The Liberal Club Abertillery – The Central Snooker Club.
By the 1950s the club had a new roof, was refurbished and had changed its name to The Abertillery Central Snooker Club and Institute, but was always known as the “Lib”. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s housed the Citizens Advice Bureau in its old Lecture Rooms on the first floor.
Many players from the club went on to become top Welsh Amateur Champions, including Mr Jack Cable; Mr Horace Coles; Mr Bryn Gravenor; Mr Bob Berryman; Mr John Ford; Mr Des Meredith; Mr Len Luker and Mr David Edwards.
In 1956 at the height of their success, the Abertillery team (as seen below right) entered a national team competition sponsored by The News Chronicle national newspaper. The prize was the Championship Table from Thurstons Hall, Leicester Square, London.
Out of 1,109 team entries, the Abertillery team comprising Mr John Ford (captain); Mr Len Luker; Mr Des Meredith; Mr Emanuel Marks; Mr Jack Wellington; Mr Colin Meredith and Mr Fred Prewett, won the competition and was awarded the World Championship Table (as seen below right) which was made for the 1946-47 Championships held in Leicester Square London, the very table upon which Joe Davis made his record 146 and 147 snooker breaks and on which many record Billiard breaks were made by the top players at the time.
The winning team members were also each awarded a brand new Mannock Cue, these cues are now very rare and very valuable. The cue made by Mr J. P. Mannock was labelled as being “Anti-slip” this meant the butt-end was thickly tapered, thicker than normal, this prevented the cue slipping through your grip when attempting Masse’ shots whilst playing billiards. On a team photograph (as seen right) from the time of the win, the team were portrayed holding brand new cues, these were given to the members of the team just for the photo-shoot. These cues were not the presented J. P. Mannock Cues as mentioned.
It was a wonderful achievement by what was considered to be the best snooker team in Britain. The final match of the championship was televised and shown live on TV, (but we were recently told by the BBC that they never recorded it onto tape).
The table (as seen left) was transported to Abertillery and proudly erected in the club where it stayed until its closure. The club still had many successes through the 1960s and 70s within the Rhymney Valley and Abergavenny Snooker leagues and still held on to its huge reputation.
As the club at this time never had a licence to sell alcohol and there was no provision to prepare food, the away teams in the various leagues and divisions post-match were entertained at the Highbury Club, Abertillery.
In June 1983 I became a member of the Liberal & Labour Club – Central Club, Abertillery and was issued with my first Membership Card (as seen right) I joined the Snooker Teams, took great interest in the club and in the 1990s I was elected onto the Committee.
Mr David Edwards the marker at the club became the English Amateur Billiards Champion in 1987 and 1989, and he also reached the quarter finals in the World Amateur Billiards Championships held in India in 1987 and in my opinion was the best player the club had ever produced. He once made a 700 Billiard break and was making many century Snooker breaks whilst practising in the club.
Sadly, the club’s successful past could never be regained and, with the loss of many members, lack of interest in the sport in general and with losing revenue from the loss of the Citizens Advice Bureau, financially the club could not hold its head above the water.
For years, the club had been struggling and had it not been for the hard work by its officers, it would have closed long before it did. The first floor was opened out into one room, refurbished and the Joe Davis Championship Table was moved upstairs, an Alcohol Licence was obtained and a Bar serving drinks was added (first time in 105 years), along with 2 brand new Pool Tables generously provided by the Treasurer at his own expense, widescreen TV and other amenities but despite all the efforts and hard work by all of those involved who (provided their services free of charge) it was not able to stay open.
In the last Committee Meeting on the 5th March 2007 it was decided we had no option but to close, so ending 105 years of Liberal, Billiard and Snooker history in Abertillery.
The Liberal Snooker Club, closed, put up for sale by the Committee, and was purchased by the Abertillery Council as a office for the Contractors who built the new Foundry Bridge. The money from the sale was shared by the members over the age of eighteen, who were all shareholders of the Club. Later the premises was purchased and converted into a Convenient Store.