Some time in the 1950s, the “Oldest Regular Player”, the author and BBC producer Stephen Potter, assembled, wrote down and annotated the “rules” of the variation on the game of snooker, a unique version of volunteer snooker, which had been played in the club since at least the 1900s. “Savile” is an informal game, noisy, irreverent, and fun, played on the Club’s 1860s billiard table. There is always a cue and a welcome for new members. Older, more experienced, players expect to lose to the young until they, too, succumb to the conviviality and conversation, the latter seldom about the game, and swinging erratically from the erudition of a senior common room to the sort of commentary one might get from Smithfield bummarees should a fat man in a topper, tails, and patent leather shoes pick his way carefully across the market through a labyrinth of discarded tripe.

Stephen Potter is less remembered now for his innovative BBC Radio programmes as for his seminal works “Gamesmanship” and “One-upmanship”, both thought to be inspired by the billiard room and this game.

Badly-authenticated reports have reached us that Robert Louis Stevenson took the game with him to Samoa, and Howard (Tutankhamun) Carter to Egypt: I introduced it to Kathmandu on the slightly warped small table in the British Embassy club, and was soundly beaten in three out of three frames by a distinguished Nepali poet, and two out of three by a man in the British Council, neither of whom had played before. Our standards are not high.

Incidentally, we do play regular snooker, and billiards too. We are about to enter the London Clubs Snooker Competition sponsored by Johnny Walker Black Label whisky. We have our own Savile competition annually, so even if you are new to the game you have a sporting chance, with a generous handicap.

Tuesday afternoons and evenings usually attract the regulars, who are only too pleased to welcome new players. The table and cues are available at all times the club is open, and except for competitions there is no booking system. Help yourself. Fresh cue chalk, the billiard balls, and brushes for the table are in the drawers of the bureau. For billiards anoraks, there is also a set of antique ivory balls, which respond in a different way to those normally used today. Try them.

The Potter (billiard/snooker) room is behind the bar. There is an intercom, which sometimes works, so drinks, and tea and toast in the afternoon, can be ordered. I look forward to our game.

Piers Henderson
Chairman of Billiards

Read the Rules of Savile Snooker by clicking here The Rules of Savile Snooker