Greyhound Marbles


In 1960 there was a preliminary match between the Terribles and the Crackpots to get the draw down to eight team, the Trerribles went on to win, going through to the main championship.


The draw was made and in the first round the Rebels beat the Winklepickers, the Terribles beat the Masked Marvels, the Spitfires beat the Jets and the Tigers beat the Exiles. The semis saw the Tigers beat the Spitfires and the Terribles beat the Rebels. In the final the Terribles beat the Tigers.


England beat Wales in the International, which was held after the main championships were over.


The 1961 championship fell on the last day of March, and was covered by many of the ‘Nationals’ the next day April 1st –All Fools Day.


Before the event George Burbridge and four of the best marble players paid a visit to the South African jazz musical ‘King Kong’. They gave a demonstration of the game and invited the cast to Tinsley Green on Good Friday.


  What with the sunshine and the 13-man cast of King Kong, the ‘Marbles’ drew the largest crowd for many years. The Daily Herald even sent no less a person than their leading sportswriter Tom Phillips to cover the event he wrote.  “I witnessed on of the greatest tragedies of the ring yesterday. Five deaths in the afternoon. A family of three wiped out by killer blows.” He went on “George Burbridge championship organiser and announcer, was stunned when the slaughter of the Tigers began. Three of the Tigers are dead! He gasped over the microphone, Bert Sired, Bert Sired junior and George Burberry. Then Harry Sired was killed. George roared; The whole of the Sired family is dead! And now ‘Wee Willies’ gone. Never in the 36 years of Tinsley Green marbles have five men in one team been killed in the final.”


One of the many visitors was Hilary Brock a student who came to Tinsley looking for material for her college thesis on children’s games. She was told to see the organiser George Burbridge but not to mention ‘children’ or ‘games’. Len Smith beat teammate Jack Dempsey 7-5 to win the individuals.


1962 saw the end of the 'Marbles' as it had been from its conception and first championship tournament in 1932. No longer was it to be the rural event it had been for 30 years, and as a country sport before that. Glass marbles were to be used it was disclosed by the organiser George Burbridge.

Toucan Terribles in 1962


Five weeks before the tournament a meeting was called involving many of the leading players, following a complaint from the Telcon Terribles, about the clay marbles used.  "The traditional clay marbles previously used were supposed to be 9/16th inch in diameter' in fact they ranged from 5/16th inch in diameter to the correct size. The various sizes in diameter naturally caused weight differences, very misleading to a skilful player. Glass marbles are the ideal thing; they are of suitable weight and size and are easily distinguished. One could hardly see the old ones, once buried in the sand.” said Len Smith  


'Marbles had started early this year. In February a team of American Air Force personnel had come to Tinsley Green. At Greyhound Hotel George Burbridge and Jerry Barber, skipper of the Ruislip Rat Pack made a 10-minute recording for the Forces and Overseas Radio Network.


Six teams took part in the main event, in the first round the Terribles beat the Teenage Twisters, the Ruislip Ratpack beat the Johnson Jets and Tinsley Tigers beat Copthorne Spitfires. The semis were Terribles beat Tinsley Tigers and the Ruislip Ratpack had a Bye. The Terribles beat the Ratpack in the finals.

Players from the Ruislip Ratpack shoot as Jack Dempsey


Len Smith beat ‘Wee Willie’ Wright in the individuals; ‘Wee Willie’ was in the lead and only needed one more marble to win. He missed and Len went ahead to win for the fourth time, Len said, “I really thought I’d lost it.” In the first game of the day Len had not fared so well, Alan Smith had killed his father.


There were only three teams in the junior event; the first round saw the Hookwood Horrors beat the Yobs, with a Bye for the Jaspers. In the final Hookwood beat the Jaspers.


Red glass marbles were used for the first time, it was said due to the lack of traditional clays. All did not welcome this innovation. Fifty-six year old ‘Wee Willie’ Wright said, “it’s a bad thing, they should have stuck to the clay marbles. There is no shortage of them; I have still got plenty I could have let them have. Glass marbles are larger than the clays; they are also heavier and have a tendency to bounce. For a player like me, with a small hand, it makes all the difference. I cannot control my own tolley at all.” The prizes were presented by Graham Hill and the referee was Ted Mitchell.


On March 26th 1963 champions the Telcon Terribles and a 19 strong party of marble players travelled to London to appear on ITV’s ‘Here and Now’ programme. They showed presenters Hew Thomas, Michael Ingrams and Vanessa Thorton how to play the game. Among those present was George Burbridge who for years has organised the event and had just reluctantly announced his retirement after a row with the brewery. He felt that he was badly let down by them, as they had refused to help the organisers. A brewery spokesman said, “We have been supplying tents and so on but we have decided to stop doing that.” George told the local paper that he had “no intention” of taking back his old job. In the confusion that followed the Brewery asked ‘Spike’ Robinson to come back and give the commentary on the matches. This arrangement carried on for a year or two but came to a head in 1968 when the Brewery pulled out altogerther.


  This year saw not a new team but an old team with a new name, just before the championships Telcon Terribles became the Toucan Terribles. Drooping the old factory name and using the Guinness Toucan as their mascot. The other teams were Battersea Bombers, Jaspers, Tolley Flickers, Salisbury Satchelites, Johnson Jets and the Courier. The Tinsley Tigers and Copthorne Spitfires came and watched but would not take part in the tournament.


On the day there was a demonstration by a team of girls who wanted to play, 16-year-old Linda Jones said, “We couldn’t even find the championships organisers to ask if we could play.” and after about half an hour of walking about with placards the girls left.


Graham Neale presented the prizes, and thanked Ted Mitchell referee and ‘Spike’ Robinson who had given the commentary on the days play.


George Maynard said, “We are disgusted. There are teams playing today who have not the slightest idea what marbles is about, and Crawley teams are coming in and making their own rules.” For the first time in many years there were no teams for the junior event.


Good Friday 1964 saw only six teams taking part they were the Typhoons from Worthing, Jordan Jokers, the Jaspers, the Johnson Jets, the Telcon Terribles and the Tolley Flickers.


Six teams took part; the Johnson Jets had George Maynard playing for them, as his team the Spitfires were still not taking part. There were no teams for the junior championships again this year. In the final the Terribles narrowly beat the Tolly Flickers in a match that was in doubt right up to the last shot, the score 25-24 to the Terribles. In the individuals it was a family affair with Len Smith playing his son Alan. It was all over in a matter of minutes, Len won the toss and proceeded to knock out all 13 marbles in a single break – Alan had lost with out even a shot. Jackie Rae, the TV and Radio personality presented the prizes.


The standard of play in 1965 was very poor this year and with only four teams playing the championship was disappointing all-round. It was said that the Terribles could usually clear the ring of the 49 marbles in three or four minutes, but the ring was not cleared once in the entire championships. It was suggested that this was probably due to the wrong kind of sand being used in the early stages, it seems it hampered the progress of the tolley.


Despite their 25 – 8 semi final victory over the Jets the Terribles had four of their six player killed in the game. The other semi saw the Typhoons lose five of their six players and they then retired letting the Jaspers go into the finals with a score of only five. In the final the Terribles beat the Jaspers 25 – 4. Len Smith beat teammate Jack Dempsy 7 marbles to nil in the individuals  


The four team were the Terribles, the Jaspers, Johnson Jets and Worthing’s Typhoons.


MYSTERY OF THE MISSING MARBLES' that was the headline in the Argus on the 8th March 1966. It seems that after the Terribles had practise with some newly acquired clay marbles was over they were put in to the car of Cyril Gladwin. Who said, "When we came out the marble had mysteriously disappeared. I don’t' know what has happened to them, but this is nothing short of a disaster." It seems that the team had hoped that the clay marbles would attract former competitors back to the championship.


A week later the clay marbles were found hanging from a tree, opposite the offices of the Crawley Observer. They were kept in their office safe over night and the next day Securicor took them to Barclays Bank for safe keeping until Good Friday. (IN 1999 A WELL KNOWN PLAYER G.S. TOLD ME THAT IT TOOK HIM FOUR THROWS TO GET THEM IN TO THE TREE.)


The return of the clay marbles failed to attract veteran teams back to the fray, even so there were eight teams lined up to fight it out. They were The Rebles, Toucan Terribles, US, Silent Blockbusters, Jaspers, Banshees, Boys from County Armagh and the Worthing Typhoons. In the final Toucan Terribles beat US, Alan Smith won the individual title from his father Len. For the second year running there were no entries for the junior championship.


David Hemmings presented the prizes and said "he would try to bring down a team of actors to topple the Toucan Terribles from their championship spot."


The Crawley Observer ran a headline which said “Easter Monday Marbles in Future”. For the second time in their history it was decided that there were no more marbles on Good Friday. A spokesman for Friary Meux said that Easter Monday was much more suitable for an event of this kind.


Later in the year the Terribles retained their unbroken record when they were challenged by the Handcross Rebels for a new marbles trophy at Tinsley Green on Whit-Monday. It was to celebrate their 10-year run of successes in the British Marbles Championships. Five team took part preliminary rounds the Rebels, Boys from County Armagh, Banshees, Typhoons and Johnson Jets. The Rebels qualified to meet the Terribles by beating the Typhoons and Johnson Jets. In the final the Terribles won two games 25-16 and 25-19 to beat the Rebels best of three games.


In 1967 a team of Irishmen nearly toppled the Terribles in the semi-finals; there was a real fight, with the result in doubt right up to the finish, the game ending 25 – 20 to the Terribles. After this match the final was quite tame with the Terribles beating the Jets 25 marbles to 6. There was a chill south-west wind that blew across the rings, which handicapped the players. Alan Smith beat George Houlahan in the individual that was the most exciting match of the day. Alan won 7 marbles to 5. Brewery boss Mr H J Holdsworth presented the prizes.


Eight teams played and in the first round Terribles beat the Jaspers, the Jets beat the Ergs, Celtic beat the Mess and the Boys from County Armagh beat the Australians. In the next round the Terribles and the Jets won through to the final from which the Terribles emerged victorious.


Ten days before the 1968 event was due to take place; it looked as if the traditional Easter high spot was doomed. It seemed that nobody was prepared to undertake the organisation. The brewery ran the event when George Burbridge stepped down in 1963, but now Friary Muex had been taken over the new owners no longer supported the event. At very short notice the Crawley Round Table saved the day and ran the championships.


There were only six teams to contest the event and the Toucan Terribles took the title for the 12th time, beating the Johnson Jets 25 marbles to 3 in the final. After five years of using clay marbles the organisers went back to glass marbles this year. Stanley Holden one of the principal dancers with the Royal Ballet presented the prizes.


1969 saw eight teams competing, they were the Toucan Terribles, Johnson Jets, Town Hall Mad Hatters, Red Lion Banjo Sextet (Plaxlol, Kent) Black Dog, Durrington 'As' and 'Bs'(Worthing) and the Jaspers (Hookwood).


In the first round the Terribles trounced newcomers the Red Lion Banjo Sextet 25 marbles to 1, Johnson Jets beat the Mad Hatters, the Black Dog and Durrington 'A' were the other two teams to go through.


The semi finals saw an easy win for the Terribles over the Black Dog 25 marbles to 3 and the Johnson Jets defeated Durrington 'A' 25 marbles to 12.


The final proved the most exciting for years, the Jets took an early lead, the Terribles rallied making it 10 all Alan Smith then scored 13 putting the Terribles well in front, Haydn Williams retaliated for the Jets with a break of 10. But the Terribles added another two, which gave them their thirteenth title.


Len Smith beat Bill Muir Durrington 'A' 11 marbles to 2 winning the individuals title for the eight times. After the finals there was a challenge match between a team of TV wrestlers lead by Sean Reagan, who latter presented the prizes.

Back Photo-012 History 1960s -web-copy-2011 Photo-011 History 1960s -web-copy-2011