A biographer researching the life and career of William (Bill) Postlethwaite (1894-1960) has discovered what could well be the earliest known instance of glueing up. Bill represented Yorkshire and England at table tennis for many years at the beginning of the twentieth century and was known for his aggressive play and innovative methods.
As well as being a top player, Bill had other sporting interests and was the first person to water ski barefoot along the entire length of the Leeds to Liverpool canal. For motive power he used his faithful horse Percival. It must have been an incredible sight, Percival thundering through the water with Bill hanging on to the reins and urging him on as only he could. Unfortunately no pictures remain of this amazing scene.
However, as was often the way with Bill, it was not long before tragedy struck. Bill decided to try and break his Leeds to Liverpool record, against the advice of his supporters who felt that Percival was getting a bit long in the tooth. Things were going well with the record well within grasp when the disaster happened. Just outside Warrington Percival misjudged his leap over a lock gate and to cut a long story short, drowned. Bill only just survived.
Bill was heartbroken but ever the practical Yorkshireman, sent Percival off to the knackers yard where he was turned into glue. Bill thus became the proud owner of 20 litres of prime horse adhesive and started looking around for ways to use it.
So it was that just before his first match in the 1909 Bradford Open Bill removed the cork layer from his bat and reglued it with Percival, with catastrophic results. The glue combined with the cork to form a rock solid disc. What is more, the horse adhesive did not stick well to the blade and when Bill unleashed his first booming forehand the disc spun off, deflected off the umpire's head, laying her low, and shattered the crystal chandelier that was the first prize. End of glueing experiment!
Yes, in many ways Bill was ahead of his time