English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : August, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : August, 1911

On Tour with Gray

And Some of the Things That Happened

In a series of four articles in The Yorkshire Evening
Post recently, George Nelson described his six months’
tour with George Gray, in the course of which Gray played
and won thirty-one matches, scoring 221,500 points to his
opponents’ 81,776.

Gray’s landing in England with his father was not
exhilarating. “On one of the grayest mornings of that
miserable July in last year” (writes Nelson) “I met George
Gray and his father. I am afraid both of them obtained a
very poor first impression of England, for not only was
the weather very cold, but even colder was their reception.

Much to my surprise, I was the only person to welcome the
Grays to England. That they felt this more than they complained
of I feel sure, for they had taken part in and seen
so many different receptions when any English billiard
player visited Australia. Anyhow, the luncheon afterwards
given by the B.C.C. to George Gray partly compensated
for this, whilst the splendid reception and whole-hearted
enthusiasm with which he has been received by the hundreds
of thousands of spectators he played before must
have assured him that the British public lives up to its
reputation of being the fairest and most sporting in the

Next Nelson tells of Gray’s practice methods during the
ten weeks that elapsed before he commenced his public
play in this country:—”Six to eight hours’ practice daily
was Gray’s self-appointed task, and, let it be whispered,
he generally did a short spell on Sundays. Often he was
up and away down to Kirkstall Road to practise so early
that no one else in the house had risen. After he had
done three or four hours of what he called ‘ solid ‘ work,
I used to sometimes play him a practice game, but I soon
got tired of that, for the practice was much too one-sided,
and when he got on the red, I went and played on another
table. Where we did get a nice little bit of pleasant
relaxation, though, was at the close of the day, when Gray,
senior, would join us in a game of sixpenny skittle pool.

In these games of skittle pool we were one day joined by
Melbourne Inman. The first time Inman joined us he was
very lucky, and managed to win a half-crown. ‘ I’ll come
early to-morrow,’ he said; ‘ this is just my game.’ He
did, and we had a good long spell at skittles. When we
did adjourn it was found that Inman was the only loser,
so much so that he did not want to play any more skittles.”

Amongst people whom Gray came across was Harry
Lauder, who wished him success and said he was anticipating
a trip to the Antipodes. “We have since,” adds
Nelson to this, “met Mr. Lauder on several occasions,
notably at Glasgow, where he was particularly earnest in
giving Gray, senior, some advice. It was ‘ Beware of the
contracts, and sign no more.'” Perhaps the meetings with
Gray stimulated Harry Lauder’s own billiard enthusiasm.

At any rate, he since had installed into his Scottish home
a handsome Burroughes and Watts table.

At Halifax they met the great violinist Kubelik, and the
equally great pianist Backhaus. The latter is very fond of
the game of billiards, being a constant spectator, when in
town, of all the big matches. He was delighted to see the
play, and at the finish he told young Gray he would have
challenged him but he only played with “ivories.” George
Gray has an autograph book which he prizes very much,
and Kubelik and Backhaus obliged by signing this, Mr.

Backhaus putting, “With best wishes to the champion of
the other ivories.”

To see about certain matters in connection with Gray’s
first visit to London Nelson came to town three days
before play commenced. On the Thursday evening before
Monday’s play he deposited with one of the leading sporting
papers a cheque for £50, with a challenge to play anyone
in the world a level match for £1,000 and the whole
of the “gate.” Next morning, much to his astonishment,
London was completely placarded with large news sheets:
“Gray challenges the world for £1,000.” In the tubes,
outside news-vendor’s shops, and at every street-corner, it
stared him in the face in glaring big type twelve inches
deep, until he began to feel quite nervous, and wonder what
on earth he had done. He says: “I have heard people
brag about ‘ Painting the town red,’ but I certainly did
‘ Paint the town Gray.'”
After the first afternoon’s play at St. George’s Hall,
Nelson happened to see an elderly gentleman slip and fall
on the steps. Naturally he hurried to his help as quickly
as possible. Another gentleman, who said he was a doctor,
also rendered what assistance he could, and they got the
injured man into a taxi for home. The injured gentleman
afterwards wrote to thank Nelson for his kindness and
added:—”It may interest you to know that the other good
Samaritan was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who has been
good enough to send me an autograph letter with kind
inquiries as to my progress, so you will see that although
I have suffered a lot of pain I have some pleasant recollections
of my visit to see Gray and yourself play.”

During the tour, Nelson, who frequently played against
Gray, was dubbed “chair-polisher” and “cue-rack” (the
latter by Harverson, who afterwards held the cue himself
for two days during a 2,196 unfinished) and E. C. Breed
telegraphed: “How do you like the table?”

In one of his matches with Diggle, the latter had three
shots in two days. Someone sent him a wire advising him
to read a magazine article by George Gray, “How to play
losing hazards,” but he tersely replied to this: “I can see
without reading.” Diggle had a lot to put up with over
his games with Gray. He must have got sick of people
asking: “What do you think of Gray?” but he took it all
very philosophically, and his invariable reply was: “It’s
marvellous; isn’t it?”

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