Vivat Leicestershire, or Cricket in Snow

There are some experienced and knowledgeable supporters of Leicestershire who frequent this site, so Third Man has to be very careful with this posting. 

Some are purists who may not necessarily be celebrating the County’s victory over Chokerset in yesterday’s T20 finals, especially when they are bottom of the CountyChampionship2nd Division, forty points behind next best placed Kent.

Third Man’s insomnia is as bad as ever and the Squire has recommended he reads the series of novels by Charles Percy, Baron Snow of the City of Leicester, copies of which the novelist left behind following a visit with his wife, Pam, to the Great House to watch a game of cricket in the late 1970s.

These are known by the collective title of Strangers and Brothers  and deal with power and powerlessness among the networks belonged to by the first person narrator, Lewis Eliot, also a native of Leicester (described in the novel’s entry in Wikipedia as a ‘small English town). 

There are eleven novels in number which should see TM through the lengthening nights in the approaching season of autumn mists and even heavier rains.

The first novel, chronologically, Time of Hope, begins as Eliot, a boy of nearly nine in June 1914, returning from his school is suddenly seized with a sense of overwhelming dread. 

Something is amiss in the household but the adults do not begin to tell him until, a fortnight later, he learns that his father an unenterprising owner of a small factory is about to petition for bankruptcy. 

This happens when Mr Eliot asks young Eliot to go with him to the county cricket match next day, Saturday, at the Aylestone Road ground.

It is his father’s first match, but not his son’s, who ‘went regularly to the “county” whenever he could beg six pence’.   It is now early July and Leicestershire are playing Sussex.

Eliot’s memory is that they watch the first balls of Leicestershire’s innings, but Snow reveals himself a cricketing tragic with access to some old Wisdens when he admits to researching the match later (the novel was published in 1949) and finding that it had begun on Thursday. 

Sussex had batted and then taken two Leicestershire wickets.  Friday had been lost to rain and they therefore had seen the continuation of the Leicestershire innings.

Thanks to Cricket Archive the scorecard is available here.

He confides that his hero is C.J.B. Wood who played 456 first class matches.  He was a good choice for a hero, scoring 23,879 runs in his career at an average of 31.05 with 37 centuries and he took 172 wickets somewhat generously.  He was not out 7 that morning and at 38 years of age was the county captain that season, a role he continued in for two seasons immediately after the Great War.

This photograph suggests he also had a more than decent moustache.  Wood lived until 1960.

Eliot/Snow admits that Wood was not so spectacular as Jessop or Tyldesley. “But I told myself he was much sounder.  In actual fact, my hero did not often let me down.  On the occasions when he failed completely, I wanted to cry.”

Wood caused Eliot some concern that July morning especially when playing Relf (a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1914) with ‘a clumsy, stumbling shot that usually patted the ball safely to mid-off but which this time sent the ball knee high between first and second slip for four’.

Eliot is contemptuous with those around him who clapped and said fatuously, “Pretty shot”, and concerned for his hero who ‘was thoughtfully slapping the pitch with the back of his bat’.

Ah, those uncovered wickets and the trials of batting on the morning after a day of rain.

Wickets fell regularly according to the scorecard and the Leicestershire innings ended at 126 in reply toSussex’s 224.  The visitors then made 100 and declared 7 wickets down.

Did the home side go for the victory or bat out time?  [Anyone with a 1915 Wisden to hand?]  Perhaps the wicket was playing more easily or perhaps Leicestershire clung on valiantly for they made 111 for 5 and saved the match. 

‘After the last over the crowd round us drifted over the ground,’ wrote Eliot/Snow.

“Let’s wait until they’ve gone,” said his father.

‘The pavilion windows glinted in the evening sun, and the scoreboard threw a shadow half way to the wicket.’

It was then that his father told him the not very good news about filing his ‘petition’.

‘The phrase sounded ominous, deadly ominous, to me, but I did not understand.’

Mr Eliot’s First Match is the second chapter of the book.  Third Man is not so crass as to think that Eliot is Snow, but the cricketing detail of this visit to the Aylestone Road ground suggests that Snow was there when he himself was eight or nine. 

‘Any roads’, there are frequent references to visits to cricket matches throughout the series and they offer a constant sanctuary in times of stress and anxiety.  ‘Power Vacuums’.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Vivat Leicestershire, or Cricket in Snow

  1. Chunter

    Part of the Aylestone Road ground has been turned into flats. The Wickets (a probably transient URL) has blocks named after Boycott and Botham. (Why not Gower or CJB Wood?)

  2. backwatersman

    I find that I’ve developed a curious surge of enthusiasm for t20 over the last couple of weeks.
    The book sounds uncomfortably timely, and I shall have to look it out – though I’m not sure I’ll make it to the end of the sequence. Perhaps too much t20 is degrading my attention span.
    CPS’s brother Eric was the archivist and historian at Leicestershire for some years, so CP may have had some help with his research. Another brother played cricket for Fiji (where, I was hearing on TMS the other day, they seem to play according to different rules).

    • According to London Figaro in the New York Times of December 18th 1889, “The natives of the Fiji Islands have taken up cricket through the efforts of an enthusiast, Mr. Wallington. They like the game much, although they do not like to confine themselves to the orthodox eleven on each side. They play their matches with forty or fifty aside, or tribe against tribe. ”
      Sadly the standardization typical of the ICC has now occured and the Fiji national team of XI has a Facebook page and is on Twitter.
      Magnificently, the players of Kilikiti on Tuvalu have avoided this homogenization https://downatthirdman.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/across-the-oceans-cricket-unites-our-world/

  3. Pingback: Homes Fit for Heroes – A Bank Holiday Bonanza | Down At Third Man

  4. Chunter

    To follow up on backwatersman’s comment:

    A brief obituary of Eric (EE) appeared in Wisden.

    SNOW, EDWARD ERIC, died on September 18, 1998, aged 88, the day before his beloved Leicestershire won the County Championship. Eric Snow served the club in many non-playing capacities, including 40 years as librarian and 30 years on the committee, and wrote two histories of the club. He also wrote a history of Sir Julien Cahn’s XI. He was a fount of knowledge on Leicestershire lore, cricketing and general. His elder brother was C. P. (later Lord) Snow the writer; his younger brother Philip represented Fiji on ICC.

    I seem to remember that for a time he was the club’s scorer. Dates, anyone?

    Philip (PA), a colonial administrator in Fiji who has an entry in Who’s Who, wrote a book about cricket in Fiji and a biography of CP (‘Stranger and Brother: a Portrait of CP Snow’.) In the latter he says:

    I was about to join the brotherhood as the third to have a book published. Following the outstanding success of the 1948 Fiji cricket tour and its large public interest in New Zealand, a publisher in that country wanted to bring out my ‘Cricket in the Fiji Islands’. When that book came out in 1949 with an introduction by Sir Pelham Warner and a Foreword by Ratu Sir Lala Sukana, it received gratifying reviews from Sir Neville Cardus, John Arlott and other leading cricket journalist. As only 500 copies were printed its rarity value now is considerable.

    He played 5 1st class matches for Fiji between 1947 and 1948.

  5. Chunter

    Apologies for the messed-up HTML in my last post!

  6. Pingback: Vivat Leicestershire, or Cricket in Snow | Down At Third Man | testblog

  7. backwatersman

    As a footnote, the club seem to have been selling off some (most?) of its library recently via the Friends of Grace Road shop. Luckily, I’ve managed to acquire some of it.

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