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

Streakers

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It our latest TTF story David Cole from Ovington CC talks about the bad behaviour from drunken spectators including streaking http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/pitch-invasion-part-one . When I visited in May I was told to expect at least one streaker as there was a big race weekend on in York and there would be lots of jolly drunks heading home from the races and coming across the ground.  I was quite excited and had my camera finger at the ready all afternoon – but they must have been feeling shy that day as I was to be disappointment.  Anyway, my disappointment got me thinking about the history of streaking at cricket matches.  I’ve been surprised to find very little material (ha ha, that’s almost a pun) here in the MCC library – perhaps it’s because no one wants to encourage streakers by making them famous.

I was surprised the learn that the first recorded cricket streaker was as late as 1975 – I would have thought it a much longer tradition (ha ha…no, that one’s very weak, just forget it).  I don’t know if it was televised, but the moment was immortalised by John Arlott on the radio commentary –

“My goodness me, we’ve got an intruder from underneath Father Time in the person of a strapping young man rippling with muscles.  the most remarkable thing about him is that he does not have any clothes on.

There he goes, striding out towards the middle to what I can only describe as the puzzled delight of a big crowd.

He’s making for the wicket at the Nursery End and umpire Tom Spencer doesn’t quite know what to do.  Ooh, would you believe it, he jumps the stumps!  But all’s well, umpire Spencer hasn’t signalled ‘one short’.

And now the amply proportioned young man goes galloping away towards the Mound Stand with his arms outsretched, showing 25,000 people something they’ve never seen before.

And now a young copper comes across and spoils it all.  he’s taken off his helmet, placed it over the offending weapon and now he leads the young man off the field to a night in the cells and a visit to the Marylebone Magistrates Court in the morning”

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It sounds as though John Arlott rather enjoyed it, probably because this was the first streak it was something of a novelty.  I think the novelty wore off quite quickly though and they are now regarded as just a nuisance.

Australia v India - Commonwealth Bank Series 2nd Final

Streakers have become a bore and are treated rather more harshly these days.

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Filed under Cricket, History, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, streaking

War and Cricket

Obviously war is an enemy of cricket.  War has taken the lives of many cricketers and first class cricket ceased for the duration of the 2nd world war.  It also disrupted club cricket, mainly because members were away with the forces but also because cricket grounds might be needed to help the war effort, TTF’s  Wortham (St. George’s) ground housed an anti-aircraft gun battery! http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/cricket-lovely-cricket-%E2%80%93-tale-wrotham-stgeorge%E2%80%99s-cricket-club  Here at Lord’s we hosted an army camp during the war.  But clubs could also gain from the war.

Ovington's lovely pavilion is a converted bomb shelter!

Ovington’s lovely pavilion is a converted bomb shelter!

Ovington CC’s pavilion is an old bomb shelter and I found good example of cricketers making use of war in a 1940 article in The Cricketer Annual where we are given an account of a platoon who tried to play cricket in the forest as more suitable ground was unavailable.

“It was Corporal Plugg who most brutally exploited the conditions…

Private Sockett, his first victim, avowed that he watched the Corporal advancing to the crease, and saw his arm come over.

His next impression was of blue sky through branches, viewed from the stretcher which took him to the First Aid Post.

When Sergeant Bone was removed to Pullbright Infirmary to be furnished with a fresh set of dentures, it became clear that steps must be taken to reduce casualties.

A meeting of the Sports Committee decided that the obvious remedy was the provision of bowling-screen.

This was all very well, but funds would not go to it, the district was so remote that the finished article would probably take weeks to arrive, and the unit’s genius of improvisation was not immediately equal to the occasion.

All available canvas was covered with nauseating camouflage, and sheets were no longer being issued.  Indeed a pair of the latter, obtained locally at some cost, proved unsuitable, and the problem was still unsolved when the enemy aircraft visited our area.

The occasion proved happily that our movements had been well concealed from aerial observation, for, after dropping numerous flares, he departed without releasing the incendiaries and high explosives we had grimly and gaily anticipated.

It also provided us with some beautiful white parachutes, to which the flares had been attached, and these made admirable bowling-screens, so that the season ended without further casualties.

The only sufferer from Field-Marshal Goering’s reconnaissance was Corporal Plugg, who went down to second in the bowling-averages, but, as I have heard unofficially that a spare length of parachute is providing Mrs. Plugg with a Siren Nightgown, I feel that he can do without the coveted cricket-ball

Sergeant Bone and Private Sockett heartily agree with me.”

(From Down in the Forest by G.D. Martineau)

That’s a nice story, like something out of Dad’s Army.

bat and ball

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Filed under club cricket, Cricket, cricket grounds, England, History, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, war

Is cricket posh?

a-uniformed-eton-schoolboy-is-watched-by-local-boys-at-the-eton-v-harrow-cricket-match-at-lords-in-london-uk-in-1937

Eton schoolboy cricketer waiting to go into Lord’s being marvelled at by some local boys.

In my latest TTF story Barry Dennis tells us about a joke suggesting that his cricket team, Wimbledon CC, is rather posh (http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/joining-yahs).  But is cricket in general posh?

Growing up I always thought so.  We didn’t play cricket at my school, it was something that was played at posh schools or by the posh boys in Enid Blyton books.

Having visited a couple of cricket clubs now I realise not all cricketers are posh, some of the people I’ve met have been very common (ha ha only joking), but they have been what I regard as normal.  So where does the posh image come from?  Does it depend on whether or not your school teaches cricket?  Is there a north/south divide?  Is it because cricket spectators seem so much better behaved than those at the football (even though attending football is much more expensive)?  Is it down to the appearance of those immaculate cricket whites?  I would be genuinely interested to hear your views.

Although I admit my childhood impression was not entirely correct – I think it had some basis in reality.  For example, 7 out of 11 of the England test team who played in the last test were privately educated, that’s pretty high when you consider only 7% of the population attend private schools.  So is there something ‘posh’ about cricket?

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Filed under children, class, Cricket, cricket grounds, digital stories, England, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, oral history, school cricket

The Greatest Love of All

bat and ball in love

There are many kinds of love in this world; romantic love, love for your family, passion for religion or ideals, love of justice and truth – to name but a few.  But I’m sure none of you would disagree that the greatest love there is must be the love between a cricket bat and ball, as expressed most movingly in this beautiful poem.

Love in the Meadow.

“My love is red as a damask rose,

And lovers true are we,

Though ever I strive to belabour her,

And she to outwit me;

And yet alone we pine and moan,

We cannot rejoice at all,

For what is a ball without a bat,

Or a bat without a ball?

.

“We never embrace but we often kiss,

We only meet to part;

The farther away I speed my love,

The gladder I am at heart;

And glad is she to torture me,

Gladder to see me fall,

Yet great is the love of the ball for the bat

And the love of the bat for the ball!

.

“Her skin is rough as a Ribston red,

Her heart is O so hard!

And enemy-like she plots and plans

To catch me off my guard;

Yet she is the only love I love,

And I am her all in all;

And stranger thing on the earth’s not seen

Than the marriage of bat and ball.”

Wonderful isn’t it?  If you read that without tears in your eyes you’re a hardier soul than I.

Me at work contemplating the true nature of love.

Me at work contemplating the true nature of love.

(Poem from ‘Willow & Leather: A Book of Praise’ by E.V. Lucas 1898.  This and other such emotional tomes are available at the MCC library).

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These (cricket) boots are made for walking

Physical fitness is a big issue for cricketers and an area of changing attitudes over the years, from the rotund pipe smoking gents of yesteryear to the gym bunnies of today.  Not that all old days cricketers was oblivious to fitness, Tom Richardson was a fast bowler renown for his fitness and stamina in his prime.  He used to walk from home to the Oval each day to help him keep fit – 14 miles!  He did it carrying his kit bag too.  It kept him slender in his youth but I’m not sure the long-term effects were positive, he retired in 1905 in his early 30s over weight and suffering from bad rheumatism.

Tom Richardson

A slender Tom Richardson who kept in shape by walking 14 miles each day.

(Read more about Tom Richardson in ‘Beyond Bat & Ball: Eleven Intimate Portraits’ by David Foot.  Available in the MCC Library).

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On the road

Middlesex v. Glamorgan yesterday

Middlesex v. Glamorgan yesterday

The season is well under way now.  I’ve been to see Middlesex play a couple of times and my next plan is to get on the road and visit some of the cricket clubs that I’ve featured on Taking the Field

First of all I’m heading all the way to Wimbledon!  (http://www.takingthefield.com/clubs/wimbledon-cricket-club).  OK, so I’m not heading too far from my central London base, but it should still be a nice trip.  I’m told Wimbledon still has something of a village feel to it, so it will be a bit of a break from the big smoke.  It’s a really old club, dating back to 1854, they should have some interesting stories (though I probably won’t get to meet any of the founding members!)

Wimbledon CC ground

Wimbledon CC ground

After that my next trip takes me a bit further afield, all the way up to Ovington CC in York.  (http://www.takingthefield.com/clubs/ovington-cricket-club).  Not as old as Wimbledon, they’ve been around since the 1920s.  They have two important matches on the weekend I go up and I hope to get some good photos – but I’m even more keen to find out how true their club motto is:

 “Lucror vel perdo, nos vadum imbibo” (win lose, we shall drink).

OvingtonCC_logo big

Then I’m off to Wirksworth & Middleton CC which I’m particularly excited about as it’s in my old homeland – Derbyshire.  (http://www.takingthefield.com/clubs/wirksworth-middleton-cricket-club).  I’m not all that familiar with the Wirksworth area, but from what I’ve seen in the photographs it’s absolutley beautiful – I just hope I get some good weather.  Wirksworth CC has a really long history, going all the way back to 1757.  Roy Pearce has written some of the history of the club, extracts of this history can be found on the TTF website.

Wirksworth & Middleton have a long and interesting history.

And that’s all I have planned firmly for now – although it’s plenty to be going along with as, when you add in the test match, I’ve now got all my May weekends booked up.

If your club is on Taking the Field and you’d like me to come and visit to get some interviews and take some pictures please get in touch.  And if you’re not on the site yet, but have an interesting club with some good stories to tell, get in touch too and I’ll get you on the TTF site.

warm up big smile

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Filed under club cricket, Cricket, cricket grounds, England, History, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, oral history