The Oxford English dictionary has the following reference to "squail":
The author has also verified from historical records that Squails was first published by John Jaques of London on 26 April, 1857 and there doesn't seem to be any evidence of the game prior to this. So the conclusion is that Squails is an entirely proprietary game invented by this famous game manufacturer at this time. It later appeared in the USA published by Milton Bradley Games in 1867 accompanied by a set of highly dubious marketing assertions about it's long history...
The old English game of Squails was played on a round table and the objective was to hit discs with the heel of the hand from the edge of the table at a small lead target in the centre called a "jack". If the jack was moved more than six inches it was replaced. Once all sixteen Squails had been played, they scored 16 for the squail nearest to the target down to 1 for the squail furthest away. Often, a squail would be directed with the aim of knocking an opponents squail away, as much as to end up near the target, in the same manner as for bowls.
Of the same family, although the relationship is uncertain, is Crokinole, a game developed in Canada which is now increasingly popular across all of North America. In French Canada it is sometimes known as Pichenotte (pronounced "peesh-nut") although this seems to have been the result of a historical confusion between Crokinole and another game called Pichenotte similar to Carrom.
The unusual and aesthetic game board is about 30" across, traditionally octagonal with the playing surface inside circular so that outside the surface is a gutter into which the disks can be knocked out of play. In the centre is a shallow hole and around it three concentric rings, the innermost of which has on it eight evenly spaced little posts which provide obstructions for the disks to bounce off. The objective is to send your own disks into the hole, a feat which scores 20 points, but just as importantly to prevent your opponent from doing the same. Each turn, a player must flick a disk so that it first hits an opponents disk, the aim usually being to knock the opponent's disk into the gutter around the board's edge while ensuring that the player's disk ends near to the centre, if at all possible. The three rings score 5, 10 or 15 points if the disk lands within them respectively.
There is some considerable debate concerning the origin of this game. Although the evidence seems to lie with a Canadian origin, some proponents firmly believe it originated in the USA and various other theories float about including one that asserts a direct descent from Squails and another that it is a German Mennonites invention. Take your pick but to assist you here are some facts for your delectation:
- Croquignole is French for a small hard biscuit which the disks resemble.
- Croquignole is also French for Fillip (meaning 'flick').
- A large part of Canada is of French descent.
- In England the game is known as "Croque'nole" in some quarters. At first glance, this would appear to be an alliteration of "Croque in hole" but this is speculation and the author has little historical information within the British realm on this game.
- The oldest known American board has inscribed on it's bottom "Crokinole, M.B. Ross, New York, Pat. Apr. 20, 1880".
- The problem is that such a patent cannot be found in the patent records. However, this author has discovered US patent 226, 615 dated Apr. 20, 1880 for a Crokinole variant submitted by one J. K. Ingalls. This can hardly be a coincidence but the board depicted features elongated barriers on one side so it not a standard crokinole board. The patent was filed on Nov. 22, 1879. Did M. B. Ross by the rights to this patent? If so the patent assertion was dubious because his boards differ from the patent!
- The Joseph Schneider Haus Museum in Ontario, Canada has a board that they believe was made in 1876 which would make it the oldest known board in the world - see below.
Where to Buy
In North America - particularly in Canada, there are a number of competing firms who sell the game including Mr Crokinole below.
Masters Traditional Games sells Crokinole boards that can be sent worldwide.
Mr. Crokinole, Wayne Kelly also has a splendid variety of Crokinole related paraphernalia. In addition to this website, he has done a lot of research into the game and produced a book on the subject.
The World Crokinole Championship site includes a history section which has a feature on probably the oldest known Crokinole board which was made by one Eckhardt Wettlaufer in 1876.
The inaugural UK Crokinole Championship was held at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in June 2022 and this is now an annual fixture.
A popular Facebook group exists for UK Crokinole players and enthusiasts, too.