Wilson Jones

Wilson Lionel Garton Jones

World Champion

 

W. L. G. Jones, the initials are for Wilson Lionel Garton, but he was known throughout the billiards world simply as Wilson Jones, 11 times The Champion of Western India, 12 times the National Champion of India, and twice Champion of the World.

 

Wilson Jones was born in ModiKhana in 1922 and his names derive from the fact of his father being a Welshman who the future World Champion hardly ever knew He was only slightly more acquainted with his step-father an excise officer who was often away from home and, as his mother usually accompanied her husband on his tours of duty, Wilson was largely brought up by his grandmother and an uncle.

 

Early Days

It seems that Wilson was a poor scholar showing little interest in anything but games at which he was a good hockey player and cricketer. It was not until he was 17 that he played any billiard table games and inevitably started with snooker. He showed considerable natural talent, so much so that in a form of the game called, "voluntary Snooker," in which an extra white - value 21 points - was placed between the pink and blue spots and which could be potted as many times as the player was able, he made a phenomenal break of 1,526. Wilson started playing billiards when he was about 18, late for a future World Champion, though the man who was to take his Title from him in Edinburgh in 1960, Herbert Beetham, did not start billiards seriously until he was 19, and indeed says that he never saw a full-sized table until that age. During the war Jones worked in a munitions factory cycling fourteen miles round trip to work and playing billiards all evening. When on the night shift he played billiards all day. He quickly became a regular 100 break player but his first tournament success was at the 22 ball game when in 1945 he won the, "Evening News of India," Snooker championship in Bombay. After the war Wilson had a difficult time as an Anglo-Indian at a time of fervent nationalism and he was unemployed for a time. Things took a turn for the better in 1947. When on a visit to Bombay for the "News," Snooker he made a number of good connections enabling him to get a job and one which would give him plenty of opportunity for practice. During the next few years he was able to watch such players as Kingsley Kennerley, Bob Marshall, Frank Edwards, Tom Cleary, and Horace Lindrum, and he acknowledges his debt to these players.

 

National Champion

In 1949 Wilson Jones reached the National Finals for the first time losing to by over 500 to T. J. Selvaraj - an accomplished red-ball player. Selvaraj had been a hard man for Jones but the following year he beat him by 2522 -2450 to take the first of his 12 National Titles. The measure of his improvement may be gauged by the fact that in the Semi-final Jones had beaten no less a player than Frank Edwards by just 67 points in a great game. It was the custom to invite any visiting star player to participate in the championships. Tom Cleary and Bob Marshall won the Indian billiards championship and in 1953 Leslie Driffield won the billiards and the snooker title. In the Semi-final of 1951 Jones beat Tom Cleary making a break of 342 only to see the Australian reply with 373! Wilson Jones's last Title was in 1967 when he beat Michael Ferreira. In the Western Indian Championship-which he won 11 times-one of his best wins was that of the 1958 final when he beat Driffield in a dramatic finish by just 8 points.

 

Despair

Success in the National Championships made Jones the Indian representative in World Championship. He played in seven World events winning the title twice 1958 and 1964, and being runner-up in 1962 after losing to Bob Marshall in a play-off.

 

Jones international career had anything but an auspicious start. His first Championship was 1951, Burroughes and Watts, and so well had he been playing that he came to London as favorite to take the title from a field that included Marshall, Cleary, and Edwards. He arrived early and practiced five or six hours a day. His first Championship match was against Scotsman Walter Ramage who was certainly not one of the favorites but who beat Jones by a couple of hundred points. Marshall slaughtered him 2224 - 876, Edwards by 800, Cleary easing up by only 141. He finished the tournament with just one win, that being over Irishman Edmund Haslem and with a top break of only 138. "The Billiard Player," reported Jones as a fine player and sportsman but clearly England did not suit him. He gained some consolation by retaining the Indian Title and so qualified for the 1952 tournament to be held in Calcutta where he was on home ground and a hot favorite. His first game against Amin Yunoos of Burma gave him just the start he needed as he annihilated his opponent with a string of big breaks. The sequel was awful for him. Walter Ramage beat him again by over 300, Marshall beat him, Chandra Hirjee beat him, whilst Driffield murdered him by 1857 - 700 making breaks of 221.220.220.143.122.107.107.105 and 93. Jones could make but one century in reply and Driffield went on to take the title. Wilson won only one match and that against an opponent whose top break throughout the tournament was only 79. The Indian Champion was not only beaten, before his own spectators he was humiliated. One of the characteristics of sporting champions is their overriding ambition bordering on the obsessive and Wilson Jones was no exception. His next attempt at the World Title was Sydney 1954. Again he arrived early to acclimatise and practice but it was the same story as before. Heavy losses to Marshall and Edwards, a fairly close game against Cleary, only one win and that against Tom Rees of South Africa. Jones best break was 209. The trip had one consolation for the Indian player. The great Walter Lindrum played a series of exhibition games around Sydney to raise funds to help with the staging of the championship. Jones somehow managed to get himself appointed as marker for these games and he struck up a friendship with Lindrum - not an easy thing to do towards the end of the great Australian's life. Lindrum discussed the game with him, watched him play and gave him advice. Walter wrote of Jones: - "He is the fastest moving amateur I have seen and appears to know all the answers. He makes his decisions quickly and spots the ball straightaway and is off on his job."

 

That may well have been so but it made no difference to the result of the event. Jones went back to India in the sort of mood of despair that would have made many another player give up. Three World Tournaments, 15 matches played with only three wins and those against the weakest opposition. To know that one has all the necessary ability and yet to be unable to produce it when it matters is as destroying in a sport as in any other walk of life.

 

Triumph

Jones fourth World Championship was back on home ground at Calcutta. He had practiced hard and was in great form but after his previous efforts no-one was putting very much money on him. He won all his games, made a top break of 501 and thus achieved his dearest ambition. His toughest opposition came - of course - from Driffield. At the start of the fourth session of the Driffield match the Englishmen led by nearly 800. Jones made 170 at his eighth visit and then followed this up with breaks of 232, 0, 5, 113, 117, 0, 5, 147 and 33. With fifteen minutes to go the Indian took the lead and with nine minutes to go it was still anybody's game. Driffield broke down at 69 and Wilson held on the win the match by 123. It was a great personal triumph. Driffield said later, "no other player, professional or amateur, could have conceded such a big lead and still have beaten me. Against Chandra Hirjee - a brilliant player - Jones had consecutive visits of 168.108.2.0.76.106.251.229.70 and 211. He made his 501 against Cleary and beat the Australian by over a thousand.

 

Tom Cleary's comments on the Championship went," Wilson played better than anybody else. He was much too good for us. "Jones was the first Asian to win a World Championship and he became a national hero overnight. Wilson returned to England in 1960 heading North and over the border to defend his title at the Music Hall, Edinburgh. He was very much the favorite. Neither Marshall nor Cleary were present the Australian Title holder that year being Jim Long. The only other really serious contenders were Manuel Francisco from South Africa, and Herbert Beetham from just up the road - Derby. Wilson started by overwhelming Francisco 2040 - 838. He had a 346 against Ireland's Bill Dennison; he had his revenge on Walter Ramage by some 600 points, and a break of 589 against Malta's Wilf Asciak. To retain his title he needed to beat Beetham. Beetham takes up the story:-

 

"A big crowd watched the game and the atmosphere was very tense. We started carefully, Wilson was taking no chances and he played for safety with the result that I had seventeen visits for only 48 points while Wilson made 356. The second part of this session went in my favor and in my last four visits I scored 536 points including a break of 277 to lead by 138 points. In the second session Wilson made 108 at his first visit so we were about level again and in the next hour Wilson was very consistent and then with a break of 181 led by 116 with about 45 minutes to go. I struggled hard and with a 145 and some smaller items I managed to secure a small lead after which there was a bout of safety play. With only about 20 minutes to play I got in and with a 182 I held on to win 1291-1053. I enjoyed the game very much. Wilson took his defeat like the great sportsman he is and he said some very nice things about me which I appreciated very much."

 

The Title thus came to the Midlands

1962 saw the championship once again in Australia, Perth. Shortly before traveling Wilson Jones had had some fine breaks including one of 715 in a practice game. It was a very different story to his last visit. He beat Marshall by a couple of hundred and Beetham by five hundred in which match he knocked up a break of 286 in under 15 minutes. The Title would be his again if he could beat Tom Cleary in his final game a match he was expected to win as Cleary had no hope of the title. Cleary, with nothing to lose, played uninhibited billiards, made breaks of 315.282 and 174, and won the game easily. The title was thus decided on a play-off Jones and Marshall having won 5 games each. This game was played over four two-hour sessions and at the end of the first day, with the aid of a great break of 489, Jones was 165 ahead. But it was all Marshall on the second day and Jones had to be content with the runner -up spot as the Australian ran riot scoring 2195 points to win 3623 - 2891. Jones's last World Championship was at Pukekohe, New Zealand, 1964. It was a big field and a strong one. Michael Ferreira made his championship debut, Cleary was there, and England was represented by Jack Karnehm (Runner-up) and Alf Nolan. It was a happy time for him. He won all of his nine games fairly easily. His top break of 294 was smaller than might have been expected but he had 7 other double and 40 single centuries Wilson Jones thus went out on a high note, indeed the highest there is in Amateur Billiards. He did win the National Championship again for the last time in 1967 beating Michael Ferreira by 3613-3116 after which he put his cue away resisting all appeals for him to return to the game He was a great player and a great sportsman. Outstanding amongst his achievements on the table was his 589 in Edinburgh and his highest unofficial break of 787. In the 1963 National Championships he scored 2901 in a four hour match and 4952 in one of 8 hours. He devoted little time to snooker but did win the National Title 5 times and had a top break of 115. Wilson Lionel Garton Jones is retired from the competitive game but retains his love of the game and devotes much of his time to coaching.

 

Well done Wilson.