The Big Four

I am writing this article in response to a comment that I heard in my local club where, two older gentlemen were discussing the record and achievements of Joe Davis.

One of them, said that “Joe was the best Billiards player the game has ever seen”, the other argued that the modern players “must be better as the cue sports games have both improved over the intervening years since Joe’s day”.

This discussion although mildly interesting made me think about the players of days gone by and their relative abilities and achievements. 

Billiards is a confusing sport to some people who take a casual look at its history, because bigger breaks were being made in 1907 than in 1924. The examples I quote are the 499,135 made in 1907 by Tom Reece, this break was made using the rocker cannon, where the two object balls are manoeuvred into the jaws of a corner pocket and cannons are repeatedly scored. This stroke was banned in 1907 as was the pendulum cannon another repetitive scoring method, thereby making scoring harder and at a stroke the game more of a pleasure to watch for the paying spectator. The other break I refer you to is Tom Newman’s 1924 break, which was the highest, made with Ivory balls. This break was an apparently modest in comparison 1,370. 

These two breaks were made under such contrasting rules that they do not prove a thing about the relative merits of the two players concerned.

Comparing players can only have any real validity when they play under the same rules and in the same match conditions, such as pocket size and the position of the spot etc.

Many people consider such players, as Claude Falkiner to be sub-standard when compared to Joe Davis for example, I am sure that this was the case. Their respective championship records bear out the above assumption however, for Claude Falkiner’s name to be still remembered after such a long time indicates that at least on his day, he was a force to be reckoned with.

A similar argument can be put forward on behalf of Edward Diggle even though, he never won the world Billiards championship.

People often remark on the relative playing merits of the so-called big four great billiards exponents of the mid to late 1930’s, however statistically a truer description of this period might be, the big one and the chasing pack of three. By this I refer to the best player of this era by far, Walter Lindrum. The following pack were Joe Davis, Tom Newman and Willie Smith.

Walter could give his fellow professionals a start in order to give them a sporting chance yet at the same time, they played each other off scratch.

Returning to the subject of cue collecting, there are several cues that contain Walter Lindrum references and signature reproductions.

The most collectible Walter Lindrum cue is the one that records his three thousand plus break in January 1929. This break was a major achievement at the time. Joe Davis’s largest competitive break was 2,501 made in 1932 and commemorated on many cues for many years. Incidentally the most collectable Joe Davis cues are the ones with pre one hundred breaks. Other cues of note are the Riley Tombstone badged Joe Davis cues and the 114 break cue with the rectangular badge which, are both relatively scarce in hand spliced versions with a maple or birds eye maple front splice.

The other quite rare Walter Lindrum cue that is worth getting hold of, though not as valuable as the 1929. Is the 1932 record break cue with a break and signature recorded on the badge? This cue is hand spliced with a black ebony butt. The break on this badge is the 4,137 made in 1932.

There are many other Lindrum cues as Walter gave his name to just about anything in a bid to get the money together to return to Australia after coming here and returning with the World Billiards Championship in 1932. Some of these cues are quite nice but rarely bring as much as the earlier cues.

When you consider that a new Parris cue can cost in excess of £300. It is perhaps understandable that someone might treat themselves to an “antique” cue for £250 especially if that cue seemed a good player for them and had a piece of history associated with it, if only that it is designed as a replica of a former great players cue.

Even though many people consider him a lesser player one of my favourite cues is the Claude Falkiner facsimile cue. Mine has an Ivory badge and a representative of his signature, I would like to know more about him but sadly not much information seems to be around, as he never won the championship.

David Smith

Walter Lindrum cue images
Joe Davis cue images
Tom Newman cue images
Willie Smith cue images

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