Melbourne Inman was born in
London on 15th July 1878, receiving his unusual Christian name in honour of his
uncle, Melbourne Tripp, rather than any connection with the Australian city of
the same name.
Born into a billiards family,
his father, two uncles, and three brothers all having made a century break at
the game, he always seemed destined to become a player himself. His father
managed The Twickenharn Club in London and it was here at the age of 14, that
he began his career as a Marker.
His rise in the game was rapid.
He won his first Professional Championship in 1908 and from then until 1920 was
at the height of his powers. During this time he won the Championship five
times, only Harry Stevenson managing to deprive him of the title for three of
these 12 years at the top of his profession.
However he is perhaps best
remembered for his intense rivalry with the brilliant but inconsistent Tom
Reece. Inman was a tactical, defensive player. With his deliberate movements,
slow play and liberal double-baulks. He was the perfect foil for Reece, who
rarely defeated him for money.
In October 1906 Melbourne Inman
made what was then a record for ivory balls scoring 300 points exclusively from
the red losers. It was certainly a record for ivory balls, but it was still
some way behind John Roberts' run of 819 from the red ball (in a break of 821)
which he had made with composition balls the previous year. That particular
achievement was not recognised by the Billiard Association as the table had not
been tested before the match. Roberts had also made a red-ball break of 372
with composition balls, back in 1898. However, all this did not deter Inman
from advertising himself as the "champion losing-hazard player of the world and
endorsing a cue, which proclaimed his achievement.
This cue is described as a
"facsimile", which was intended to be an exact copy of the cue used by Inman
himself and would have been manufactured for about two years from the date of
his achievement until 1909, when Harry Stevenson extended the ivory ball record
to 354. This cue has a black ebony butt with a dark red ash shaft, indicating
that the wood has been either steamed or it is old timber which has been
reclaimed and reused.
The only other known Melbourne
Inman cue was produced around the same time and has a picture-badge, which was
superimposed with Inman's signature. It usually has a plain or stripy ebony or
Indian rosewood butt and an ash shaft. The cue would have been a typical
billiard shape with a parallel end to the shaft and a wide butt.
Both of these cues are very
rare, the "facsimile" brings between £200-£300, the picture badge
Andy Hunter & David Smith