Sheffield history: World Championship Snooker at the Crucible and a trip to Barry Island in 1977

The World Snooker juggernaut is in town once again, and whether you’re a snooker fan or not, you should be proud that Sheffield is the home of the World Snooker Championship, held at the Crucible Theatre since 1977.

By Errol Edwards
Friday, 29th April 2022, 9:41 am
Updated Friday, 29th April 2022, 9:41 am

It’s certainly come a long way since John Spencer won his third world championship defeating Canadian Cliff Thorburn, in Sheffield’s, and the Crucible’s, first world championship, collecting £6,000 in prize money – which would be worth £40,000 today.

In 2022 the winner will receive prize money of £500,000 – I would say staggering, but when some footballers earn that amount weekly, I can’t.

Every time snooker comes to Sheffield I’m always reminded of my most memorable school trip, as these two events took place at the same time, in the same year – one I still remember 45 years later.

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World Professional Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield 1997 winner John Spencer (left) and Cliff Thorburn - 28th April 1977

Just after afternoon registration sometime in 1976, we were ushered up to our upper assembly hall at my then school Herries comprehensive.

There were around 200 perplexed 11 and 12-years-olds with teachers strategically placed – like a scene from Kes.

At the front of the hall was Mr Usher, our school headmaster.

This was intriguing as we rarely saw our head or deputy heads, unless you were in serious trouble.

17th July 1938: Holiday makers enjoying the sunshine at Barry Island in Wales. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

As we sat in anticipation, Mr Usher announced that the school planned to take the whole year - approximately 200 pupils aged 12 years olds - to Barry Island in South Wales.

This was well before Gavin and Stacey were a thought.

The whole hall was buzzing with excitement, we were going to a place we’d never heard of, in a place far, far away. The only thing we recognised from the announcement was Butlin’s, and yet for some reason we were extremely excited.

For many this would be their first trip away from home without family for more than just a night – a full week away – most in the hall were extremely excited.

Youngsters all set for a donkey ride on the sands at Barry Island. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

So loudly excited, Mr Usher couldn’t make himself heard to make the second part of his announcement, which threw him into a rage, threatening to cancel the trip as quickly as he’d announced it.

This made me chuckle much in the same way as Dick Dastardly’s dog Muttley would, but obviously making sure I wasn’t spotted, this was our headmaster after all.

We were all given permission slips to take home, so we could plead for permission to go.

In the end the vast majority of the year were allowed to go, and so one day in April four or five coaches lined up outside the school, and we were waved off by parents and family.

After a journey, which lasted for what seemed forever, we finally arrived in Barry, South Wales.

It was a fantastic trip – one which I will never forget – in the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

I now fully appreciate the hard work and risk these teachers took taking 200 sometimes rowdy pupils away for a week.

The teachers who dreamt up and executed this whole trip, gave us an indelible memory for all who went, I’m sure we all came back too.