Category Archives: WG Grace

Too late?

Last week I had my first go at cricket.  I’m 35 years old and have been a cricket fan for 8 years but until last week had never bowled, caught or hit a ball.  I have never intentionally avoided it, the opportunity just never arose, we didn’t play cricket at school, I never came across any friends playing in the park.  I’ve actually been eager to have a go for sometime, but until now have never known anyone who has the gear.

So how did it go?  Well I wasn’t very good!  The batting was OK, although I think my friend was bowling quite easy ones at me, I did really enjoy the batting I loved the feel and sound of leather striking willow with a nice firm thwack, and didn’t even mind that I ended up with bruises all over my right palm (probably due to poor technique).  The bowling was way harder.  It feels so weird having to keep your arm straight.  I founding attempting a run up too difficult, running while doing a windmill thing with my arms – my limbs wouldn’t stay coordinated.  I tried it without a run up but couldn’t seem to generate enough power to get the ball all the way down the pitch (22 yards is actually a really long way).  My friend eventually gave up trying to teach me a run up and let me bowl my balls from half way down the pitch, which made it easier.  I think I’m more of a batsman.

taking a shot

So what’s next for my cricketing career?  Have a left it too late to realise my obvious potential and take my talent on to the international stage?  I would have thought so…until I came across James Southerton while cataloguing some old photographs.  Our cataloguing team here at the MCC are working our way though a massive collection of old photos, some still currently completely uncatalogued.

J Southerton 2nd from left center row (with a rather sinister looking WG Grace 2nd from right)

J Southerton 2nd from left center row (with a rather sinister looking WG Grace 2nd from right)

I’ve been working on this rather marvelous photo of the United South of England Eleven taken in 1875.  I was entering the details of all the figures onto our persons index and was very interested to read that James Southerton was (and remains) the oldest test debutant.  He made his debut at the age of 49 years and 119 days!  He did OK too, taking 3 wickets in a match against Australia, he also played in the following test before retiring from the international game to run a pub.  The important thing is it means there’s hope for me.  If I spend the next 15 years sorting out my bowling action, get my limbs coordinated and manage to get the ball all the way to the other end maybe I could be the one to break his record.  It’s something to aim for.  Wish me luck!

James Southerton - he made his debut at an age that all international cricketers these days would have retired by!

James Southerton – he made his debut at an age that all international cricketers these days would have retired by!

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Filed under Australia, bowling, cataloguing, Cricket, Cricket records, England, History, MCC, test cricket, WG Grace, women's cricket

My Ashes

Here are some pictures from the last 4 days.

queen-2

The Queen!

I had to hang right out of the window to catch a glimpse of her.

I had to hang right out of the window to catch a glimpse of her.

The members queued all down the street to make sure they were among the first in the ground...

The members queued all down the street to make sure they were among the first in the ground…

...and then ran like mad to reserve a good seat!

…and then ran like mad to reserve a good seat!

...or a prime picnic spot.

…or a prime picnic spot.

Managed to find a great seat to watch a bit of cricket at the end of the day.

Managed to find a great seat to watch a bit of cricket at the end of the day.

Last minute team talk on day 4.

Last minute team talk on day 4.

After working here through the winter a full ground is just an amazing sight.

After working here through the winter a full ground is just an amazing sight.

(Pictures taken my myself and MCC Archivist Alan Rees)

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Filed under Ashes series, Australia, Cricket, cricket grounds, England, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, MCC, Queen, test cricket, WG Grace

The doctor will see you now

This week I posted a wonderful article on facebook about the achievements of amateur cricketer and GP Dr Neil Metcalfe, http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/10508018.national_award_for_York_medic/  I wonder how he compares as a cricketer and doctor to the most famous doctoring amateur cricketer Dr W.G. Grace.

A great cricketer and doctor?

A great cricketer and doctor?

During his lifetime Dr Grace’s medical career was seen as a bit of a joke by many of his contemporaries.  The popular prejudice was that he did not take his medical career seriously, placing cricket (and the money he made from it) far above his patients.  Certainly his cricketing career seems to have interfered with his qualifying as a doctor, it took him well over a decade when 4 years was the normal time it took in this period.  As Simon Rae points out in his biography of Grace, he spent… “a longer period as a medical student than it took him to score his first fifty centuries”.  Even then his qualification might have been delayed further if the weather hadn’t intervened, he was due to play a match at Lord’s on the day of his final exams, luckily the start of the match was delayed by rain allowing him to take his exam in the morning and play in the afternoon, but if it hadn’t have rained who knows which commitment he would have chosen to sacrifice.

Once qualified as a doctor, at the age of 31, the popular perception may well have been incorrect as his biographers seem to agree that he was actually a good GP.  They give several examples of his dedication and his kindness and generosity to poorer patients.  Bernard Darwin asserts that he worked hard all winter and once “during a match in which he made two hundreds, he did not go to bed at all throughout one night but sat up with a poor woman whom he had promised to see through her confinement”

A rather mean cartoon printed in the Telegraph shows WG taking a large cheque for his cricket while his patients die in the background! (Drawing now held in the MCC collection)

This rather mean cartoon shows WG taking a large cheque for his cricket while his patients die in the background! (Drawing now held in the MCC collection)

When cricket did take him away he hired an assistant to cover his duties.  He was even given an allowance by Gloucester CC to cover this expense.  So hopefully the cartoon above isn’t accurate and no one actually died because he abandoned them for cricket!

He was very popular with his patients.  Whether that was to do with his celebrity rather than his skill though we may never know.  It must certainly have been a strange experience for them asking him to check a nasty rash etc., he was the most famous sportsman of his age – I imagine it would be a bit like going to the doctors with and being treated by David Beckham or perhaps Sachin Tendulkar!  Grace’s mere presence was said to cheer many patients on their sick beds.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean he was without skill, it is said he once saved the life of a teammate.

“In 1887, he saved the life of his Gloucestershire team-mate A.C.M. Croome, who was involved in a horrific accident during a match against Lancashire at Old Trafford.  Trying to cut off a four, Croome ran headlong into the railings in front of the pavilion and tore his neck so badly that he would have bled to death had not Grace rushed over and held the wound together for a full half-hour before a surgical needle and thread were found and the gash was stitched.” (Rober Low).

He was also said to have an incredible ability to identify smallpox.  He claimed that if it was present in the patient he only had to walk into the room and he could smell it!

So the evidence suggests that both WG and Neil are excellent doctors, but how do they compare on the cricket field?  I think it might be unfair to Neil to discuss that further!  Lets call it a draw.

WG of the modern era?

WG of the modern era?

(For further reading try Great Lives: W.G. Grace by Bernard Darwin, W.G. Grace A Life by Simon Rae, W.G. by Robert Low – all available at the MCC library.  Or you can check out what else we have in our collection on Dr Grace, or anything else, by searching our on-line catalogue at http://www.lords.org/history/ )

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Filed under Cricket, doctors, England, History, injury, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, WG Grace