Walter Albert Lindrum: His Life and Times
The Golden Age of Billiards
“Lindrum to billiards is what a Shakespeare is to literature – one of those rare beings, gifted with supreme genius who only appear once in the history of a nation. I think the Lindrum period will go down to history as the golden age of the game.” – John C Bissett (Chairman, BA&CC) 1933.
In the beginning
Walter Lindrum was born to a family of billiards champions at Kalgoorlie on 29th August 1898. On the night of his birth his father, Fred, won a billiards money match and at a double celebration later it was suggested that the newest Lindrum, the first to be born in Western Australia, should carry the initials “WA”. The infant was duly christened Walter Albert and it was in the billiard saloons of the local pubs that he grew up.
Professional at thirteen
As a boy he played billiards wherever his itinerant family roamed. Walter’s father was a very hard task-master, insisting that Walter practised up to 12 hours a day. He converted the boy from a natural right-hander into a left handed player after an accident when 3 years old, in which he had lost the top joint of his index finger on his right hand. Walter’s role model was his elder brother Fred, who became professional Champion of Australia in 1909. Following closely in his brother’s footsteps, Walter’s first professional game came two years later when he was 13 years of age.
The red ball game
The accepted scoring technique at this time was red-ball play with the centre pocket in-off suiting the consistent throw of the composition balls used in Australia and New Zealand. Exponents like Fred Lindrum and more particularly the youthful prodigy George Gray, astonished the billiards world by the size of the breaks which were being made. The inconsistent roll and throw of the ivory balls used in the England made the red ball game an unprofitable technique, as both these great Australian exponents discovered when they visited England. At this early age Walter had a natural dislike for the red ball game and made many fine breaks by concentrating on all-round play.
At the outbreak of the Great War, the Lindrum family were at the London Tavern, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, where father Fred ran three billiard tables on a first floor room which had its own entrance. Here, Walter would practise from 9 or 9.30 a.m. until 11.30 a.m. when he would help his father prepare for the mid-day rush. One of Lindrum’s contemporaries, Vincent J. Giuliano recalls – “From marking Walter’s private practice, I was the only person outside the immediate Lindrum family, Fred, senior and junior, Walter’s mother and sister Violet, who knew that late in 1914, in practice Walter was frequently making breaks of 1,000 and over. He would compile these from top of the table play (postman’s knock) and strings of nursery cannons.”
With all eyes focused on the red-ball play of Fred Lindrum and George Gray, Walter gradually succumbed to the lure of the consecutive red losers. He quietly continued to practise with this style and his improvement was rapid. At the age of seventeen, playing against the young New Zealand Champion, Clark McConachy in Sydney, Lindrum made breaks of 785 (twice), 766 and 704, returning an average of 78.0 for the two week match.
The professional circuit in Australia was relatively small at this time, and it was inevitable that the Lindrum brothers would be matched against each other. In 1921, Walter began to record some notable victories over Fred to the extent that opinion became split as to who was the better of the two players, but Walter would never play his brother for the Championship of Australia, even when he had established himself as much the better player.
By 1921 his highest recorded break was 802 and of his nursery cannons it was written “Close cannons in the centre of the table come as easy to him as cushion cannons do to the greatest English exponents. He just chases them along with gossamer touch, and has scored at the great pace of 100 in 3½ minutes by this method.”.
Lindrum defeats Stevenson
The highlight of the Australian season was undoubtedly the regular visits from English professional players, who would discard the use of their favourite ivories and meet the Australian professionals using the composition ball. During the summer of 1922, Walter, now 23 years old, had his first chance to show his worth against ex-professional champion Harry Stevenson. Although past his prime, Stevenson had been one of the great champions and was still highly regarded in the game. In a two week match of 16,000 up, Lindrum defeated Stevenson by a massive 9,455 point margin in Sydney averaging 77.3. This included an Australian record break of 1,417 spread over three sessions, and which, with the exception of two cannons, was made entirely from ball play.
However by this time, the paying public had turned against the red ball game. During the first four days of the match people were turned away and the hall was so crowded that the players could hardly get around the table. By the end of the first week there were only a handful of spectators and they were heard to grumble at the amount of red ball play. Many of Lindrum’s own supporters felt that he would have achieved the same result with his top of the table play and were disappointed that he resorted to the red ball which had been seen ad- nauseum in Australia over the previous twelve years. Stevenson subsequently cancelled three further games which had been arranged with Walter Lindrum stating that he would only play him “at billiards played with three balls”.
Of course the Australian public had no doubt that Walter was at this time the best player in the world – at least, with the composition ball. However, the recognised champion was Willie Smith who remained firmly in England and although offers were made and challenges issued, all attempts to bring the two together ended in failure.
By 1923, Walter Lindrum’s dominance of the game in Australia meant that few players were willing to meet him and consequently big matches were few and far between. On the fourth day of a match against veteran professional Albert Williams in Sydney, Walter was due to attend a birthday party and rattled off his session points of 666 in just 45 minutes. Williams added himself to this list of disgruntled opponents when, after the match, he was quoted as saying “No more Walter Lindrum for me, thank you”.
Records tumble against Falkiner
In 1924, Lindrum set a new record against visiting English professional Claude Falkiner, by completing an average of 108 for a two week match of 16,000 up. With both players making breaks over the thousand mark, (Lindrum made 1,219 and Falkiner 1,001) this also constituted a new record. During their time together, Falkiner tried to persuade the young Australian to return the England with him, but was unsuccessful. Falkiner’s skill with the nursery cannon was much admired in the English game and some years later, Walter conceded that he had been given many useful tips on this aspect of the game by Falkiner.
Falkiner returned to Australia the following summer and was matched against Walter in Perth. At his second visit to the table, Lindrum, with a series of nursery cannons and top of the table, ran to 292 before losing the white ball. Undaunted, he created a new Australian record by carrying the break to 1,879 from the red ball.
With the emphasis on providing attractive matches in order to earn a living, the Australian professional scene was becoming stagnant, as an extract from a periodical of the time indicates : “Practically the only two players in the [Australian] game are the Lindrum brothers, who give an exhibition now and then to tired spectators, owing to the pair being unequally matched. Walter appears to improve at each visit to the billiard table “.
Smith refuses Lindrum’s challenge
With opponents becoming difficult to find, Walter turned to the New Zealand Champion, Clark McConachy and in an endeavour to revive interest in professional billiards, arranged a series of exhibition matches. Walter additionally made another challenge to Willie Smith “to play for the world’s championship of English billiards for £1,000 a side” offering Smith £200 as expenses to travel to Australia. Smith refused, commenting that “(1) Lindrum says nothing about coming to England ; (2) £200 is £70 less than actual travelling expenses ; and (3) nothing is said about share of the “gate.” Smith’s counter- proposal was for a £1,000 a side match in both countries, “gate” to be equally divided, or alternatively, 60% to the winner. Typical of all previous exchanges, nothing was resolved.
The frustration felt by many of his supporters is summarised by this comment made about Lindrum in 1927 : “How this young man has wasted his opportunity. That he has all the real skill of the great player there is little doubt. But that great skill lacks the ambition which every young Australian should have, to reach the top rung of his profession. Having no local opponent worthy of his cue, he has been filling in his time issuing challenges and counter challenges to Willie Smith, which, like the snows of winter, melt to vapour when the spotlight is directed on them.”
Meanwhile, Lindrum continued his exhibition matches against McConachy, now frequently making four-figure breaks. In June 1927 he claimed a “world’s speed record” when at Melbourne, in an unfinished break, he scored 816 in twenty-three minutes. By this time Lindrum had abandoned red ball play almost totally, and had adopted nursery cannons as his principal scoring technique.
Willie Smith comes to Australia
However, things were about to change, as arrangements to bring Willie Smith to Australia eventually came to fruition. Smith had been under contract to Burroughes & Watts for some years and was now authorised by them to go to Australia and conclude provisional negotiations intended to bring Walter Lindrum back to England for the 1929-30 season. In this objective he was successful, and contracts were exchanged to bring back not only Walter Lindrum, but also the New Zealand Champion, Clark McConachy. Lindrum would probably have been encouraged by the recent decision of the English professionals to discard the use of ivories and adopt the composition ball as a standard for their matches.
Although Smith had not entered the Professional Championship since 1923 he was generally accepted as the best player in England and certainly regarded as the “Champion” by the Australian public. Smith adopted the “all-round” game as practised by amateur players, but to a level never seen before, or since. His refusal to build big breaks by reliance on any of the specialist techniques made him extremely attractive to watch. There was therefore, intense interest in the meeting between him and Walter Lindrum.
Lindrum v Smith
The first historic meeting took place on 1st July 1929 in Melbourne. In a game which was closely contested, it was Smith who made the first thousand break with an effort of 1,058. It was one of the finest all-round breaks ever seen in Australia and at its conclusion the game was held up for several minutes by the enthusiasm of the spectators. But Lindrum gradually drew away from Smith in the match and with his best break of 991 on the final day, eventually secured victory by 24,234-22,147. This was the first time Smith had been defeated in a level game for over two years.
With just one day to rest, the second leg started at the YMCA in Sydney on 15th July 1929. The two week match attracted such attention that every session was packed beyond it official capacity of 750. On the afternoon of the third day Lindrum played out time with a break of 1,434 giving a fine exhibition of nursery cannon play. Smith immediately followed with a break of 1,383 made with his usual all-round style. With breaks of 995 on the penultimate day and 1,028 on the final day Smith clinched the match by the score of 23,446-22,317. At the close Lindrum was in play with an unfinished break of 701 which had taken just 34 minutes.
Smith continuing his tour, showed exceptional form in a two week match in Sydney against Clark McConachy, when he made an Australian record break of 2,030.
Public demand was satisfied when Smith and Lindrum agreed to play a deciding match in Sydney which started on Monday 12th August 1929. The Sun newspaper had donated a trophy for the winner and Lindrum’s girlfriend, Rosie Coates, who had met with a serious motor accident at Melbourne two months previously, had travelled to Sydney to watch the match. Rosie had been Walter’s girlfriend for two years and had been his companion during several of his exhibition matches in New South Wales and Victoria.
As the match started, Smith, playing his very first stroke let drive at a forcing cannon, and half-an-inch of the cue which he had used for 28 years, went up the table after the cue ball, hit the cushion, and was picked up in the third row of the audience. He realised at once that the match was lost. Despite playing well with his spare cue, Lindrum was consistently the stronger player and steadily built up a commanding lead.
However, this ill-fated match would witness even more tragedy before its conclusion. During the week, Rosie Coates was taken ill and admitted to hospital. On the Thursday evening Lindrum visited his girlfriend in hospital. She was concerned that Walter was neglecting the match due to worry over her condition, and she asked Walter to make a 2,000 break specially for her. Lindrum had never before made a break of over 2,000 but the following day, exploiting every stroke known to the game, he occupied the table for 102 minutes in making a break of 2,002. It was the best made by an Australian in Australia, although Smith’s 2,030 remained as the official record. As Lindrum neared the second thousand the excitement was intense, and at 1,998 a long white losing hazard brought out a roar from the gallery; “He’s missed it,” as the white ball lingered on the pocket and then fell in. He was given a rousing reception on the termination of this colossal effort.
With just one day remaining, Lindrum held an unassailable lead of 2,123. But the match was never finished. That evening Lindrum visited Rosie in hospital where he found that her condition had worsened. Lindrum left briefly and returned with an Anglican Minister who performed a marriage ceremony at the bedside. Tragically, just a few hours later, on the morning of 24th August 1929, Rosie, who was just 20 years old, died of heart failure. The game was abandoned with Smith technically being awarded the match on forfeit. But Smith would not accept this and insisted that the trophy be awarded to Lindrum. The match averages at the time it was abandoned were Lindrum 114.6 and Smith 102.7.
Lindrum, was understandably upset at the death of Rosie and confided in his niece Dolly that he was considering abandoning his intended tour of England. However, contracts had been signed and in September 1929 Lindrum, Smith and McConachy left Australia for England on the SS Cathay.
Lindrum arrives in England
On Saturday 12th October 1929 a new epoch in English billiard history was marked by the arrival in London of Walter Lindrum, who was accompanied by Clark McConachy, Willie Smith and Lindrum’s manager and brother-in-law, H. Morrell. After a reception by Burroughes & Watts the Dominion players moved up to Glasgow where they were matched against each other in order to become acclimatised to local conditions before being required to face any of the English “big guns”.
Lindrum’s record season
Lindrum then began a series of games against Willie Smith at various Burroughes & Watts match rooms around the county, and from this point the word “record” seemed to appear in every match report. At Leeds the Australian established a new record by making a four-figure break in each of three consecutive sessions and incidentally made his twelfth break over a thousand in his first three matches.
Playing first at various provincial centres, it was November before Lindrum made his debut in London, where he was again matched against Smith. His eagerly-awaited arrival aroused tremendous enthusiasm, and daily, large crowds besieged the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, to see the brilliant young Australian perform. They were not to be disappointed as during the match Lindrum completed a sensational feat by making a break of 3,262. It greatly exceeded any break he, or another player of the day had previously approached. When he passed Smith’s existing World record of 2,743, his opponent came forward and generously congratulated him. The break was concluded when, during a delicate run of nursery cannons, the ball was deflected by a hair from the table brush. For the match, Lindrum averaged 186 and Smith 147. Although Lindrum relied heavily on nursery cannons during his record break, it should be remembered that the rules actually restricted direct cannons to a maximum of 35, so the break would have to be continued by striking an intervening cushion. In addition to his record break, Lindrum made five others over the thousand mark, and inflicted the third consecutive defeat on the previously invincible Willie Smith.
Speaking of Lindrum’s technique, Willie Smith said – “Lindrum is the super cannon player to an extent which makes the limit of 35 cannons ball-to-ball look ridiculous. The cushion is a fourth ball to Lindrum. He is never in danger of losing position through having to play on to a cushion first. He makes this contact as easy as playing direct on to the ball. With his all-round skill, he can beat us all practically as he likes”.
A Slight Error
Of course sometimes Lindrum may have been given a little help by Markers who were not exactly accustomed to adding up big breaks. An error against McConachy to the extent of a thousand points was discovered in the afternoon session of his match with Lindrum at the Memorial Hall, London, on 11th February 1930. Lindrum called attention to the scoreboard, and the referee made matters right by ordering that another thousand should be credited to McConachy.
1930 Professional Championship
Despite expectations that all the World’s great players would at last compete in the professional championship, politics once more conspired against this ideal. Lindrum, Smith and McConachy were under a one-season contract to Burroughes & Watts and could not play on another makers’ table without their consent. However, the BA&CC had already made a commitment to hold the championship final stages at the match hall of their great rivals, Thurston’s. Burroughes & Watts having paid a substantial sum to bring the Dominion players to England were obviously not happy at the prospect of their rivals obtaining a marketing advantage which would result if Lindrum made one of his record breaking achievements on a Thurston table. This appeared to be the crux of the problem although additionally, Smith had for many years campaigned against the Thurston’s match room because of its limited seating capacity. The BA&CC stood firm behind their arrangements for the venue, and entries from the three players generally regarded as best in the World, were not forthcoming.
The “Big Five”
Of the rivals to Lindrum, McConachy and Smith, Joe Davis (Official Champion) and Tom Newman completed what the press had begun to call “the big five”. It was noticeable that Joe Davis at this time began to play nursery cannons to a much greater extent than ever before, while Newman, who had always been adept at this aspect of the game also utilised the technique at every opportunity. Both Davis an Newman were to get a chance to play Lindrum during his tour – and he defeated them both.
Although Davis lost his contest against Lindrum by some 3,000 points, he set a record for the highest losing score in a two week match with a total of 26,172 points. The combined aggregate of the two players was 55,228 for the 48 hour match, which was also a new record. For the whole match the averages were 147 and 132 respectively.
Lindrum’s other records included the highest break ever made in Scotland (2,140) and the highest aggregate for a one week (24 hr) match when he scored 19,781 against Willie Leigh at Sheffield.
Although Smith had managed to inflict a couple of defeats on Lindrum, he was again on the receiving end when the Australian set another record aggregate of 30,817 during the fortnight [48 hrs] match against him at Manchester. In this match he made 10 breaks over 1,000 with a highest of 2,419. This break was also the hundredth he had compiled of over a thousand during the course of his career.
Another double-thousand came Lindrum’s way in his match against Tom Newman when he made 2,053 in winning comfortably by nearly 5,000 points. Newman, who was by no means playing badly, was sufficiently inspired to make his own personal record break of 1,765.
March 1930 saw Lindrum’s final match of the London season and he was once more opposed by Smith. In a remarkable game, the Australian jumped off at the start, and, displaying more concentration than in any of his preceding games, daily added to his lead, to win ultimately by the colossal margin of 21,285 points. Lindrum’s performance set records galore as he established new figures for: – the highest individual aggregate, (36,256), the largest winning margin, a record match average (262), and a record number of four-figure breaks (11). Although Smith was so decisively beaten, his actual play was of really excellent quality, considering the long periods of enforced idleness he experienced. For the whole match he returned the excellent average of 109 per innings.
Lindrum then went to Ireland, playing two 1 week matches against Newman. In Dublin Newman managed to inflict a surprising defeat by the narrow margin of just 190 points. This was only Lindrum’s fourth defeat of the tour, the others having been at the hands of Smith (2) and McConachy. This concluded Lindrum’s first tour, during which he established yet another record by making a total of 67 breaks in excess of 1,000.
Lindrum left for Australia on 10th April 1930, leaving behind a string of new records, and a promise to return next season and enter the Championship. In fact arrangement were already in hand for himself and McConachy to meet Davis and Newman in a series of matches, which would unfortunately exclude Willie Smith owing to the latter’s continuing contractual obligations to Burroughes & Watts. The tour ended with bitter attacks from Lindrum regarding the financial arrangements which were directed at both Burroughes & Watts and Willie Smith.
Shortly after Lindrum’s departure, Joe Davis continued to show his improvement at the nursery cannon game in retaining the Professional Championship, during which he set a new record break for the competition with 2,052 made on 7th May 1930.
Lindrum arrived back in Melbourne on 12th May 1930 and played no significant matches before his return to England for the new season. The new promoter of this event was W. A. Camkin, who telephoned Lindrum in Australia to discuss arrangements. On coming to the phone Lindrum informed Camkin that he was currently practising hard and had actually been at the table when the call came through being engaged in break which had just passed 2,100.
Lindrum’s second tour of England
When travelling by train between Marseilles and Northern France on his return to England, Lindrum sustained a blow from a falling suitcase which dislodged three teeth. On his arrival in London on Saturday 13th September he obtained dental treatment and was ready for play in his first scheduled match against Claude Falkiner on the Monday. Conceding 8,000 points start in a two week game and playing for the first time on the new “Janus” cotton cloth, he evidently experienced some difficulty in coming to terms with the “napless” surface. Spectators rolled up in numbers, anticipating a four-figure break from Lindrum, but in the event it was Falkiner who provided the spectacle, making a break of 1,130 which was his first thousand break made in England. Even so, this did not prevent Lindrum from winning by over 9,000 points, averaging 125.5 for the match. Lindrum was a great fan of cricket, and he and Don Bradman were regarded as equally great sporting celebrities of the day in Australia. Bradman, who was touring with the Australian team, attended several session of Lindrum’s match at Thurston’s.
News of the World Trophy
29th September 1930 saw the start of Camkin’s “Empire Tournament” for which the News of the World had donated a Gold Cup. As a measure of his admitted superiority, Lindrum was required to concede 7,000 points start to all the other players – who otherwise played from scratch – in time limit matches of 42 hrs lasting a fortnight. Matches were played on the new “Janus” cotton cloth and with all the top players taking part, this event was the focal point of the professional season.
The tournament supplied some sensational performances, not least of which was when Newman (rec.7,000) defeated Lindrum by 1,080 points in Liverpool. This was despite Lindrum making a break of 1,826 which was the highest ever seen in that city.
The ease with which Lindrum subsequently disposed of the improving Joe Davis was a surprise to many people who felt that the 7,000 start would be too much for the Australian. In the event he caught up the start in the first four days and went on to win by 4,500 points averaging 191 for the match.
In his match against McConachy, Lindrum established a new record when he made five four-figure breaks in consecutive sessions, the highest of these being 1,875.
Record 3,905 break
In December 1930, in his last scheduled match of the tournament Lindrum made a World record break of 3,905 against McConachy surpassing his own record made the previous year. Proceeding with an unfinished break of three, Lindrum occupied the table for the whole 1¾ hrs of the afternoon session, raising the break to 2,378 unfinished, and incidentally creating another record for the number of points scored in a session. In the evening he continued to score at a rapid rate, when having lost the white in reaching 3,905 he set up a double baulk. The break occupied a total of 3 hrs 5 minutes play. Playing wonderful billiards, he followed this with breaks of 2,331 and 1,137 made in consecutive visits, and had two others over the thousand during the match. Over the second week of the match Lindrum had an incredible average of 313, and having conceded 7,000 points start, he won by almost 6,500. Telegrams of congratulation included one from his father who tersely cabled just two words : “Wonderful Performance”.
Lindrum takes the News of the World trophy
As the competition finished in a three-way tie, an additional play-off round was arranged on a knock-out basis. In the final, Lindrum took the Gold Cup, by defeating Newman (rec. 7,000) by 8,400 points. In this victory, Lindrum included breaks of 2,835, 451, 1,796 and 2,583 in successive visits. Match averages of 248 for Lindrum and 169 for Newman set yet another record. The number of people wishing to see the match would have filled the Thurston’s match hall ten times over. Thousands of people crowded Leicester Square and at the end of the game, when Lindrum emerged with the trophy, he was given a rousing reception by his many admirers.
1931 Professional Championship
The anticipated entry of Lindrum for the Professional Championship was again thwarted by a dispute over the playing arrangements.
With both Lindrum and Davis performing almost exclusively on the “Janus” cotton cloth, they were upset at the BA&CC decision not to use it for Championship matches, and refused to enter the competition. They were joined in the boycott by Newman and the closing date passed with Willie Smith being the only entry. The 1931 championship was therefore abandoned and the title declared vacant.
A full schedule
The People newspaper of 4th January 1931 gave some idea of the railway travel that Lindrum was called upon to undertake:
“On Monday he played at Hastings and on Tuesday at Brighton, and from there travelled on to Nottingham to oppose Tom Dennis in a two day match. He left Nottingham on Thursday at 1 a.m., arriving in London at 4 a.m. Leaving London at 10.35 a.m., he arrived at Plymouth at 2.35 p.m., and there a car conveyed him to Liskeard in Cornwall, about 25 miles away. After playing there, afternoon and evening, he caught the midnight from Plymouth back to town and the same morning went to Preston in Lancashire to play afternoon and evening sessions.”
A match before the King
On 19th February 1931 Lindrum accepted an invitation to give an exhibition for the King and other members of the Royal family at Buckingham Palace. This was not only a great honour for Lindrum, but also for the game of billiards. As a momento, the King presented Lindrum with a pair of gold and enamel cuff-links bearing the royal monogram. These cuff-links formed part of his essential attire for the remainder of his playing career.
Return to Australia
Following another successful English season, Lindrum returned to Australia on 21st April 1931 accompanied by Tom Newman, whom he would engage in a series of exhibition matches.
In one of his first games against Newman in Sydney, the ease with which Lindrum gained nursery cannon position, and, with his tap, tap, tap, added points at bewildering speed, amused the onlookers, who laughed outright. Even Lindrum joined in, and was so convulsed at one stage that he had to support himself on the table.
All Australian attendance records were broken at his next match with Newman at Melbourne. Following on to Adelaide they found the match-hall full to capacity, and huge crowds standing outside in the street wishing to gain access. The game was abandoned after the first day and restarted at a larger hall. The spectators were not disappointed with the play as Lindrum made a break of 1,004 in just 33 minutes, beating his previous best time of 37 minutes to reach four figures. He also set a new Australian record with a break of 2,609.
Short English season
Lindrum and Newman arrived back in London on 11th December 1931. Arrangements had already been made for the pair to depart for a tour of Canada and the United States in February, which precluded any chance of their participation in the 1932 Championship.
With just a couple of months in England, Lindrum once again engaged all the top players. By now he was giving a customary start of 7,000 to all comers in his two-week matches. Although not always successful, he was never heavily defeated from this concession which was generally regarded as the measure of his superiority over the other members of the “big five”.
In a match against Newman on 6th January 1932, Lindrum set a World record with a run of 284 consecutive cannons, taking the balls past five pockets.
World record break
Playing against Davis at Thurston’s, Lindrum made his World record break of 4,137 occupying approximately 2 hours 35 minutes. Taking possession of the table at 4.15 pm on Tuesday, January 19, Lindrum scored 701 unfinished in the half-hour that remained of the session, and, continuing the break in the evening, carried it to 3,151 unfinished, the time for this number of points being 2¼ hours. He was thus within striking distance of his existing record, and there was much resultant enthusiasm among billiard lovers, hundreds being unable to secure admission to the hall on the following afternoon. Upon arriving at the scene, Lindrum expressed himself as feeling fit and confident, but wished he had a better shot to resume with. The position of the balls required a narrow middle-pocket pot red – not quite straight from any part of the “D” – with the white hard under the top cushion near the spot. Lindrum made the winner perfectly, and from that point he was apparently the least concerned person in the room. Hundred after hundred accrued, and it soon became certain that Lindrum would set up new figures, and when, at length, his own record of 3,905 was passed, the spectators released their pent-up feelings in a prolonged burst of applause. Lindrum was not allowed to proceed until he had responded to calls of “speech,” and in a few words he modestly said he was gratified at having beaten his own record, which was only possible with the assistance of the very friendly welcome and appreciation he always received in London. The break ended at 4,137 in the course of which, Lindrum had scored no fewer than 2,590 points by means of cannon sequences.
Upon the completion of the break, Davis congratulated his great rival and immediately settled down to establish a further record by playing out the remainder of the time with a break of 1,131, which he carried to 1,247 in the evening before failing at a forcing loser. When he reached four figures, Davis was complemented by Lindrum, and acknowledging the plaudits of the onlookers, remarked, “Well, I’ve had a good tutor, anyway.” Never before had 5,384 points been scored, by orthodox billiards, in two hands. Despite Lindrum’s remarkable performance it was Davis, assisted by 7,000 points start, who won the match by 1,251 points, averaging 162 for the fortnight. Lindrum averaged 206.
Lindrum in the USA and Canada
In February 1932, Lindrum and Newman departed for a tour of Canada and the USA. With all eyes on the Australian, it was in fact Newman who hit the headlines first when he set a Canadian record with a break of 1,335 while playing Lindrum in Toronto.
Crossing the border, Lindrum established a record break for the USA with 1,072 made in Detroit. He later extended this to 2,711 during a match in New York.
Lindrum and Newman arrived back in England on 3rd May 1932 with Lindrum almost immediately continuing on to Australia. From a financial viewpoint, the tour had been something of a financial disaster. The attendance at the USA matches was particularly disappointing and an overall loss was made by the players.
The Baulk-line Rule
By this time all the leading players, including Lindrum, recognised that some further restrictions were required to the cannon game in order to revive public interest. To this end an approach was made to the governing body and on 31st August 1932 the BA&CC introduced an “experimental” rule requiring the cue ball to cross the baulk line
at least once in every 100 points. This was developed in an effort to counter the growing domination of nursery cannon play by all the top professionals, not only Walter Lindrum. Since his first appearance in England, Lindrum had invented and perfected the greatest and most classic example of break-building ever seen. He set out to make thousand-break billiards the rule instead of the exception, and achieved this by an incomparable exhibition of billiards genius both in conception and execution.
1932 News of the World Tournament
The News of the World offered to promote a tournament under the new baulk-line rule and invitations were accepted by Lindrum, McConachy, Newman, Davis and Smith.
Lindrum arrived in England on 22nd September 1932 promising to give the new rule “a fair trial”. This trial lasted just two weeks during which he played a match against Newman. Unable to make a thousand break, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the rule, and in this he was supported by his opponent. The promoters of the News of the World tournament promptly dropped the baulk-line rule from their conditions for their event, substituting a limit of 75 cannons. Willie Smith withdrew from the tournament in protest.
Shortly afterwards the BA&CC responding to pressure from the professionals, modified the baulk-line rule to enable a crossing every 200 points, and under this restriction Lindrum made his first four- figure break in a two week match against McConachy.
It was now agreed that the News of the World tournament would be played under this revised rule with Lindrum conceding 6,000 points to all his opponents. But, the combination of learning a technique to overcome the new restriction, and the large start, proved too much for Lindrum who failed to win any of his matches.
However, by 27th Feb 1933 he had obviously made some inroads to this problem as on this date he made a break of 1,164 which included a run of 529 consecutive cannons, taking the balls on 2¼ complete circuits of the table, and incidentally crossing the baulk line every 200 points. This was a record under both the new and old rules. Even so, he lost the match to Davis (rec.6,000) by 701 points.
The 1933 Professional Championship
Withdrawing their objection to the woollen cloth, Lindrum, Davis, Newman and McConachy all entered the Professional Championship of 1933, making it the most representative entry for more than ten years. The competition was played at Dorland Hall, Lower Regent Street between 1st-26th May 1933 under the new baulk-line rule.
Lindrum’s first round match was against Newman. By now Lindrum had mastered the baulk-line rule making it a part of his game and easily overcame the Englishman’s challenge.
In the Final he was matched against Davis who had previously defeated McConachy. The majority thought Lindrum was sure to win, only asking themselves how many he would win by. In the event, the question should have been by how few? – For he only beat the Chesterfield man by 694 points at the end of a ding-dong fight which could have gone either way. Lindrum made the only four-figure breaks of the championship with runs of 1,578 against Newman – which qualified as a record for the Championship under the new rules – and 1,492 and 1,272 against Davis. Lindrum’s average for the two week final was 92.
Performances over the season demonstrated that Davis, Newman and McConachy were all continuing to improve their game and making up lost ground on Lindrum, although there was no doubt that he still stood supreme in the sport.
New records in South Africa
After the championship, Lindrum and McConachy left for a tour of South Africa and India before returning to Australia. During his visit to South Africa he claimed a new World record for fast scoring when he completed 1,000 points in 28 minutes in Johannesburg.
World Championship for Australia
Although promising to return to England for the 1933-34 season, Lindrum’s departure would prove to be the last this country would see of him.
Lindrum contended that he should be allowed to defend his title in Australia and refused to return the Championship trophy to the BA&CC when requested by them to do so. The reaction of the BA&CC was to inaugurate a United Kingdom Professional Championship for the English players. Meanwhile, the English press generally regarded the incident as nothing more than a “publicity stunt” on behalf of the Australian. However, the BA&CC eventually gave in to Lindrum’s demands and agreed that the next World Championship would be held in Australia. They additionally agreed that the event would be postponed until September to coincide with the Melbourne centenary celebrations. The only challengers were the New Zealand Champion, Clark McConachy and Joe Davis, who in the interim, had won the United Kingdom title.
With Lindrum playing a series of exhibitions against McConachy and Davis in advance of the main event, expectations where whetted by the unexpected victories of both of these players in two-week matches against the Australian.
1934 Professional Championship
With Davis receiving a bye, Lindrum defeated McConachy by 1,108 points in the qualifying round.
Lindrum’s match against Davis was one of ever-changing fortunes as Davis again came tantalisingly close to lifting the Championship and thereby changing the course of billiards history.
Davis was just 466 points in arrears going into the final session, but a break of 702 by Lindrum, near the end, clinched the match for him by 855 points. Lindrum was the only player to make any breaks over a thousand in the competition, with three against Davis, including a best of 1,474.
After this Lindrum was never again challenged for the title, which, without the financial incentive to resurrect it, became dormant until he relinquished it in 1950.
Lindrum now contented himself with exhibition games and made many charitable appearances – especially during the war years – which earned him an MBE, and then an OBE in 1958. As one of Australia’s greatest sporting heroes, many people felt he should have been awarded a knighthood, and in fact, shortly before his death plans were in place to bring this into effect. However, before arrangements were complete, he was taken ill whist on holiday at Surfers’ Paradise and died on Saturday 30th July 1960. He was 61 years old.
During his career he made 711 recorded breaks over a thousand, and marked his place in history as the greatest billiard player the game has ever seen.
The Lindrum movement
With the balls bunched near the top cushion, in the vicinity of the right-hand top pocket he quickly and deftly steers them along the top cushion, taps them past the facing top pocket with effortless ease, takes them a little way down the table, then makes them stop while he scores his dozen or more of exquisite kiss- cannons which barely change the position of the balls. On he goes, the flow of his ball control unchecked by the semblance of a mistake in positional play. At last, having collected his two hundred or more of points by a close-cannon display unrivalled in rapidity of execution, he brings the balls to the middle pocket. Then he takes them away from the cushion, plays a deft mid- pocket in-off, and at once changes the character of his display.
Continuing from hand, a simple in-off white soon sends that ball to the centre of the top cushion, or nearly so. A pot red into the same middle pocket is handled with consummate mastery, which leaves ideal spot-end position when the red is spotted. Lindrum then exploits the alternating red-winner- cannon movement until he sees a chance to get the, balls together again almost where his break began. This completes “the Lindrum. Movement”, but not his break – that may run into thousands before a mistake destroys the harmony of the movement and all is over.
Memories of Walter Lindrum in Singapore
“I was in Singapore from May 1956 until January 1971 and had the great privilege of meeting Walter Lindrum when he was there in 1957. I watched him play at the Singapore Badminton Hall and he also went on to play in Kuala Lumpur during the same tour. As far as Walter’s exhibitions in Singapore were concerned, I understand that he had, not only his own set of balls, but also his own cushions’ as well. Whereas, in the days when many clubs didn’t have air conditioning – the Badminton Hall certainly didn’t – many players used talcum powder to ease the cue on the bridge hand. Walter used a damp handkerchief which he said was much better. Powder made a real mess of the cloth, particularly when used as liberally as some did. Most of the tables in non air-conditioned clubs had under slate heating of some sort as the humidity was always very high. To watch Walter performing under those conditions at the age of 59 was a wonderful experience which I shall never forget.”