A potted history of the Manchester & District Table Tennis League (1927 – Present Day)

Author Bob Mitchell 5 February 2006, with acknowledgements to various articles published in a booklet “Twenty–One Up” commemorating the twentyfirst anniversary of the Manchester League (published 1948).

In 1926 a handful of young men, who had , for many years, represented the Junior Section of the Manchester YMCA in the Manchester Lad’s Clubs Federation (Ping-Pong Section) found that they were now too old to be classed as Juniors.

Harry (G H) Jones as captain, issued a challenge through the local press, to all clubs interested in the game of Table Tennis. Over the next few months, these YMCA youths played over 30 games, under the psuedonym of “The Mustard Club”, against all sorts of competition ranging from Lad’s Club Federation teams, city café clubs, business house teams to golf clubs and cricket clubs. These games were played in a relatively haphazard way by informal challenges.  Sometimes clubs were asked to play two or three times in a week.  It was considered disrespectful to ever turn down a challenge!

A Bristol man, Mr H M Bunbury, who had recently taken up a job in Manchester was a keen administrator and had visions of establishing a formal league structure, similar to those already in existence in London and the South East. He used the Manchester Press to seek teams wishing to form  a league.  The ex YMCA youths made contact with him and provided a list of potential teams from their various challenges. A meeting was held on December 5th 1927 at the Manchester YMCA, which led to the formation of the Manchester & District Table Tennis League under the chairmanship of Mr Bunbury.  The league consisted of two regional divisions of six clubs each. Perhaps the two most famous clubs were Manchester YMCA and Grove House Lad’s Club (the Jewish counterpart of the YMCA), both of which teams took the honours over the next few years.

At the end of season 1927-28, a Hungarian team led by their captain Dr. Mecklowitz honoured Manchester by agreeing to play a match.  The Manchester team was captained by J Swann (Adelphi) along with E Lazarus (Grove House), H C Cooke(YMCA) and A Waite (YMCA). Regrettably Manchester were overwhelmed, with only Jack Swann winning one game. The Hungarian team demonstrated the open (Table Tennis) style of play rather than the pen-holder (Ping Pong) style, which, in those days, was the only accepted style in Manchester.  The Manchester team played an all-England team shortly afterwards and en bloc converted to the now widely accepted “open” style.  As was described at the time “The Mancunians became really Table Tennis minded, forgetting their close-to-the-table Ping Pong struggles and learning to use their feet as well as their heads”. The league expanded to more than 80 teams by the early-seventies.

Regrettably like a lot of other sports in recent times, the number of players has fallen, perhaps due to other entertainments, and the league currently has less than 30 teams.  How we would love to rebuild the league to it’s former glory.

Approaching the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Manchester & District Table Tennis League, it is perhaps only right to look forward rather than backwards.

Table Tennis is one of the least expensive sports to play.  Current league players range in age from teens to seventies  We would welcome new clubs and new players, of all abilities, from anywhere in the Greater Manchester area, to join our league.

For further details, please contact:

The General Secretary:

Ian Fletcher 07827 241880 ian1@fletcherstewart.co.uk
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