Saturday, 24 December 2011

The first day of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas – every cricketer can remember the words to up to 5 GOLD RINGS, and then it all becomes a bit uncertain – twelve, somethings or others, eleven what you call thems, ten – now I know this one, nine what’s it’s, eight eh I wrote this one down somewhere, seven thingumyjigs, six you know whats...... FIVE GOLD RINGS…….

What does it all mean?  There is a suggestion that the words were created to help Catholic worshippers in the 17th century remember and express essential parts of their faith during a period in Britain when the Catholic faith was severely repressed .  So the partridge in the pear tree is Jesus, the two turtle doves the Old and New Testaments and so on all the way up to the 12 points of faith of the apostles.  This interpretation, while charming does, not reveal exactly why those points of faith are depicted as drummers drumming.  So FB pays more attention to the argument that this is all made up.

But the song cannot mean nothing – that would imply it had been written for the X-Factor and FB is pretty sure that it predates Simon Cowell.  So FB plunged into research and has identified that the song is in fact a celebration of cricket in its finest glory.  FB will present the results of his researches over the next 12 days when FB returns from the ski slopes.  Those of his world wide trio of readers who expect to be severely bored by the whole business can look away now.

Percy Chapman -
 perhaps he was the Partridge

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Partridge in a Pear Tree.............

This honours Norman Ernest Partridge who was born in Birmingham, in 1900 and died at Aberystwyth in1982.  He played for Cambridge University and Warwickshire. But he features in this lyric because he was identified by Wisden as as one its five Cricketers of the Year while still a schoolboy.  He was selected in 1919 while still at Malvern College.

While the First Class game had been suspended during the First World War, Wisden named no Cricketers of the Year in 1916 or 1917.  In 1918 it named 5 school bowlers of the year, and in 1919 it honoured 5 Public School Players of the Year including Partridge.  Ah that old English class system...................

Partridge played one season with Worcestershire but was with Warwickshire from 1921 to 1937.  In his first class career he scored over 2700 runs and took 393 wickets at medium pace with, by all accounts, a highly suspect action.

The most successful of the cricketers honoured with Partridge was Percy Chapman who went on to play 26 Tests for England, skippering one.  Chapman had played 6 Tests before he played county cricket.

So FB what about the Pear Tree?  FB reckons that the Pear Tree is a reference to Wisden itself - the pale yellow colour of the book being similar to certain varieties of pear.  But that is only conjecture.  One of the other cricketers of 1919 was Lionel Hedges who had a limited cricket career after Oxford and died at the age of 33.  So the original version of the lyric would have gone

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Chapman in a Hedge 

which just doesn't do the trick.  Compromises had to be made and the result is the well known form. obviously nonsense......and little use to oppressed Catholics.  So Partridge in a pear tree it has been and always will be. 

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