Jonathan Gale let me in through the street door in Fitzroy Road into his family’s beautiful new home in what was Butcher’s Yard Plasterworks. Set round a courtyard with a Buddha statue, it feels remarkably quiet and private. We sat in a room that had been an open-sided store, with huge timber beams that he told me were probably from a ship two hundred years old.
“I grew up in Devon, in Bideford, and played a lot of snooker from the age of 12 or 13. I played for the local working men’s club against the conservative club, the liberal club, the police club, anywhere that had a table.
Then at university I played even more, probably too much! I played at county level and for 6 months after university I played full-time and tried to get on to the professional circuit, but I wasn’t good enough, it’s very competitive. Then I got interested in American 9-Ball. It’s a nine foot table, it’s the one you see in films like The Hustler and The Colour of Money, it was never big in the UK, but it came in during the 1990s and I got involved in promoting it along with Barry Hearn (he promotes the World Snooker Championships now). I did some commentating, went to Poland for it, I worked with Sid Waddell who was an old darts commentator.
But this was a sideline for me, I dropped out as work became more demanding. I have a software company now which calculates odds for bookies, mainly for tennis.
We’ve lived in Primrose Hill since 2004 in various flats and houses, and never knew there was a snooker connection, but my Dad did some local history research on this building, and discovered that from 1928 to 1949 it was the base for a billiards manufacturer. He was called Andrew MacMorran, and in fact his cues are very collectable now, though they are hard to find as not all of them are marked with his brand. Morcues was one of the names and Shaun Murphy, who was runner up in the World Professional Championships this year, used one when he won in 2005.
I even have a photo of Andrew MacMorran at a trade fair. I found a distant relative of his in Canada who identified him.
Yes I do have a snooker table in the house, and a pool table in the office. Macmorran made snooker accessories too, and I recently found a snooker score board manufactured by him on eBay, so it has come back to where it was made!”
As told to Doro Marden
Photo by Lars Christiansen