Monday, 27 February 2012

Mad Bad and Dangerous to Bowl At

George Gordon Lord Byron
Fantasy Bob has held this to himself. It would be wrong of him to try to impress with claims to famous ancestry. But on the day that in 1812 the great Romantic poet Lord Byron made his maiden speech to the House of Lords (in defence of Luddites in Nottinghamshire) he thinks readers may wish to know that somewhere in FB's genetic mix is a link with this very Byron. It is very remote and beyond FB's capability to describe. A cousin of a cousin of a something or other.  Perhaps one chromosome has come down.

at Aberdeen Grammar School
Although Byron was born in London, his mother was from the north-east of Scotland and, following the type of family disruption that was all too common among the aristocracy, he spend his formative years in Aberdeen.  He received his first education at Aberdeen Grammar School, an institution which also faced the challenge of educating FB not so many years after Byron had left. After FB Lord Byron is the school's most famous alumnus and there is a fine statue of him in the school grounds. 

FB's world wide readership may struggle to see any of this genetic inheritance in FB. No romantic poetry has flowed from his pen,  ladies have not thrown themselves at him nor yet has he been venerated as the hero of the Greek struggle for national liberty. FB does however attribute his fondness for a biscuit to his Byronic inheritance.

Nevertheless a not so well known Byronic characteristic may be evident in FB. For Lord Byron was a cricketer and played at Lords. Not the present Lords admittedly, but Thomas Lord's Ground which was at Dorset Square about a mile south of the present ground. 

In 1801 Byron went from Aberdeen Grammar School to Harrow (an educational institution of considerably less cachet which has no statue of him outside it). In 1805 the chaps at Eton challenged Harrow to a test of cricketing skills and on 2 August 1805 (just a few months before the battle of Trafalgar) the match took place. Despite his lameness, caused by a malformation in his foot, Byron blagged his way onto the Harrow team. He was allowed to bat with a runner. Harrow suffered an innings defeat - but without Byron the defeat might have been worse for he reported in a letter,
'We have played the Eton and were most confoundedly beat; however it was some comfort to me that I got 11 notches in the first innings and 7 in the second, which was more than any of our side except Brockman and Ipswich could contrive to hit.
'After the match we dined together and were extremely friendly, not a single discordant note was uttered by either party. To be sure we were most of us rather drunk and went to the Haymarket Theatre, where we kicked up a row as you may suppose, with so many Harrovians and Etonians met at one place.'
Lord Byron would therefore fit well into the Carlton family. 

Lady Caroline Lamb
The Eton and Harrow match occurred sporadically in the immediately subsequent years but became part of the social and cricketing calendar from the 1850s on. There is no record of Byron's further cricketing achievements. His poetry writing and extravagantly colourful lifestyle probably got in way of net practice. In 1812 the publication of the first 2 cantos of his narrative poem The Childe Harold made him an overnight sensation - as he wrote, 'I awoke one morning and found myself famous.'

His athletic efforts from then on are dominated by swimming feats - the Hellespont, the mouth of the Tagus and from the Lido to the Rialto in Venice in particular. And to the bedding of ladies, the most celebrated of which was Lady Caroline Lamb. It was she who coined the phrase that will always be associated with this ex-cricketer, when she said that Byron was 'Mad Bad and Dangerous to Bowl At'.  There then is the genetic thing coming out - because that's Just like Fantasy Bob.


  1. It seems that Lady Caroline Lamb statement for Byron as 'Mad Bad and Dangerous to Bowl At' is very intriguing. I think that Byron's Poems seemed to be very appealing to many people. I think that his poems are truly interesting and I know that many people would be happy to read it.

    1. Kevin - many thanks - yes Byron's poems are well worth carrying in your kit bag to amuse when rain stops play.