In our secular society the inclusion of ‘Sunday School’ in the title of a local sports league may seem anachronistic. The league came about from a desire for friendly sporting competition during the winter months between the various ‘men’s societies’ linked to local chapels and churches.
Snooker Joined Billiards
When our league started in 1910 billiards was the preferred game to snooker to be played in respectable Sunday Schools Institutions. Billiards is a far older game than snooker. Billiards is said to have started to develop into the modern game in 18th century when two white balls were used and eventually they were joined by the red ball.
Snooker was thought to be a more relaxing change to the more complex billiards and it did not develop in popularity until the 1970s and it was at this time the league changed its games format to include snooker.The name of Snooker was also added to the league title at this time.
The Sunday School
The Sunday School was very much a central part of the ‘local scene’ well into the 20th Century. In the 19th Century it had pioneered both religious and secular education for the children of urban and rural working class people prior to the universal state provision. It was the normal ‘thing to do’ for the vast majority of children to go to Sunday School but in the 1960s attendances started to decline.
Whole families went and for many the social life of their community was centred around their local church or chapel.Sunday Schools were organised into classes for the children to be taught by teachers who were overseen by a body of superintendents.
Men’s Bible Classes/Ladies Circle
But what happened in mid teens?
You joined as a junior member of a Men’s Bible Class or Ladies Circle, where you listened to a visiting speaker expounding views on a text from the Bible. From these classes sprang a secular or social arm called The Young Men’s Society, Institute, Guild or Club.
They were designed to spread fellowship through sport which led to the formation of outdoor sports such as football or cricket teams.Indoor sports tended to be table tennis and billiards rather than snooker which seemed to have an upper class edge to it.
Whist was the preferred card game rather than crib.
Sporting League Titles
Following on from the formation of Sunday School Football and Cricket leagues it was inevitable that a local Sunday School Billiards and Whist League should emerge as indeed it did, not only in Stalybridge but in but in other local towns and all the leagues were totally independent.
Since their formation some leagues have merged as was the case with Mossley and Stalybridge. The Stalybridge league also included St. John’s from Dukinfield. The merged league subsequently included teams from Ashton and Hyde. Snooker did not appear in our league title until the 1970s.