International marbles at Tinsley Green

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The American team 1954

The full teams were Grosvenor Gobs G W Smith, B L Parsons, B L Haggard, N C Drummond, R J Murphy and C A Cushman, the Swede Bashers ‘Pop’ Maynard, Harry Langridge, Wee Willie Wright, George Maynard, Arthur Chamberlain and George Burberry. Cyril Wilcock, the Arundel tailor, sportingly stood down to allow George Burberry, who was being watched by his five grandchildren from Canada, to play.

'Marbles had started early in 1962. In February a team of American Air Force personnel had come to practice at Tinsley Green. Inside the Greyhound Hotel George Burbridge and Jerry Barber, the non playing skipper of the Ruislip Rat Pack made a 10-minute recording for the US Forces and Overseas Radio Network.

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l to r John Fisher, Jack Dempsey and another American player.

On Good Friday six teams took part and in the final the Telcon Terribles quickly disposed of the Ruislip Rat Pack. Skipper John Fisher said ‘Telcon Terribles were much to good for us. Len Smith is terrific, and the whole team is much stronger than ours. We shall want a lot more practice before we reach their standard, but we shall be here again next year.’

The team was John Fisher, Andre Bernice, K Sams, Don Young, Scotty Eskdale and Stanley Lowell.

Part Two - The ‘Yanks’ fight back
The 1970s

In 1971 Len Smith the current champion played a friendly match against Ben Gaynes an American from Connecticut beating him 23 marbles to 3. Ben said after the game that he had been used to using a bigger shooter than those used at Tinsley Green. Ben was then persuaded to present the prizes to the winning teams.

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General view on a hot sunny July day 1974

In July 1974 there was an international match played at the Greyhound. A four-man team the ‘Enquirer USA marbles team’ challenged the Toucan Terribels to a game. It was a hot sunny day the two teams and spectators sat around in shirtsleeves enjoying the unusual warm weather (the main championships was abandon for the first ever time due to rain on Good Friday this year). The players from America were the current and the passed three years National Champions from Wildwood New Jersey. It was the first ever defeat for the Terribles as the Enquirer team beat them, in three straight games.

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Miss Yellow Pages and Dr Ian Nisbit present the prizes.

Miss Yellow Pages and Dr Ian Nisbit presented the prizes. Len Smith said that it was disappointing that there were so few people to watch such a skilful contest. The America all champions team was Rick Mawhinney (1971), Ray Jarrell (1972), Doug Hager (1973) and Larry Kokos (1974). The Terribles were Len, Alan and Graham Smith, Jack and Charily Dempsey with Paddy Petticrew.

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Steve Jenkins (left) ‘Nose Drop’ with Herman Lorenzo
captain of the Indianapolis Indians

Our next international competitor came in 1989, all the way from Japan. It was very early in the morning when a young man call Yamaha together with his girlfriend arrived and asked if it was possible to take part in the famed Tinsley Green marbles championship. He practised for quite a long time and we eventually found him a team to play with. The Cheep Sheep and Yamaha played through to the quarterfinal, where they were beaten by the eventual champions the Black Dog Boozers.

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Yamaha the first Japanese contestant at Tinsley Green

The next and biggest International tournament held at Tinsley Green was in 1992. There were 22 teams playing, two American, one each from France and Holland plus 18 British club teams. The semi finals saw the last British team playing who were the Handcross Rebels they were beaten by the Lions De Lyon (France) and the Sharpshooters beat Marble King.

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De Ovale Stuider

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Lions De Lyon

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Tenn-Ky Sharpshooters

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Marble King

In the final the Sharpshooters beat the Lions De Lyon. Only five of the twelve players had a shot two Americans and two French players had made no score as the third member of the Sharpshooters came to the edge of the ring. Travis Cherry walked around the ring, took up his position and laid into the pack, in a very short time he moved away from the ring to the cheers of the crowd after making a wonderful break of 37 marbles, which gave him and his team the match.

Even this score was not the biggest break of the day, both Ray Jarrell of the Marble King and Jack Tinsley captain of the Sharpshooters beat it with breaks of 41 marbles. The winner of the Individuals for the second year in succession was Darren Ray.

After the main event there was an International Competition with six teams taking part two each from America and Britain plus Holland and France. Each team played five matches. The Sharpshooters came out on top winning all their games; equal second with three wins each were Marble King and the Union Jacks.

The International Final was broadcast live on CNN throughout the United States and repeated throughout the following week, and the winning team from Tennessee were so proud of themselves that they wore their medals for the entire remainder of their visit!!

On a day trip to London a lady congratulating them – she was an American and had been told on the phone by someone at home about the champion marble team and recognised them from their jackets. This caused them great delight and showed how the fame of our tournament is spreading worldwide. The players also had a quick game outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, while their wives phoned home from a callbox so that their families could hear the peal of bells.

A visit to Brighton beach for a fish and chip supper was a great success and Junior B. Strong carried away a fine pile of rocks to take home to make into shooters.

We also took the team and our other guests to the House of Marbles in Devon, where they saw the Mini Museum, watched marbles being made and collected a lot of souvenirs.

Their eventual departure from Gatwick was a sight to see, with every player wearing a medal, clutching a trophy of some description and dragging a case weighed down with Brighton rock – this however was nothing to the heroes’ welcome they received on their return. After being met by a posse of pressmen at Atlanta, they faced further film crews and photographers at Nashville airport and were met 20 miles from home by a police escort, which led them home in procession to a mini victory parade.

What also made this such a memorable event was not only the many overseas teams but the host of people from the world of marbles. Rosalie and Bert Cohen, marble expert from Boston, Bobby Faulcher, Folklorist and song collector from Tennessee, Beri Fox, who is the daughter of the late Rodger Howdyshell owner of the Marble King factory in West Virginia and now (2004) Director of the National Marbles Tournament, Wildwood NJ, Cathy Runyan known as the Marble Lady, Helen Mohr The marble queen of Perry Hall, Tom (the mighty) Quinn former NYC champion and Michael Cohill

The following year 1993 only one team from America arrived to play; they were team captain Rick Mawhinney, players Ray Jarrell, Travis Cherry, Debra Stanley-Lapic with her two nieces Brenda and Darlene Schwartz. At the end of the main tournament we played an International match of five games for the Fenn Cup (first played for in 1953). The British team was drawn from the club teams and was made up of Colin Gardener, Mark Parsons, Paul Smith, Ian Gardener, Barry and Darren Ray.

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Marble King team 1993

The result was very close with the Americans winning the first two games and British winning the next two. It was all down to the last game, the Americans won the nose drop, after the first round the score was 13 - 5 to Britain. The second round saw four players killed, two from each team, the score was now 19 - 7 to Britain. The third round saw Britain in the lead 20 – 14, at this point Ray Jearrell from West Virginia made a break of 11 marbles to win the series.

 Just before they departed their captain produced the ‘World Trophy’ that had been played for the year before saying, “this is the cup we brought with us and this is the cup we intend to take back with us” and in so doing claimed to be ‘World Champions’. As the matches was only an International between Britain and America I thought that this un-sportsman like behaviour was out of order and any contest for the trophy should have been between more than just two countries, as in 1992. As far as I know this cup has never been contested for since.

In 1996 Andreas Hildebrandt from Erfurt, Germany visited the Championships and ask how to play the game? I told him the best thing to do was watch the games and he would soon pick up what goes on. At the end of the day we talked and I gave him a set of Rules and a bag of target marbles so that he could put into practice what he has learnt. The next year we had three German teams over to play. And it went up to six teams in 2002, but it has leveled out to five since then.

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Sam and Andreas Hildebrandt Good Friday 1996

In 2000 Jeff Kimmell who runs the US Marble Championships in Middletown, Maryland brought over 10 players ranging in age from 14 to 35. Most of these players were champions of some sort or another

After the main event we had a three way International competition Britain, Germany and the USA the results were USA 6 points, Britain 3 points and Germany nil. After the International there was a fun challenge match between Robbie Nicholson and the Individuals champion ‘Monny’ (Simon Monahan), which meant that Robbie could say he had beaten a world champion.

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The 2000 US Marble Team

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German and American captains ‘nose drop’

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