Cricket, football, war and murder – and boy scouts – between 27th July & 2nd August in years gone by.

Thursday 27 July 1950 With our present cricketers having a hard time of it I thought it would be nice to look back at a ‘Gentlemen vs Players’ match played at Lord’s on 26, 27 & 28 July 1950. This day’s Hull Daily Mail headlines: ‘Brown shows all-round ability’ F R Brown who hit a hurricane 100 for Gentlemen against Players at Lord’s yesterday – and established himself as England’s likely captain for Australia – followed with a fine spell of bowling today which made his choice even more certain. In seven overs he dismissed Gimblett, Parkhouse and Kenyon at a personal cost of 10 runs’. Harking back to his innings – which had come to a conclusion this morning – Brown scored 122 runs out of a ‘stand’ of 131 in 1¾ hours. In the end the match was drawn with the Players wanting 11 runs for a victory while the Gentlemen had just one of D.P.V Wright or W.E.Hollies to get out for them to be victorious. I’m sorry if you are not a cricket follower – or are, but are too young to recognise the names above. For an old guy like me, who was still in short trousers when this match was played, it really puts the modern game in perspective. In these three days there were two declarations, 1,110 runs scored and 32 wickets taken. Yes – he was made captain for the 1950/51 tour of Australia and New Zealand, considered by many as the poorest team ever sent ‘Down-under’

Sunday 28 July 1940 – On this day the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were in neutral Lisbon – but causing trouble. The Duke had gone to France as a major-general early in the war but had fled to Spain and then Portugal. The Duchess was now with him. Churchill pointed out to the Duke that he was still a serving officer and that he hoped it would not be necessary to order him home. However King George VI didn’t want his brother back here and appointed him Governor of the Bahamas. Meanwhile – the Germans wanted him to join them! Foreign Minister Ribbentrop summed this wish up: “Germany is determined to force England to peace … and upon this happening would be prepared to accommodate any desire expressed by the Duke, especially with a view to the assumption of the English throne by the Duke and Duchess.” Hitler is reported to have been ready to deposit 50 million Swiss francs for them in a Swiss account. In the end the Duke accepted the Bermuda posting but wanted to travel there via New York. Churchill vetoed that. The Duke also wanted to take his own servants. The King’s assistant private secretary is on record as saying that the Duke had to be treated ‘as a petulant baby’. In August 1940, a British warship took the Duke and Duchess directly to the Bahamas, where, in the view of Churchill, they could do the least damage to the British war effort. Once installed as Governor of the Bahamas. The Duke did not enjoy the position, and often referred to the islands as “a third-class British colony”.
Monday 28 July 1980 – Talking as I was above about cricket – I found this snippet by Philip Toynbee who wrote in his diary of today of the 4th Test between England and the West Indies at the Oval: “At prayer I suddenly remembered that the test match was just reaching an exciting stage. Should I cut short my prayers to watch it? I sense that this ‘temptation’ was simply too childish and silly – as if this really mattered to anyone but me. In the event I compromised, shortening my prayer a little before watching the calamitous start of England’s second innings. And as those four wickets fell for 18 runs, I was saying my most familiar prayer, with a comical and unexpected relevance: ‘Heavenly Mother / Light of the World / Have Mercy on us.’ Perhaps she did because the match was a draw.

Monday 29 July 1907 saw the Boy Scout movement originating with an experimental camp held on Brownsea Island near Poole in Dorset by Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell’s aim was to try out some of his ideas – ideas that were to become the basic principles and activities of the Scout movement. His aim was to foster a sense of honour, loyalty and good citizenship among children. These aims went much wider though, encompassing physical fitness through exercises together with the development of practical skills such as woodwork, tracking, observation, signalling and first aid. There was also a very new slant on the project; there were to be boys from the whole spectrum of social classes involved and they would share everything as equals. On this first gathering they were divided into four, mixed, ‘patrols’ with each patrol having their own tent for sleeping purposes. Each day had a fixed routine of morning prayers, drills, games and instruction. There were breaks for quiet rest periods and the day was ended with stories around the campfire. Over 100 years later these fundamentals still underpin the Scout movement.
Saturday 30 July 1966: After the fiasco of this year’s football World Cup I have to include these snippets from Kenneth Wolstenholme on this day: – ‘The referee’s looking at his watch – any second now / here comes Hurst …. some people are on the pitch …. they think it’s all over. It is now!’ There were ten seconds to go; Hurst had got his hat-trick, and England led 4-2. The ref blows the final whistle and England are Football Champions of the World. Bobby Moore climbs the Wembley steps and receives the Jules Rimet trophy for England. So, so, different to the 2014 attempt.

Sunday 31 July 1910: Tomorrows newspapers will be full of the story that on this Sunday the murderer Dr Crippen had been caught. The Hull Daily Mail is typical: ‘THE TRIUMPH OF “WIRELESS” is its headline: ‘What has made the pursuit of Crippen more exciting than the most thrilling detective story is the part played in it by wireless telegraphy. Once again truth has proved stranger than fiction. Nothing imagined by Gaborlau, Wilkie Collins, or Conan Doyle can match the facts of this chase and capture. It goes on: ‘Crippen has been tracked down and caught. And the method of his capture has provided the world with a rare sensation! While Crippen was crossing the Atlantic with his lady typist disguised as a boy, all the world, through its newspapers, was watching the net being closed round him. He and his companion, and their fellow passengers, were alone ignorant. The captain of the ship and the police authorities were able, for once, to move in silence and mystery. They were able to “censor” all incoming and outgoing messages, and the result was that the “drama” moved to its close with a smoothness and celerity that has aroused world-wide interest and admiration. Crippen says that he suspected something from the number of messages passing on the wireless apparatus, and after a second interview with Inspector Dew he fell into a sound sleep after the strain of the last fortnight. With his companion there will be sympathy. It is difficult to believe that she has had any part in the crime. Whether this is or not will appear in due course. She has, in any case, suffered severely from her connection with the man. The extradition will be quickly accomplished and the truth of the charges inquired into. The fact of flight should not prejudice either party. Men fly from danger of suspicion was well as from being real perpetrators of crime. The evidence will, from the circumstances, have to be circumstantial, but the parties need not fear having a fair trial. One can only hope that it will not be prolonged, for the imagination of the public has been quite sufficiently engaged as it is with what, whoever has been the culprit, is a ghastly tale of blood.’ Dr Crippen was hanged on 23 November 1910.
However, in January 2011, a newspaper published the following: ‘Modern CSI methods have been used to prove Dr Hawley Crippen – who gained a reputation as one of the most notorious murderers in British history – did not kill his wife. The breakthrough comes more than 100 years after he was hanged for allegedly poisoning Cora. Now scientists say DNA tests show the remains found at the couple’s home were not hers. Based on genealogical and DNA research, the tissue used to convict Dr Crippen was not that of Cora. ‘Further DNA testing showed the tissue was male.’

Friday 01 August 1930 – Lionel Begleiter was born in East London, the youngest of seven children born to a family that had escaped the persecution of Jews by Ukrainian Cossacks in Galicia – then part of the Austrian Empire. He grew up in Stepney where his father worked as a tailor in a garden shed. One story says he changed his name to Bart after passing by St. Bart’s hospital on the top deck of a bus after he had completed his RAF National Service. A more likely derivation is from the silk-screen company he founded as an accomplished young painter with John Gorman, ‘G and B Arts’. At the age of six a teacher had told his parents that he was a musical genius so his parents gave him an old violin. He didn’t take to it; the lessons stopped and he never learned to read or write musical notation. It didn’t stop him, though, from becoming a significant personality in the development of British rock and pop music. He started his song writing career in amateur theatre, first, in 1952, at the International Youth Centre and then for the Unity Theatre. While at Unity he was talent spotted by Joan Littlewood, joined her Theatre Workshop and began writing comedy songs for The Billy Cotton Band Show – a very popular Sunday lunchtime radio programme on the BBC. However it was through pop song writing that he really came to the fore, writing hit after hit for Larry Parnes’ stable of young male singers. Thanks to Lional Cliff Richard had a ‘Living Doll’; Tommy Steele had everything from ‘Rock with the Caveman’ through a ‘Handful of Songs’ to a ‘Little White Bull’! By 1963 he was writing the theme for the James Bond film ‘From Russia with Love’. I think we can say that East End Boy Lionel Bart, ‘done good’.

Tuesday 02 August 1100: it was on this day that King William Rufus II – eldest son of William the Conqueror and second Norman King of England – was ‘accidentally’ killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. He had been King for 13 years and was described by some as a ‘good-humoured, generous man who liked nothing better than drinking and joking with his friends’ and by others as ‘hot tempered and boorish’. In modern parlance he appears to be a man who you either loved or hated. On this day he appears to have gone out with the former; and been ‘removed’ by the latter. As the group had gathered to go hunting an armourer presented six arrows to the king. William took four and handed the other two to Walter Tirel – an Anglo-French nobleman with a reputation as a ‘fine marksman’. A chronicler of the time – William of Malmesbury -provides us with the rest of this story: – it is late in the day and: “The sun was now declining when the king, drawing his bow and letting fly an arrow, slightly wounded a stag which passed before him; and, keenly gazing, followed it, still running, a long time with his eyes, holding up his hand to keep off the power of the sun’s rays. At this moment Walter tried to transfix another stag, but – oh, gracious God! – unknowingly, and without power to prevent it, he pierced the king’s breast with a fatal arrow.”
Now accidents do happen but – William’s brother Henry, who was not on the hunt it seems, immediately rode to Winchester and seized the Treasury that contained all the wealth of England. On Friday 3rd he had himself chosen king by a ‘Witan’ – an Anglo-Saxon “meeting of wise men” – which comprised of ‘the statesmen that were then nigh at hand’. Normally a coronation takes ages to arrange but Henry was not going to wait. He rode to London and was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Sunday 5th August 1100 by Maurice, Bishop of London. There had been just 4 days between the death of King William Rufus II and the coronation of King Henry I of England. In less than a week William Rufus was of the past and one of the most successful, stable and important reigns in English history had begun its 35 year tenure.
Oh, by the way – according to a French chronicler – soon after this event Walter Tirel was in France and claiming that he had not been with King William Rufus at all that fateful day!


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