W. J. Peall

Never mind ‘pot as many balls as you can,’ how about, ‘how many times, without interruption, can you pot the black off its spot?’

Well a contemporary of John Roberts Jun was W. J. Peall, whose claim to fame was his ability at billiards, to pot the red off its spot endlessly, when the rules allowed no limit to this form of scoring. His highest run was a break of 3,304.

His big advantage was that he was only a little over 5 feet tall, and stood virtually upright at the table, and so did not suffer with the aching back, which any repetitive shot normally gives. He was also one of the country’s earliest motorists, and achieved some notoriety, when he fell foul of the law, by being one of the first caught speeding in a police ‘radar’ trap.

‘On Saturday 14th September 1901, William J Peall was summoned, at Reigate, for driving a motor car near Redhill at a speed greater than twelve miles an hour. This was the result of a trap set by police in order to catch motorists and cyclists. The police sergeant deposed that on Saturday, August 18th, he timed the defendant as having driven his car 176 yards in eighteen seconds, which worked out at twenty miles per hour. Under cross-examination he admitted that a mistake had been made in the measurements, and the distance was only 158 yards, which reduced the pace, and he also stated that to time the car he was standing behind a hedge some twenty five yards from the end of the 158 yards, and took the start when the car was passing the brow of the hill some 200 yards away, and the finish opposite a gate. 

He admitted the gate was fully ten feet wide, and was very uncertain as to what part of the gate he timed the car to, also that his watch was not a stop watch. When asked if he had anyone to corroborate his evidence, another constable was called, who stated that what the first witness had said was correct, but, on being cross examined, admitted that he was hiding in a field some yards further on, and could not see the car coming at all.Mr Peall then elected to give evidence on oath, and maintained that the sergeant could not at all check the times with an ordinary watch, and that it was impossible to tell when a car came by a spot 200 yards away, also that he was very indefinite as to where the measurements ended. As to the second constable’s evidence, he might have been a hundred miles away for all he knew, and the defendant asked that his evidence not to be taken into account. The defendant stated he had witnesses to prove his defence, but, without giving him time to call them, the Bench imposed a fine of £2 and costs.

One could say that Mr.Peall was rather hard done by.

In 1937, Peall presented the Royal Automobile club with a quite magnificent trophy, which he won as billiard champion in 1892, which now sits proudly at their centre in Pall Mall London, and is awarded yearly for the best performance in the Club's International Rally.

W.J.Peall died at the ripe old age of 98 in 1952.