English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Amateur Billiard Player : October 1996

The Amateur Billiard Player : October 1996

Historical Pot Pourri

Photo of Peter Ainsworth (2k)

by Peter Ainsworth

How often do you hear players make excuses for a sub-standard performance by blaming the table, balls, cloth,
etc. I have sometimes thought of making a list of all the hitherto unnoticed problems which have been pointed
out to me, but it’s always seemed so difficult to know where to start Not that I’m adverse to offering a plausible
excuse myself you understand, and if anyone has heard any particularly good ones perhaps they could let me
know as I don’t like to repeat myself too often.

I suspect that the majority of players have always been like this, which is why I was so impressed with a report of
a match which took place in 1897 between professional champions Charles Dawson and William Peall. In May
of that year they were engaged to play a series of games 500 up, as part of the week long Tobacco Trades
Exhibition at the Agricultural Hall, Islington. Although the venue was more suited to the showing of livestock, a
billiard table had been specially installed for the match in one of the large open buildings. A reporter from the
Daily Mail witnessed one of the games and sets the scene for us:

Photo of Charles Dawson (3k)

Charles Dawson

The match table had been erected just ten yards away from a band-stand where a full brass
band was going through its repertoire with some gusto. Directly above the table, in an
overhead gallery, a gang of carpenters were hammering and sawing, making preparations for
the Military Tournament which would take place later that week. Amongst all this, the game
was in progress. Peall had secured position behind the red spot and had made several
consecutive pots when the big drum and cymbals struck just as he was delivering his stroke,
so causing him to mis-cue. Dawson, taking up the position, played the red slightly off-line and
it stopped on the lip of the pocket At that moment a mighty hammering from the carpenters
overhead, shook the table and the ball fell into the pocket When Dawson had finished his rather
fortunate break, Peall went to the table again. By now the carpenters had started to plane wood
and the wind blowing through the well-ventilated building caused the shavings to swirl around
and settle on the table. Peall remarked that he didn’t care if it snowed! and went on playing until
some sawdust dropped in his eye which put him off his stroke. Dawson, taking his turn at the
table, found that he was now wading ankle deep in shavings and had to drive the balls through a
layer of debris which was rapidly accumulating on the table. Regardless of these distractions the
game continued with Peall emerging the eventual winner in what the Daily Mail reporter
described as “the longest time on record”.

Photo of William Peall (2k)

William Peall

Although there is no mention in that report of how long the game actually took, I’m sure that another match must
have a better claim to be the longest on record. This took place in the 1870’s at the Walworth Road, London and
was between two amateur players, Billy Shee and Mr.Newsham for the sum of £100 a side (which was a
considerable amount in those days). Both were well known personalities and gamblers in horse racing circles and
in addition to the stake, there were substantial side bets from the racing fraternity. The game was to be 1,000 up
and as licenced premises were obliged by law to stop play on the billiard table at midnight, it commenced at
11.00am to give the players a chance to finish before closing time. The match attracted so much interest that the
local press sent one of their journalists to witness events, although judging by his report he was not too keen on
the assignment. This is reproduced here exactly as it appeared:

“Owing to the marked want of brilliancy and execution on the part of the two players, the first 500 points took
six and a quarter hours, at which time Mr.Shee had overtaken his opponent, getting 70 points ahead.” “We only
watched the game for one and a half hours, during which period unfortunately there was but little scoring. We
call to mind however one very brilliant break of three by Mr.Shee and a prettily played break of two by
Mr.Newsham. The hour of midnight however, arrived long before the 1,000 was reached and the conclusion of
the match was wisely postponed until the following Saturday, as each player required at least a week’s rest and
change of air after his exertions. Mr.Newsham ultimately won the game by 76 points. His opponent failing in the
latter part of the game to make those brilliant breaks we noticed earlier. The match was carefully marked by Mr.
T. Bailey, the poor fellow was however, much exhausted.”

I’m sure that if that reporter had waited long enough to interview the players, they’d have given some really good

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