Winks Rampant : the development of modern tiddlywinks

The Great Match

"My men are fit", proclaimed David Arundale, shortly before the match. "Whatever form of goonsmanship we have to face, we have our secret weapon. These are the tactics based roughly on the thesis that in squidging a wink into the pot, R = P cos A + S; R being the normal reaction of the isotropic compressible medium, or carpet on which the game is played; P being the applied force; A the angle between the wink and the squidger, and S the Steen factor."

These tactics seemed to have the desired effect, as the C.U.Tw.C. minutes relate. "Soon after 9 a.m. members of the Club who were to act as stewards for the Goons match arrived at the Guildhall to help in arranging of the seats and equipment for the match. After considerable chaos, caused mainly by the presence of camera crews from the Columbia Broadcasting System, BBC TV, ITV, Pathe News and British Movietone, everything was finally ready, and at 10.30 the doors were opened and 600 people filled the Guildhall to capacity. Meanwhile, backstage, the two teams were receiving their last-minute instructions. Members of the Cambridge team had met the Goons outside Cambridge at the Leys School, and safely escorted them into the basement of the Guildhall via a secret subterranean passage through the Public Library.

"At 11.03 the teams emerged on to the platform to a very enthusiastic reception, and after John Snagge had read out Prince Philip's message and announced the names of the teams, Chris Brasher started the first round by firing a cap gun."

Prince Philip's message ran as follows: "Please give my best wishes to the two teams taking part in the great contest but try, if you can, to do it in such a way that you convey that I wish the Cambridge team to lose and my incomparable champions to win a resounding and stereophonic victory. At one time I had hoped to join my champions but, unfortunately, while practising secretly I pulled an important muscle in the second or tiddly joint of my winking finger. This is naturally very disappointing but at least it gives my side a very much better chance to win. Wink up, fiddle the game and may the Goons' side win. - Philip"

The Minutes carry on: "Play continued for the next hour and 20 minutes. The audience were extremely lively in the participation and the Goons revelled in the spontaneity of the response, giving a great deal of amusement to players and spectators alike. After two rounds had been played, half-time was taken, when both teams drank Babycham, and the Goons were also provided with rhubarb, of which they demonstrated the full comic potential.

"At the end of the match, the two teams came back on the platform, and after a minor diversion when Harry Secombe tried to auction a leek with which he had been presented, John Snagge announced the result as a win for Cambridge by 120.5 points to 55.5, 16 games to nil. The Cambridge President was then presented with a tankard by the Lady Mayoress, and then the Goons were presented with losers' awards- a mounted Babycham plastic model. The two umpires, John Snagge and Chris Brasher, also received a similar award. Then Harry Secombe came forward and sang the Tiddlywinks Anthem specially composed for the occasion by the Rev. E.A.Willis, and accompanied on the organ by Michael Marshall (of Christ's); this was received with tumultuous applause and then all the audience joined in, as Harry Secombe led them in magnificent operatic fashion. David Arundale came forward to ask for three cheers for "the person who started all this, that great sportsman and President of the National Playing Fields Association, His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh."

The Tiddlywinks Anthem
(to the tune of Men of Harlech)

Other nations are before us
With their sputniks and explorers
What can confidence restore us?
Naught but tiddlywinks.
On the fields of Eton,
Former foes were beaten.
But today all patriots play
This sport which needs such grit and concentration.
Through this game of skill and power
England knows her finest hour,
And her stonghold shield and tower
Must be tiddlywinks.

"After the Goons had been interviewed for sound radio and TV, and after Harry Secombe had been taken out to St John's playing field to depart to Coventry in a Fison's Pest Control helicopter, both teams had lunch together in the Lion Hotel, Petty Cury. The lunch was held quite informally, but the Cambridge President took that opportunity of thanking the Goons, and the Cambridge stewards, for making the event a resounding success, and Spike Milligan replied that the Goons had all enjoyed taking part and hoped that the event would become an annual fixture. During the course of the lunch, Spike Milligan decided to send a telegram to Prince Philip bearing the simple message- 'Prepare to abandon ship, (signed) Royal Champion'."

The Sunday press were full of accounts of the match. The popular papers tended to stress the more frivolous side of the day's activities. In the Sunday Dispatch: "Two girl programme sellers were set upon- tied up and gagged- and their programmes sold £1 apiece in aid of the N.P.F.A." In the Sunday Express: "Secombe and Milligan were clearly shaken by posters carried by pyjama-clad undergraduates saying 'Eccles must go'." Reynolds News said, "Afterwards the Goons protested that the umpire, Chris Brasher, had ignored a royal command to twist the game in their favour... The Mayor of Cambridge sat with the Mayoress in a matside seat. The Proctor stood, arms folded, looking down from the high balcony, his bulldogs by his side." The People described the Goons' defeat as "one of the most dramatic sporting upsets for years"!

The Sunday Times carried this report: "As the Royal colours, the Goons wore curious long yellow cotton garments ('the traditional Goon sheets') with orange, yellow and black school caps, and ties embroidered with the initials of the Royal Tiddlywinks Club 1958... Cambridge were immaculate in dinner jackets and bow-ties bearing a wink rampant... The Goons' play was conscientious but lacked finesse. At one point Mr Harry Secombe squopt his own captain, who observed irritably that he was a Charlie."

A considerable sum of money was raised for the N.P.F.A. at the match, plus some beforehand. Then came a second telgram from Showerings, dated March 3rd: "Heartiest congratulations to you and your team on outstanding victory at Cambridge Guildhall Stop In effort to soften blow which his Royal Highness suffered by defeat of his Champions we are sending you one hundred guineas cheque for his Playing Fields Fund Stop The Directors of Showerings Ltd."

      Receipts from the match eventually came to £225:
      Receipts at Goons Match            £93-15-0
      Donation from Showerings           £105-0-0
      BBC, for Sportsview appearance     £26-5-0 

On March 4th, a letter was sent from Michael Ramsey, then Archbishop of York, now Archbishop of Canterbury. He conveyed his "congratulations and his humourous pleasure at the success of the efforts of your Club in Cambridge for the N.P.F.A." The Archbishop added that "in the rapid development of the technological age, when civilisation is becoming ever more complex and even our pleasures and our sports are becoming industrialised, the choice of your particular game is a wholesome reminder that the truest satisfaction is often to be found in simplicity, and it is the hallmark of a mature mind to preserve the enduring values of a childlike response to life."

The Goons match is a great watershed in the story of tiddlywinks. Preceding it were three years of little-publicised existence and very few matches. During this period progress was made by a series of discrete leaps with long uneventful patches in between. Now with the Goons match winks began to catch the public's imagination. The publicity triggered off the formation of a number of new clubs, and a stream of letters, enquiries and requests for information was soon flowing towards Cambridge. In the short term, much of the immediate upsurge of interest by the public at large waned after a few months, yet in the long run the match had a profound effect on tiddlywinks. The game took deep and permanent roots in a small number of universities, colleges and schools, and it is from this solid core of a few earnest clubs that the future expansion of the game developed. In short, the Goons match, the publicity surrounding it, and the lasting enthusiasm it aroused in various quarters, galvanised tiddlywinks into a new tempo of life.

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