For the young boy growing up in the Portsmouth of the late 1950s there were only two fixed features in the firmament, the battleship HMS Vanguard anchored in harbour and ACD Ingleby-Mackenzie, Captain of Hampshire County Cricket Club.
On Navy Days, when the dockyard opened its gates to the public, most of us made first for Vanguard with its wide bleached decks and massive 15inch guns. Ordered by the Admiralty in March 1941, laid down in October of the same year, it was already an anachronism before even it was launched in November1944.
Conceived in 1932, born in 1933, Colin Ingleby Machenzie was already an anachronism – the last great amateur captain in the game – by the time he made his privileged debut for Hants shortly after leaving Eton, where he had gained a bundle of colourful, resourceful and steadfast friends, a love of racing and some useful cricketing contacts.
Both Vanguard and ‘Mac’ belonged to the Navy. His father was a high ranking surgeon in the Senior Service and he opted for the Navy for his National Service. He spent a fortnight aboard Vanguard during the summer holidays of 1951, before eventually opting to ‘go down to the sea’ in submarines.
Motionless and redundant, year on year at the dockside Vanguard pointed back to Jutland in an age when the aircraft career, HMS Ark Royal, in hailing reach up the harbour, pointed towards our post-Suez future.
Mac, whose defensive shot as this photograph illustrates was the slog sweep, (actually there is no photograph of him playing any other shot, another version will follow) also pointed back to a by-gone age.
As the top photograph illustrates, in 1960, when engineless and having to be ignominiously towed to the scrap-yard, Vanguard dug in her keel at the harbour mouth and veered towards The Point to the consternation of her Captain, crew and the pursuing tugmen.
No one locally wanted her to go and we celebrated her fitting act of defiance in the face of the heartless cost cutters and land-lubbing accountants of the Admiralty.
When in 1965 Mac gave way to Roy Marshall as Captain of Happy Hants no one wanted him to go, least not we boys who were addicted to his promise of a shot per ball, even if it was just the one ball and the one shot.
Nor did the other counties wish him to go. Not those who often benefited from his generous declarations and his instance on bright cricket almost to the last man. Certainly no shutter was ever put up at the Hampshire Shop until the number 10 went in and that was probably Butch White, not known for his forward defensive.
Playing in some blighted county that sought not to lose before trying to win, our Captain was once cheered from the ground by the normally emotionless opposition supporters. Admittedly he had miscalculated the timing of his declaration forgetting that on the last day of the three day match there would be no tea interval giving them in those days at least seven extra overs in which to make the total required.
But, as Sobers proved in another place or two, this gambler’s eye for a tempting challenge more often than not brought success. And if not success then it ensured entertainment for all to the very last ball.
He lived by the gambler’s strong moral code and was overtly huffy (a gentleman is never unknowingly rude) with any opposition captain who did not follow his own approach to declarations and run chases.
We boys sensed this from the boundary. We loved him for his daring and his dash. We cheered him to the wicket. We cheered him back again, either in the same instant or half an hour later when he’d brought a dead game back to life. We thanked him for breaking the strangle hold that first Surrey and then Yorkshire held over the County Championship.
For us there will always be something missing from the skyline of Portsmouth Harbour and something missing from the firmament of first class cricket.