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Letters Home!

[<<] [>>] by Colin Hemming
10th March 2007 (Other News)

I have been reading Brian Johnston's "Letters Home 1926-1945"

I knew from his biography that he had led a very privileged life (Eton, Oxford, the Guards), but only by reading these letters (to his mother) have I begun to appreciate the extent of that privilege (London shows twice a week whilst at Eton, playing cricket at least 3 times and up to 5 times a week whilst at Oxford)

Brian, who is remembered mainly for his involvement with cricket) actually participated in a wide variety of sports, including athletics, rowing, football (Association and Rugby, as well as the two Eton varieties) and Tennis (both types). Whilst at Oxford, he founded the Allsorts club, a bunch of undergraduates who would take on all comers at any sport (!) I was hoping that some local croquet club would have challenged them, but if it did the letters do not record it.

It was, of course, pretty inevitable that a member of the idle rich from that era would play croquet at some time, but we have to wait until page 165 of the book before he mentions it:

. . . William and I played croquet with the Princess Juliana of Holland, which was a goodish sight. She'd come to lunch at Douglas and we all bowed and scraped: she was very nice with a built up area (and at this point the editor has inserted [large bust])

. . .

The Princess had a husky voice so we told her she had a croquet voice and she quite liked it.

I didn't fully understand the last sentence until I realised that Brian would have been using the old-fashioned pronunciation (CROkey as opposed to the modern CROkay or croKAAY). Once I understood it I was rolling about the floor, of course!

"Douglas", incidentally, is not the town of Douglas, but Douglas Castle, home of the Earl of Hume, and "William" was Brian's life-long friend William Douglas-Home, younger brother of the future prime minister Alec.

I've done a few web searches to see if the Allsorts club still exists (if so maybe the MacRob team could issue a challenge) but came up blank, so I assume that it died a death long ago. Unless some of you know different?


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