Ralph Macklin Retires
An appreciation by Albert Hanson of Ralph’s services to billiards
After over 50 years of administration of Teesside’s Snooker & Billiards activities Ralph
Macklin has determined to take a less active role. Ralph, now aged 79, took an interest
in the game when aged 16 when attending Willie Smith’s Saloon in South Bank,
Middlesbrough. “It was somewhere to go out of the cold as I was unemployed but I saw
many good players and it sparked an immediate love of the sport”.
He confesses to have been only a very, very average player which is probably why he
turned to administration. His first competitive role was at South Bank Conservative Club
before moving on to Middlesbrough’s Albert Club where he became it’s Sports Secretary
in 1946. Attendance at the Friendly League meetings was part of his duties and he became
it’s Vice Chairman in 1949. Two years later he was elected Chairman of the then II club
His drive and determination saw the league grow and prosper till at it’s peak it had 70
member clubs. It claimed to be the largest league of it’s kind with 1,600 competitors
playing snooker, billiards, darts and dominoes.
Never to suffer fools gladly Ralph ruled the league with a rod of iron for 31 years. A barbed
tongue and a quick ‘put down’ made many a challenger to any ruling, cower and reflect
the wisdom of his ways.
Ralph, during the league season would visit a club each week in order to maintain contact
with the players and officers of each member club. A stickler for a prompt 7.30pm start
he had many a player jump as the clock ticked down if they were not prepared for action.
Despite having a speech impediment of a stammer, Ralph presented a 30 minute
programme on BBC Radio Cleveland and invited players to contribute to the event. A
weekly column for the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette also kept the leagues players
and supporters aware of the action. He recalls an embarrassing time in his first year of
Chairmanship, “I was asked a question at a meeting about the rules and could not
answer it. Imagine being in charge of a league and not being able to answer a question
about the game you are involved with. ” determined to do something about it”. Grade C
Refereeing qualification gave him the grounding he needed and this wetted his appetite
for further involvement. Grade ‘A’ status and eventually Refereeing Examiner standing
came his way after the necessary years of involvement and the countless hours of table
In 1960 along with Henry Boyle he formed the areas Snooker and Billiards Referees
Association and was it’s Chairman for 15 years. National recognition followed and within
the Billiards and Snooker Control Council he was appointed to the Rules Revision
Committee and ultimately became one of the BSCC Directors. Ralph was responsible for
organising the last 32 stage of the English Amateur Snooker Championships (North). This
was a 3 week long event held at the legendary Priory Social Club when it was”over the
border”in Middlesbrough. In 1971 Ralph organised the 6 day long World Professional
Billiards Championship at Middlesbrough Town Hall. In both cases this involved the
mechanics of the event. Not only organising the players but tables, tiered seating, referees
and scorers, publicity, spectators etc.
Needless to say they were organised exceptionally well!.
If it had to do with Snooker and Billiards in the North East then Ralph was involved in it,
so when regional Tyne Tees Television showed an interest in the formative years George
Taylor recruited Ralph and a 2 1/2 hour programme resulted. Another string was added
to Ralph’s bow when in 1971 he became a national Coach for Snooker and Billiards, so
tuition was provided to established players and novices alike.
By now 20 years of organisation and administration had elapsed but reservations were
creeping into his mind about the future of billiards. The game was going into demise with
billiard playing numbers diminishing and whilst snooker players unable to command a
game in the team would fill in, it was not the answer to a growing problem. Where would
future billiard players come from?.
Ralph’s answer was simple – let’s create them but in those unenlightened times with North
East traditions still rigid the thoughts of having boys into clubs was frowned upon. “They’ll
rip our cloths”, “You’re leading them to the evils of drink” were common responses.
Tuition and supervision along with out of licencing hours activity was the reply. An initial
meeting to organise a boys or youth league flopped miserably but undaunted Ralph
pursued his quest and the rest as they say is history.
The Teesside Boys Billiards League was formed in 1973. From an expectancy of 75 point
scores in 30 minutes play the record score now stands at 506. A 307 break has been
made, a couple of dual century breaks and the last count 78 centuries. Players like Mike
Russell, Peter Gilchrist, John Murphy, Steve Naisby, Mike Dunn, Jon Birch, Martin Goodwill,
David Causier and Chris Shutt have been produced, and the production line still rolls on.
Ralph says”One of the greatest moments in my life came in 1989 when 2 of our former
boys, Russell and Gilchrist, competed in the World Professional Billiards Championship in
Western Australia, who would have dreamed it?. He goes on “I might have two, three or
six years of activity left in me, but I’ve had my share of delight and I want someone else to
enjoy the experience I’ve had”.
Ralph steps down as Chairman of the Boys League but was immediately installed as
President in order to keep an ongoing role. The legacy that he controls will be a fitting
memorial to all of his endeavours over the years. The practitioners and supports of cue
sports in the Teesside region owe him a great debt of gratitude.
Enjoy your retirement, you’ve earned it.