Lost Seasons

Lancashire Hotpot, by T.C.F. Prittie. Hutchinson, [1948?]

The Lost Seasons : Cricket in Wartime, 1939-45, by Eric Midwinter. Methuen, 1987.

In ‘Full Score’, published in 1970, Neville Cardus recounted the story, which he had originally told in his ‘Autobiography’, of how he had been in the Long Room at Lord’s in August 1939, shortly before the invasion of Poland, to watch Middlesex play Warwickshire.  Observing two workmen removing the bust of W.G. Grace, an elderly member had turned to him and said ‘Did you see that? That means war’.  Cardus added, rather plaintively, ‘Nobody has believed that actually it did happen, yet it is true’.

The truth of his story has certainly been questioned : Eric Midwinter, in ‘The Lost Seasons’, asserts that Cardus was already in Australia at the time, whereas Christopher O’Brien, in ‘Cardus Uncovered’, prefers the theory that he was on holiday in Derbyshire.  If it is debatable whether he witnessed the last day of the last first-class season in England before the war, there is no doubt that he was not there to see the first day of the first full season after it (by which time he was undeniably in Australia). 

It was, though, witnessed by his successor as Cricket Correspondent of the ‘Manchester Guardian’, Terence Prittie or, as he appears on the title page of ‘Lancashire Hotpot’, The Hon. T.C.F. Prittie (the honorific derives from his having been a son of an impoverished Anglo-Irish peer, as they mostly were, by that point). ‘Hotpot’ appears to be a compilation of pieces written for the MG in the course of the 1946 season, predominantly match reports, mixed (in the manner of a hot-pot) with some player-portraits, and a few opinion pieces.  It is another book that I bought some time ago (2015, judging by the receipt inserted as a bookmark), but have yet to read : now, given that he is describing the return of cricket after a long absence, seemed like a propitious time.

Had Cardus been there to report on the first day of the season, when Worcestershire took on the Indian tourists at New Road (or even if he had been on holiday in Derbyshire), I imagine that he would have summoned his famed ‘lyrical’ powers to convey the joy and relief of being able to watch cricket again after six years of war.  Prittie took a more restrained approach, his first paragraph reading :

The first match of any cricket season is an event.  But the first match of the 1946 season was something quite particular.  For six years there had been no regular first-class cricket, no county championship with its packed programme of matches, which are, in a sense, more vital to the cricket enthusiast than the gladiatorial Test Matches of the year.  To everyone who came to Worcester … the match meant a return to normality, a return to the old way of life in the nineteen-thirties, which may have been bustling but was not necessarily frenzied, lastly it meant a more faithful truce than the VE and VJ days which somehow did not bring the settled reality of peace.’

One might have expected some more extravagant expression of a sense of release, given that the author had been taken prisoner at Calais in 1940 and had spent the rest of the war in prisoner-of-war camps, where he organised games of cricket and, somehow, managed to contribute articles to ‘The Cricketer’. In that time he made six unsuccessful attempts to escape, which makes my occasional trips to Sainsbury’s to buy items that are not, strictly speaking, essential seem pretty small beer.

Prittie’s wish for a return to an unfrenzied normality was partially fulfilled : for the most part, the season he describes might have taken place in 1936, or 1956.  Like any good cricket-writer (or any ordinary spectator), he has his foibles and his favourites, his bugbears and hobbyhorses.  On that first day at Worcester, rather than wasting time in reflecting on the pleasures of freedom, he gets well and truly stuck into Cooper and Gibbons of Worcestershire for failing to take enough short runs (a recurrent theme of his) :

Cooper developed one maddening trick, that of playing a junket-soft stroke to the off-side and then starting off on a meaningless little scamper with his head down – four paces up the pitch and four back again. … This antic of his was as meaningless as the ma oeuvres (sic – standards of proof-reading had yet to the return to pre-war levels) of the Palace guards on the square at Monte Carlo.

… By their studied laziness, Cooper and Gibbons lost 15 runs at least while they were together and as a result their stand of 41 fell below the run-a-minute level.  Cooper at one period went almost to sleep in a small three-foot square vacuum of his own creating.  He seemed no longer in touch with the game outside the narrow orbit of his meticulous but restricted footwork and only a painful deflection on to his own chin brought him back to life.’

This, of course, appears to be a complaint, but it is also a covert celebration : what could better exemplify a return to pre-war normality than being frustrated by slow scoring batsmen, or having nothing worse to worry about than that?

The passage illustrates the essence of Prittie’s style : while less self-consciously ‘literary’ than his predecessor, he was capable of some wonderfully humorous word-pictures, interspersed with some severe, and occasionally gratuitous, dismissals. Although I doubt whether he spoke with quite the same accent, I was sometimes reminded of Terry Wogan’s commentaries on the Eurovision Song Contest. At Worcester, the heavily-sweatered Gul Mahommed ‘was a barrel of white wool’.  Cyril Washbrook’s ‘innings are as tasteful and elaborate as a petit-point design’. In a phrase that seems to compete with (or parody) Cardus, Hammond’s cover drive ‘rippled across the ground as quickly as sunlight falling on lake water’.

Zoological comparisons were a favourite of Prittie’s. ‘Three times’, he tells us, Walter Robins ‘came out to Pollard with a skip and a dive, as light and volatile as a redshank on the saltings’.  Armanath ‘goes for’ Hutton’s legs ‘like a prison dog for a convict’. After some uncharacteristically aggressive strokes, Winston Place ‘like the mole after his sun bath … withdraws to the quiet and stillness of his usual domain’.  ‘Bedser’s antics’ are ‘like a roving retriever’.  Of Hammond : ‘a cricket ball is engulfed by his huge hands with the same finality with which a bun disappears down an elephant’s throat’.

In a survey of English spinners, James Langridge is dismissed as ‘reliable, but ageing and infinitely tedious’.  Phillipson’s defence is ‘exact, but hopelessly senile’.  Mankad is ‘as hard to shift as a piece of dough on the bottom of a frying pan’..  Judge ‘perpetrates his 0 with the same certain regularity as a well-trained hen’.  Roberts is simply ‘negligible and erratic’.

Tails were a curious preoccupation. Lancashire’s is, variously, ‘long and erratically motile’ or ‘quivering’ ; England’s is ‘brawny, but ineffectual’, or ‘long and limp’.  ‘For strokeless ineptitude and a sad lack of resilience, the Middlesex tail-enders were even exceeding expectations’.

Through this mass of detail and stylistic quirks, the retelling of long-gone and mostly long-forgotten games, a season lost to memory re-emerges to replace the one we have so far lost to disease.  Long-gone, and mostly long-dead, players are conjured back to life to fight old battles, rising up from the ground like a skeleton army – and less vividly the immortals (the Huttons, Comptons and Hammonds) than the half-remembered ones (Winston Place, Dick Pollard), and those now unknown  (who, after reading Prittie’s description, would not want to learn more about Cooper and Gibbons, the ‘hopelessly senile’ Phillipson, or the ‘negligible’ Roberts, not to mention ‘Iberian-dusky W.E. Jones and the monastically abstinent Lavis’?)

The frontispiece to the book

is captioned ‘Old Trafford on a damp and dismal day in May.  The roof of the Pavilion is still war-scarred’ and, however strong the desire to return to normality may have been, some of the scars left by the war were still unhealed in 1946 (and were to remain so for some years after).

Military references abound : Roberts lets go of his bat in the course of a hook, and the square-leg Umpire ‘ducked with a wary economy of movement which any man who has watched a V-1 bomb coming at his nose has learnt to cultivate’.  Lancashire go on ‘the offensive, for another cheap wicket would have let their bowlers in among the tail-enders like German panzers in a French digging battalion.’  ‘The Middlesex bowlers launched a final-hour assault which for courageous desperation resembled the German drive in the Ardennes in 1944’.  References to Dunkirk may now have become irksome, but Prittie feels entitled to employ them, as one who may have narrowly missed out on the evacuation.

One side-effect of the war was that Leicestershire were forced to play their game against Lancashire at Barwell (other games being played at Hinckley, Ashby and Melton), having found that when they had reconvened at their Aylestone Road ground it had been damaged by bombing and the electricity works had encroached on to the outfield.  There Prittie, although initially charmed by the rustic setting, was seriously unimpressed by the behaviour of the crowd, leading him to urge that ‘cricket must not … be allowed to become the cockshy of the bucks and bumpkins whose spiritual homes are the prize-ring and the greyhound track’ (some aspects of post-war cricket cannot have been entirely to his taste).

Part of the return to normality was that, for the most part, the counties fielded substantially the same sides that had turned out for them in 1939, the professionals having generally been honourably kept on a retainer throughout the war (minus, of course, those who had died, and a small number who had retired). This meant, in turn, that there were a far from normal number of players in their thirties, forties, and even fifties (J.C. Clay of Glamorgan, one of the leading wicket-takers in 1946, was 52).

Part of the return to normality was that, for the most part, the counties fielded substantially the same sides that had turned out for them in 1939, the professionals having generally been honourably kept on a retainer throughout the war (minus, of course, those who had died, and a small number who had retired). This meant, in turn, that there were a far from normal number of players in their thirties, forties, and even fifties (J.C. Clay of Glamorgan, one of the leading wicket-takers in 1946, was 52).

Prittie (apart from his occasional references to ‘senility’) does not labour this point, but Eric Midwinter, in his invaluable ‘Lost Seasons’, provides the detail.  The Yorkshire side who won the Championship in 1946, for instance, contained eleven players who had featured in their winning side of 1939 : only Herbert Sutcliffe and Arthur Wood had retired, and the replacement for Hedley Verity, Arthur Booth, who had made his 2nd XI debut as long ago as 1923, was older than Verity, at 43.  As Midwinter puts it

A Rip Van Winkle of the 1940s, having avoided military service with the assistance of a six year doze, might have been forgiven for not realizing that time had slipped away over English cricket fields’.

He might, though, have an inkling that something about those sides was not quite right.

The England side that took the field in the Tests against India benefited from a core of batsmen who had made their debuts shortly before the war, and who were now still in their prime, even if they had lost many of what should have been their best seasons : Hutton (30), Washbrook (31), Compton (28), Hardstaff (34) and Bill Edrich (30) to accompany Hammond, who, even at 43, topped the first class averages in 1946 with 84.90.  The youngest four continued to be the backbone of England’s batting for the next ten years.

The bowling, however, had been weakened by the deaths of Verity and Ken Farnes.  Bill Bowes and Bill Voce (both 37) were tried, though Voce had last played for England in 1936, and Bowes’ health had been badly affected by his period in a POW camp.  Dick Pollard and Frank Smailes, neither young nor generally thought to be of Test standard, were given games, as was the 38 year old Alf Gover : only Alec Bedser, making his debut at the age of 27, offered much hope for the future, and he was to have a lot of bowling to do in the immediate post-war period.  Other than Bedser, the nearest thing to a purely post-war cricketer in the side was Godfrey Evans, who had made his debut for Kent in July 1939, and turned 26 on the rest day of his first Test match.

Midwinter identifies the cause of this post-war malaise as ‘the unknown warriors of the lost seasons’ – the players who were too young to have played pre-war, and had no opportunity to serve the usual apprenticeships during the war years, the worst affected being those born between 1924 and 1928.   Although the pre-war generation were enough to carry the batting, the seam bowling continued to be overly reliant on Bedser until the emergence of Trueman, Statham, Tyson and Loader, all born between 1929 and 1931, as were Peter May, Tony Lock and Ken Barrington.  Colin Cowdrey followed in 1932.

Apart from the fact that I am rapidly running out of things to read, I originally dug out Prittie’s book in the hope, I think, of experiencing a vicarious sense of elation at being able to return to cricket after a long period of deprivation and confinement.  More generally, I do not find it helpful to look to the war to illuminate our current predicament (if we employ the coping mechanisms appropriate to wartime we find ourselves in the same position as hedgehogs curling into balls into the face of oncoming traffic), but, where cricket is concerned, it is difficult to think of another precedent.

The parallels are clearly not close, even leaving aside the obvious large disparities in danger, deaths and deprivation.  Even if the entire county season were to be abandoned, there should be no danger of another ‘lost generation’, no test player will lose six years in the prime of his career, and the England team should be able to pick up more or less where they left off in the Winter.

However, as Midwinter’s book reveals, the current situation is, in one respect, worse than in wartime, in that far more cricket took place during the war than is commonly thought, simply not first-class cricket.  Having learned the lesson from the first war, when playing cricket of any description was, initially, severely discouraged, the authorities, recognising the role sport could play in maintaining morale, positively encouraged as full a programme as was practical.  Two all-star teams, the professional London Counties XI and the amateur British Empire XI featured prominently, playing against ad hoc county XIs, services teams, schools, Universities and others.  To have no cricket being played at all is unprecedented.

Enough matches were played for Carlos Bertie Clarke, who had toured with the West Indies in 1939, to take almost 750 wickets for the British Empire XI (he was to stay on after the war, to work as an NHS doctor, and play as an amateur for Northamptonshire).  Pre-war veterans Joe Hume (who went on to manage Tottenham Hotspur) and Harry Crabtree of Essex made over 4000 runs each, and Frank Lee, of Somerset, managed over 5000.  Keith Miller, Trevor Bailey, Alec Bedser and Reg Simpson all did enough to establish reputations.  None of these feats, however, made it into the record books because they were all made in one, or sometimes two-day games (timed, rather than limited overs, and with the unusual playing condition that the side batting second would continue after they had won, to give the crowd a full day’s entertainment).   

Wartime games could attract large crowds, according to Midwinter, often in excess of Championship attendances in the later ‘thirties, when they were (as usual, it seems) in decline.  His contention is that the flowering of cricket after the war (hampered by a sodden Summer in 1946, but definitely in full bloom by 1947) was not so much due to a desire to return to pre-war normality (as Prittie felt) as to satisfy a new appetite for aggressive and entertaining cricket stimulated by the experimental one-day games of the wartime years.

Midwinter is also of the opinion that the resumption of the Championship, much as it had been in 1939, represented a missed opportunity, and a victory for conservatism.  In his view, it would have been the ideal time to, at least, introduce a one-day knock out cup, and – I am afraid – to reduce the number of counties (as recommended by the mercifully forgotten Findlay Commission in 1937).  Inevitably, one of his proposals was to merge Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.  This is, I am afraid, where the contemporary parallels become uncomfortably close.  Even what is likely to be, by comparison with the war, a miniscule rupture in the continuity of first class cricket presents an opportunity to those who would like to see a wholesale reordering of it, and the financial consequences of the enforced break, which were not a factor during the war, make the prospects of returning to the ‘bustling, but not necessarily frenzied’ days of 2019 when cricket resumes precarious.

Prittie appears to have covered cricket for the ‘Manchester Guardian’ for a second year (and authored a second book), before returning to Germany to act as that newspaper’s Bonn correspondent.  A prolific author, he wrote, among many other works about Germany, generally complimentary biographies of Adenauer and Willy Brandt, before becoming a forceful advocate for the state of Israel.  A life well lived, no doubt, but I should imagine that his pieces about cricket were missed.  He was an entertaining and idiosyncratic writer, and I should have liked to have heard more from him.

This Wild Darkness

 

macaulay 3

 

“Another century by Arthur Mitchell made our second fixture with Middlesex memorable, but something else made it more memorable still, George Macaulay reappeared in our side after a long absence. Rheumatism had been crippling him, but he fought against it gallantly, and I shall always picture him making that speedy, resolute run to the crease, and his fighting face as he watched for the result of his medium pace bowling that fizzed the ball like a boy’s top.

It was the first time I had played on the same side as “Mac”. His savage appeals for lbw echo in my ears to this day : poignantly, I may confess, because he had a fatal illness during the war, during which, like the Essex fast bowler, Kenneth Farnes – ill-fated too – he became an airman.

A rough diamond and a demon at the same time – that was George Macaulay, England cricketer in his glittering prime, but always the Yorkshire “Tyke” through and through.” (Len Hutton)

Five cricketers who represented England died on active service in World War 2. Best remembered is Hedley Verity, who died as a result of wounds sustained in action in Caserta, Italy in 1943. Geoffrey Legge, who died in a flying accident in 1940, was an amateur who had played for England on tours to South Africa and New Zealand. Maurice Turnball, another amateur, was a double international who also played Rugby Union for Wales, and was killed shortly after the Normandy landings of 1944. The others were two of the most intriguing, but somehow elusive, characters of the inter-war generation : George Macaulay, who played for Yorkshire between 1920 and 1935, and won eight England caps, and Ken Farnes, who appeared for Cambridge University and Essex from 1930 to 1939, and was capped eighteen times.

Neither played a leading role in the story of English cricket between the wars, but they hover around the edges of a lot of narratives. Macaulay has never had a biography, though the blogger Old Ebor has recently done much to remedy that in a series of posts. Ken Farnes both wrote a memoir (‘Tours and Tests‘ ) and has had one written about him (‘Ken Farnes : Diary of an Essex Master‘, by David Thurlow) (neither of which I have managed to read).

Death can make strange bed-fellows (as a glance at any page of newspaper obituaries will reveal). Macaulay and Farnes may have been at different poles in terms of temperament, but they had some things in common. Both were serving as Pilot Officers at the time of their deaths : Farnes was killed when his plane crashed during a night-flying exercise over Chipping Norden in Oxfordshire on 20th October 1941 ; Macaulay is reported to have died of pneumonia at the naval base at Sullom Voe in the Shetland Islands on 7th December 1940. Both, one imagines, died in darkness.

Though Farnes played as an amateur and Macaulay as a professional, neither fitted the stereotype of the toffee-nosed dilettante or horny-handed son of toil (by the 1920s, few players did). Farnes grew up in Leytonstone, Essex, the son of the Company Accountant for Truman’s Brewery and was educated at the Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park (a Grammar School that had been established in 1921). Macaulay’s Mother (his Father died when he was young) owned a hotel in Thirsk and sent him to board at Barnard Castle (a recently established minor public school). Both had spells working in banks : Farnes unhappily, Macaulay more successfully (his chucking-in of a promising career in banking, at the age of 23, to play professional cricket seems to have been an early example of his life-long propensity to queer his own pitch).

Macaulay was primarily a bowler, though precisely what kind of bowler he was is hard to picture, belonging, as he did, to a type that is now largely extinct. He is usually described as bowling off-spin, though he began as an out-and-out paceman. In his prime he seems to have bowled seam with the new ball, then switched to medium pace off-breaks. On drying wickets he could be devastating, and returned some startling figures, particularly against the weaker counties. Despite this, he seems to have been more memorable for his character than his bowling.

Macaulay flits in and out of Neville Cardus’s accounts of the Roses matches (which I discussed in my last post) like some kind of evil spirit :

“Moving bitterly along as though a battleaxe and not a cricket ball were in his grip … the image of lean enmity … bowling like a fury crowned with snakes … his left hand wore a bandage, which somehow added to his customary aspect of lean, joyless antagonism … consistently agile and hostile … again did Macaulay make a ghoulish catch … antagonistic … his third ball was blocked by Iddon ; Macaulay pounced on it and threatened to run Iddon out ; Iddon was a foot behind the crease … Macaulay fielded with a ghoulish brilliance and threw the ball in and narrowly missed striking Hopwood in the small of the back …”

(To avert any suspicion of Lancastrian bias, Cardus’s Yorkshire equivalent, J.M. Kilburn, described him as “antagonism personified” and “malevolent”.)

The most startling description occurs in ‘Express Deliveries’, by Bill Bowes, his Yorkshire team-mate in the latter stages of his career :

“George Macaulay was devilish. From a few feet away he was devilishly good-looking, too – but, coming closer, you saw lines and wrinkles which should not have marred the face of a man of his years. His wit, always devilish, had a razor edge which sometimes cut deep into his victims.”

These recurrent descriptions of him as “devilish” or “demonic”, coupled with the references to his dark good looks and wit, make him sound like some flannelled Byron, scornful, cynical, defiant, with, perhaps, a touch of Heathcliff (on his first meeting with Jack Hobbs, his reaction was the Heathcliffean “I’ve heard about this Master. Well I’ll show him who’s the Master!”).

Bowes goes on to say :

“As a bowler there was no harder trier in the world, but he expected no less from his fieldsmen, and when he sent them into suicidal positions they had to choose between their fear of sudden death by decapitation or Macaulay’s tongue. They preferred sudden death, but never experienced it – at least not from Macaulay’s bowling.”

and recounts an anecdote to illustrate Macaulay’s sense of humour. Bowes was fielding at mid-off to Macaulay’s bowling. A half-volley was driven off the meat of the bat, hit him on the forehead and briefly knocked him out.

“I saw stars and after spinning round sank gracefully to the turf. When I sat up I saw Arthur Booth convulsed with laughter as he chased after the ball. As he bent to pick it up, having tears – the unsympathetic sort – in his eyes, he accidentally kicked the ball over the boundary. Mac also found my discomfiture amusing.”

The bowler was so amused that he was still convulsed with laughter when he came to deliver the next ball, so much so that it slipped from his fingers and trickled towards the batsman, who hit it for four.

“Mac was still laughing. “It’s all very well laughing,” remarked Bill Reeves, “but supposing it had been an inch or two lower – it might have hit him in the glasses and blinded him.” Mac came to earth with a bump. He suddenly remembered that it ought to have been a catch … The laugh vanished. His eyes narrowed. His jaw became taut. “Hit him in the glasses!” he said feelingly, “it ought to have killed him! And sither,” he shouted to Arthur Booth, “get that grin off thi face, an’ get fieldin’ them.”

None of the other illustrations of his wit (though everyone remarks on it) seem much more amusing. For instance, Herbert Sutcliffe, in ‘For England and Yorkshire’, writes “If I had kept a record of Macaulay’s “cracks” on and off the field there would have been a most amusing book to be written. Macaulay has a readier wit than anyone I have ever known …” but offers, as an example :

“Another story has to do with a game in which he was the victim of some indifferent slip-fielding. Catch after catch was dropped off him. Macaulay, exasperated beyond anything, at length cried out: ‘I’m going to make a present of a set of slips to Madame Tussaud’s.’

The two most flattering descriptions of his character came from R.C. Robertson-Glasgow and Dudley Carew (both, admittedly, written soon after his death, in the days when it was considered unseemly to speak ill of the recently deceased). After admitting that “he could be subtle or violent”, “Crusoe” goes on to say :

“As a man he was an original ; fiercely independent, witty, argumentative, swift to joy and anger. He had pleasure in cracking a convention or cursing an enemy ; an enemy, I mean, in the sense of someone or something which stood in the way of what he had set his heart to achieve. That hostile object might be great or small, human or inanimate. A batsman was being obstinate at the wicket, and Macaulay would rake his own armoury for every new weapon to surprise, lever, trick or blast the enemy away. A cricket-bag came between him and his blazer hanging on a peg ; and he’d kick it and tell it a truth or two, then laugh. He was a glorious opponent ; a great cricketer ; and a companion in a thousand.

Carew wrote of the Yorkshire team of the 1920s that they “sailed under colours that had something suspiciously like the skull-and-crossbones about them … They gave no quarter and asked for none, and, if at times their tactics verged on the questionable, the character they brought to their buccaneering almost redeemed its lack of scruple. [They were] not so much a team as a kind of commando unit” and identified Macaulay as a prime mover in this :

Macaulay … was capable of using a turning pitch, and the whole, spare body of the man would stiffen like a pointing dog when a ball did something unexpected. Round the wicket Macaulay would go then and bowl his off-breaks to a short-leg field – and magnificently hostile and aggressive his attack would be. The whole man was highly strung, not nervous exactly, for he had too tough a kernel for that, but impatient and abrupt with repressed energy. He did not suffer fools gladly, and could be devastating with a glance and an unacademic phrase, but he was a grand friend and a man who could do things other than play cricket. He had a passion for gramophone records, possessing a fine singing voice, and knew the Gilbert and Sullivan operas backwards – and he had other curious and unexpected accomplishments.

No one seeing Macaulay bowl could mistake him for a man of lazy tolerance and insufficient guts. He seemed to project not only the ball but his whole combatant nature down the pitch ; there was a threat in the very way he picked the ball up, and what a field he was to his own bowling!

I remember one instance of it which was the more shattering for the contrast the violence of the act made with the surroundings. It was in the Parks at Oxford on one of those days which make May a summer month. …. there was no particular crisis in the game, and one of the Oxford batsman, Hill-Wood, I think it was, played forward quietly. It was a gentle stroke in keeping with the ground and the afternoon, and the batsman must have followed it up a step or two. The peace was shattered with a violent abruptness. Macaulay, leaping down the pitch with agility and concentrated, vindictive presence of mind, seized on the ball, hurled it at the wicket, knocked the middle stump out of the ground, and yelled an appeal that sounded like an expletive.”

In his account of this incident Bowes adds that Macaulay, as a “send-off”, added “You can laugh that one off in the pavilion!” (Hills-Wood, or whoever it was, had earlier provoked him by laughing).

A final witness for the defence is Macaulay’s team-mate and friend Herbert Sutcliffe, who described him (while he was still alive) as “one of the game’s most remarkable personalities. When he is all out, he gives so much of himself to his task that, at times, his opponents have misunderstood his actions after the ball has been delivered. I can assure all Yorkshire’s opponents that our great bowler never has any ill-feeling in his work. He is a militant type of bowler and all the better for that ; but he is quite harmless. Meet him off the field and you will soon discover what a charming fellow he can be, and what a sharp-pointed wit he has.”

(In other words, he was all right when you got to know him.)

The feeling remains that there is some mystery about Macaulay that goes beyond his behaviour on the field. He is not the only bowler to have thrown the ball dangerously near batsmen in a bid to run them out, have a few words with them on their way back to the pavilion, speak harshly to fieldsmen who have dropped catches off his bowling, or use bad language (judging by scattered references to his “cussing”, a few expletives have been deleted in his reported dialogue). The same could be said of Steve Kirby, or even James Anderson, and neither would merit the description “devilish”, “demonic” or “ghoulish”. For the moment, we must leave him decently cloaked in euphemism.

Farnes

 

If Macaulay was the demon of inter-war cricket, Kenneth Farnes was its angel, although of the exterminating rather than the ineffectual variety. No-one seems to have had a bad word to say about him.  Hutton describes him as “tall, strong, handsome, and brainy”, Carew as “one of the nicest, gentlest and most modest of men”, Gideon Haigh as “a gentle and charming man hard to rouse to aggression”. Robertson-Glasgow, having paid tribute to his “generous nature and his quiet but humorous talk”, has this to say : “his temperament, except when aroused by some strong party antagonism, was easy and serene. In the blood fights of cricket he excelled, and then his rivals faded from comparison”.

Farnes was (according to Carew) “England’s best, not to say only, fast bowler when Larwood’s greatness was ended by injury”. 6’5” and exceptionally fit (he was interested in “physical culture”, and had a party trick of rippling his abdominal muscles)

“he had, although so different in style, the same penetrative power, the same ability to make batsmen play the involuntary, reflex stroke. But, and it is a considerable but, only on occasions. He was like some engine of fabulous gear which only on rare occasions could wind itself up to its full might. In these moments of inspiration he was a devastating force with that great height, that long, accelerating run-up, and his arm coming over high. The good length ball would get up abominably, and the slips lived in a perpetual state of expectation.”

One of those “rare occasions” was the Varsity Match of 1933, when Farnes, bowling for Cambridge, gave an English crowd their first opportunity to observe ‘bodyline’ in action. On the truncated first day, bowling to a field that included four short-legs, he failed to take a wicket, but did hit David Walker, the Oxford opener, in the ribs (‘The Times’, unimpressed, dismissed his opening spell as “an arrant waste of time”). On the second day, employing the same tactics, he had Viv Jenkins caught down the leg-side and struck the fast bowler Richard Tindall a nasty blow, then yorked him next ball ; the Oxford no.11 Oldfield was bowled first ball by a delivery that had deflected off his jaw. On the last day, Farnes “ripped through Oxford’s top order”, hitting the opener Townsend in the neck, with the result that he collapsed on to his stumps.

E.W. Swanton later reminisced “I can still hear the ball thudding around Pieter van der Bijl’s ribs and Pieter giving great groans. You could hear him in the Tavern.” Farnes admitted, amiably “My bowling relied to a certain extent on intimidation”, but that he could see “little reason not to try to use a method that had proved successful on an MCC tour”. (This exhibition did something to change English opinions about the legitimacy of fast leg theory.)

A year earlier, playing for Essex at Scarborough (when it is likely that his path crossed with Macaulay’s), his intimidatory tactics had met with less success. On the first day, Essex had made 325, and, according to Herbert Sutcliffe, had seemed unusually unconcerned at being bounced by Bill Bowes. In the evening session, according to Sutcliffe

“It was deemed inadvisable for us to open with the usual pair, and our skipper sent in Arthur Mitchell and Verity to face the bowling. I don’t think I shall ever forget the pasting Arthur, who took most of the bowling, got from Nichols and Farnes – Farnes in particular. They bowled well enough to get three or four wickets, but Mitchell, who, as I have told you before, is a rare fighter, set his teeth into his work and he stayed”.

The next morning, “Ticker” (who could never be accused of a lack of physical courage)having been prised from the crease, along with Verity and a second nightwatchman, Maurice Leland joined Sutcliffe, and, in response to another assault from Farnes, they went on the offensive. According to Sutcliffe

“We let it go and it came off for us. Over a hundred runs were taken off half a dozen overs … of course it was a sheer “blind”. On another day Farnes would have had our wickets before we had got going – reckless efforts such as those only come off once in fifty times.”

That evening, Bill Bowes recalled

“I saw Farnes in the Spa Ballroom … he was not dancing but was sitting lonely and miserable in the foyer. I sat beside him. ‘Now, Ken’ I asked, what do you think of county cricket?’ He looked away. ‘I shall never make a bowler’ he said slowly. ‘Did you see how they hit me?’ And in his great disappointment he took out his handkerchief and cried.”

In spite of this setback, Farnes went on to have many good days, particularly, as Robertson-Glasgow says, in the “blood fights of cricket”. He took ten wickets on his debut against Australia in 1934, 6-96 at the MCG in 1936, and made two memorable appearances for the Gentlemen against the Players. In 1936, he bowled Gimblett, Hardstaff and Hammond in quick succession to reduce the Players to 36-4, and, in 1938, he took 8-34 and 3-60 to secure the Gents their second win since the First War. He also knocked Bill Edrich out : as Edrich remembered it

I tried to play back, a defensive back stroke while turning my head and lifting my hands. The next thing I knew someone was saying smoothly ‘Have some water, there’s no hurry’”.

After graduation, Farnes worked as a schoolmaster at Worksop College and was only available to play in the school holidays. Like Macaulay, he was a man of “curious and unexpected accomplishments”, whose mind was rarely entirely on cricket. His obituary in ‘Wisden’ noted that his interests included painting and music ; Gideon Haigh, in his suggestive essay ‘Fast Action Hero’, traces his increasing preoccupation with poetry and esoteric philosophies (as I have previously observed in relation to Tyson and Snow, fast bowlers are often the most poetical of creatures). Among his interests, according to Haigh, were the orientalist poet James Elroy Flecker, the Irish novelist George Moore, the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore and J.W. Dunne.

Dunne was an extraordinary character, who began as a pioneer in aeronautical engineering, made some important advances in the art of fly-fishing, before devoting himself to speculation about the nature of time. Inspired by his experiences of what he took to be pre-cognitive dreams, he developed a theory of “serial time”. His theories, first and most famously, expressed in ‘An Experiment in Time’, met with a muted reception from philosophers and scientists, but found a more receptive audience with imaginative writers, most obviously J.B. Priestley, but also his friend H.G. Wells, Tolkien and Lewis, Borges, Nabokov and, apparently, Ken Farnes.

Farnes was inclined to what Haigh refers to as ‘a kind of muted mysticism’ which made him capable, even, of experiencing a mild epiphany while fielding at Leyton :

“It was there too that a day’s fielding in the late summer heat brought about in me an amazing evening’s contentment. I cannot explain the reason – just positive well-being really. I had not done well myself, for Kent had thumped our bowling, but it was just the end of the season and I still remember the glow of pure contentment that I felt that evening.”

In his diary he recorded five objectives for the tour of South Africa in 1938-9, none of which related to his bowling, but included :

To remain conscious of my inner, natural, more realised self instead of being overcome by successive and accumulative environments experienced on tour.”

(Ben Duckett might usefully have done something similar before touring Australia.)

He also admitted to feeling ‘detached’, ‘disgruntled with myself’ and aspired to ‘a subjugation of self’ that would enable him to achieve ‘the required metaphysical state’. Haigh goes on to say

“As well as an expression of patriotism, then, Farnes’s enlistment in the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of war smacks of a continuation of a search for fulfilment, for a transcendent cause or duty . In ‘Gitanjali’, Tagore asks : ‘On the day when death knock at thy door what wilt thou offer him?’. Farnes, perhaps, wished it to be more than wickets.”

He appears to be hinting that Farnes had some sort of death wish, or, at least, a highly developed desire to ‘slip the surly bonds of earth’. He volunteered to train for a role as a night-flyer, at a time when night-fighters, heavily-armoured but cumbersome planes designed to combat enemy bombers, and with a poor safety record, were in their infancy. Within a month of returning from training in Canada, he crashed his, while apparently attempting a landing, and was killed.

Ten months earlier George Macaulay had met his end at Sullom Voe

The young Len Hutton had been present at the end of Macaulay’s career, in 1934.

“The other happening in the Maidstone match was the unexpected dropping out of George Macaulay after the opening day. He had been stricken during Sunday by a recurrence of the serious illness which kept him out of cricket for so long : and, as it sadly proved, although nobody knew until later, this was for him really the beginning of the end. Adverse fate never ceased to haunt him thereafter.”

Macaulay had always seemed susceptible to self-sabotage. In making him ‘Bowler of the Year’ in its 1924 edition, ‘Wisden’ ended by noting “His fault is that he is apt to become depressed and upset when things go wrong’, and this accusation, together with the perception that he was something of a wet track bully, dogged him throughout his career. Not just depressed, of course, but angry. His precise role in the notorious game against Middlesex at Bramall Lane in 1924, which led to Middlesex temporarily suspending fixtures between the two counties, is not clear, though it seems to have involved abusing the Umpires and the opposition, as well as inciting crowd trouble.  It led to Lord Hawke pronouncing that “he had only himself to blame” for being left out of the side that toured Australia that Winter.

Macaulay’s performances declined as the decade progressed. He had a resurgence in form towards the end of his career, which saw him recalled to play for England in 1933, but he was increasingly prone to injuries and plagued by rheumatism (like Maurice Leland’s lumbago, this sounds a vaguely comical complaint, but it clearly caused him a good deal of pain). His benefit in 1931 raised only £1,633 (less than any of his Yorkshire contemporaries, suggesting that he was not a particular favourite with the crowds). In line with the protocol instituted by Lord Hawke, when he discovered that most of his old professionals had spent the proceeds of their benefits on drinking themselves to death, the capital from this was invested and the player received only the interest on it.

Macaulay had originally been a joint partner in Herbert Sutcliffe’s very profitable sports equipment business, but had quickly tired of it and allowed Sutcliffe to buy him out. After retiring from cricket, he set up a business selling a patent rheumatism cure that he claimed had helped him with his own complaint. When this failed, he opened a sports shop on his own account. When this failed too he was forced to declare for bankruptcy, in 1937.

During his bankruptcy hearing he went down fighting : he complained bitterly that his businesses would not have failed if he had received the proceeds of his benefit, was forced to deny that he spent his time “drinking in public houses”, and had to admit that he had never kept any accounts. In a last show of wit, he claimed that his rheumatism cure had been a failure because it was too successful, and managed to alienate the Official Receiver in the same way that he had once irritated Umpires, batsmen, his team-mates and Lord Hawke :

Macaulay : May I speak, Sir?

The Official Receiver : If you get across with people it is not going to do you any good in life. Don’t say anything which is going to spoil your future.

Some good advice, which had come too late. His arguments were rejected and he was declared bankrupt ; his offer to amend his will (and that of his wife) so that the proceeds of his benefit would be paid to his creditors after his death was accepted. Reluctantly, in spite of his rheumatism, he returned to playing cricket professionally, for Ebbw in Wales, and later in the Lancashire League.

When I originally thought of writing this piece, it seemed to me, as I have said, that there was some mystery about Macaulay, and something unexplained about what had driven him to what must have been a cold and lonely death in mid-Winter at Sullom Voe. His motives for joining up seemed quixotic : 41 at the outbreak of war, he would have been under no obligation to do so. In fact, with professional cricket suspended for the duration, and his businesses failed, it may simply have been the need to make a living.  He must also have been hoping for a posting slightly nearer home.

Oddly, and in a way that might have interested J.W. Dunne, between beginning writing this piece and reaching the end, a solution to the mystery of Macaulay’s last days has been offered by ‘Old Ebor’. Macaulay, he has discovered, did not die of pneumonia, but of ‘cardiac arrest brought on by alcoholic toxaemia’. He had, apparently, been drinking heavily over a period of ten days and had been admitted to the sick quarters in a comatose condition, where he died ; the medical officer who signed his death certificate was of the opinion that he had been a chronic alcoholic for ten years.

‘Old Ebor”s researches show that Macaulay’s role was that of ‘Messing Officer’, which would have meant that he was in charge of the squadron’s supply of alcohol.  One pictures him, cold, in pain, oppressed by darkness, and, as Hutton said, “adverse fate“, drinking his way through the lot, in a final act of je m’en foutisme.  He must have begun on about his birthday, on the 7th December, and may have been planning to have finished it off at Christmas.

These facts emerged when his unfortunate wife, Edith, who had already signed away what should have been her inheritance to pay her husband’s debts, applied for a military pension but was refused, on the grounds that he had not died on active service. His creditors, presumably, received the lump sum from his benefit on his death. As a grim, subsiduary, irony, the measure that Hawke had paternalistically intended to discourage his players from drinking themselves to death seems to have helped to drive one of them to do precisely that.

I call this a solution, but it is no solution, and, perhaps, there is no mystery, beyond the everyday mysteries of the human heart, and the futility of biography. The bottle may have been Macaulay’s chosen means of self-destruction, but the demons that drove him to rage against the surly bonds that Farnes yearned to rise above remain as unknowable as they did at the beginning. I doubt whether either, for all Macaulay’s wit and Farnes’s philosophy, ever quite knew themselves.

**************************************************************

Gideon Haigh’s essay on Farnes was published in ‘Silent Revolutions’ (Aurum, 2007) and is available online here – Fast Action Hero

‘Old Ebor”s posts about Macaulay begin here

Books quoted from include :

Express Deliveries / Bill Bowes. (Sportsman’s Book Club, 1958)

To the Wicket / Dudley Carew (Chapman & Hall, 1950)

For Yorkshire and England / Herbert Sutcliffe (Edward Arnold, 1935)

Cricket Prints / R.C. Robertson-Glasgow (Sportsman’s Book Club, 1951)

The Roses Matches 1919-1939 / Neville Cardus (Souvenir, 1982)

(The title is borrowed from Harold Brodkey’s ‘This Wild Darkness : the Story of my Death’.)

On Tour in South Africa with the Leicestershire Infantry Volunteers : Part Four

punch-boer-war-cricket-e1331382075865

THE LAST WICKET

This is the last letter I have from G.E.M. to the boys back home in the Liberal Club, originally published in the ‘Hinckley Times’ of 5th January 1901.  By now a difference of opinion had emerged between the two sides as to whether the war was over.  The British, having defeated the Boers whenever they could catch up with them, captured their capitals at Pretoria and Bloemfontein, as well as Johannesberg, and forced their leaders to flee, thought they had won (G.E.M clearly shared this view).  The Boers, unfortunately, disagreed and declined to surrender.  Though the war was to drag on until May 1902, becoming increasingly dirty in the process, G.E.M. finally returned home in the Summer of 1901.

One slight compensation for being stuck in South Africa, as you will see, was that he did manage to find time for a little cricket while he was there.  As a 6’3″ fast bowler on what was likely to have been a primitive wicket he must have been a testing proposition.

HINCKLEY VOLUNTEERS IN SOUTH AFRICA

A DISAPPOINTED COMPANY

Writing from South Africa, to Mr. Taylor, Derby Road, Hinckley Corporal Mustin, of the Hinckley Volunteer Service Company, says;

Germiston, Dec 4th 1900

Dear Mr. Taylor – When I wrote last little did I think we should be in this country in December.  We with other Volunteer Companies of the Brigade left our regiments at Lydenburg on October 9th, and marched the 40 miles of mountainous country to Machadadorp in three days with an empty convoy.  When we arrived we were told we were to go straight for England.  We were put on full rations at this place where we had to wait five days for a train.  Whilst at Machadodorp Gen. French’s column passed through and engaged the enemy a few miles away.  We also experienced a severe dust storm.  The dust was so thick that it was as dark as night and the wind was terrific.  After two and a half days in the trucks we arrived at Pretoria, where we were fitted out with clothing etc. and transferred from ragged and unkempt warriors into quite a smart corps.   We had plenty of opportunities of seeing the sights of this much-talked of place, Kruger’s house, museum, prison etc. during the ten days we remained.  With fifteen other companies we were present at the review by Lord Roberts and I can assure you that in the march past we did credit to the county we belonged.  On Sunday, Oct. 28th we were aroused at 11 pm, packed our traps and marched to the station, and took possession of some empty trucks, ready to move at daylight.  We congratulated ourselves we were now well on the way home.  No more short rations, no more trekking, no more outposts.  It seemed like a dream to think we should have every night in bed and be able to sleep with our boots off.  Ugh! it was a dream.  Before 8 am we reached Elandsfontein Station where we disembarked, marched through Germiston and relieved a company of the “Fighting Fifth”.  We started well, going straight on outpost, where we got 24 hours on duty and the same time off.  It would only be for a day or two we thought, but we have had nearly six weeks of it.  The first ten days over 20 men were admitted to hospital, most of them have however returned to duty now and the last week the draft which was sent out to us in May joined us.  We had a rather nasty experience one day.  The lightning struck one of the tents, partially destroying coats etc. hanging round the pole, completely shattering the butts of five rifles into splinters, and injuring several men, two of them still being in hospital.  The occupants of all the tents received a severe shock.  I was on outpost at the time, so escaped.  The place  where we are stationed is in the centre of the Gold Fields, eight miles from Johannesberg, Boxbury, Georgeton, Germiston and Elandsfontein being close to us.  Most of us have been to Johannesberg, where there are some very fine buildings.  In some streets you could see handsome business premises, equal to any in our large towns, and each side would be a small corrugated iron store; it was a practical illustration of “from the sublime to the ridiculous”.  But here is no doubt it is a fine town, much better kept that Pretoria, the late home of the slim Oom Paul.  It is a great disappointment to us being kept here, as we did not for a moment doubt that we should spend Christmas at home; but we cannot all be C.I.V.s , although we have, like them, only done our duty which is what we came for.  I do not doubt they have done good work, they have had a grand opportunity.  One thing, they have introduced a new religion into the Army.  Ask a Tommy how many religions there are in the army: he will reply Church of England, Roman Catholics and C.I.Vs.*  I am afraid Tommy is a little jealous.  We hear some amusing tales about them sometimes.  I am afraid we shall spend our Christmas on the veldt.  The other night our picquet was strengthened as it was expected a few Boers would try to get through.  It turned out a myth, however, and we failed to spot any.  We have a lot of rain and some severe thunderstorms and several times have had to sleep between wet blankets, but that is nothing.  During the days we are off duty we play cricket matches, and have a bit of sport ratting, and generally succeed in getting good bags.  I don’t suppose we shall be home before the end of January.  I am afraid if they keep us much longer we shall begin to think we are such an important company the British Army cannot dispense with our services and we shall grow vain on the strength of it.  If we are still here at Christmas I shall drink the health of “absent friends” in the strongest beverage we get out here – tea.  I hope all are in good health.  (I am glad to say I am), and will have a good old-fashioned Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.  With best wishes

From  Yours etc.

G. E. Mustin



 

CRICKET IN SOUTH AFRICA

LEICESTERSHIRE VOLUNTEER SERVICE CO. v 4th BRIGADE CAVALRY DEPOT

Played at Germiston on Monday, November 20th and resulted in an easy win for the Volunteers.  Leicester, winning the toss elected to bat first, and were not dismissed until they had compiled the respectable score of 124.  Angrave (29), Firr (26), Uncas (16) being the chief contributors.  The cavalry going in were quickly dismissed for 21, Mustin securing six wickets for six runs and Firr** four for twelve runs.

* The City [of London] Imperial Volunteers.  If you visit the Guildhall Art Gallery in London there is a magnificent picture entitled “The City Imperial Volunteers in the Guildhall on their return from South Africa, October 1900” (see here).  No equivalent picture, to my knowledge, exists of the Leicestershire Infantry Volunteers.

** This Lance Corporal Firr is commemorated on Market Harborough’s  memorial to those who fought in the Boer War. He may have been related to the famous professional huntsman Tom Firr.

On Tour in South Africa with the Leicestershire Infantry Volunteers : Part Three

A third bulletin from South Africa, where the game of Hunt the Boer continued.

This, incidentally, is a photograph of G.E.M back home in Hinckley with his wife-to-be Rose Peto (back row) and her sisters Gertrude and Nell (all three of whom, like most in the town, were employed in hosiery factories).  He doesn’t look particularly tall in this photograph, as Rose was herself about six feet tall.

PTDC2115

WITH THE “L” COMPANY IN SOUTH AFRICA

THIRTY MEN IN HOSPITAL

HARD UP FOR MATCHES

The following interesting letter, from Corporal G. E. Mustin, has been received at the Hinckley Liberal Club, by Mr. A. Taylor: –

Coetzees Drift, June 12th 1900

Dear Mr. Taylor

I was very pleased to receive your letter and to hear that all old friends were going on much the usual way.  I can quite understand T.S.A. going into the wholesale rose trade, and no doubt he will be successful if his garden is as large as some of the growers who exhibit.  The parcel of tobacco came to hand a few days after the letter, and I am extremely obliged for the gift … Since writing last we have changed our quarters many times … On May 23rd we left this camp, our tents etc. being sent down country and we prepared for a rough time and we have not been disappointed.  We are now moving every day.  Loading our waggons with greatcoats and blankets we fell in at times as early as 3.30 a.m. and one day we had marched 8 miles before daylight.  On the 29th we had reached the Buffalo River, and after staying one night, we had orders to advance to Stales Drift where a commando of Boers with two guns had taken up a position.  We moved off at daybreak, the Gordons advancing on our right.  Our advance guard got in sight of the enemy but they scooted as fast as their horses could carry them.  Soon after firing was heard and it was supposed  they had come in collision with General Hillyard.  After this we crossed the river and found ourselves in the Transvaal at last.  A few days more marching about and we reached our present bivouac ground, Coetzees Drift, which is situated about 10 miles from Mujaba and about the same distance from Pogwani, where the Boers have large guns in position.  When we arrived a three days armistice was being arranged, and it was generally thought that it would result in a general surrender of all the enemy round about this quarter, as they are practically surrounded.  Wednesday morning, our hopes were doomed to disappointment, as the Boer guns started merrily.  Our artillery soon returned the fire, and we could see the shell bursting close to the Boer guns.  This was getting interesting but not so interesting as the fact that we received bread in place of the usual pound of hard biscuits on that day.  On Thursday the firing was kept up for a time, and on our left an engagement was in progress, General Hillyard forcing Bothas’ Pass.  Desultory firing has been maintained until this morning from Pogwani but, for some reason, all is now quiet.  The position the Boers hold is a very strong one, but as we have the men and the guns, I don’t think they will last long.  The nights are very cold now … Considering we have to sleep in the open with a couple of blankets only as covering, you may think it is not all honey, and you can scarcely wonder at fellows getting tired of such a life.  It is not so bad when in good health, but I am sorry for anyone out here who is not up to the mark, as no comforts are procurable.  I am sorry to say we have nearly thirty men in hospital and down the country … The remainder of us and the reserves from the town are in grand form, the beefy ones improving day by day although losing weight more rapid than you would think possible.  We are not troubled much about our personal belongings, as the whole of my kit beyond that I stand in comprises one shirt, and one pair of socks.  There is a dearth of matches now, and we find our field glasses very useful for lighting our pipes.  When a match is struck there is a general rush with paper etc. to obtain a light, which would amuse those at home who get their matches without trouble.  The other day, the sun not being very strong, we were unable to use our glasses, several of us stood about waiting to spot a light.  A non-com came strolling by charging his pipe and we made safe he would soon produce his matches.  As they are now worth 6d a box we could not ask him for one so we quietly followed him for a few hundred yards, so we quietly followed him a few hundred yards, he then stopped, we gathered expectantly, and we were thunderstruck when he asked if any of us had a light. Yesterday as I sat quietly writing, I was disturbed by the sergeant-major yelling for the battalion to fall in quick.  I felt sure that the Boers were coming at last, but it was a grass fire, which are very prevalent here … I have slept in a tent twice during the time I have been out and always sleep in boots and dressed.  When not too cold, it is not unpleasant to sleep outside, and gives one who is so inclined a splendid chance to study astronomy, not much in my line … I often wonder how it would feel to sleep in a soft bed again, but I doubt if we could sleep any sounder than we do now, even though we have 150 rounds of ammunition for a pillow, and often with our rifles by our side.  Though we have a lot of hardships and discomforts to put up with … we have had things easy compared with our comrades who were in the siege [of Ladysmith].  I should like you to see the company now, ragged and rough no soles on the boots, and bare knees and a display of shirt in the rear of their persons is a common sight, but those who are left are thoroughly fit for anything they may be called upon to do.  With best wishes to all old friends and thanking you for kind wishes.

I remain

yours truly

G. E. Mustin

P.S. The Boers are hard at work sangar building on Pogwani, which accounts for their silence.  Have just heard of a reverse farther north.  I don’t believe it.  G.E.M.

_______________________________________________________________

OLD FALSE TEETH BOUGHT

Many ladies and gentlemen have by them old or disused teeth, which might as well be turned into money.  Messrs. R. D. & J. B. Fraser of Princess Street, Ipswich (established since 1833) buy old false teeth.  If you send your teeth to them they will remit to you by return of post the utmost value; or, if preferred, they will make you the best offer, and hold the teeth over for your reply.

[n.b. I can offer no guarantee this offer is still available.]

On Tour in South Africa with the Leicestershire Infantry Volunteers : Part Two

More from my Great-Grandfather in South Africa.  This piece of what we would nowadays call “citizen journalism” was originally published in the ‘Hinckley Times’ of 2 June 1900, two months after it was written, having, presumably, been brought home by sea.  I think I can detect a hint of asperity creeping into his tone at times.

WITH THE “L” COMPANY IN SOUTH AFRICA

HOW THE EASTER HOLIDAYS WERE SPENT

[By one of our own correspondents]

Lombard’s Kopje, April 3, 1900

I expect Easter holidays are over now at home, but with us they have not yet begun, nor do we expect they will until the war is over.  It is very kind on the part of the Brigadier, or whoever it is, that is responsible for the moving about we have had.  It is done, no doubt, with the intention of showing the service company as much of the company around Ladysmith as possible.  We have made another move, close by Gun Hill, to a place pleasantly situated on the plain, but there is a scarcity of water which seems the usual order of things wherever our camp is situated.  On the Thursday before Easter, we marched straight from outpost duty to Surprise Hill camp, to find our regiment about to march off.  We trudged away through Ladysmith round to the left, over the Klip River, and away towards Bulwana.  We arrived in time to pitch our tents before dark, feeling tired, thirsty and fairly disgusted with old Kruger and things in general.  Having had no dinner, tea was thoughtfully served out about eight o’clock, and we relieved our parched thirst with one pint of that beverage to about five men.  After drinking this enormous quantity, of course we could not find room for eatables, and even in this matter, and considering our tired feeling, we were saved all trouble in drawing rations by the thoughtfulness of the Commissariat Department, who had provided none to draw.  However, we lay down and slept the sleep of the just.  The next day being Good Friday we had a holiday and indulged in the luxury (perhaps not for the officers but the men) of a good wash, and some, more daring than others, even had a shave.  But all things come to an end, and so did our holiday, for at three o’clock we had orders to fall in with blankets in addition to our usual marching order, to go out on 48 hours’ outpost duty.  As soon as were ready, we fell in, after trying to swallow the scalding liquor, and marched for a mile or so through a country full of prickly shrubs, then up and down and across ravines for another mile or so, round Gun Hill, then up to Lombard’s Kopje, stumbling over loose stones, clambering over loose rocks, until we reached the top, sweating and panting with the beneficial and much-needed exercise under the burning sun.  We never had the unnecessary privilege of taking our kit off for a few minutes.  Then again we fell in, and, carrying our blankets under our arms we marched to the places allotted to us for outpost duty, we remained for the night, on the look out for our friends who did not come.

We came off outpost duty at 6.30 on Saturday morning, and feeling much benefitted by our climbing on Good Friday, we entered heartily into the agreeable pastime, so popular with soldiers in Natal, of sangar building.  [A sangar is a temporary fortified position.] This is a very simple form of amusement.  All the requisites you need for this game are a few picks, shovels, and a crowbar or two, the larger the crowbar the more exciting the game … When three men lift a stone large enough for six, and get it within a foot of the top, and cannot get it any further, excitement runs high, and it is most amusing … but the most amusing part of this programme is just at the time of finishing, you get placed offside by the referee, generally an officer, and you pull the sangar down and commence as before.  Well, we started playing on Saturday morning at one o’clock, and went on, with interval, until twelve o’clock, when we had breakfast.  We resumed until dark with a few minutes for meals.  We then went on outpost duty, but resumed the game early on Easter Sunday with vigour until tea time, when we shouldered our belongings, and went for a pleasant stroll down the hill to the camp, where we stopped for the night.

At 5 am on Bank Holiday, we were on parade with our rifles and ammunition in case our neighbours should pay us a holiday visit.  We waited for them until the sun rose, about 6 am, but they failed to come, so we had breakfast.  We then proposed to go on with the sangar building and proceeded to our recreation ground at the top of Lombard’s Kopje, where we remained all day, and strolled down to the camp for the night.

On Tuesday our friends again disappointed us, and we set off up the hill for another sixty hours’ outpost duty, relieved by sangar building, and as the night was very wet, and we were not provided with waterproof sheets, it was quite funny to feel the water trickling down our backs and over our faces, and was even more laughable still, to get up and shake the water from our one and only blanket, and then lay down, again.  The odds were ten to one you had a sharp stone in the centre of your back, or in a more tender part of your anatomy.  The next night there was even more rain than usual, and the greater part of the time was spent in watching the rain, which presented this pretty sight.  We had the opportunity of washing our faces with the raindrops as they beat down.  As long back in the dim past as three months ago each of the service company were served out with 2 pairs of boots, not the common or garden boot, as served out to the troops.  Oh, dear no, a far superior article to those, as thanks to the Equipment Fund, which was so generously subscribed to by the good people of Leicester and Leicestershire, it was determined to send out the company as well-shod as possible, regardless of expense.  That they have succeeded in doing so is beyond all doubt, as there are several pairs of boots which have not worn out, notwithstanding that they have travelled some thousands of miles, truly, mostly on sea, where they were not worn.  However, it is a fact that one man has completely worn out both pairs of boots issued to him, but it is reported he did not take the necessary care of these, the most important and valuable part of his outfit.  That is quite possible, but I, myself, cannot believe it, as I saw him on parade when he had taken the precaution to tie the souls [sic] on with a piece of string.  If that is not being careful I should like to know what is.  One of our men declares that there must have been a mistake made, and that he had secured a pair which had been made for wearing when riding only, and as he had worn each pair for quite a month for marching, he may consider himself lucky in being allowed the privilege of paying for a new pair out of his own income.  Notwithstanding such pleasures of which the above are but a few, we all have our serious moments, and realise that we are out on active service and when we hear the boom of the guns, but a few miles from us, we are all determined to show that if it comes to fighting, we will prove ourselves worthy of the regiment to which we belong.

G. E. M.

When asking for Cocoa, insist on having CADBURY’S – sold only in Packets and Tins – as other Cocoas are often substituted for the sake of extra profit.

[I assume this postscript is an early piece of advertorial, rather than another complaint about the rations.]

To be continued …