“It’s embarrassing – we invented the game, but have yet to win a world title.”
A quote from Jon Mapley, after losing 25-17 to American Larry Khan at the Heineken Tiddlywinks World Championships, November 1984. London.
This was a heartfelt reaction by a leading English exponent of the game of tiddlywinks at his loss to an American.
Games compendiums included coloured counters and folded boards from which you could play amongst others; snakes and ladders, ludo, draughts, totopoly, lotto and of course tiddlywinks.
The game involves flipping your coloured counter called a ‘wink’ with a slightly bigger counter called a ‘squidger’ or ‘shooter’ into a plastic cup. It seemed a very simple, quiet and non-violent game which only got a bit dangerous if one of your winks flew upwardly mobile into one of your opponent’s eyes.
I looked up tiddlywinks and was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is an English Tiddlywinks Association; www.etwa.org from which I read that the adult version of the game of tiddlywinks started in January 1955 in Cambridge and the English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA) was set up in 1958; this is quoted from their website where you will also find rules for playing the game.
The game of tiddlywinks can be traced back to late Victorian times. The earliest patent application for the game was filed by Joseph Fincher in 1888, and the subsequent trademark application (for “tiddledy-winks”) filed in 1889.
However, the birth of the modern game can be traced to a group of Cambridge (UK) undergraduates meeting in Christ’s College on January 16th 1955. Their aim was to devise a sport at which they could represent the university. Within three years Oxford had taken up the challenge, and the popularity spread from then on.
During the sixties as many as 37 Universities were playing the game in Britain. A British Universities Championship was established by HRH Prince Philip in 1961 (the Silver Wink) which is still competed for to this day.
Oxford University took the game to America in 1962 and the North American Tiddlywinks Association was founded in 1966. The first trans-atlantic competition took place in 1972 and to the chagrin of the English players their American counterparts won the first match and came to dominate the game.
This would explain Jon Mapley’s exasperation above but it was not long before the wait was over. At the event in Cambridge in November 1985 Alan Dean beat Arye Gittelman (USA) 30.5-18.5. And to ease his pain Jon Mapley went on to become world champion four times from 1986 to 1988 gaining revenge on Larry Khan twice and Alan Dean as well.
So it all ended quite well as honours continued to be shared equally up until the present.
This page and more in a similar vein comes from a collection in my eBook. So! You want to be British . Further selection of articles: British beer mats – Billy Bunter – Desperate Dan – Gladys Leap – British Seaside Holidays – Slang terms in pre-decimal currency – The Mousetrap – Tiddlywinks