 2,723 points.

Roberts in playing W. Hardy, of Manchester, at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, made on November 21st a “spot barred” break of 841

The same month the Billiard Association gave £100 for a handicap of 700 points up “spot and push stroke barred”, played on the English principle (i.e., when a player loses his heat he takes no further part in the handicap), which came off at Messrs. Peall and Walder’s, 95, New Bond Street, London, and resulted as follows:-T. Taylor (received 125 points) beat H. Coles (received 70) by 21 points; J. North (scratch) beat J. P. Mannock (received 140) by 7 points; H. W. Stevenson (received 70) beat J. H. Whittle (received 320) by 138 points; W. J. Peall (scratch) beat C. Memmott (received 65) by 48 points; G. Collins (received 160) beat J. Dowland (received 160) by 125 points; J. Lloyd (received 140) had a walkover allowed, for Mitchell (scratch) was playing Roberts a match in which the “push stroke” was allowed; W. J. Peall beat H. W. Stevenson by 105 points; T. Taylor beat G. Collins by 124 points; J. Lloyd beat 4_ North by 302 points; Peall beat Taylor by 218 points; Lloyd, who drew a bye, played Peall in the final heat of 1,400 up, with the start doubled, receiving 280 points, and won on December 14th by 121 points.

Roberts during the progress of his games continued to make breaks of over 600 at frequent intervals, and W. Spiller breaks of over 300 in his games.

During a game of 9,000, “spot barred”, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Blackfriars Street, Manchester, against D. Richards (who received 1,500 points start), E. Diggle, on February 8th1896, made a break of 612, and won on the same date by 1,846 points.

About this time it became necessary for players taking part in a match (under the rules in force) to stipulate whether the game should be played “all-in” or “spot barred”, with the “push stroke” barred,” jammed stroke “. barred, etc., to avoid any disputes when the game commenced. Mitchell, in the meantime, still kept up the crusade against the “push stroke” by repeated offers to play any player, bar Roberts. with the “push stroke” barred.

On February 10th E. Diggle and C. Dawson commenced a match of 18,000 up, “spot barred”, at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London. In the articles signed it was expressly stipulated that the “push stroke” should be allowed. From the very first stage of the the “Sportsman” commenced a crusade against the “push stroke”. The reports of the play read after the following style:-” Diggle was the first to get fairly to work with a remarkably nice break of 140, in which the push was only once utilised. Dawson caught and passed him with runs of 92, 79, and 148. In all these breaks the push was far too conspicuous. A 219 again, unfortunately disfigured by several fouls”. Diggle during the game made a break of 629, which was described as follows:-” His all-round play was so admirable that it was a pity he could not the temptation of constantly pushing when playing his sequences of cannons”; and also that “a break was a good one but for one or two very pronounced pushes”, or “the push was very strongly in evidence”. In a break, most of the “push strokes” were counted and reported as fouls. Naturally, Roberts took offence at the “push stroke” being put down as a foul in these reports, and during the progress of the game got Dawson to support him by signing a letter that he sent to them which appeared in their issue of February 14th, 1896, over the joint signatures of the three players, protesting against this delicate point laws being decided by “a clique of sporting journalists and second-class professional players”. This, no doubt, made the opposition to the “push stroke” stronger, for in “The Sportsman” of February 19th an article appeared to the effect that:” The push has been and will be, described in these columns as a foul stroke, because it is one and that-in the rules of the Billiard Association-rules that were drawn up by a Committee of twelve of the leading players of the day, of which Committee Roberts himself was the chairman-the act of ‘accelerating the progress of a ball’ is declared to constitute a foul stroke”. Diggle won the match on February 22nd by 2,006 points, and little notice afterwards was given by the Press to a big break made by the aid of the “push stroke”, which eventually killed it. Roberts, in the “Billiard Review” of March said:-“I do most emphatically deny that a properly played push stroke is a foul under any existing rule. No one would, I think, care to say that the masse is a foul stroke, and yet in making the stroke the cue travels over a portion of the ball in much the same manner that the cue travels over the ball in a legitimate push stroke.

After all this controversy Roberts decided to play a match “push and spot barred” with W. Mitchell, who received 7,000 points start in 21,000 up, which commenced at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London on March 23rd, and during the game he made breaks of 480, 315 and 377, winning by 196 points on April 4th.

The following fortnight at the same Hall he played Dawson on the same conditions, winning by 184 points. His best breaks during the game were 335, 301, 342, 331, and 368.

On the same dates Diggle and Mitchell played a match of 16,000 up,” spot and push barred”, on even terms, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Blackfriars Street, Manchester, which Mitchell won by 4,506 points.

On March 19th, 1896, W. Spiller made his largest “spot barred” break of 529 against H. W. Stevenson, at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Dean Street Soho, London, and at the same Hall against Dawson on March 28th made a break of 419.

During the week commencing April 27th, at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London, in short games of 500 up. “all-in”, Peall playing against Dawson twice scored a love game by screwing in off the red in playing the first stroke in the game, and making a break of 500 unfinished.

Roberts complained of the meagre attendance’s during the two games played “push barred”, and again began playing., the old game with the “push stroke” allowed, commencing a match at the Egyptian Hall against Diggle, who received 8,000 points start in 24.000, which was won by Diggle on May 2nd by 713 points.

On November 16th, 1896, a match of 9,000 points up, “spot barred”, commenced between J. Mack (of Manchester) and W. Spiller at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Deansgate, Manchester, Mack receiving 2,250 points start. About this time Mack was playing a fine game, for during the evening of November 18th he scored his points in four turns, Spiller only scoring 68 points. His breaks during the day were 109, 197, 283 and 224 unfinished, and continuing it the following day he made the break into 429. He also made another good run of 297 and won by 2,916 points. Spiller’s best breaks during the game were 251, 174, and 360.

Most of the players were now engaged playing the “spot barred” game, with the “push stroke” allowed, though W. Mitchell frequently challenged to play anyone, bar Roberts, with the “push stroke” barred. The objection to the “push stroke” by the sporting Press seemed to have relaxed somewhat for at the commencement of 1897 the Championship controversy between Peall and Roberts was revived, which resulted in Roberts conceding Peall 12,000 points in 24,000, “spot barred”, at the Egyptian Hall, the match commencing on February 15th, 1897. Roberts during the game made breaks of 703 on February 25th, and 707 the following day, Peall eventually winning by 310 points on February 27th.

A return match was arranged at the same Hall, on the same conditions, from April 5th to April 19th Peall again being successful by 627 points.

Hugo Kerkan, the German Champion, on March 29th gave exhibitions of French billiards at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Dean Street, London, with J. P. Mannock, but he did not have a very long run, for after the first week the attendance was only moderate.

During a week’s play at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London, Dawson and Peall (who played each afternoon and evening) contested 500 points up, “spot barred”, and 500 up “all-in”, on even terms. Dawson scored a love game on May 13th, making a break of 498 unfinished (114 and 47 spots); score: Dawson, 500 ; Peall, 0. In the “spot barred” game the score stood: Dawson, 500; Peall, 84.

On October 11th, 1897, Roberts introduced lady players at the Egyptian Hall with matches between Miss G. Fairweather and Miss L. Collins. They played three games of 1,500 up, “spot barred”, the first on even terms. Score: Miss Fairweather, 1,500; Miss Collins, 683; largest break by winner, 33. Second game:-Miss Collins received 350 start. Score: Miss Fairweather, 1,500; Miss Collins, 941; largest break by winner, 40. Third game:-Miss Collins received 500. Score: Miss Fairweather, 1,500; Miss Collins, 1,050.

Dawson beat Roberts in a match at the same Hall on November 1st to November 13th with 7,500 start in 24,000, “spot barred”. The principal breaks by Roberts during the game were 590, 480, 491, 421, eleven over 300, and the same number over 200. Dawson’s best were 340, 331, 325, and nine over 200. Score: Dawson, 24,000; Roberts, 23,622.

H. W. Stevenson, who had been showing marked improvement in his game, issued a challenge to play any player, bar Roberts, Diggle, and Dawson, which was immediately taken up by W. Mitchell. The pair played 18,000 points up, “spot barred”. at the Argyll Hall. Argyll Street, London, for £200, on January 31st to February 12th, 1898. Mitchell at the commencement took a long lead and though Stevenson repeatedly got close with good breaks during the game he could not pass Mitchell, who won easily by 1,605 points. Stevenson made breaks during the game of 319, 310, 352, 489, 319, 250: Mitchell, 304, 225, 222, 356 253, 269.

On February 14th, Roberts decided to again play the “spot and push barred” game (which soon afterwards became the recognised game, the players gradually adapting themselves to the altered conditions), conceding Mitchell 5.500 points in 21,000 up. at the Egyptian Hall. In this Roberts made a break of 526, but the match did not finish, as Mitchell was taken unwell with the scores: Mitchell 13.257; Roberts, 13,059.

C. Memmott and F. Weiss (the Australian Champions) played a match of 9,000 up, “spot barred”, at the Argyll Hall, Memmott being allowed to use the “push stroke” whilst Weiss played “push barred”. Memmott’s best breaks during the game were 251 223, 256, 226; Weiss 265, 282. Score: Weiss, 9.000; Memmott , 8,378.

Roberts and Weiss commenced a match of 21,000 up “spot and push barred”, at the Egyptian Hall, on March 13th on a “Standard” table (which was officially tested and passed by the Committee of the Billiard Association), Weiss receiving 6,500 start. Roberts’ best breaks during the game were 285, 230, 225, 327, 222, 297, 319, 357, 219, 223, 222; Weiss 247, 220, 203. The match resulted in a draw with the scores: Weiss. 20,108; Roberts, 19,737.

Dawson and Weiss contested a game of l8,000 up,” spot and push barred”, on March 28th to April 9th, Weiss receiving 2,000 points start, on a “Standard” table at the Argyll Hall, Dawson winning by 1,866 points. The winner’s best breaks were 287, 337, 267, 215, 310, 316, 202, 349, 309; Weiss 210, 293, 201, 272, 225

203.

The best breaks made, “spot and push barred”, to the end of the season were by Roberts at the Egyptian Hall:-549 against J. G. Sala, March 11th; 609 against C. Harverson, April 4th; 679 against E. Diggle April 13th.

In a match with J. Mack at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Show Rooms, Manchester, E. Diggle made breaks of 425 on March 30th, and 559 on April 7th.

At the same firm’s show rooms, at Birmingham, C. Dawson made a break of 572 on April 21st against F. Bateman.

By this time it became evident that something would have to be done with respect to the rules in force, and the Billiard Association set to to revise their existing rules, which were published in October, 1898. The principal alterations were that,” If the striker ‘push’ his ball, or strike it more than once, he cannot score, such spotting of the red ball which, “after spot twice in consecutive strokes by the same player, and not in conjunction with any other score, it shall be placed on the centre spot”. This at once destroyed the monotonous spot stroke, and did away with the continuous controversy respecting same as far as professional players were concerned. Matches and tournaments were now played under the new revised rules, Diggle being the first player to make a record break of 412 on November 22nd, 1898, in playing against Stevenson in a match of 18,000. points up (the latter receiving 2,000 points start) on a “Standard” table at Messrs. Orme and Sons’ Show Rooms, Soho Square, London. This break. however was beaten in the same game by Stevenson, who put together 582 on November 25th, the match resulting in a draw with the scores: Diggle 17,351; Stevenson, 17,073.

On November 28th the Billiard Association commenced an English handicap at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, London giving for first prize – £50, second prize £20, third and fourth £10 each. which was won by J. North who received 80 points start in 500 points up. First Round :- H. Barr (200 start) 500, beat C. Dawson (scratch) 275; C. Popkins (240 start) 500, beat W. Mitchell (40 start) 272; J. North (80 start) 500, beat B. Elphick (170 start) 424; H. W. Stevenson (50 start) 500, beat J. Lloyd (125 start) 495; M. Inman (200 start) 500, beat M. C. Clark (190 start) 480; A. W. Morgan (170 start) 500, beat W. Critchell (210 start) 455. Second Round:-W. Spiller (90 start) a bye W. J. Peall (40 start) absent; J. Dunn (170 start) 500, beat F. Dixon (250 start) 418; G. Collins (170 start) 500. beat W. Hardy (150 start) 426; F. Copping (190 start) 500, beat C. Harverson (90 start) 257; J. P. Mannock (140 start) 500, beat W. Cook (170 start) 409; H. Barr (200 start) 500, beat C. Popkins 240 start) 483; J. North (80 start) 500, beat H. W. Stevenson (50 start) 222; J. Dunn (170 start) 500, W. Spiller (90 start) 431. Third Round:-M. Inman (200 start) 500, beat A. W. Morgan (170 start) 390; G. Collins (170 start) 500, beat F. Copping (190 start) 483. Semi-finals:-H. Barr (200 start) 500, beat J. P. Mannock (140 start 452, J. North (80 start) 500, M. Inman (200 start) 335; J. North (80 start) 500, beat H. Barr (200 start) 466; J. Dunn (170 start) 500, beat G. Collins (170 start) 482. Final (best two out of three games):-J. North (80 start) beat J. Dunn (170 start), the first by 37 and the second by 166 points.

On December 17th, 1898 Roberts made a break of 527 on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Cox and Yeman, at the Egyptian Hall, London, against W. Mitchell; and on the 28th of the same month he commenced a big American tournament at the same Hall, 14 players competing in heats of 600 points up (under revised rules), for prizes value £410 (“Bonzoline” balls being used). W. Mitchell with a start of 175 points won on January 11th, 1899, taking first prize of £200, having won 11 games and lost 2; J. G. Sala (200 start) second prize of £60, won 10, lost 3; E. Diggle (150 start) third prize, £23, won 10, lost 3. Diggle and Sala played off for first and second prize, the latter winning. The following players divided according to heats won:-H. W. Stevenson (200 start) won 8, lost 5; T. Aiken (260 start), W. J. Peall (200 start), J. Roberts (scratch), and F. Bateman (260 start), each won 7, lost 6; W. Osborne (260 start) won 6, lost 7; F. Copping (260 start) and C. Harverson (225 start) won 5, lost 8; J. Mack (240 start) won 4, lost 9; T. Taylor (240 start) won 3, lost 10; W. D. Courtney (240 start) won 1, lost 12.

C. Dawson on January 14th, 1899, beat J. North for the first Champion ship played under the revised rules of billiards, promoted by the Billiard Association, who drew up rules to govern all future competitions for the Championship (see page 186). Up to the season 1898-99, John Roberts had pretty well held complete sway, till the agitation promoted by the Press against the “push stroke” compelled him to play under the revised rules. Under these new conditions, and consequent upon his taking composition balls into use, assertions were ripe as to his play deteriorating, and after countless challenges Dawson’s partisans (backed up by the Billiard Association) issued a challenge for Dawson to play Roberts 18,000 up level for £100 a side, the whole of the gate money to go to the winner, the game to be played in a neutral hall and ivory balls to be used. This brought an acceptance from Roberts, and articles were signed at “The Sportsman” Office in November of 1898, to play during the month of March, 1899. Then for a time nothing was talked of in the billiard world but the Roberts and Dawson match, and as the date agreed upon approached greater interest became centred in the game.

Dawson. in meantime, was showing good form. In a match of 9,000 up against J. Mack at the Exchange Hotel, Fennel Street, Manchester, February 20th to February 25th, 1899, he was successful in conceding 4,000 points start, and won by 261, making during the game breaks of 125, 211, 114, 131, 114, 116, 169, 140, 114, 129, 246, 148, 105, 170, 123, 160, 317, 180. Mack made breaks of 156, 123, 124, 100, 119, 187.

Roberts soon afterwards, at Messrs. Orme and Sons’ Show Rooms, whilst playing against Diggle on March 3rd, 1899, made a break of 597, which was of greater magnitude than any other since the revised rules had come into force. This strengthened the opinions of his patrons, who simply swore by him, as they had always seen him conceding about one third of the game, and how strong this feeling ran is best told by the following little story of J. P. Mannock, the well-known teacher:-During the first part of the match when Dawson was leading, one of Roberts’ supporters approached him in his room at the Hotel Victoria, and inquired “Who do you think will win this match – Roberts or Dawson? When told that he thought the latter would win, he replied, “Well, he can’t. Nobody will ever beat Roberts!” Mannock suggested that Roberts was not so young as he used to be, and that “Anno Domini” would beat him. “Bah !” said Roberts’ barracker,” I didn’t mean any of your foreign players, I mean an Englishman! ”

A number of difficulties arose with respect to the hall to play in, and whether “Bonzoline” or ivory balls were to be used. After it was settled that the latter should be used, the selection of the hall was got over (though the articles signed stipulated for a neutral hall) by Dawson, after consulting his backer, agreeing to a proposition made by Roberts, to play half the match at the Argyll Hall, Argyll Street, and the other half at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London. The match commenced on March 20th, 1899, at the former hall, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company, before a large attendance. At the finish of the day’s play, Roberts was leading by 110 points. On the following afternoon Dawson scored 859 points in sixteen visits to the table, to 189 points made by Roberts, and secured a lead of 784 at the finish of the second day’s play which enabled him to hold the lead until the Saturday evening only 280 points separated them. Roberts on the day named put together 1,923 points with breaks of 329, l 51, 129, 114, 101, and 115 unfinished, to 1,120 points scored by Dawson. the scores reading at the end of the first week’s play Roberts, 9,001; Dawson, 8,721. The breaks made by the leader, besides the above mentioned, during the first week were, 125, 126, 105, 119, 130, 111, 172, 140, 168, 169, 182, 124, 105, 1 :32, 180, 143, 118, 266. Dawson made breaks of 342 (the highest in the match), 152, 150, 278, 132, 128, 156, 104, 138, 122, 138, 127, 264,. 186, 126,, 132, 112, 126, 112, 121. Directly after Roberts had reached his points, workmen commenced to take down the table, which was then put up at the Egyptian Hall. From the commencement of operations at his headquarters. Roberts began to gain ground, for when a halt was called on Thursday night, prior to the adjournment for Good Friday, he was actually leading by 2,078 points. His best breaks up to this period were 124, 272, 155, 121, 108, 136, 285, 126, 110, 112, 148, 316, 106, 236, 144. Dawson’s best were 170, 185, 104, 101, 164, 165. On the Saturday afternoon Dawson scored 1,275 points to Roberts 748, making breaks of 112, 212, 94 and 243. to Roberts’ 85, 94, 131. In the evening Dawson again did well, scoring 1,495 whilst Roberts was reaching his points, a total of 2,770 points for the day, reducing the lead of Roberts’ to 807. Dawson’s breaks in the evening were 83, 45, 104, 228, 80, 65, 185, 155, 136 and 126, to Roberts’ 80, 102, 89, 75, 79, 57 and 42 unfinished. Commencing on the Monday afternoon Roberts only added a few to his unfinished break, but with breaks of 188, 115 139 unfinished scored his points whilst Dawson was putting together 268. In the evening Roberts raised his break to 213, and with breaks of 108, 207, and 212, won by 1.814 points.

During the game H. W. Stevenson challenged the winner to play on level terms, but shortly afterwards (on Nov 15th, 1899) he commenced a match with Roberts at the Hengler’s Circus, Glasgow, receiving 6,000 points start in 21,000. Result: Stevenson, 21.000; Roberts, 20,149.

In a match between F. Bateman and C. Dawson at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts New Street, Birmingham, the latter on April 19th, 1899, made a break of 536, and on October 21st of the same year, playing in a match with J. Mack at the Argyll Hall, on a table duly certificated as one of “Standard” pattern, he beat the existing record (597 by Roberts) under the revised rules by making a break of 722.

On November 13th, J. P. Mannock and C. Dawson played short games at the Argyll Hall, advertised as “descriptive billiards”, the former describing or declaring each stroke to be played and pointing out as near as possible what position would be left stroke named had been played. The public did not take kindly to the new idea and it only had a short run.

The next important event v as the Billiard Association handicap, 500 points up (played on the English “knock-out” principle), which commenced on November 20th at Messrs. Thurston and Company’s, Catherine Street, Strand, London. The prizes offered were: First, £50 second, £20, third and fourth, £10 each. First Round:-H. Shephard (120 start) beat J. North (owes 30) by 29 points; H. W. Stevenson (owes 30) beat W. Critchell (160 start) by 92 points; C. Harverson (50 start) beat J. Dowland (100 start) by 146 points; B. Elphick (110 start) beat G. Collins {100 start) by 114 points; C. Popkin (180 start) beat A. W. Morgan (120 start) by 121 points; F. Harwood (130 start) beat J. Dunn (100 start) by 72 points W. Hardy (100 start) beat F. Bennett (170 start) by 121 points; C. Dawson (owes 100) heat J. Ayres (130 start) by 172 points; J. Sharod (160 start) beat J. P. Mannock (80 start) by 76 points. Second Round:- F. Copping (130 start) beat W. J. Peall (scratch) by 161 points; J. Lloyd (70 start) beat M. C. Clark (150 start) by 252 points; H. Barr (120 start) beat M. Inman (100 start) by 107 points; H. Clark (160 start) beat H.. Shephard (120 start) by 37 points; C. Harverson (50 start) beat B. Elphick (110 start) by 249 points, Harverson making a break of 212 unfinished; C. Dawson (owes 100) (160 start) by 259 points; H. W. Stevenson (owes 30) beat C. Popkin (180 start) by 226 points F. Harwood (130 start) beat W. Hardy (100 start) by 117 points. Third Round :- F. Copping (130 start) beat J. Lloyd (70 start) by 212 points; H. Barr (120 start) beat H. Clark (160 start) by 141 points, C. Dawson (owes 100) beat C. Harverson (50 start) by 194 points, Harverson making a break of 135, and Dawson 100 and 315 unfinished, F. Harwood (130 start) beat H. W. Stevenson (owes 30) by 149 points. Semi-final Round:- H. Barr (120 start) beat F. Copping (130 start) by 94 points; C. Dawson (owes 100) beat F. Harwood (130 start) by 166 points. Final Heats (best two out of three games):-C. Dawson (owes 100) beat H. Barr (120 start) by 185 the first game, and by 97 points the second game, winning the handicap on November 27th, 1899.

Playing against F. Bateman at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, New Street, Birmingham on December 7th, 1899, H. W. Stevenson made a break of 591

About this time Dawson issued a challenge to give Mitchell 1,000 start or Stevenson 2,000 start, in 18,000 up for £100 a side. Mitchell promptly replied and the match was played on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Burroughes and Watts at the Egyptian Hall, January 22nd to February 3rd, 1900. Dawson taking the lead at 2,481, left off with a good lead at the half-way stage, his principal breaks being 341, 263, 256, 247, 227, 212, 230, 251 and nineteen other breaks over the century. Mitchell made breaks of 225, 224, 212 and eighteen more over the hundred, the scores reading: Dawson 9,001; Mitchell, 8,307. The second half of the game saw Dawson playing in great form, and he won easily by 1,931 points, running to game with an unfinished break of 421 (the largest in the match). His other breaks were 405, 321 and twenty-one over the century. Mitchell compiled twenty-seven over the hundred, including 209, 203, 215 and 254.

Roberts then surprised everybody by making an announcement that he was about to play Stevenson and Diggle a “test” match, each on the terms of his challenge (after he defeated Dawson), to give any player 5,500 points in 21,000 up (with “Bonzoline” balls) with the intention to furnish a line of comparison of his play with those of his most capable contemporaries. (which those with any knowledge of the difference between a composition ball and ivory must know did nothing of the kind, when his opponents were used to playing with ivory only), and it was no surprise to see Stevenson lose his game by over 5,000 points. Shortly after these matches. Roberts went abroad, seen very little in England since.

In November 1900, H. W. Stevenson, who had improved wonderfully in his play accomplished a remarkable feat in a game of 18,000 up (on level terms) against Diggle at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester. On the tenth day of the match he was 1,116 points behind Diggle when play and he put together 2,532 points whilst Diggle was scoring 822, including a fine break of 586, thus finishing up at night with a lead of 544, and finally winning by a margin of 987 points.

During the same week (November 12th to November 17th) Dawson gave M. Inman a start 10,000 at the Argyll Hall. On the Friday evening he scored 1,476 points to Inman 358, his principal contributions realising 149, 108, 441, 41, 59, 389 and 58 unfinished, to Inman’s best break of 128, eventually winning by 258 points.

The following month he gave C. Harverson 3,300 points start in 10,500, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester, making a break on December 11th of 540, and winning after an exciting game by 23 points.

On January 26th, 1901 H. W. Stevenson beat E. Diggle in a match of 9,000 (conceding 1,000 points) by 943 at the Gresham Restaurant, West Nile Street, Glasgow.

The most interesting events of the season were the two Championship games played between Dawson and Stevenson, the Amateur Championship and Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Tournament (see index). the matches of note to the end of the season were between Harverson and Inman, J. Mack and T. Reece, the latter players contesting 18,000 up for £100 a side, on February 11th to February 23rd, at the Socialists’ Hall, Oldham, Mack leading at the end of the first week’s play with the score: Mack, 9,000; Reece, 7,989. The best breaks were 126, 113, 123, 120, 101, 122, 129, 166, 164. Reece made the largest break ((338)) in the match, and also others of 106, 165, 140, 152, 101, 153, 124. During the second week the leader, who made his best break (271) in the match, won easily, the final scores reading: Mack, 18,000; Reece, 14,772. His other best breaks were 173, 141, 108, 132, 118, 140 and 127, the loser making breaks of 122, 148, 159, 101, 103 154, 129, 109, 168, 114.

The following week C. Harverson and M. Inman commenced a match at the Argyll Hall 8,000 points up, the latter receiving 1,000 start for £75 a side, which was a great game from start to finish, Inman lost most of his start very early in the game, the scores at the finish of the afternoon’s play on the second day reading: Inman, 2,114; Harverson (in play), 2,000. However, he never lost courage, and, finally, after a keen and great struggle, ran to game with an unfinished break of 182 (the last 129 of which were made off the red ball), a winner by 248 points. His other breaks during the game were 119, 112, 113, 154, 180, 174, 108, 117, 107, 101. The loser’s highest breaks were 118, 124, 157, 101, 131. 100, 111, 112, 129, 119, 112, 145 and 132.

C. Dawson in a match against F. Lawson at the Surrey Street Music Hall Sheffield conceding 4,500 points in 10,000 up, on April 15th to April 20th, made breaks of 376, 421 and 448, and won by 766 points.

The same month saw a match commenced in which H. W. Stevenson concede 2,000 points in 18,000 up to E. Diggle, at Messrs. Orme and Sons, The Parsonage, Manchester, the latter, who made breaks of 455 and 326 (twice) during the game, winning with the scores reading : Diggle, 18,()00; Stevenson, 11,758.

The commencement of the 1901-02 season saw C. Dawson and E. Diggle giving exhibitions of their skill in different towns in the United [kingdom, and with J. Roberts also being away in Australia, billiards (with the exception of a couple of tournaments) were rather dull for a time in London.

On October 5th H. W. Stevenson (who had previously challenged Dawson for the Championship) issued a challenge to play anyone in the world (Dawson preferred) three games, each of 18,000 up, level. for £100 a side each game, to be played in London, Manchester, and Glasgow, as he was anxious to prove who was the better player. Whether this challenge intended as an advertisement prior to the Championship is not known, but when it became evident that the Championship would not be played, as Dawson declined to play on the date selected by the Association- November 11th-the latter body declared Stevenson Champion on that date. Notwithstanding this, however, Dawson had accepted his offer to play the three matches named. He (Stevenson) then stated that he would only play Dawson on level terms if he played for the Championship, otherwise he would give Dawson or any other player 1,000 in 18,000, for any sum from £100 to £500 a side. After a continued paper warfare, articles were signed to play three matches of 18,000 up, each for £100 a side, on level terms, the first to be played in London and to commence on March 3rd 1902, one week to intervene between each match.

On October 12th, 1901, Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall, Leicester Square, London, was opened with an American Tournament promoted by the Billiard Association, who gave £100 in prizes. The heats were 500 up. H. W. Stevenson (scratch) and W. J. Peall (100 start) won six each out of seven, and in playing off the tie, the former made a bleak of 242 and secured first prize. The other players taking part were: W. Mitchell (50 start), F. Bateman (80 start), J. North (80 start), C. Harverson (100 start), W. Cook (160 start), and M. Inman (160 start).

Nothing sensational was done by Diggle or Dawson in their games until they arrived at Liverpool, when playing at the Eberle Street Hall, the latter on December 13th, 1901, made a break of 579, and the following week (December 20th) Diggle made a break of 519 at the Cambridge Hall Sheffield The two players named commenced a match of 18,000 up at the Argyll Hall on January 6th, 1902, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company. Diggle, who received 2,000 points start, caused rather a sensation, for on the evening of January 10th he made a remarkable break of 205. In this break, after a few strokes, Dawson’s ball covered the billiard spot, and, Diggle, instead of playing the usual cannon, continued playing the winning hazard off the pyramid spot into the four pockets (the two middle and the two top corner pockets). Although an objection was raised, and the revised rules were produced, nothing at that time was in them to prevent the stroke, and he made fifty-six consecutive hazards in this way before breaking down-a wonderful performance. Dawson, who won by 699 points, made breaks during the game of 484 and 555.

The same month C. Harverson and M. Inman commenced a match of 16,000 up, on level terms, for £75 a side, on January 20th to February 1st at Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall. Again the game was well contested, some of the sessions being greatly prolonged. Harverson during early part of the match went right away and looked like winning easily, but Inman struggled on gamely in his usual way. The last few days’ play was very close and exciting, the players constantly passing and re-passing each other. When Inman appeared to have the game in hand an unusual occurrence happened-whilst playing, the spot fell out of his ball. He requested a new set, which were duly provided, but he broke down after a bad stroke. Harverson then ran right out with an unfinished bleak of 225, a winner of a marvellous game by 163 points-a great performance.

On February 10th, H. W. Stevenson and C. Harverson commenced a match at Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall, the latter being in receipt of 3.000 points in 9,000. Stevenson on February 11th made a break of 541, and won by 196 points.

On February 24th to March 1st, Dawson and contested 9,000 points up (Diggle 1,000 start) at C. Poundsbery’s Billiard Hall, 114, Western Road, Hove, Brighton. On the Wednesday afternoon Dawson made a break of 455, but Diggle reached his points with an unfinished break of 75. On restarting, he continued playing all the evening, and left off with a magnificent unfinished break of 742-(this achievement is without precedent under the revised new rules)-his opponent never having a stroke during the evening’s play. Continuing the next afternoon, February 27th, 1902, he carried the break to 791 before breaking down at an easy winning hazard, thus beating all records. The following appeared under the report of the break in “The Sportsman” :- “The above performance of Diggle’s was a marvellous one, no matter upon what class of table it was accomplished; but in justice to both players and table-makers, it is only right to point out that no break can be accepted as a record unless it has been made upon a table that has been previously tested and passed as a ‘Standard’ by representatives of the Billiard Association.” – ED. The Sportsman.

The first of the three great matches between Stevenson and Dawson commenced on March 3rd at the Argyll Hall on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company. One of the conditions (introduced for the first time) stipulated that two plain white balls should be used, a spot being marked on one in order to distinguish them. Dawson started very well, leaving off with a lead of over 500 points after the first session. The sitting in the evening was terribly prolonged and lasted until 11.45 p.m. before Stevenson, who scored 1,287 to Dawson 689, reached his points with a lead of 54, and from this point to the finish took a commanding lead. On Thursday and Friday, March 6th and 7th, he played an extraordinary game, making his necessary 750 points on the first named afternoon in six innings. an average of 125. His breaks were 47, 116, 62, 411 and 97 unfinished. In the evening he scored his points in thirteen innings with breaks of 101 (full), 86, 220. 240, 98 and 75 unfinished. On the Friday he even played better, scoring 750 in four innings in the afternoon (an average of 187) and breaks of 109 (full), 190, 185, 81 and 260 unfinished. Remarkable as was the exhibition given by Stevenson in the afternoon. few thought it possible that he would do better in the evening. but this he actually did, making successive breaks of 418 (full), 99. 13 and 481 (unfinished), .averaging 250 for three completed innings, whilst scoring 750 points-a marvellous display. The following afternoon he carried his unfinished break to 521, and at the half-way stage was leading by 3,767 points. Although Dawson on the Monday afternoon following scored 1,455 points to Stevenson 750, the latter was too far in front to be caught, and he eventually won by 3,806. During the match the winner, besides the big 259, 249, 245 (twice), 240, 237. 223. and forty-five of one hundred and over. Dawson’s son’s best breaks were 389, 299, 298, 288, 281, 258, 254, 227, and twenty-seven of one hundred and over. The following is an extract from the “Sportsman”, March 17th, 1902, under the heading, “Comparative form of the players” :- “This result is as it should be, for no unbiased critic who has closely watched the billiards of the past two weeks could leave Argyll Hall and say Dawson was the better player. That he is determined and plucky, that he knows not defeat until the end of the game, that he is a very fine player, indeed, there is no doubt, but that he is not the equal of Stevenson as a player is also unquestionable. When Dawson was Champion of his profession he was proclaimed as such in the columns of the ‘Sportsman’, recognise his great abilities as a player. However, at that time Stevenson was climbing the ladder, slowly, it is true, but with certainty. Their battle at the Gaiety for the Championship was convincing, for in that game Stevenson showed his capabilities in a manner that surprised all, beating his opponent in a match of 9,000 up by 2,594. It is true that later in the season Dawson turned the tables by over 3,000 and regained his lost honours, but by that time the form was known, and possibly the Huddersfielder knew what he was doing when, after being challenged for the Championship at the beginning of this season, he allowed the title to go by default. The match that concluded on Saturday in no way whatever could have affected the Championship, yet more than Stevenson proved that he is the Champion. Yet, as he has ousted Dawson from the position, so there may be another coming along to him, and, perhaps, beat him, and should that occur Stevenson, like Dawson, will have to take second place with as good grace as he can. Stevenson knows full well that one cannot take a life long lease of any championship”. Afterwards these matches were described as a “mere test of endurance” in the columns of the same paper under “Vigilant’s Note-Book”, but nothing was heard of this definition before Dawson won the next two matches.

The second match was played at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, March 24th to April 7th (no play on Good Friday), on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Cox and Yeman. Again at the beginning Stevenson went right away, and at one time during the first week was leading by over 1,500 points. When the half-way stage was reached he held a lead of 976. His best breaks up to this period were 575. 225, 216, 202, 220 unfinished, and sixteen of one hundred or more. Dawson’s best were 373, 333, 312, 205 and fifteen of one hundred or more. During the latter half Dawson struggled on and gradually closed up the leeway, and for the first time during the game held foremost position after a break of 196. The totals at this stage were called: Dawson, 11,898; Stevenson 11,853; and although Stevenson got within eighteen points of the leader when the scores stood Dawson, 14,507; Stevenson, 14,489; he was never caught, and finally won by 910 points. The following breaks in the order made were accomplished by the winner during the second week: 174, 198, 131, 166, 172, 383, 123, 271, 112, 249, 131, 109, 100. 106, 174, 196, 137, 123, 241, 127, 186, 206, 319, 142, ‘289,. 130. 146, 141. 127, 115, 124, 108, 182. Stevenson’s best breaks were 232 (full), 168, 209. 403, 121, 156, 167, 100, 183, 234, 135, 101, 146, 170, 107, 292. 102, 105. 114, 105, 112, 244, 118, 249.

The third and deciding match was played at the Argyll Hall, London, April 14th to April 26th, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company. On the first afternoon, Stevenson breaks of 70, 144, 202, 85 and 160 unfinished, scored 751 to 276, Dawson making breaks of 47 and 135. In the evening he made breaks of 177 (full), 56, 57, 63, 100 and 252 unfinished, to Dawson’s best breaks of 94, 51. 197, 97 and 144 leaving off with the scores: Stevenson, 1,501: Dawson, 1,010. The following afternoon Dawson at the close of play actually led by points, making breaks of 125, 151, 148, 200, 225, 92 and 167 to Stevenson’s breaks of 295 (full), and 58. In the evening Dawson again increased lead to over 900. On the Saturday afternoon Stevenson scored 1,062 points in five innings, and put together 1,209 points to 679 by Dawson, and again took the lead when the score of the last named stood at 9,798. When play started on the following Thursday afternoon the scores stood: Stevenson (in play), 13,467; Dawson, 12,959, the former with a lead of 508. Dawson played up well during the day, the scores at the adjournment reading: Dawson, 15,003; Stevenson, 14,279. From this point to the finish he further increased his lead, and finally won the rubber by 1,169 points. The winners best breaks during the game were 284, 266, 235, 233, 225, 215, 219, 200 and forty-three of one hundred or over. Stevenson made 423, 328, 296, 295, 285, 263, 220 (twice), 216, 210 (twice), 202 and twenty two of one hundred or over.

After these matches Diggle and Dawson again became partners playing several exhibition games in the provinces.

The most important breaks to the end of the season were by Stevenson at the Palace Billiard Rooms, Hope Street, Glasgow, in playing against T. Aiken on May 13th. when he made a break of 537, and by Dawson, 524 made against Diggle on May 30th at the Royal Albert Hall, Jarrow.

The season 1902-03 started very early, Stevenson showing great form in a match of 9,000 up, conceding W. Osborne 4,000 start at the George Hotel, Leicester, September 22nd to September 27th. During the game he made breaks of 471 and 422, and just proved successful, and shortly afterwards whilst playing against Bateman at Messrs. Orme and Sons, Manchester, he made a break of 492 (playing with “Bonzoline balls)

Dawson, after being beaten easily by T. Reece, of Oldham. who received a start of 3,500 in Manchester commenced a four [two] weeks’ engagement at the Grand Hall, London, on September 29th, conceding W. Cook 7,000 points start in 18,000 up, on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Thurston and Company. Dawson who made two breaks during the game of 425 and 514, won by 182 points. Cook’s three-figure breaks during the game numbered twenty-seven. viz., nineteen between 100 and 200 seven between 200 and 300, and one over 300.

Following this match, Dawson gave C. Wilkinson, of Wakefield, 4,000 points in 9,000 and again proved successful by 205 points. Wilkinson, who made his first appearance before a London audience, played well indeed, making breaks of 120, 100, 163, 142, 129, 127 and 111.

The following week Dawson played a return match with T. Reece, conceding 3,500 points in 9,000, and on the first day (October 20th) Dawson made a break of 541 and eventually won by 327 points. Reece during the game made breaks of 146, 102, 105, 140, 141, 139, 100, 108, 213, 115, 125, and 207.

Dawson next contested three games of 3,000 points up, during the week November 3rd to November 8th. at the Albion Hotel, Leeds, conceding W. Nichol 1,500 points start in each winning all three, and making breaks of 402 on the Tuesday, and 605 on the Saturday.

On the following Monday commented an American Tournament at the Grand Hall, promoted by the Billiard Association. Heats, 500 up. T. Reece (150 start) and C. Harverson (150 start) won seven games each, and lost two. Playing off the tie (which was arranged 1,000 up, level), Harverson won on November 22nd by 315 points. The following players also competed:-H. W. Stevenson (scratch) won 6, lost 3; W. Osborne (180 start) won 5, lost 4; Alec Taylor (220 start) won 5, lost 4; W. J. Peall (100 start) won 4, lost 5; M. Inman (130 start) won 4, lost 5; W. Cook (150 start) won 3, lost 6; J. Mack (150 start) won 2, lost 7; W. Holt (240 start) won 2, lost 7.

Stevenson and Diggle then contested a game of 4,500 up (the latter receiving 500 points start) at the Corn Exchange, Maidstone, Diggle winning on November 26th by 812 points.

A challenge issued by C. Harverson to take 6,000 points in 18,000 from either Dawson or Stevenson for £50 a side, resulted in a match on the terms named being played at the Argyll Hall on a “Standard” table by Messrs. Geo. Wright and Company, on December 8th to December 20th. between C. Dawson and C. Harverson for £75 a side. Harverson on the first three days of play actually scored more points than Dawson, the scores at the close of Wednesday evening standing: Harverson, 9,002; Dawson, 2,980; and at the half-way stage: Harverson, 12,001; Dawson, 8,257 The leader’s best breaks were 122, 113, 105, 112 (twice), 177, 104, 103 and 148. Dawson’s best were 133, 114, 110, 152, 106, 125, 117, 327, 140, 113, 333 127, 122, 118, 134, 207, 107, 103, 268. During the second half Dawson, gradually but surely began to gain on the leader, and when the last day’s play was entered upon he was only nine points behind, and he finally won a well contested game by 439 points. His breaks during the second half were: 125, 228, 103, 122, 266, 166, 115, 109, 103, 251, 305, 144, 164, 113, 137, 154, 211, 101, 119, 235, 190, 100, 158, 179, 110, 290, 183, 275 and 153. Harverson’s best were: 103, 135, 137 (twice), 101, 111, 174, 114, 192, 109 and 146.

The same fortnight Stevenson and Diggle played a game of 18,000 up at Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall, Diggle receiving 2,000 points start. Stevenson at the commencement of the second and week caught and passed his opponent, the scores reading: Stevenson, 10,502; Diggle, 10,330; and again he was leading by over 500 points on the following Friday afternoon; but Diggle played up with great determination and won by 953 points. The winner’s best breaks throughout the game were: 367, 309, 254 (twice), 252, 251, 242, 241, 233, 227, 225 (twice), 245, 217, 207, 205 and thirty-four of one hundred or more. Stevenson made breaks of 423, 442, 492, 372, 336, 333, 280, 281, 272, 286, 261, 258, 244, 250, 239, 225, 221, 218, 203, and thirty-two of one hundred of more.

The following fortnight Stevenson conceded F. Bateman 4,500 points in a game of 16,500 up, at the Grand Hall. The latter showed improved form, and complied breaks of 366, 270, 340, 323, 308, winning on January 3rd, 1903, by 537 points.

E. Diggle, in playing a match with C. Dawson at Hotel, Leeds, made a break of 594 on January 2nd, 1903.

The next important match commenced on January 5th at the Grand Hall between M. Inman and T. Reece for £100 a side, 16,000 up, on level terms. Inman at the beginning of the game gradually drew away and at the half-way stage the scores read: Inman, 7,907; Reece, 7,344. The game was well contested throughout, the two men playing very keenly, and on the fourth day a remarkable series of consecutive safety misses were given, Inman giving sixteen and Reece fifteen; also during the match in another session he gave ten consecutive safety misses to nine by Reece. At one time Inman was leading by four figures, but Reece responded gallantly, closing up the leeway and getting within eight points of the leader on the last night, the score at this period being called: Inman, 15,521; Reece, 15,513. After a desperate struggle home from this point, Inman won by 312 points. The best breaks by the winner during the game were: 110, 100, 109, 104, 169, 189, 110, 121, 112, 117, 103, 101, 137, 116, 146, and 117. Reece’s best breaks were 210 (twice), 118, 125, 102, 145, 107, 184, 107, 160, 171, 139, 228, 158, 132, 185, 132, 215, 130, 111, 165, 187, 183, 126, 167, 140 and 143.

Stevenson and Diggle should have commenced a match of 18,000 up, the latter with 2,000 points start, the same fortnight, at the Gresham Restaurant, West Nile Street, Glasgow, but the former was ill the first two days. However, on the Wednesday the players started as though each had run to his points overnight, when the respective totals should have read: Diggle (2,000 start), 4,666; Stevenson, 3,000. Diggle again played well and won easily by 1,167 points, scoring some 500 points less than the start given on the ten days’ actual play.

During an exhibition match at the Criterion Hotel, Shrewsbury, on February 2nd, H. W. Stevenson made a break of 588 in playing against T. J. Watkins; and on the 10th of the same month C. Dawson, playing against :E. Diggle, made a break of 607 at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, New Street, Birmingham.

At Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall C. Harverson and M. Inman played their match of 16,000 up, on level terms, for £50 a side, on February 2nd to February 14th. Inman drew away on the first day with a good lead. Harverson, however, with breaks of 102, 107, 127. and 147, on the Tuesday evening scored 1,103 points to Inman 441, leaving off with a lead of 183. and from here to the finish steadily gained, the scores at the half-way stage reading: Harverson, 8,001; Inman 6,662. After a most protracted game, the average duration of play being six hours a day, Harverson won easily by 1,447 points. The winner s best breaks during the game were: 172, 112, 110, 111, 141, 135, 160, 147, 101, 191, 118, 110 (twice), 111. 114. 106, 125, 140. 120, 137, 126, 119, 174, 118, 265, 123 and 132. The loser made breaks of 110, 141, 145, 176, 194, 200, 111, 177, 100, 122 105, 106, 108, 148.

During the fortnight February 16th to February 28th, at the same Hall, H. W. Stevenson conceded W. Cook 7,000 points start in 18,000. The latter took a strong lead from the commencement, showing much improved form, and made several breaks of over two hundred, his highest being 366. Although Stevenson on the last day made breaks of 534, 305, 111, 110, and 157, Cook with a splendid break of 238 unfinished won easily by 2,606 points.

The week following the Championship (see page 190) Dawson and Diggle commenced a game of 9,000 up (the latter 1,000 start) at Messrs. Thurston’s Grand Hall. The report of the first afternoon’s play in “The Sportsman” commenced:- “The inseparables, the Damon and Pythias of the professional billiard world, Dawson and Diggle, are again together. They were separated for a week whilst Dawson was taking the Championship from Stevenson but Diggle could not bear the parting, and as a result he was a constant visitor to the National Sporting Club”. Diggle, who had been Dawson’s partner and trial horse prior to his big matches with Stevenson, brought about the above remarks. In “The Sportsman”, under notes, “The game in 1902″, read:-” During the year Dawson and Diggle were showing together in the provinces; but, so far as the results of the matches are concerned, no interest whatever attaches, for being continually pitted against each other, their games became very monotonous indeed. They were quite inseparable; in fact, except for that period when Dawson was engaged with Stevenson, he rarely met any other player except Diggle. As the two players named were inseparable to the end of the season, I will give the games of most interest played by them”.

On April 4th W. Cook, in a benefit match with J. Lloyd (the beneficiare) at the Grand Hall, made a break of 476 (his highest on record).

At the above Hall Diggle and Dawson commenced a match of 16,500 up, the former receiving 1,750 start, April 6th to April 18th (no play Good Friday). Diggle on the third day made a break of 527, and during the game compiled breaks of 390, 337, 312, and 301, to Dawson’s best break of 394, winning very easily. The scores at the close of the match were: Diggle (1,750), 16,500; Dawson, 11,270. On the Saturday evening Mr. Harry Young (representing the “World of Billiards”) presented Diggle, on behalf of his admirers, with a magnificent gold watch, made by Messrs. Kendal and Dent, as an appreciation of his great form during the game.

The following fortnight (April 20th to May 2nd) the same players contested a game of 18,000 up (Diggle receiving 2,000 points start), at the City Hall, Eberle Street, Liverpool on a table by J. Ashcroft, of Liverpool. Throughout the game was full of interest as both players showed great form. Dawson on the first Saturday evening, in six visits to the table, including breaks of 64, 137 589 and 246, scored 1,042 points, the scores at the half-way stage reading Diggle. 9,421 : Dawson, 8,467. During the second half Diggle made a break of 432, and finally won easily by 1,118 points. His other breaks during the game were: 324, 308, 269, 243, 238 (twice), 237, 228, 224, 223, 213, 206 and forty-eight of one hundred or more. Dawson, besides the big break, made 473, 376, 344, 318, 300, 278, 276, 264, 255 (twice), 252, 250, 239, 231, 213, 220, 245, 236 and thirty-eight of one hundred or more.

One week intervened, and then the above players commenced their last match of the season. a start of 1,000 in 18,000 up, at Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, New Bridge Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne, on May 11th to May 23rd, 1903. Both players again showed great form and big breaks were plentiful; on the second day Dawson made a break of 468 and Diggle one of 523. After a fine game Dawson eventually won by 692 points. Besides the breaks mentioned the other breaks made during the game by the winner were: 415, 397, 320, 315, 301, 284, 270, 237, 235, 226, 215, 208, 200, and forty-one of one hundred or more, and by Diggle 334, 315, 301, 290, 280, 248, 238, 231, 230, 202, 200, and thirty-two of one hundred or more. It may be interesting to note that Diggle and Dawson have competed against each other in thirty-five matches under the old rules, with the “push stroke” allowed, Diggle winning nineteen and Dawson sixteen. Under the present rules they have played forty-three matches, Dawson winning twenty-six and Diggle seventeen They played one drawn game of 18,000 up at the Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh, on November 9th, 1901, when the final scores were: Dawson, 17,148; ‘Diggle, 16,920. Stevenson and Dawson, besides the Championship games and the three money matches also contested the following games (under old rules):-October 1st to October 6th, 1894, at Argyll Hall, twelve games of 700 up, Stevenson receiving 150 start; result, Dawson won nine, Stevenson three. Same month, October 15th to October 17th, at Argyll Hall, six games, 700 up, Stevenson 150 start; result, Dawson won five games, Stevenson one. At the same Hall they contested 20,000 up, Stevenson 5,000 start, November 5th to November 17th, 1894; result, Dawson 20,000, Stevenson 18,082. November 20th, 1894, at the Constitutional Club, West Norwood, London, 500 up, “spot barred”, Stevenson 100 start; result, Dawson 500, Stevenson 366. 500 up, “all-in”, Stevenson 100 start; result, Dawson 500, Stevenson 288. November 4th to November 16th, 1895, at Argyll Hall, 18,000 up, Stevenson 2,000 start; result, Dawson 18,000, Stevenson 16,866. March 9th to March 14th, 1896, at Messrs. Thurston’s, Catherine Street, Strand, London, 9,000 up, Stevenson 1,500 start; result, Dawson 9,000, Stevenson 8,355. And under the present rules:-The final heat in Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ Tournament, Dean Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, February 27th to March 11th, 1899, 18,000 up, Stevenson receiving 3,500 start; result, Stevenson 18,000, Dawson 15,838. December 24th to December 29th, 1900, Messrs. Burroughes and Watts’ American Tournament, Dean Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, three games 3,000 up, Dawson owes 500, Stevenson scratch-Christmas Day (no play) intervening, the games had to be played in five days-Stevenson winning all three; the first, Stevenson 3.000, Dawson 2,462; second, Stevenson 3,000, Dawson 2,532; third, Stevenson 3,000, Dawson 2,280.