History of the London Scrabble League

The London Scrabble League was formed in November 1971 by Mike Goldman and Reg Lever.
Gyles Brandreth had brought together 100 players to play in the first ever National Scrabble Championship in June of 1971 and with help from Leonard Hodge, who worked for J W Spear & Sons and co-organised this event, Mike and Reg sought permission to write to the participants and invite them to form the "Greater London Scrabble League".

The first season was comprised of 32 members split into two groups:
Achilles; Miss S Benjamin, Mr Skinner, Mr I Gordon, Miss K Menon, Mr M R Goldman, Mr R H Ganley, Mrs A Phillips, Rev T Dalton, Miss M Dalton, Mrs E Spiro, Mr N Kay, Mrs M Forrester, Miss S B Peters, Mrs S Hyams, Mrs S F Hockey, Mr D Quilter.
Boadicea; Mrs A P Woolf, Mr and Mrs Lane, Miss R Birch, Mrs R G Newmark, Mrs S Elias, Mr R W Lever, Mrs E Kay, Mrs R Lever, Mr H C Kay, Mr L Phillips, Miss J Jones, Dr K Dalton, Miss K George, Mrs R Grainger, Mrs G Stokes.

For the September-December 1972 season there were 31 and were grouped:
Achilles; Miss S Benjamin, Miss C Bursill, Miss D Clayton, Mr P Dean, Mrs S Elias, Mr R Ganley, Mrs R Grainger, Miss C Jakes, Mr N Kay, Mrs E Kay, Mrs R Lever, Mr R Lever, Miss K Menon, Mrs R G Newmark, Mrs S Peters and Mr Skinner.
Boadicea; Mr R D Bowman, Mr R Crolla, Dr K Dalton, Miss Dalton, Mrs Downie, Mr M Goldman, Mrs S F Hockey, Mrs S Hyams, Miss J Jones, Mr H C Kay, Mrs Lane, Mr C F J Magnus, Mrs P MacBean, Mr W Plinge and Mrs S Spiro.

Gyles Brandreth Leonard Hodge Mr M Goldman Mrs S F Hockey Mrs P MacBean Mr P Dean
Gyles Brandreth C4 Television, Leonard Hodge Allan Simmons, Mike Goldman Mike Goldman

At this stage the earliest list of permitted two letter words were listed with the address list for the Sept-Dec 1972 fixtures:
ad, ae, at, as, am, an, at, ax, ay, be, bo, by, da, do, ea, eh, el, em, en, er, ex, fa, fy, go, gu, ha, he, hi, ho, id, if, in, io, is, it, jo, ka, la, li, lo, ma, me, mi, mo, my, na, no, ob, od, oe, of, oh, on ,oo, or, os, ow, ox, oy, pa, pi, po, re, si, sh, so, ta, te, ti, to, un, up, us, ut, we, wo, ye, yo, yu, zo.
(pencilled additions/omissions were: ai, (for the first 'at') ee, ky, and ur).

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the London Scrabble League each current member was given a pin badge. Click on picture for a bigger image.

The following article has been adapted from Scrabble Club News

In 1971, decimal currency was introduced, the Open University started, Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education abolished free milk for school children, The Angry Brigade bombed the home of the Employment Secretary, Robert Carr, and Elizabeth R with Glenda Jackson was the top TV programme. Also in north-west London a group of less than angry non-television watchers sowed the first seeds of the Scrabble Club Movement. 1996 saw the 25th anniversary of the birth of the oldest Scrabble Club the London Scrabble League and Barry Grossman, an ex League committee member gave his own highly individual view of the epoch-making club:

The London Scrabble League first put tile to board in 1971, its earliest members drawn mainly from a mailing list of Londoners who had taken part in the first National Scrabble Championship.

The League is probably unique among large clubs in that matches are played in members' homes, not in a communal meeting place. Four person fixtures are arranged according to each individual's preference for required frequency, days of the week, travel limitations and smoker tolerance. It is a herculean task which not only takes one week per month of the League Fixtures Organiser's time but requires a computer program so complex that it makes the Football League's fixture computer look like an abacus. It does have the occasional glitch last week I had to play Manchester United, they won in extra time.

Some players play once a month, whereas our keenest members play up to 100 League matches in a 6-month season (that's FOUR per week!).

We also run Sunday drives which are more like the sessions of a conventional Scrabble Club, with everybody welcome to turn up and play four games. Noble volunteers run these drives. At 2.30pm the first round of fixtures is worked out and announced, at which point, under an obscure sub-section of the League Constitution, it is mandatory for someone to arrive late and screw the whole thing up. The climax of the drive is the prize-giving, with enough prizes available to give everybody a chance of winning something. Taking home a box of chocs has been the highlight of many a weekend for me, but enough about my problems.

In addition, we organise Scrabble tournaments from time to time as well as an Annual Handicap Pairs event. Our current membership is 120, drawn from all over London and beyond: these include some "world class" players but also many more moderate ones who are trying to improve their game a little while enjoying the social aspect of the club. The latest League table shows average scores ranging from 261 to 455.

We issue a monthly newsletter which presents relevant information about our membership and activities, as well as events throughout the country. So remember, next time you're passing through London, be it Hampstead, Hackney or Hounslow, Finchley, Catford or Elephant and Castle, there's probably a hard fought London League match going on not very far away. In fact, if you shut your eyes and listen hard, you may be able to hear those mantras we all know so well. 'I can't fit my word in', 'Are there no vowels in this bag?', 'Not another bonus', 'You've taken my place', etc. etc. Happy Scrabble playing.

Barry Grossman

The London Scrabble League Word Rules book by Darryl Francis.

Click on picture for a bigger image.

In 1986 (and well before the introduction of an Official Word List published by Chambers) the London Scrabble League produced this 20 page booklet written by Darryl Francis and, no doubt with help from then League secretary, Sheila Hockey to correctly address the rules for a disputed word/modified word which was not clearly stated in the main dictionary. Through various changes we moved from Chambers to Collins in 2007 and updated the word list in 2012 and 2015. So if a word is not listed in the official word list it is not allowed.

An excerpt form the introduction to the above book by Darryl:
Prior to 1981 the London Scrabble League had evolved a set of rules regarding the acceptability or otherwise of words played in its Scrabble matches. The rules had been progressively updated, amended, changed and tinkered with. These changes had been passed on by word of mouth, announcements at Drives, printed on odd scraps of paper and so on.
    It was decided in mid 1981 to completely overhaul the rules and bring them up-to-date. It was hoped these rules would allow a word's acceptability to be determined solely by reference to the current dictionary, except for a few borderline cases. It should not be necessary to refer to any other dictionary. This third edition of the London Scrabble League word rules incorporated a number of these changes over the second edition.

SCRABBLE® was invented by an unemployed American architect named Alfred Mosher Butts, who started tinkering with a word game in 1933. Originally called Lexico, Butts gradually developed the game over the next five years. He also changed its name a number of times, from Lexico to New Anagrams, to Alph, to Criss-Cross, to Criss-Crosswords. In December 1948, lawyer James Brunot, a resident of Newtown, Connecticut, bought the rights to manufacture the game in exchange for granting Butts a royalty on every unit sold. Though he left most of the game (including the distribution of letters) unchanged, Brunot slightly rearranged the "premium" squares of the board and simplified the rules; he also changed the name of the game to "Scrabble". Its popularity has skyrocketed since then. More than 100 million games in 27 languages have been sold around the world.
    SCRABBLE® is a word board game in which players use 100 tiles with printed letters to form words on a 15 x 15 grid with certain "premium" squares to accumulate points. The words are formed across and down in a crossword fashion. The name Scrabble is a trademark of Hasbro, Inc. in the US and Canada and of J.W. Spear & Sons PLC (now a subsiduary of Mattel Inc.) elsewhere.

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