On The Mat : the origins of modern tiddlywinks 1954-57

The First match

The promised match against Noel Whitcomb's team safely materialised in June, in the heart of London. As the first match ever played under the modern rules incorporating squopping, it has a secure place in the annals of the game, and it lived up to the importance of the occasion.

The story is told in the words of Lawford Howells, from the C.U.Tw.C. Minute Book:

"Tuesday 14th June 1955 was the historic date of the Club's first match... against Whitcomb's Winkers. The rendezvous was the Cock Tavern, Fleet Street, the time seven o'clock.

"After some anxious moments en route, the whole team arrived at the Tavern at 7.15 p.m. As we filed in and made our way to the top floor, the people in the bars seemed stunned, and stared with wide eyes at the spectacle- I'll admit we did look rather as though we were on safari with our rolled carpets over our shoulders and umbrellas at the ready. [Ed: not to mention dinner jackets]

"The party was already in progress when, rather breathless, we reached the top floor. Drinks quickly followed the initial introductions and we soon found ourselves engrossed in conversations ranging from tiddlywinks to automation- and also glancing occasionally round the room in search of the Windmill girls and film stars whom we were told would make up the team.

"After half an hour or so during which much liquid was consumed, the carpets were laid out and all was ready. The match was started by the Editor of the Daily Mirror squidging off on the first carpet. The Club team consisted of: W. M. Steen & R. C. Martin; J. W. Rilett & L. C. M. Howells; B. J. Tyler & R. H. Parker; D. Arundale & M. Hodge. D. N. Flinn was reserve and umpire.

"The games proceeded at a uniform rate punctuated by sips or even glasses of whisky and soda or whatever took your fancy at the bar. With some of the ladies showing a remarkable aptitude for tiddlywinks, and some of us occasionally having difficulty between "winning and being a gentleman" (to quote one spectator), we won 9 games to 3 (to quote the Daily Mirror).

"With the match over, a photograph was taken of the team with Noel Whitcomb and our new mascot, Teri Harrison, whose appointment had earlier been unanimously and enthusiastically approved by the Club members present. After Teri had been given a detailed account of the Club's activities, and presented with one of the Club's embroidered bow ties, the party came to an end with everyone agreeing that a return match was imperative.

"10.45 p.m. found us, once more, walking along Fleet Street and entirely agreed that it had been a very enjoyable evening, and that Noel Whitcomb and the Daily Mirror had 'done us well'".

[Ed: Stew Sage in an article published in Winking World 50 recalls that the minutes book noted "that the difference between the ladies of the Windmill and those of New Hall is merely one of degree."]

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