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Letters & Opinion
  Resurrecting the
"Death of the Jaques Eclipse"

 1. Jaques responds to our queries
 2. Giotto collage is silly, says British critic
 3. An American ball made of nylon?
 4. Kiwis can hold out with Eclipse balls for years to come

Jaques responds to our queries on their new ball

- Editor's note -

In response to our specific questions, faxed to Jaques of London more than a week before we went online with our article "Death of the Jaques Eclipse," Jaques faxed back their reply below, two weeks later. We still don't know whether they read the article, and their letter is difficult to interpret, as some of it is obviously untrue - for example, the statement that the Jaques Eclipse is used "in all major tournaments throughout the world." Moreover, their version of the development of the Jaques Eclipse does not accord with the account of croquet historians quoted in our article. The company's managing director does, however, answer our main question: Whether the "new" plastic ball is the same as the plastic XLP test and sold in the U.S. in 1995 or is in fact an improved version.

- Editor

Thank you for your letter of 21st August and we answer the various points you raised as follows:

The fire occurred approximately 3 months ago at our Thornton Heath, Surrey, England premises and involved the Eclipse Croquet Ball manufacturing plant. This plant was totally destroyed and therefore we will not be able to continue production of the Eclipse Ball. Production of our other equipment was totally unaffected, as it was in fact in a separate plant.

We estimate that the first year that the Eclipse Ball was manufactured as per modern specifications was in 1890 by a Company called F H Ayres. Our Ball was commenced soon after the turn of the century.

The question of consultancy regarding development of our new Croquet Ball is confidential.

The best Jaques Ball which will be available to the market very shortly will be the new Championship Ball, which is one piece and designed to closely mirror the playing characteristics of the Eclipse Ball.

We are unsure as to how many Associations use our Ball for their major events, but can confirm that the Eclipse Ball is currently used in all major tournaments throughout the world.

The new Championship Ball is being submitted to the English Croquet Association for testing shortly, and will be on sale thereafter. We do not anticipate there being any delay in availability of this Ball.

We hope this is the information you require and apologize for the delay in replying due to Factory closure for holidays.


C T C Jaques,
Managing Director

P.S. The Championship Balls referred to above have been developed from the XL Balls and are of a similar construction but contain various minor improvements (i.e: definition, colour, roundness, etc.)

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The Jaques story was good, but the picture was silly. And why choose second colors?

Richard Hilditch
London, England

The story is a serious treatment of a matter many would consider trivial - replacing one croquet ball with another. We thought it called for a light-hearted and slightly outrageous picture to set it off. Just consider for a moment which color would work with Giotto's palette - blue or black? (too dark, comes out as just a dark blob against a back-lit heaven); red? (also too dark, and rather lurid with the rest of the painting, too dominant); yellow? (too washed out - somehow not spiritual enough. ) Pink? Perfect! A perfectly cherubic pink, which if you wish you may think of as a RED ball in the process of transfiguration. When our designer paraphrases a master like Giotto, we want to do him justice!

One could also observe that Giotto virtually invented Renaissance art, heralding a new era in painting - as in the beginning of a new era for croquet balls....

Finally, the Giotto portion of the collage also suggests the exaggerated "sacredness" and over-devotion to tradition at Jaques and among the British in general.

Of course, we are well aware that you are making your judgment from the virtual Vatican of croquet supremacy - Mother England - but I believe you have misjudged our gifted designer, Adam Stock, who knows what he's doing and should not be discouraged from doing more of it.


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I found your article about the demise of the Jaques Eclipse composition ball to be remarkably informative. It makes me want to get my hands on a set of Ayres balls, or at least read more about them.

I suggested at the annual USCA meeting during the '96 nationals that we should have a ball made in the USA, mostly so we wouldn't be dependent on Jaques and Barlow to supply us. At the time I thought that the USCA had made the right decision about the Barlow balls, that it was almost "no-brainer". The demise of the Eclipse narrows the choice and makes it more imperative that we get on the stick.

Some colleagues and I had, at the time, been talking to David Blender [North Carolina producer of the well-reviewed Ultimate ball] about taking over his operation. Also, having seen Lew McGonagle's beautiful nylon balls, first in Arizona in '95, then at the '96 nationals, I had entertained the idea of starting from scratch to manufacture nylon balls. Bill Berne asked me to study the problem and, if possible, to produce a couple of sets of balls for testing this year. I've done nothing.

However, I still strongly believe we need a good American ball, and what's more American than nylon (or Zytel). Its specific gravity of 1.14 make a ball of diameter 3.625 inches weigh one pound, within a percent or two. It's available in bright first colors and to pass the bounce test, it just needs to be properly grooved.

John Oehrle
Gladwyne, Pennsylvania

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The season is just getting under way here, and the loss of the Jaques [Eclipse] ball is not yet widely known.

Jaques balls are used for all the NZ Croquet Council tournaments - 16 tournaments in the season, mostly about a week long (5-9 days). Indeed the NZCC owns a plenteous supply of Jaques balls, which it sends around the country to be used in its tournaments.

The next layer of tournaments are those run by the Associations - the regional governing bodies, 20 in the country. Between them they run about 30 tournaments, mostly one week or longer. Some Associations also own their own supplies of balls, mostly Jaques but some Barlow.

Then there are tournaments run by Clubs - about 18 of a week or longer, and about 15 weekend tournaments. Some of these don't advertise what sort of balls will be used, but of those that do, it is about 50-50 Jaques and Barlow. Several Club tournaments and Association tournaments advertise "Jaques and Barlow".

I know that some Clubs also use Dawson balls in their Club play.

So you can see that the present situation is not as much "Jaques-only" as you might think. Over the last few years more and more Clubs have been impressed by the durability and price of Barlow vis-a-vis Jaques. But Jaques are still the ball for all the NZCC tournaments.

What will happen from here on? My guess would be that the NZCC will stick with Jaques for as long as they can get supplies, but that other play will go more and more to Barlow. Eventually the NZCC will be forced to choose another ball. What it will be at that time - Barlow, Dawson, or the new Jaques - who knows. If the decision were being made now, I imagine it would be Barlow. All the players who play internationally are familiar with them, along with most others who play in NZCC tournaments. But in fact it will probably be a few years before it is necessary to decide. By that time the new Jaques ball will have been evaluated, and there might even be an American contender. We will all watch with interest.

Kevin Fellows
New Zealand

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