Friday, 30 January 2015


Fantasy Bob has been considering the extent to which the 50th anniversary of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill should be a cause for celebration among cricketers.

30 January 1965
For every article praising Churchill there is one reviling him. He may have been the leader Britain needed in 1940 – but he was far from that at any other time in his career. In fact, he was a bit of a KP in his way, chopping and changing party and policy in the manner that KP became English overnight and not suffering opponents or even fools on his own side gladly – although there is no record of Churchill referring to his colleagues as muppets.

It is there that comparisons end however, for just as KP is an indifferent orator, so Churchill was an indifferent cricketer. Indeed Churchill seems to have been no cricketer at all. There is no record of him having taken any interest in the game at any point in his career despite copious opportunities.

His school career at Harrow is generally considered a failure, but not because he made no impression on the cricket field. Biographies tell that he was once humiliated by a group of his schoolmates who threw cricket balls at his hapless self who took refuge behind a tree. His early military career in South Africa seems to have been wholly preoccupied with beating the Boers on the battlefield rather than the cricket field.   

But there is one brush with cricket greatness in Churchill’s career – at Harrow he was fag to Archie MacLaren – one of the greats of the golden age – whose 424 scored in 1895 stood as the highest score in English first class cricket for almost 100 years, until Lara’s 501 in 1994.  MacLaren’s judgement on his youthful servant was severe - 'snotty little bugger, uppity but damn near useless, with no aptitude even for sport.’ 

Well, Churchill had the last laugh – for MacLaren died in November 1944, his glittering cricketing career long behind him and an unsuccessful business career, while Churchill watched the Allied Forces push towards Germany and looked forward to the end of the struggle.

Perhaps Churchill’s experience of the bully MacLaren was a factor in his standing up to the bully Hitler, notwithstanding that he may have shared Hitler’s disdain for cricket.

FB has always found Churchill’s war time speeches an inspiration. He has tried many times to emulate them in his pre-match addresses to the members of the Carlton All Star 4th XI as they face another stern challenge in the lower leagues of the East of Scotland Cricket Association.

The faces of his youthful charges shine and they would seem to have nothing but admiration as FB solemnly intones, ‘I have nothing to offer but blood toil tears and sweat.’

They look up with steely determination in their eyes as he goes on, ‘We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’

They hang stoically on his every word as he continues, '...if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.’

And then a small voice pipes up – 'Er... right.... FB – you did remember to bring empire biscuits for tea didn't you?'

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