Horace Lindrum vs Willie Smith (lost footage of televised snooker; 1937)

From The Lost Media Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Issue 706 of Radio Times listing the 14th April match.

Status: Lost

On 14th April 1937, professional snooker players Horace Lindrum and Willie Smith faced each other in an exhibition match at Alexandra Palace. The match has television significance, as it was the first televised demonstration of snooker, being broadcast by BBC Television Service.


Heading into the exhibition match, both players had already built strong reputations in the game of snooker. Lindrum was an Australian player considered to be the second best snooker player behind only Joe Davis.[1][2][3] Indeed, he and Davis would face each other in three World Snooker Championship Finals in 1936, 1937, and 1946, with Davis winning all three.[3] Nevertheless, Lindrum himself would earn a World Championship crown in 1952, by beating Clark McConachy.[3] Meanwhile, while Smith generally only competed in snooker later in his career, concentrating mainly on English billiards, he did reach the World Snooker Championship Final in 1933 and 1935, both times losing to Davis. He is also regarded by the English Amateur Billiards Association as "by common consent, the greatest all-round billiards player who ever lived".[4]

Horace Lindrum vs Willie Smith

During the 1930s, organisers began to take note of snooker's rising popularity.[5] For many years, it was often played casually by professional billiards players, typically after a gruelling billiards game had occurred. Indeed, the attendance for a billiards game would usually halve after the announcement that a snooker game would commence. But in 1933, a national amateur competition showed organisers just how popular snooker was becoming, with at least 5,000 looking to compete. A few years later, Davis would play Canada's Conrad Stanbury, whose personality and stroke play excited the crowd significantly, further building the snooker audience.[1] Eventually, Lindrum's games against Davis eventually began the trend towards professional snooker, eventually surpassing billiards during this time period.[1][2]

This was enough for the BBC to be convinced that snooker should be televised. Thus, as part of its agenda to start broadcasting various sports, including football, cricket, and rugby,[6] the BBC invited Lindrum and Smith to compete in an exhibition game on 14th April 1937.[7][8] According to the Lindrum blog, BBC Television Service presenter Elizabeth Cowell announced the exhibition live from Alexandra Palace, with the players having to negotiate overly strong lights that caused the snooker table's cushion rails to become overly hot. Indeed, it actually burned the players' hands during the exhibition, while also curling the Formica at its joints. About a decade later, the issue was fixed by adding microphones to the table lights, so that the noise of the snooker balls colliding could be amplified.[9] The two would compete in another exhibition match on 16th April,[10][11] with the results of both matches being lost to time.

Notably, this was not the first time both players made broadcast snooker history; in December 1935, Davis and Lindrum competed at Thurston's Hall, with Smith providing commentary for the first radio broadcast of a snooker game.[12] Despite these broadcasts, it was stated in issue 706 that it was expected that snooker's popularity was just a fad, and players would prefer billiards in the long run.[2] The opposite proved true, as snooker became widely more popular in the UK in the coming decades.[5] It peaked in the 1980s during the 1985 World Snooker Championship Final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis, which was watched by 18.5 million.[13]


Like all early television transmissions, both exhibition matches were televised live and there were limited viable means of recording television prior to the Second World War, with recording seldom having occurred until video tape was perfected in the late-1950s.[14] Thus, all footage of both matches is likely permanently missing. Issue 706 of Radio Times helped to document an historic moment in television and snooker history.[8][11][1][2]



See Also

Early BBC Sports Television

Early BBC Television

Early Sports Television Media


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Issue 706 of Radio Times reporting on snooker's rise in popularity during the 1930s (page 1). Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Issue 706 of Radio Times reporting on snooker's rise in popularity during the 1930s (page 2). Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Daily Telegraph detailing the career of Horace Lindrum. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  4. Archived English Amateur Billiards Association detailing Willie Davis' career in billiards and later snooker. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  5. 5.0 5.1 BBC Sport in Black and White noting the match's television significance and snooker's rising popularity against billiards. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  6. ESPN detailing the BBC's desire to televise various sports for the first time during the 1930s. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  7. BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues listing the 14th April game. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  8. 8.0 8.1 Issue 706 of Radio Times detailing the 14th April game. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  9. Lindrum detailing the exhibition games and the challenges faced during the broadcast. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  10. BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues listing the 16th April game. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  11. 11.0 11.1 Issue 706 of Radio Times detailing the 16th April game. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  12. WST detailing the first radio broadcast of a snooker game. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  13. ABC News detailing the peak of snooker's popularity. Retrieved 26th Jan '22
  14. Web Archive article discussing how most early television is missing due to a lack of direct recording of television. Retrieved 26th Jan '22