Tag Archives: death

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

Dancing with Death

dancing

Thankfully Vaughan’s attempts at ballroom didn’t end in death.

Little bit of a footnote to my last blog on death.  I had an enquiry this week from a descendent of Dodger Whysall a 1920s cricketer who died of septicemia in 1930 from an injury he sustained while dancing!  Yes it seems modern cricketers aren’t the first to enjoy a tango off the field.  He slipped over on the dance floor and banged his elbow, the injury developed complications and he had a blood transfusion in an attempt to save his life, but it was too late – poor thing.  I wonder if he was a good dancer.

I will try do get off death for my next blog, but do let me know if you know of any more ‘interesting’ cricket deaths and I’ll included them after a few more cheerful blogs.

'Dodger' is third from the right at the back, this was the 1924-25 Ashes team.  He doesn't look like a dancer!

‘Dodger’ is third from the right at the back, this was the 1924-25 Ashes team. He doesn’t look like a natural dancer!

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Filed under Cricket, dancing, death, England, History, Lord's Cricket Ground

Death of a Cricketer

Obviously a big death is in the news at the moment.  How we should remember her? what type of funeral? etc.  It’s got me thinking about death (cheery I know) and reminded me of the week I spent cataloging memorial and funeral service brochures.  Some of them were moving, some sad, some uplifting.  Here are a few of my favourites.

Larwood mem

As you may know if you read my ‘Villains?’ a few weeks ago Harold Larwood was a somewhat controversial figure due to the part he played in bodyline bowling.  Yet many believed his disgrace was ill deserved and the Rector’s words reflect this in the opening address.

“Harold lived as he bowled – honestly, steadfastly and wholeheartedly.  For various reasons, which are now part of the game’s history, he was not always appreciated but despite this he continued his spell with fortitude and preserved his own integrity.”

A very nicely put tribute I think.

Don Bradman mem

I like this one because it’s nice and joyful.  I love the picture on the front, it’s so 1930s and reminds me what incredible times this man saw (as well as being an incredible cricketer).  I think the cartoon on the back with the umpires signal of ‘out’ is touching and funny.

owzat DonMy very favourite though, makes me feel sad.

Hedley Verity mem

Unlike the first two, his life was cut short violently and prematurely   At just 38 he died in Italy as a prisoner of war from wounds received during an attack on a German battalion in Sicily.  Before he went missing in action his last known words were “keep going, keep going” urging his men on in the attack.  At first there was hope he might have survived his wounds and be in a prisoner of war camp but word was received of his death and the Telegraph & Argus paid this moving tribute on 2 September 1943…

Wherever good cricket is appreciated, wherever sportsmanship is accepted as an indication of character, wherever men are honoured not because they are wealthy or gifted, but because they are in the true sense of the word men, there will the name of Hedley Verity be ever respected.

The humble last resting place of Hedley Verity.

(Memorial and funeral service brochures are among the many interesting and quirky items that can be viewed in the Lord’s Museum, Archive and Library.  Catalogue available on-line soon.) As well as a brave and well respected man he was a great bowler with the best first-class average in his day and the only man to take 14 wickets in a single day in a test match.  His death was a terrible waste of talent.

Here’s me hunting for interesting things to show you.

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Filed under Australia, bowling, cataloguing, Cricket, death, England, History, injury, Librarianship, MCC