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 Cues I Rarely Mention

In compiling this site, I have tried to appeal to the majority of people with an interest in Snooker and Billiards. This approach has proven successful, judging from the number of hits that we receive and indeed the amount of e-mails that I respond to each week.

Most of you seem drawn to the later cues, such as the Joe Davis, Walter Lindrum and Willie Smith cues. In my collection, I have older cues than these, these cues feature the names of some of the founders of modern cue sports, such names as Joseph Bennett, William Cook, Charles Dawson, John Roberts, Cecil Harverson, W J Peall, H W Stevenson and of course John Roberts Junior.

Many of these cues are from the era just prior to 1900 and so are not much use for playing the game today. They often have hugely wide butts and short splices in keeping with the balance needed to control Ivory balls. These cues can be very light, as light as 14 ounces in fact. This weight was the norm at the turn of the twentieth century and was often favoured by the leading professionals of the day.

I feel that a combination of factors lead to the increased weight of many cues towards the end of the 19th century. At around this time, public Billiard rooms began to open with, I should imagine, harder wearing, thicker cloths starting to appear. Adding this factor to the emergence of the composition ball the increased weight requirements of the average player in particular are not surprising.

The Joseph Bennett cue that I have is from around 1885; the butt is huge, however the weight is kept down by shortening the length of the ebony splices. This keeps the balance point in the correct place while allowing the player the extra feel of the larger butt.

The cue has a Cherry splice that makes it look and feel very nice indeed, the facing splice has Mr Bennetts name and address engraved on it with a Burroughes & Watts stamp below that. The cue is hand-spliced in the usual way with four ebony splices.

The Harverson and the two Roberts cues are the same shape as the Bennett, but the three Peall cues, the Cook and the Stevenson are clearly later cues.

These cues clearly show the evolutionary process that began in this era; slimmer butts and longer splices are the order of the day. The weight is kept to a minimum by making the central core of the cue larger, thus utilising less heavy ebony for the butt splicings. As you are no doubt aware ash or maple are both lighter than ebony. By the time that the Reece cues and the George Gray cues began to appear in 1907 and 1911 the slimming down process was well established.

I find myself somewhat mystified by the Peall picture badged cue, this type of cue looks and feels much like a modern Snooker cue, perhaps this is due to Peall himself being a spot stroke specialist. Perhaps these cues were designed for use by players who wished to emulate the great feats of Mr Peall. If so, then they could well be treated as the forerunners to the modern Snooker cue.

It could be that the development of these cues influenced the makers of cues at the turn of the 20th century, leading to the development and refinement of the cues of the 1930s and 1940s which can be called Snooker/Billiard cues rather than simply Billiard cues.

At this time Snooker was fast becoming the more popularly played game in the clubs and the game that was drawing crowds at the professional level.

It is interesting to compare the styles of the Burwat Champion cues that can be seen today, some of them have large butts with short splices, while others have the thinner butts and longer splices associated with a Snooker cue. This is because the Burwat Champion had such an extraordinarily long production run, starting in 1894 and ending in the 1960s I believe.

As a footnote what surprises me about W J Peall is that he used a John Roberts cue himself, the cues that are a facsimile of his should look and feel like a Roberts, but they dont. This could mean that his was an adapted Roberts or that the average player could not begin to duplicate his potting skills unless the cue that they were using was made slimmer and stronger?

What do you think?

David Smith


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