Coulrophobia and Cricket July 2, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
There are many reasons to loathe the English but cricket is not one of them. Cricket, according to the romantics, was the game that the squire would play with their tenants, small time farmers and landless labourers on the village green on distant Sundays in the eighteenth century. Trevelyan wrote with pardonable exaggeration: ‘if the French nobility had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants, their chateaux would never have been burnt.’ Nehru had an even more beautiful thought (which frustratingly Beach has failed to source and quotes here from memory): ‘the English, who are not a very spiritual people, play cricket because it is the closest they come to metaphysics’. Then there is the great W.G.Grace: ‘A cricketer’s life is a life of splendid freedom, healthy effort, endless variety, and delightful good fellowship’, which is true as long as no one is filching money from your wallet in the changing rooms.
Given just how very seriously the English took cricket it is refreshing to see that sometimes they, well, didn’t. The following comes from a nineteenth-century newspaper and is one of the places Beach would most have liked to have been in the Victorian age. We are in Leeds, the best of the cities of northern England. Victoria is still young, though past child bearing age. Look at the skies. Not a cloud… Settle down with sandwiches wrapped in newspaper, lashing of jam and no butter. Dad’s excited because after ‘four splendid bands’ and before the Donkey and Water Carrying races (’20 shillings to the winnner’) there will be an ‘extraordinary cricket match’. Forget Julian dying in the sands of the Persians deserts, if you have a time machine and one ‘time’ token this is where you should go.
14 Clowns in their celebrated grotesque costumes [will play] against 11 of the celebrated Osborne Club. It is impossible to describe the laughable incidents and comicalities of the clowns, whenever they get a run, catch a ball, or bowl out an opponent. Although the clowns appear and act so grotesquely, they are very good cricketers, and few clubs beat them; at Nottingham some of the ‘All England’ men were their opponents; at Cambridge, also, some first-class players were opposed to them, but at both places the clowns won the game. All the 14 clowns will give a Varied Performance (after the stumps are drawn at Six p.m.) They will sing comic songs! Dance comic dances! Will perform gymnastics; and a comic ballet! After the Clowns have finished Cricket, GAMES will commence.
Robin Williams once said that cricket is baseball on valium, but then he’d never seen clowns play cricket. Baseball on peyote perhaps? Any other weird cricketing and any other information on the cricket clowns, apparently they were an institution: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The pictures is from The Graphic and has been bilked from an American site that is selling it for 115 dollars. Oh Cassiope, the things done in your name…
3 July 2013: Clowns and Crickets: Michael R goes far beyond the call of duty with this one: The clowns appear to have been a traveling side, well known in the 1870’s and 80’s but now lost to the mists: The Clowns appear to have been well enough established to be the subject of special advertisingon a tram, see this photograph from the National Library of Ireland and in the comments beneath an account of a match by the ‘London Imperial Clowns’ in Cork on Monday 24th and Tuesday 25th August 1874. This a letter from October 24th 1877 refers to the team ‘Casey’s Peripatetics’ (Late Clown Cricketers) setting up a match for the following season: and this appears to be the match program which gives the names and the counties of the cricketers involved: Casey’s Peripatetic Clowns appeared to have played in Burnley on July 4-5th 1880 and 18th July 1881 – links open to give team and scorecard: This a postcard of another clown team ‘Opening Day‘ April 22nd 1911 Clown cricketers were also the subject of a Pathe silent news-reel c 1914. Thanks Michael!
4 July 2013: Bob Skinner has a great one: In addition to the cricket matches with clowns, there appears to have been a tradition in the 18th and 19th Century of matches between one-legged and one-armed teams, often drawn from veterans from the armed services. The following from the Stamford Mercury of 17th July 1766 p. 3: “From the London Gazette 15 July […] Yesterday the grand Cricket Match between eleven one-armed men, and eleven one-legged men, all pensioners belonging to Greenwich Hospital, was played on Blackheath, which afforded the most excellent sport to several thousand spectators. The one-legged men played but the one-armed men ran best; which means that after long and difficult contest victory declared for the onearmed heroes. Several considerable bets were defending on this remarkable occasion.” A further match at Blackheath was advertised in Newcastle Courant of 17th July 1783 p. 2: “A most extraordinary cricket match is to be played on Tuesday next on Blackheath, eleven men’ on a side:-they consist of eleven men with one arm, and eleven men with a wooden leg each.” Another account of a later match is from the Oxford Journal of 13th August 1796, p. 2. London 11 August […. ]Yesterday, from the novelty of an Advertisement announcing a Cricket Match to be played by eleven Greenwich Pensioners with one leg against eleven with one arm, for one thousand guineas, at the new Cricket-ground, Montpelier Gardens, Walworth, an immense concourse of people assembled. About nine o’clock the men arrived in three Greenwich stages; about ten the wickets were pitched, and the match commenced. Those with but one leg had the first innings, and got 93 runs. About three o’clock, while those with but one arm were having their innings, a scene of riot and confusion took place, owing to the pressure of the populace to gain admittance to the ground ; the gates were forced open, and several parts of the fencing were broke down, and a great number of persons having got upon the roof of a stable, the roof broke in, and several of them falling among the horses, were taken out much bruised. About six o’clock the game was renewed, and those with one arm got but 42 runs during their innings. The one legs commenced their second innings, and six were bowled out after they got 60 runs, so that they left off 111 more than those with one arm.” Thanks Bob!