William Brockwell: His Triumph and Tragedy (Monograph Book 1)
Lord Hawke and Sir Home Gordon were playing a round of golf at Sundridge Park when a caddy pointed to a partially roofless hovel on the course and informed them that a professional cricketer who had represented England slept there every night.
Gordon wrote of this some years later: ‘This was Brockwell, who had been one of the smart¬est in appearance, highly self-respecting as well as deservedly popular when playing. We took steps in some measure to remedy what was the saddest instance that ever came to my knowledge’.
That William Brockwell, who had touched the upper reaches of cricketing greatness and was talented in other ways, slipped badly is, alas, a tragic fact of history; and cruelly illustrative of the knife edge upon which professional cricketers of the ‘gold age’ of English cricket lived.
A bad injury, an illness, a loss of form could see a man thrown on the metaphorical scrap heap with little or nothing behind him.
Brockwell’s decline and penury, his sad end was hardly atypical but he had been such a bright star, the epitome of everything that was so noble, lustrous and proud about the summer game for the best part of two decades, and now…he was destitute.
One is haunted by Brockwell’s eyes which stare directly out from so many team-groups of the eighteen-nineties, when he was a darling of the Oval crowd and an England player. One sees him as deeply sun-tanned, above average height, athletic looking, spick and span, usually straw-hatted, thickly moustached, something of a sergeant-major figure, mirrored and frozen with his colleagues, untouched by the ravages of time.
Here they hang on my study wall,
Each with his mead of fame,
Valiant knights of the bat and ball,
That grasped the heart of the game…
This then is the fable of the rise and fall of a cricketing star of the late Victorian pomp of the summer game.
Originally published privately in 1970 in a limited edition of 100 copies (the Editor hols copy number 54 signed by his father] this monograph has been unavailable for many years other than at a premium whenever rare examples have been put on the market.
In republishing ‘William Brockwell: His Triumph and Tragedy’ I am doing what my father would have done back in 1970, had he lived in our marvellously inter-connected age – making dear old “Brockie’s” history available to the widest possible audience.
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