Although marbles have been played for many years in and around Tinsley Green, international marbles matches are quite new. They have not been played regularly ever year, but only every now and again. One reason must be the cost involved travelling to England, and also the fact that before air travel it took a great deal of time to get there.
In the 1950s & 60s the challenge came from American service men stationed in England and so there was only a small cost involved in coming to Tinsley Green. By the mid 1970s some of the larger American corporations sponsored teams and in the 1990s teams raised their own funds to come.
For the first time in 1974 a team of past winners of the National Marbles Tournament and sponsored by the National Enquire came to play at Tinsley Green. This was to be the format right up until the present time, when the United States Marble Team led by Jeff Kimmill came in the year 2000.
In 1941 Tinsley Green and the whole of the surrounding area was home to thousands of Canadian soldiers, and so it was only natural that they would want to play marbles. On Easter Monday 1941 an extra game was played at the White Hart public house in Crawley. They played for the Canada Cup, presented by the Canadian Army in aid of war supplies. The contest was a three cornered fight between the Crawley Busmen, the British Army and the Canadian Army who were stationed at near by Ifield Wood. The British Army won the cup. (This was the first time an international marbles match was played, although it was not at Tinsley Green.)
Part one The Yanks are coming
1953, 1954 & 1962
1953 saw the first ever truly International marbles match at Tinsley Green. It was after seeing a story about marbles being ‘Kids Stuff’ in a New York newspaper that George Burbridge threw out a challenge to America. He said, ‘If they can prove that marbles is a kid’s game we will give up.’
In the local newspaper, the Crawley Observer the headline read ‘Sussex Aces Trounce US Sailors’ and then carried on “For the first time there was an international atmosphere about the marbles championship, which drew a crowd of more than 700 to Tinsley Green on Good Friday.”
The Greyhound 1954 general view showing
some of the 700 spectators. An American
sailors is seen shooting in the ring
Six sailors from the American Naval Headquarters in London, styling themselves the ‘Grovernor Gobs’ played a team of star players from well known Sussex teams, representing Great Britain. The ‘Gobs’ were George Wilson Smith (captain), Daniel A Gleason (trainer), Francis M Fowler, Donald E Tester, Fred J Isabella and Bernard L Parsons.
Representing Great Britain were ‘Pop’ Maynard (captain), his son George Maynard Copthorne Spitfires, Arthur Chamberlain Handcross Bulldogs, Harry Landridge and ‘Wee Willie’ Wright Tinsley Tigers, and Cyril Wilcock Arundel Mullets.
The average age of the American team was the early 20s whereas the British teams average age was nearer 60, ‘Pop’ being 81 years of age.
They played for the ‘Fenn International Cup’, which was given by Percy Fenn, the owner of a local garage, in remembrance of his father Arthur, who originally hailed from Brooklyn. The match was played in a good sporting sprit and at its end the score was 38 marbles to 11 giving Great Britain the first ever-international victory.
‘Pop’ Maynard and seaman Smith at the ring with
referee Bob Scott looking on
The two captains, Seaman Smith (Kentucky) and ‘Pop’ Maynard (Copthorne) played an individual challenge match against each other. There was great excitement when the scores reached 6-6, then amid loud cheers seaman Smith made short work of the last marble left to win 7-6.
In 1954 the sun was shining and the 44 players plus 1000 spectators braved the biting northeast wind that blew across the marble rings. This year saw five teams playing in the main event two teams in the junior event and for the second year running the Americans played in the international.
Eighty-two-year-old “King of Marbles” “Pop” Maynard captained the “Swede Bashers” against the “Grosvenor Gobs”. Great Britain won the day 33 marbles to 16; Seaman Smith captain of the “Gobs” said after the game, that they were pleased to have put up a better performance than last year when they lost by 38-11. “But next year we intend to take away the cup,” he laughed.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The Terribles were l to r Paddy Petticrew Graham and Len Smith,
Jack and Charily Dempsey with Alan Smith
(seen here 10 years later in 1984)
In the 1975 international the English team – which included three of the winning British Team Champions the Toucan Terribles – easily won through to the final match against the team from the USA but in the final match it was victory for the Americans.
In the 1976 International the Gulf Oil team from Pittsburgh retained the title they won the year before. One British player said “Its only fair really as they had flown over 3000 miles to compete and the English team they beat in the final all live within a marble’s throw of the Greyhound.”
It would seem that the Gulf Oil Teams was the same both years and was made up of past boys and girl ‘National’ champions, they were
• Ray Morgano 1970
• Rick Mawhinney 1971
• Ray Jarrell 1972
• Larry Kokos 1974
• Susan Reagan 1974
• Jerry Mages
Walt Lease their coach rounded off the party.
Walt Lease in later years was a member of the organizing committee that ran the Nationals at Wildwood NJ. He coached over 20 National Marbles Championspast in and around the Pittsburgh area and did a great job to ensure that every kid had a chance to play marbles. He passed away in 1995 and the ‘stick trophy’ at the US marble championship is now named in his memory.
Part Three - Into the 21st Century
In 1984 we hosted a team called the Indianapolis Indians, who were working for a cargo Airline flying out of New York and into Gatwick Airport. They arrived just before the championships, played their games and flew back home a day or two later.
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.
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.
De Ovale Stuider
Lions De Lyon
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
Christain Therry and Bert Cohen
Helen Mohr, Marble Queen of Perry Hall
Michael Cohill, Beri Fox and Sam McCarthy
House of Marbles
Hans Gloor with Mol
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.
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.
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.
The 2000 US Marble Team
German and American captains ‘nose drop’
Photos by Julia Fox
References: Local News Papers and Personal comments from, Jeff Kimmell, Debra Stanley-Lapic, Andreas Hildebrandt, Travis Cherry and the many other players who took part in the matches mentioned.
The first Internaional at the Greyhound 1941