Non-stop table tennis is a great way to raise funds for clubs, leagues or other organisations – and we have promoted our share of 24-hour marathons over the years.
But, with no disrespect to those who have taken part in such events, they didn’t have to have quite the same staying power as Tony Foggin and friends back in the 1960s, as we find out in the latest in our series of Centenary Stories.
It was the 1969 Easter weekend at Branksome School in Darlington and a group of eight boys played for no fewer than 60 hours straight – little wonder the picture above ended up on the front page of the local Northern Echo newspaper.
The players in the photo are Alan Wintersgill, Kevin Appleton, Paul Binks, Paul Wisniewski, Colin Laycock and (back left) Tony Foggin, who were all members of the same youth club.
Their motivation was to raise money for the Branksome Action Group, which was set up by youth worker John Appleton to get youth centre members active in the community, helping to do jobs for isolated seniors.
Tony said: “Nobody thinks anything of that now, it seems normal, but in those days it wasn’t very prevalent – if elderly people didn’t have any family, nobody really helped them.
“We started doing things like redecorating for them and all sorts of other things. I was an apprentice electrician, so we could do wiring and that sort of thing.
“The table tennis was an idea to raise some money for the group – that’s where the marathon came in and we did it over the Easter weekend so it didn’t impact on anything else.
“We did it in a very professional way and we weren’t allowed to go out of the building in the whole 60 hours. We were sleeping under snooker tables and on lilos. We had a place out the back where we could make a cup of tea and everything we ate was brought by our parents or other people from the centre.
“I think we played an hour on and then two or three hours off. At the beginning it was an easy task to do, but by the time 60 hours came, it was quite an effort to get back on the table and carry on.
“But it was to make money for this group we were running and we saved so much, we even managed to send one lady to Australia to see her sister who she hadn’t seen for 40 years. I still get emotional thinking about that even today.
“It was a good thing we did, but we did enjoy it as well. The girls you can see watching were part of the group, not our girlfriends – though I think one of them did eventually get married to one of the players!”
Sadly, John Appleton died this month, at the age of 95, and had remained active in the community – as recently as last year having been named Darlington’s Citizen of the Year.
Tony added: “John was instrumental in changing and forming many youngsters’ lives with his attitude and candour. Many young people have benefitted having had John as a mentor.”
In 2021/22, we celebrate our 100th year as the governing body of table tennis in England. If you have a Centenary Story to tell, contact [email protected]