Joe Cunningham - Billiards Ace

This From Patrick O'Connor's "In a Marmalade Saloon". Joe was my uncle and together with his wife and son John sublet our front room prior to moving to a new house in Boydston Road, Ardrossan in the early '50s. Dad reckoned our families came through  the depression well all through the hustling done by Joe in the local billiard halls.
Hugh McCallum

I was lucky. When I got to the den a big pin school was just forming and they made me marker. That meant I could poghle the stars.

Five Pin Pool. Four white pins scoring one two three four and the black pin in the middle. Balls and score as in billiards along with the score for the pin you play down with the ball. Knock the black pin down and you are bust no matter what your score is and it's a penny star forbye and you start all over again with no score. The marker chalks a star on the score- board under your name and you give him a penny which is added to the pool. The winner collects the pool, whatever it is a head along with a penny each for all the stars he counts on the board. But if you're clever like me and can rub Off a couple of stars without being nabbed that's a couple of coppers into your pocket. Of course you have to chance getting your head in your hands.

It was a big school. Shilling a pool, penny a star. Frank Kelly, Bowly McEwan, Winky Templeton, Joe Pepper, Gunner Brown and Poker Reid. Scoring twenty-one up for the pool. Then Joe came in and swanked them into letting him play if he would score twenty-five to their twenty-one, you'd have to be Joe Davis never mind Joe Cunningham.

So what did he do. As soon as he got a hit he ran out the first pool. He collects the money and they all give me their shillings again. The winner always breaks the balls. Joe breaks, scores seven pins from the dee and goes on to make twenty- five again without giving anybody else a hit at the balls. He breaks again while they are donating their money to the next pool and runs it out before the last man has paid up.

That's it. The game's a bogey. They all start hanging up the cues, Joe pockets the money and heads for Ardeer and beer and no stars for yours truly. But Joe is good with his money and gives me ninepence for myself because he has won three pools, saying he was away to Nineveh. That's his name for Stevenston, that den of iniquity, heh-heh. Joe's a right tear when he starts, he would cod the breeks of a heelanman. He's the one who first made the immortal wisecrack - Many are cauld but few are frozen, one day during a hard winter when there was no coal to light the fire in the den.