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

Two Lean Years: 2. Oct 1956 - Sept 1957

In the Michaelmas term membership reached an all-time high, 19, with the addition of three Freshmen, Peter Downes, Roger Hauland, and Keith Piper. Meetings were now held on Tuesday evenings, and "the previous practice of playing haphazard games was abandoned and a ladder inaugurated which tended to raise the standard of play." It is interesting to see that the forebears of the present English Tiddlywinks Association Records came into being at this time: "Members were invited to set up records:- (a) the number of counters sunk in 100 winks, (b) the number of counters sunk in 60 seconds - both starting with counters a foot from the cup."

The highlight of the term was undoubtedly a match organised single-handed by Bill Steen against a team of nurses from Addenbrooke's Hospital. The matches took place on the last Tuesday of the term, C.U.Tw.C. winning 11 games to 1. For this, their second match, the Club matted a side composed of Graham Ridge, Robert Turner, David Moreton, Ian Pascoe, John Scully, and the new trinity of Downes, Hauland and Piper. Addenbrooke's matted a side of only six, "all charming nurses who provided quite stiff opposition and weakened the concentration of some of the Club's playing members. One member became so enthusiastic that he suggested a return match the following evening at one of the nurse's flats. The result is not known."

The Lent term was unusual in that it produced two fixtures! On February 11th 1957 the C.U.Tw.C. played Addenbrooke's again, winning 69-30, and on February 28th the Club defeated Westminster College 106-48. Three matches in three months was a distinct improvement.

Meanwhile the C.U.Tw.C. persisted in its attempts to encourage opposition from Oxford. The history of these attempts goes back to the very foundation of C.U.Tw.C. Even before the Club's first meeting in January 1955, Bill Steen had urged a friend of his at Oxford, Gordon Dennis, to form a club there. Dennis gathered together a number of people prepared to play a friendly game against Cambridge, but not prepared to stake the reputation of Oxford on an official Varsity match. In February 1955 there were plans for an 'unofficial' match to be held in the summer, but these plans came to nothing.

When John Scully joined C.U.Tw.C. in the Lent term of 1956 he brought the news that his girlfriend was at Oxford trying to form a club there. However, the Minute Book reveals that "the Secretary's girlfriend in Oxford lost interest in the Long Vacation (i.e. in Tiddlywinks, not him) but before the Club had time to assimilate this news Peter Downes came forth with knowledge of a group of enthusiasts in Brasenose who are intending to form a club." Cambridge hopes were raised in vain. C. I. Roberts of Brasenose wrote to Scully "We all find tiddlywinks to be an enjoyable and stimulating game, and one requiring no small measure of skill... However, none of us feel sufficiently passionate on the subject to want to form an official club. The general opinion was that even if we did form a club, it would soon die out in subsequent years." C.U.Tw.C. had to wait until November 1957 before they first had news of an official club at Oxford.

C.U.Tw.C.'s third A.G.M. was held on 11th June, 1957. David Arundale was elected President, Peter Downes Secretary. It was revealed that the Club's resources amounted to the gratifying sum of £6.18.0. It was at this meeting that Steen and Howells announced their enterprising plan for a World Convention of Tiddlywinks, "to thrash out the vital problems of the rules of the game. Some members treated the idea at first with a disrespectful frivolity but the general mood was that this scheme could be highly beneficial to the propogation of Tiddlywinks." The Club now stood, unknowing, on the verge of the most momentous year the game has known- with the great match against Prince Philip's Royal Champions the Goons, an Oxford match, the First World Tiddlywinks Congress, and a West Country tour. Tiddlywinks began to take deep roots in a host of centres throughout the country. It was the year the game changed gear. But that is another story.

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