A Fund Raising Idea From 1903

From the Club History page of yesterday’s programme for the Rothwell Town v Olney Town match –

Evidence exists today of a signed balance sheet from 1903, one interesting item on the balance sheet gives the information that just over £1 was credited as proceeds from a smoking competition.”

Perhaps Andrew Flintoff should consider trying this for Sport Relief – after he’s finished eating hot dogs and catching lemons blindfolded.  How long do we have to wait, I wonder, before he boxes a kangaroo?

Old England by G.A. Studdert Kennedy


Also known by his nom de guerre “Woodbine Willie”, Studdert Kennedy was, as the dust wrapper suggests, “perhaps the most famous Padre serving in the first world war”.  The nickname derived from his habit of handing out handfuls of cigarettes while offering spiritual sustenance to the troops.  He appears to have been genuinely well thought of by the men and was awarded the Military Cross in 1917 for exceptional bravery under fire at Messines Ridge.

After the war he became a prominent Pacifist and wrote numerous popular essays with titles such as “Capitalism is nothing but Greed, Grab and Profit-Mongering” (he could never be accused of mincing his words). 

 In his poems “Rough Rhymes of a Padre” and “More Rough Rhymes” he often – as here –  made use of some conventions established by Kipling.  Like Kipling, he might be accused of putting his own words into the soldiers’ mouths.  On the other hand, he might have taken the words right out of their mouths.

His day of commemoration in the Church of England is on 8th March.



YES, I’m fightin’ for old England
      And for eighteenpence a day,
And I’m fightin’ like an ‘ero,
      So the daily papers say.
Well, I ain’t no downy chicken,
      I’m a bloke past forty-three,
And I’m goin’ to tell ye honest
      What old England means to me.
When I joined the British Army
      I’d bin workin’ thirty years,
But I left my bloomin’ rent-book
      Showin’ three months in arrears.
No, I weren’t no chronic boozer,
      Nor I weren’t a lad to bet;
I worked ‘ard when I could get it,
      And I weren’t afeared to sweat.
But I weren’t a tradesman proper,
      And the work were oft to seek,
So the most as I could addle
      Were abaht a quid a week.
And when me and Jane got married,
      And we ‘ad our oldest kid,
We soon learned ‘ow many shillings
      Go to make a golden quid.
For we ‘ad to keep our clubs up,
      And there’s three and six for rent,
And with food and boots and clothing
      It no sooner came than went.
Then when kiddies kep’ on comin’–
      We reared four and buried three;

My ole woman couldn’t do it,
      So we got in debt–ye see.
And we ‘ad a’eap o’ sickness
      And we got struck off the club,
With our little lot o’ troubles
      We just couldn’t pay the sub.
No, I won’t tell you no false’oods;
      There were times I felt that queer,
That I went and did the dirty,
      And I ‘ad a drop o’ beer.
Then the wife and me ‘ud quarrel,
      And our ‘ome were little ‘ell,
Wiv the ‘ungry kiddies cryin’,
      Till I eased up for a spell.
There were times when it were better,
      And some times when it were worse,
But to take it altogether,
      My old England were a curse.
It were sleepin’, sweatin’, starvin’,
      Wearing boot soles for a job,
It were sucking up to foremen
      What ‘ud sell ye for a bob.
It were cringin’, crawlin’, whinin’,
      For the right to earn your bread,
It were schemin’, pinchin’, plannin’,
      It were wishin’ ye was dead.
I’m not fightin’ for old England,
      Not for this child–am I? ‘Ell!
For the sake o’ that old England
      I’d not face a single shell,
Not a single bloomin’ whizzbang.
      Never mind this blarsted show,
With your comrades fallin’ round ye,
      Lyin’ bleedin’ in a row.
This ain’t war, it’s ruddy murder,
      It’s a stinkin’ slaughter ‘ouse.

‘Ark to that one, if ‘e got ye
      ‘E’d just squash ye like this louse.
Would I do this for old England,
      Would I? ‘Ell, I says, not me
What I says is, sink old England
      To the bottom of the sea
It’s new England as I fights for,
      It’s an England swep’ aht clean,
It’s an England where we’ll get at
      Things our eyes ‘ave never seen;
Decent wages, justice, mercy,
      And a chance for ev’ry man
For to make ‘is ‘ome an ‘eaven
      If ‘e does the best ‘e can.
It’s that better, cleaner England,
      Made o’ better, cleaner men,
It’s that England as I fights for,
      And I’m game to fight again.
It’s the better land o’ Blighty
      That still shines afore our eyes,
That’s the land a soldier fights for,
      And for that a soldier dies.

A Case of Pipes : Some Thoughts on Barracking, by Herbert Sutcliffe

Cricket seems very far from my thoughts at the moment, which, of course, it is in reality too, as England begin their tour of Australia.  Already what the Press refer to as “The War of Words” has begun, and it is certain that, once the series gets under way at Brisbane, Straussy and the Lads will have to contend with (in addition to the mockery of the Press and some on-field pleasantries from their opponents) a certain amount of good-natured chaff from the cheap seats.

‘Twas ever thus, and I thought they might find it helpful to have a little advice from an old Australia hand on how this barracking should be dealt with, and how, if approached in the right spirit, it can be turned to the shrewd tourist’s advantage.  This is the suave and prolific opener Herbert Sutcliffe, from his 1935 autobiography “For England and Yorkshire“.

“Australian followers of the game have acquired the habit of letting off steam – of securing relief from nervous tension – by barracking.  I realised early in my Test career in Australia that the barracking must be ignored entirely or else it must be played up to; and I say that the experiences on the last tour [The so-called “Fast Leg Theory” series – ed.] proved the correctness of my first impression.

In the 1928-29 tour I was amused by the cry of one of the barrackers.  He yelled at the top of his voice “Sutty, this will be your last tour – you will be dropped for the next game”.  I had scored 11 runs in that match, but that did not matter to the friends I apparently had in that section of the crowd.  They attacked the barracker so fiercely with words that he was ready to leave that part of the ground.

Before that – long before that – I had a personal encounter with typical Australian barrackers, and it ended in a most delightful fashion.  We played two matches at Brisbane … My fielding position was close to the scoring-board, and there, of course, I was the target of the famous scoreboard squad which used to control the barracking.

For four days they hammered me unmercifully, but when the second game came along I was in favour with the barrackers, having, evidently, passed through their fire with honours, chiefly, I believe, because I took and countered the comments of the squad.  The final day’s play ended, and then, to my great surprise, the barrackers swarmed on to the ground to present me with a case of pipes – a gift which carried with it a tribute of which I am exceedingly proud.”   

I’m not sure that the modern-day player would be quite sure what to do with a case of pipes.  Perhaps a quick look at a past master of the art would be in order.

 That’s the way to do it.

Foolish things : Eric Maschwitz and Bryan Ferry

March already – a windy month, traditionally, and one that will, for many of us, call to mind the lines “The winds of March that made my heart a dancer”, from the song I’m about to play for you tonight – These Foolish Things.  I wouldn’t say that my heart is exactly a dancer at the moment, but I can feel some of the old flippancy creeping back into my bones with the early morning light.

The lyricist here is Eric MaschwitzMaschwitz led a varied and in many ways enviable life.  He was a near contemporary at Repton School of Christopher Isherwood, Edward Upward and Michael Ramsey (the future Archbishop of Canterbury) ;  it has been suggested that Ramsey was the original inspiration for the lyrics, but the majority view is that it was the actress Anna May Wong, whom he had encountered during a brief spell in Hollywood. 

Anna May Wong

Pausing briefly to marry Hermione Gingold, write the screenplay for “Goodbye Mr. Chips” and maintain a relationship with Judy Campbell (the mother of Jane Birkin), for whom he is thought to have written his other biggest hit “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square“, he went on to  work for  MI5 and the SOE during the war and concluded  his career as head of Light Entertainment at both the BBC and the infant ITV.  He also wrote for George Formby – though it’s unlikely that Formby inspired any songs in quite the same way as Wong and Campbell.

Almost anyone who is anyone in the world of popular song has had a go at this over the years – Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald – oddly – James Brown, and even the 13 year old Poppies fan Faryl Smith.  The first version I ever heard, though, and still, in the way of these things, my favourite is this, by Bryan Ferry from 1974. 

Ferry is probably better known to the younger generation as the father of the notorious Shropshire fox-murderer Otis, but I was a great fan of his back in the day.  The clip is, I think, from the Lulu Show and I should warn viewers of a nervous disposition that it contains scenes that could never be shown on TV today and would, indeed lead to Ferry being hauled off by the Peelers, thus inadvertently establishing a family tradition.  Does he whip his kecks off half way through?  Insert the word Motherfucker into the lyrics for emphasis?  Both perfectly acceptable these days, of course – but no.  You’ll just have to wait and see.

I remember, incidentally, one of my supervisors at University playing this song (on a gramophone rather than a piano unfortunately) to illustrate T.S. Eliot’s notion of the objective correlative.  I think you can see what he meant.  

There is an interesting piece, by the way, to be written about how so many of the things that we think of as being typical of the seventies were actually revivals of styles from the twenties and thirties …

Well why don’t you write it then, lazybones? – (Reader’s voice).  All in good time, dear boy, all in good time.   

Is Simon Heffer mad?

Search of the day on this blog has to be the above enquiry.

The answer, of course, is that he is quite as sane as you or me (or I, if you prefer – I’m sure that Hef offers some guidance on this point somewhere in his Telegraph style guide).

No idea, I’m afraid, whether Tinchy Stryder smokes (another question I’m often asked).

Smoke Fairies, or My Lady Nicotine

Some readers might have the impression that the author of this blog is some silly old fool who sits here all day, covered in a thick layer of dust, reading cricket books from the early years of the last century.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This blog is, as we all must be,  vibrant, dynamic and committed to change.

And just to prove it, here is a tune from a Very Modern Band The Smoke Fairies.  Like a lot of Very Modern Music it sounds as though it could easily have been made in 1971, but I like it.  Not so sure about the video, which seems to me involve the destruction of a perfectly serviceable robot, but perhaps it’s a symbolic robot.

Here it is – Smoke Fairies

Part of the appeal, I must admit, is that they’ve taken their name from this short film from 1909, created by Georges Melies (still haven’t found the accents on this thing) – My Lady Nicotine, or the smoke fairy.  Older readers might remember that this – like a lot of Melies’ other work – was a great favourite of The Old Grey Whistle Test.  Really old readers might remember seeing it at a mobile  kinematograph as a birthday treat.

(Warning – this video contains explicit scenes of smoking).

My lady Nicotine, or the smoke fairy

Smoking cricketers

I’ve mentioned before the number of readers of this blog who come here in seach of  “cricketers in their underwear”*.  Another surprisingly common search seems to be “cricketers smoking”.

Now, I’d like to think this is because they’d like a look at this magnificent sight-

Freddie Brown smoking a pipe

Freddie Brown smoking a pipe

but I suspect they have other motives.  What these are I frankly have no idea, unless this is how the modern coach tries to make sure his charges aren’t neglecting their fitness programmes.

However, in an effort to be helpful, I thought I’d share a long held theory of mine about the 2005 Ashes series, of blessed memory.

You may remember how vexed the Australians were by how often the English fast bowling quartet left the field for short periods of time.  The theory seemed to be that they were going off for a quick massage, or a rest or even a shower,  and that, furthermore, their absence allowed the English supersub Gary Pratt to take the field.

My theory has always been that they were nipping off for a quick smoke.

Flintoff, we know, enjoys the odd cigar. Harmison, I’d guess, enjoys a tab with his Newky Brown.  Hoggard I’d have down as a pipeman, in the tradition of Freddie Trueman.  An interview with Simon Jones in the Observer a couple of weeks ago supports my theory; he says of that series –

“I lost eight kilograms just from nerves. I was smoking at the time as well, puffing away quite a bit. Duncan Fletcher didn’t like smoking but it was personal choice and I needed a cigarette to relax.”

Mind you, what the current crop of England players have been smoking over the last couple of days is another question entirely.

* Prompted by this England cricketers Observed in their underwear   and, indeed, this Cricketers\’ underwear

Swan Vestas and Una muerte lenta y dolorosa

Bought some matches the other day – Swan Vestas.

A special design, apparently celebrating 125 years : 1883-2008.  I’d have thought it was a little hazardous for a match manufacturer to be celebrating anything that went on in the matchmaking industry in the 1880s (though Vestas were apparently made in Bootle, not Bow, and weren’t taken over by Bryant & May until 1906).

Perhaps they could think about having a photo of a match girl with Phossy jaw on the label – would make a nice accompaniment for the pictures of grotesque facial tumours you get these days on cigarette packets.

The box also has one of a selection of revived labels from the past on one side – in this case the swan is incongruously swimming past a crepescular Houses of Parliament.  What’s missing from the box, of course, is the familiar tag The smoker’s match: in the current climate they’d be more likely to use the slogan The arsonist’s friend.

On a similar morbid note, Ms. and Miss B. have just returned from a brief jaunt in Ibiza, bringing me back a few packets of gaspers.  None of them, unfortunately, have my favourite health warning Fumer puede provocar una muerte lenta y dolorosa.  The message is no more encouraging than the English version, of course, but doesn’t it sound more poetic in Spanish?

(For anyone interested in a picture of the Swan/Parliament design, by the way, it’s featured in this interesting and improving work Match box design – assuming I can get the confounded link to work).

Freddie Flintoff, Freddie Brown and “that riotous living”

I see Andrew Flintoff appears to be in the soup again after missing the team bus for a visit to the war graves in Flanders. 

(I have to say (parenthetically) that this strikes me as being a rather dubious enterprise (and possibly Buchanan-inspired?).  The Australians, I believe, set a precedent by visiting Gallipoli en route to the Ashes in 2001, but then I half-suspected the thinking behind that was the belief that the loss of Australian life there was due to British blundering.  I’ve never heard anyone suggest that the loss of life at Ypres was down to the Australians.  And – great game though it is – it is only a game).

Anyway, Hugh Morris has “refused to deny that the incident was alcohol-related”. 

This is not the first time, of course,  that English cricketers have been accused by the reptiles of the press of being alcohol-impaired.  Freddie Brown (one-time captain of Northants) – in his bracing work Cricket Musketeer (Nicholas Kaye, 1954) – defended the  team he was captaining during the 1950-51 tour of Australia in the following robust terms:

That “Riotous Living”

“Why had the MCC fared so poorly in the early part of the tour?  The main reason why we were not more successful up to the first Test was our absolutely pathetic fielding …

There were comments in the press that the reasons for our bad showing up to the first Test were due to riotous living.  Such poppycock I have never heard equalled …

One of the most fatuous accusations made against the behaviour of the team concerned the incident of the ‘horizontal cricketers’.  It was during the second Victoria match, when I was watching from the pavilion.  MCC had a long time in the field and, believe me, on a hot and sultry day in the Melbourne cricket ground there is hardly a breath of air.  Quite naturally, at the fall of a wicket our players took the opportunity to rest themselves by sitting or lying on the grass.  Back went this report to England that our players could not even stand up.”

And plenty more in this vein.  Freddie Brown is a subject I’d like to return to a later date, but – to be going on with – here’s a picture to give you the flavour of the man.

Cricket Musketeer

Cricket Musketeer

It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk …

The silliest place I’ve ever been told to stop smoking?  I think it has to be here –


(Any sign here of a “semi-enclosed space” – I think not.)

To get the full picture you have to bear in mind that this was on the Friday afternoon of one of Middlesex’s County Championship fixtures, so you have to imagine 99% of the crowd in the picture deleted.  There was a high wind blowing.  Half of the seats had no smoking signs on them and half – the ones to the right of what looks (from some angles) like a modernist sculptural depiction of poor Cherie Blair,  did not.  Being a law-abiding citizen, I went and sat in one of what I thought were the smoking seats – not within 100 feet of anyone else and any noxious fumes being whipped away into the air above St. John’s Wood – and still a very courteous young fellow trotted over and told me that (I’m sorry, Sir) smoking was not permitted in that stand.

At Grace Road, of course, you can smoke anywhere  you like.

Now I’m really not some swivel-eyed ultra-libertarian loon who demands the right to spark up in maternity wards and petrol stations, but I have to say this merits the comment –