Tolley throwers in quest for glory

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The Independent Online
THE Tinsley Tarts, the Handcross Rebels, the Black Dog Boozers and the North Street Knockers competed with their customary passion in one of Britain's most eccentric sporting championships yesterday.

The teams were taking part in the British and World marbles championship, held at the Greyhound Hotel in Tinsley Green, West Sussex, since 1932.

It might seem a odd that play takes place on a 6ft-wide ring in the middle of the car park. But this peculiarity reflects the spirit of a game which appears to attract supporters as much for its eccentricity as its skill.

The trick is to flick your 'tolley' or marble with sufficient force for it to knock some of the 49 smaller marbles huddled in the middle out of the ring. The winning team is the one which manages to knock 25 out first.

As the players demonstrated, this is not so easy as it sounds. Some tolleys missed the pile of marbles altogether, others did not go off the other side of the ring.

Barry Ray, 51, an accountant from Hereford, has played at the Greyhound for the past 42 years as his grandfather did before him. 'I practise two or three hours a week, weather permitting,' he said. 'People think it's odd to take it seriously, but it's up to them to think what they like.'

Mr Ray's hobby has become a family tradition. For the past three years his son Darren, 23, an architect, has been world champion. This year his daughter Alison, 20, took the women's title.

The overall championship was won by the Black Dog Boozers and the World Champion's trophy went to Paddy Graham.

(Photograph omitted)