George Gray’s First Defeat
Interesting Letter from W. Smith, Jun
As mentioned on another page, George Gray sustained
his first defeat in this country at the hands of W. Smith,
Junr., a young Darlington linotype operator, who, in reply to
a request addressed to him by The Billiard Monthly, sends
to us his portrait for reproduction and an interesting letter.
After mentioning that he is a teetotaller and non-smoker,
young Smith says:
“I will give you my career from the time when I started
playing. My father was proprietor of a hotel, and when
I was about ten years of age a billiard table was put in.
Not being allowed the privilege of playing on it, I had to
be content with watching.
“However, when I was about ten and a half, I was
allowed to play during the morning when no customers
were in. I had by this time a good notion of what to do
from my experience in watching, and just after I was eleven
I made my first 100 break (102), after many times failing
between 90 and 100. A challenge was put out for me to
play any boy in England of my age, but no one accepted.
I continued to improve, and could make 100 breaks
regularly. Just before I was fourteen years old my father
was unfortunate in business, and I started work at The
North Star newspaper office, where I am to this day. I was
made an honorary member of the N.E.R. Institute (being
too young to join), and I have played there ever since.
“My ambition was to become amateur champion of England,
but when I was between eighteen and nineteen years
old there was such a demand for my services for exhibition
games that I had to give up all thought of amateur honours.
I was not able to pay my own travelling expenses, and as
the rules did not even allow me train fares I became classed
as a professional.
“It is, in my opinion, very hard that working men are
thus barred from the highest honours of the amateur world.
Why should not billiards be like other sport? The billiard
amateur championship of England is not the amateur championship
proper, as working men have no chance under the
present conditions. My case is a strong case as regards
this point, and if any of the amateur authorities read whatever
you may insert in your paper, I hope they will give
the matter consideration.
“For three or four seasons now I have had plenty of
Saturday engagements, and after beating George Gray I
have the chance of more than I have time to accept. I have
been invited to play Gray in Newcastle in November, and if
I can get off work I shall certainly play him, and will do
my very best to again beat him.
“It is said that Gray will not be able to do his pet
strokes with ivory balls. My opinion is that he won’t be a
bit troubled when he has practised a time with them. It
is only a question of being used to them. I think ivories
will suit his half-follow-throughs into the middle pockets,
for, as any player knows, ivories are better for that
particular game than compositions.”