International Marbles at Tinsley Green

By Sam McCarthy-Fox

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 traveling 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. 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 nearby 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 [then] 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 1953 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. [The Sussex teams were] 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]. In his “The Great American Marbles” book, Fred Ferretti mentions that … Arthur Chamberlain reveled in the nickname of “Hydrogen Thumb” due to his very powerful shot.

The average age of the American team was the early 20’s whereas the British teams average age was nearer 60 (“Pop” being 81 years of age this year).

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.

The two captains, Seaman Smith (from Kentucky) and “Pop” Maynard (from 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.

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 [and] two teams in the junior event. 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

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 to play since he was being watched by his five grandchildren.

1962: [The teams became energized early]. 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.

Left to right: 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 too 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

The 1970’s

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 [accustomed] 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

1974: In July there was an international match played at the Greyhound. A four-man team Enquirer (USA marbles team) challenged the Toucan Terribles to a game. 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 skillful 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 (left to right) Paddy Petticrew Graham and Len Smith,
Jack and Charily Dempsey with Alan Smith
(seen here 10 years later in 1984)

1975: The English team included three of the winning British Team Champions from the Toucan Terribles. They easily won through to the final match against the team from the USA but in the final match it was victory for the Americans.

1976: 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 Morgano1970
Rick Mawhinney1971
Ray Jarrell1972
Larry Kokos1973
Susan Reagan1974
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 Champions from 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.

References: From Newspapers: The Crawley and District Observer, Crawley Courier, Sussex Daily News and the West Sussex Gazette

Plus personal comments from, George Burbridge, Aurthur Chamberlain, Jeff Kimmell and Debra Stanley-Lapic

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