English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : February, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : February, 1911

Billiards And the Curriculum

An interesting meeting convened by a few representative
‘Varsity men was held at Oxford on Friday to consider a
proposal to memorialize the Senatus with a view to getting
billiards added to the Curriculum. Mr. Rimington-Wilson
presided, and among others present were Lord Howard de
Walden, Sir Oliver Lodge, M. Camille Flammarion,
Messrs. G. Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc, Wallace Ritchie,
H. W. Stevenson, Bart Kennedy, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney
Webb, etc.

The Chairman explained that under the invitation of some
of the most advanced of the bright youths of Oxford—
whose names, however, he was not at liberty to divulge at
present—they were assembled to discuss the important question,
“Should Billiards be included in the Curriculum?”

Most of those present in the room were aware doubtless of
the keen interest he personally took in the furtherance of
the only indoor game that really appealed to men of brains.

(“Hear, hear,” and shouts of “Billiards for Women”
from Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Webb), and perhaps on that
account his advocacy of a much needed reform might be
regarded by them as biased. (“No, no!”). But he could
assure them that he came to this table with an open break
—he meant open mind—and was prepared to weigh, test,
and balance each ball—that was, argument—as it came
before him. By way of introduction he might be allowed to
draw the attention of those assembled to the fact that
already on the other side of the border several School
Boards were seriously considering the question of including
golf in their local Board Schools’ Curriculums for the children.

They would, of course, know that football, boating,
hockey, and other games were now stamped with the official
approval of the educational authorities throughout the
country. Was billiards to be compelled to wait in the outer
darkness much longer? (“No.”) He hoped not. He
felt sure the common sense of those assembled would not
permit such neglect. For himself it was his firm belief that
where there was room for a hockey club to swing there
was room for a billiard ball to anchor. (Loud applause.)
Mr. Hilaire Belloc said he approved of the proposal but
was unable to make up his mind whether to ask that the
game be included in the Arts or the Sciences. It was a
very pretty question and would have been excellently debated
by Thomas Aquinas in the Jacobins of St. Jacques, near the
Parloir aux Bourgeois, by the gate of the University—(cries
of “cut i t” from the Fabians)—or by his new friend Victor
Grayson, or by both front benches In the House. (Cries
of dissent). Well, he would say as a man who loved good
ale that whether one’s time was spent, expended, laid out,
lavished, employed, wasted, or squandered, we were all
about to be gobbled up by the jaws of sport, and by the
grace of St. Anthony and other patrons of his he preferred
to die actually potting the red rather than live and pretend
to be taking a hand at another game which they would
know probably he had renounced for ever.

Sir Oliver Lodge was of opinion that billiards should be
included in the Sciences, and suggested that its proper place
was in Mechanics. He did not advance this for the reason
that he was more interested perhaps in Applied Mathematics
than in the sister Sciences, but for the reason that
the theories of Force and Motion—without which he
assumed they would agree the game of billiards would be
non est—were only to be found fully treated in that branch
of natural philosophy. The noble knight then proceeded
to explain in detail his theories of Force and Motion—after
which the meeting adjourned for lunch.

On resuming, Mr. H. W. Stevenson said that he had
been struck with the truth of at least one of Sir Oliver’s
statements. He referred to the part of that gentleman’s
speech in which he stated that “Daily observation shows
that a body never spontaneously passes from a state of rest
into one of motion.” That sentence had stuck in his mind
because it so forcibly reminded him of his friend Diggle.

Perhaps some of his audience had seen Diggle play. (Loud
cheers and cries of “Good old Diggle.”) But apart from
that statement he found himself in entire disagreement from
Professor Lodge. He personally would class billiards
among the Arts, and if in order would move that Apollo be
adopted as their god. Of late he had been paying close
attention to the different notes or musical tones arising
from the clashing of the balls, and had come to the conclusion
that billiards had been much misunderstood. It might
interest his hearers to learn that he was bringing out a
brochure proving that the ivories were really musical instruments,
upon which he hoped to show that some of the
finest melodies could be played. (Shouts of “By Gray?” ).

M. Camille Flammarion, the distinguished French astronomer,
claimed that the revolving spheres, and the rotary
movement of the balls, showed a clear connection between
Billiards and Astronomy; and our reporter is under the
impression that M. Flammarion also traced a resemblance
between the spots on the sun and the spots on one of the
white balls used in the game, claiming this as a further
argument in favour of billiards being taught under his
branch of Science. But our reporter’s French is wry weak.

Lord Howard de Walden urged that billiards was an Art,
and argued from his personal experience and also from his
observations at matches that the game really came under
Drama. The popular Peer then gave some dramatic recitals
from his repertory of “Games I have played,” which called
forth loud and prolonged applause from the audience.

Mr. Bernard Shaw objected to the points of view of all
the previous speakers. It was patent that each was
anxious to collar the game for his own hand without am
consideration for the interests of the game itself. Unfortunately
the Nonconformist Conscience had to be reckoned
with as well as the Senatus. That Conscience was asleep
at the moment so far as practical education was concerned,
and he would advise them to let sleeping consciences lie.

As a practical politician he proposed that billiards be taught
in the Chemistry Lab. No one was interested in chemistry
at present, except perhaps Chesterton, who didn’t really
count—(laughter)—and the game could be introduced into
the Curriculum under that branch of science without raising
a rumpus in the country. Chemistry dealt with the composition
of substances and the combination of different
kinds of matter, and as good a case could be made for including
under Chemistry that combination of wool, slate,
ivory, wood, rubber, bluff, push, cigars, whisky and soda—
(laughter)—and all the other different kinds of matter which
went to make up a good game of billiards, as could be
made to introduce it to our colleges under Logic, for instance.

When he said “a good game of billiards” they
must not think he referred to Chesterton’s game. (Loud
laughter.) He admired his own more than Chesterton’s,
although he had never played billiards in his life—(laughter)
—as he would like to play it say with his friend, Granville
Barker, when they both returned to college to take advantage
of a course of billiards under the new Curriculum.

(Scene of wild enthusiasm).

Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb supported the proposal to get
the game into the Curriculum under Political Economy. In
accordance with their usual get-down-to-business method
they had come prepared with a text-book showing how the
game would be taught in their branch of Science, and delivered
a duet dealing with the different heads of their system:
Protection (in and out of baulk), Strikes, Taxed
Shots, The Law of Averages, Reciprocity, etc.

At this stage Mr. Bart Kennedy intimated that he had to
write a new book on Billiards before midnight, and as:
was now 10 p.m. it was agreed to adjourn the discussion
until a date to be afterwards arranged.

Laurence Kirk

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