Notable Achievements




In the early part of the 20th century there were many players capable of making huge breaks at English billiards. One of these great players was John Roberts Junior (1847-1919) who dominated professional billiards from about 1870 to 1910. His highest break was 1,392 spot barred 1894. He made a break of 821 in 1905. His father was also named John Roberts. Cues remembering these two Great players can still be found. Most of these cues were made by Burroughes and Watts and carried their trademark made famous by the Roberts family, of the crossed cues motif on the badge.

W J Peall made a break of 1,922 in 1895 consisting of 634 spot strokes. W J Peall was a so-called spot stroke specialist making many of his biggest scoring efforts largely from potting the red from the spot. He made a break of 3,304 in 1890, 3,174 of the points were accrued by potting the red from it’s spot. This break is commemorated on many W J Peall cues, most notably the picture badge cues and the dated cues which state that the break was made on November the 7th 1890.

Tom Reece made a break of 499,135 in 1907; official recognition was not given for this unfinished break as neither press nor paying spectators were present throughout. This break is commemorated on all the Reece cues, arguably the best to collect is the 1907 cue with both breaks recorded being made in 1907. The break was made using the cradle or anchor cannon.

A cradle cannon break was made in 1907 by William Cook, this break is the “official highest” ever made. The total was 42,746. This break is also recognised on the badge of a cue and is quite a sought after which is also a facsimile cue.

H W Stevenson made the first thousand all round break since the limitation of the spot stroke, scoring 1,016 on October 11th 1912 at Thurston’s. This break too is remembered on the butt of a cue, the cue looks something like a tom Newman champion cue but with an Ivory badge, the only one that I have seen, I purchased for £35 with a cracked badge. Rule changes can make some breaks appear less significant than they truly were.

Willie Smith’s breaks are recorded on more than one type of cue and cues that were made by two different companies. His highest breaks were 2,030 in 1929 against Clark Mc Conachy in Australia and 2,743 against Tom Newman in Manchester England. This latter break was made on the 24th November 1928; this break is the record for a break without nursery cannons.

These breaks are remembered on cue badges, the later version being made by Peradon/Thurston and being very attractive with it’s Tulip wood front splice, The other cue that records these breaks is a Burroughes and Watts, with a black butt. Willie Smith Champion Cues by Burroughes and Watts are a particularly attractive cue though they neither record his highest breaks nor do they carry the representation of his signature, Tony Knowles uses a Willie Smith Champion Cue as an aside.

The factor that proves that the Willie Smith record cue with the splice, could not have been at the time of these breaks is borne out by the reference on the badge to the 7 breaks over a thousand in one season, which were made in 1932. My feeling about these cues is that they were made some years later as a retrospective look at notable achievements from the past in about 1940? Unless you know, differently?

The next two players who deserve a mention are undoubtedly Joe Davis and Walter Lindrum

Joe Davis’s highest billiard break was 2,501 made in 1927 this break was made in the most part by employing the pendulum cannon.

Walter Lindrum’s highest break was made in the championship in 1932, His break was 4,137, the scoring method that accounted for most of these points was the nursery cannon.

The cues that commemorate Walter and Joe’s achievements in both billiards and in Joe’s case Snooker are numerous; suffice it to say that the earliest ones are the most collectible.

Incidentally Joe Davis made his 146 break in 1950 and the 147 in 1955. 

I personally like Tom Newman cues; most of them refer to his break of 1,370 made in 1924. This break was the largest recorded with Ivory balls and superseded his previous best of 1,274 made in 1921. 

Cues that record the 1,274 were made by Burroughes and Watts and are to my eye, very attractive indeed.

Tom must have changed his cue if we are to believe that all three facsimile cues are a true copy of his cue.

I wonder if Peradon/Thurston’s Limited produced a range of cues reminiscing about the great players of the past in the 1940’s? As some of the cues that I have seen refer to events that took place in the 1930’s on their badges but are styled in a way that suggests, they were made in the 1940’s at least.

If you know of the time scales perhaps, you could let me know thus allowing me to clarify this apparent incongruity.

I have written this piece in an effort to show that cue collecting is a way of getting a hold of a small slice of history. In the case of the Walter Lindrum, Joe Davis, Willie Smith and Tom Newman cues, enough different cues exist to specialise in, the so-called big four. If your taste is the earlier players such as, the Roberts’s or Peall. Equally large selections of cues still survive from this era.

Some collectors attempt to gather together examples of cues made by different manufacturers, some of these cues were in fact made by either Peradon/Thurston or Burroughes and later given different companies badges by table makers to carry their name as a publicity aid. Such cues should not be considered as counterfeit but rather an interesting, business collaboration and interesting in their own right.

I wouldn’t mind a single piece cue in the older style with a “Mike Russell champion cue” badge, if any cue makers are listening. 

David Smith
Cues n Views