Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain

Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain

Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain KCB KCVO KPM (1856 – 28 May 1944) was a British Army officer, and later Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary who resigned in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. He is credited with inventing of the game of snooker while serving in India in 1875.


Early life

Chamberlain was born into a military family, the son of Charles Francis Falcon Chamberlain and nephew of Neville Bowles Chamberlain. He was educated at Brentwood School, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.[1]

Military career

Chamberlain was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in the 11th Foot on 9 August 1873,[2] and promoted lieutenant in August 1874.[1] In 1878, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, he joined the staff of Field Marshal Sir Frederick Roberts, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Afghanistan. He was wounded slightly at the Battle of Kandahar.[1][2][3] He served with Roberts at Ootacamund between 1881 and 1884.[4] He was promoted captain in August 1885,[5] and brevet major in November 1885.[6] In 1890 he became Military Secretary to the Kashmir Government.[1] He was promoted brevet colonel in 1894,[7] and this was made substantive in February 1899.[8] He rejoined Roberts in South Africa in December 1899, as "First Aide-de-Camp and Private Secretary".[3][9] He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1900.[1]

Royal Irish Constabulary

In 1900 Chamberlain was appointed Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the police force for the whole of Ireland except Dublin. The force, which was armed, was under the direct control of the Irish Administration in Dublin Castle. It was responsible for intelligence gathering as well as maintaining order, and was seen as the "eyes and ears" of the government.[10] He formally resigned from the Army on 1 November 1901.[11] He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) during a royal visit to Ireland in August 1903,[12] Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1911,[1] Knight of Grace in the Venerable Order of Saint John in April 1914,[13] and was awarded the King's Police Medal in the 1915 New Year Honours.[14] Chamberlain's years in the RIC coincided with the rise of a number of political, cultural and sporting organizations with the common aim of asserting Ireland's separateness from England, which were often collectively referred to as Sinn Féin,[15] culminating in the formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913. In reports to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Augustine Birrell, and the Under-Secretary, Sir Matthew Nathan, Chamberlain warned that the Volunteers were preparing to stage an insurrection and proclaim Irish independence.[16] However, in April 1916 when Nathan showed him a letter from the army commander in the south of Ireland telling of an expected landing of arms on the south-west coast and a rising planned for Easter, they were both 'doubtful whether there was any foundation for the rumour'.[17] The Easter Rising began on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916 and lasted for six days, ending only when much of O'Connell Street had been destroyed by artillery fire. Although the Royal Commission on the 1916 Rebellion (the Hardinge commission) cleared the RIC of any blame for the Rising, Chamberlain was eventually forced to resign following continued criticism of the force's intelligence handling.[1]

Later life

After his retirement Chamberlain lived in Ascot, Berkshire, England. On 19 March 1938 he had a letter published in The Field in which he claimed to have invented the game of snooker at the officer's mess of the 11th Devonshire Regiment in Jubbulpore (Jabalpur), India in 1875. His claim was supported by the author Compton Mackenzie in a letter to The Billiard Player in 1939, and has been accepted ever since.[3]

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes the circumstances in which the new game came about:[1]

While serving at Jubbulpore in 1875 Chamberlain developed a new variation of black pool by introducing coloured balls into the game. It was dubbed snooker—a derogatory nickname given to first-year cadets studying at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich that Chamberlain had heard about from a young Royal Artillery subaltern visiting the mess. Chamberlain later retorted to a fellow player who had failed to pot a coloured ball: ‘Why, you're a regular snooker’. While explaining the term to his fellow officers Chamberlain, to mollify the officer concerned, remarked that they were all ‘snookers at the game’ and the name snooker or snooker's pool immediately stuck.

Chamberlain died on 28 May 1944 aged 88.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i T. R. Moreman, ‘Chamberlain, Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald (1856–1944) (subscription required), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edition, May 2006, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/73766. Accessed 11 February 2008
  2. ^ a b London Gazette: no. 24909. p. 6539. 3 December 1880. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  3. ^ a b c Peter Ainsworth, The Origin of Snooker: The Neville Chamberlain Story, International Billiards and Snooker Federation
  4. ^ London Gazette: no. 25096. p. 1741. 18 April 1882. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  5. ^ London Gazette: no. 25520. p. 4787. 16 October 1885. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  6. ^ London Gazette: no. 25527. p. 5081. 6 November 1885. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  7. ^ London Gazette: no. 26591. p. 416. 22 January 1895. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  8. ^ London Gazette: no. 27085. p. 3521. 2 June 1899. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  9. ^ London Gazette: no. 27146. p. 8542. 22 December 1899. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  10. ^ W. J. McCormack, The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture, Blackwell, 1999, ISBN 0631228179, p. 477
  11. ^ London Gazette: no. 27380. p. 8095. 26 November 1901. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  12. ^ London Gazette: no. 27586. p. 5058. 11 August 1903. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  13. ^ London Gazette: no. 28818. p. 2874. 29 December 1914. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  14. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29024. p. 4. 3 April 1914. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  15. ^ Brian Feeney, Sinn Féin. A Hundred Turbulent Years, O'Brien, 2002, ISBN 0862786959, p. 38
  16. ^ Michael Foy and Brian Barton, The Easter Rising, Sutton, 2004, ISBN 0750934336, p. 51
  17. ^ Leon Ó Broin, Dublin Castle and the 1916 Rising, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1966, p. 79

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