From its origins as a parlour game for grown-ups in Victorian England, the game of tiddly winks has been on a roller-coaster ride. It is widely (and unjustly) disparaged as a game for children but is in fact a keenly strategic game for the highly intelligent.
Joseph Assheton Fincher filed the original patent application for the game in 1888 and applied for the trademark Tiddledy-Winks in 1889. John Jaques and Son were the exclusive distributors of the game named Tiddledy-Winks. However, competition was quite fierce, and for several years starting in 1888 other game publishers came out with their own versions of the game using other names, including Spoof, Flipperty Flop, Jumpkins, Golfette, Maro, Flutter, and many others. It became one of the most popular crazes during the 1890s, played by adults and children alike.
The birth of the modern game can be traced to a group of Cambridge University undergraduates meeting in Christ's College on 16 January 1955. Their aim was to devise a sport at which they could represent the university. Within three years the Oxford University Tiddlywinks Society was formed; although the two universities had been playing matches since 1946. The English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA) was founded in 1958. In the same year, an article appeared in The Spectator entitled "Does Prince Philip cheat at tiddlywinks?" Sensing a good publicity opportunity the Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club (CUTwC) challenged Prince Philip (later to become Chancellor of the University in 1976) to a tiddlywinks match to defend his honour. The Duke of Edinburgh appointed The Goons as his Royal champions. The Duke presented a trophy, the Silver Wink, for the British Universities Championship. During the 1960s as many as 37 universities were playing the game in Britain.
Tiddlywinks came to Otago in 1963 after Henry F. Gibbet (PhD), a former captain of the prestigious Oxford team, spent a year's sabbatical at Otago. In the harsh winter of that year Rugby and Netball players alike happily traded in their bibs and jerseys for the cosy opportunity to blitz and squop with the best of them. Dr Gibbet frequently expressed concern that should the Otago A team ever meet Oxford in battle it would be "a dashed close run thing."