Winks Rampant : the development of modern tiddlywinks

The Grand Finale

The grand finale of the academic year was a hectic week in which the Club went on a tour of the West Country, acted as host to the world's first Tiddlywinks Congress, and played winks and marbles matches in Crawley against the world marbles champions.

The West Country tour came about through an invitation from Showerings to visit them at Shepton Mallet, Somerset, where Babycham was made. The Club was able to arrange a couple of matches to be played in Bristol while the team was in the area. Accordingly, the team set out for Bristol by car on the morning of Monday 9 June.

The first match was played in the afternoon at the Victoria Rooms, against Bristol University Tw Club, newly formed for the occasion. There was a crowd of about 200, together with television cameras and press photographers. The CUTwC achieved the expected victory, winning 14 of the 16 games, to earn a score of 107-69, but the Club's 3-foot tall Babycham mascot was stolen!

For the next match, in the evening, the Club moved to a hotel near the Clifton Suspension Bridge, where Bristol Grammar School were the opponents. CUTwC notched up its second tour win. The night was spent at the hotel at Showering's expense.

On Tuesday 10th the team toured Showerings' factory at Shepton Mallet, and were driven back to Cambridge by two Babycham sales representatives. H.Beattie, Captain of the Bristol University Club also travelled back to Cambridge to attend the Congress.

The First World Tiddlywinks Congress was held at Christ's College, Cambridge, on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th June. A few days earlier Willis had heralded it saying, "1958- destined in future generations to be a date which will share with 1066 as one everybody remembers!" Nevertheless, no-one saw fit to take Minutes at the Congress! It was attended principally by Cambridge and Oxford people, Willis ("I am at the Congress to represent the old and mainly arthritic") and the press.

Congress' major purpose was to thrash out the controversies surrounding the rules of the game. The main problem was that Cambridge and Oxford had been playing under different rules, as was vividly illustrated at the Oxford- Cambridge encounter a month before. In particular, Cambridge included squopping in their game, while Oxford did not. Pressman sat astonished through hours of detailed argument about squopping; the debate was long, complicated and at times extremely amusing. In the end it was agreed to include squopping in the rules- a most fundamental decision, for squopping is the essential difference between modern winks and the nursery game. Without squopping, the game would have lost the greater part of its intellectual and tactical challenge and could hardly have attracted the support it currently enjoys.

The full rules were hammered out in great detail. In addition it had become clear that, as several clubs now existed and others would probably be formed in the near future, it was no longer appropriate for the Cambridge Club to handle the game's wider affairs. Consequently Congress created the English Tiddlywinks Association, with an unwritten and rather vague brief, and a single officer, the Secretary-General. The man appointed to this post was the dominant personality of the Congress, the Rev. E.A.Willis. [Ed. I understand Congress also adopted the Cambridge spelling of tiddlywinks- Oxford included an 'e']

Immediately after the Congress, Peter Downes wrote to the King's Patent Agency to see whether or not the new rules could be protected by registration or copyright. He was told in reply that "under the Copyright Act... the rules would be regarded as a literary work (!) and Copyright is obtained on publication". Subsequently Showerings printed the new official rules without charge, instead inserting a Babycham advertisement on the outside of the back cover.

The Wolfenden Committee on Sport, which was sitting at that time, was carefully kept informed of the progress of the Congress.

On Friday 13 June CUTwC played the marbles and winks matches which had been arranged against the marbles section of the Telcon Social and Athletics Club at Crawley. The event was in aid of the NPFA. On the way down to Crawley, the Cambridge team called in at Marchant Games to offer them the opportunity of becoming official manufacturers of tiddlywinks equipment to ETwA; Marchants agreed.

At Crawley, the 'Telcon Terribles' were captained by L.Roberts, and the team included J.Mason, Jim Langley the Fulham footballer, and Peter Butterworth, a television personality. The event attracted considerable publicity. Cambridge were massacred at marbles but triumphed at tiddlywinks.

One other development occurred before the momentous 1957-58 academic year can be considered to have ended. John Evans of Cambridge University returned to Wales for the summer, after the Congress, and established a Welsh Tw Association, appointing himself Secretary-General. He invited the Prince of Wales to be Patron, but the invitation was declined on the grounds that the Prince was not yet old enough to accept any patronage. Evans replied by sending the Prince a box of winks. The episode aroused the interest of the press and television; in July Evans appeared on Television Wales & West, and subsequently enjoyed other television and press appearances. (The rest of the Evans story can be summarised by recording that the first England-Wales international winks match took place a year later, on June 8th 1959- the Welsh team included Roberts and Mason of the Telcon Terribles- resulting in an English victory. Two or three years later Evans emigrated to Surrey and the Welsh Tw Association went out of existence for the time being.)

Tiddlywinks had now found its feet. By the summer of 1958 the game had ceased to be synonymous with the Cambridge Club. The first few of a new generation of clubs had come into existence, and in succeeding years others were to add to their numbers at an increasing rate. The game was well and truly rampant.

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