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auberon waugh


In the wake of the lamented death of Auberon Waugh, I have received many letters in appreciation of the memory of the great man, and I would like to publish a few of them to day.


From Sir George "Gubby" Trotter

Sir, In all the admiring obituaries of the late Bron Waugh, and in all the grudging ones too, I have seen no mention of his deep and abiding love of cricket.

This is a shame, for those of us who saw Bron at close quarters on the cricket field will always remember him as one of the most effectively vituperative fielders in the history of the game, and a pioneer of "sledging", the art of insulting the batsman.

I remember once I was fielding next to him for the "That Was The Week That Was" Second XI, a motley team of public school satirists which flourished in the 1960s, playing against some village team with which Richard Ingrams had a vague connection. Every time one of the rural batsmen looked like making a score, Bron would unsettle him with a series of pointed remarks about how cricket had gone downhill ever since the working classes had been allowed to take part. Often these village batsmen would end up by advancing on Bron with bat raised, intent on doing him some damage, yet I can testify that underneath this pose Bron was the kindest of cricketers, and gentlest of men.

From Mrs Dorothy "Daisy" Bevan

Sir, May I echo the sentiments of the foregoing? For a while I used to play cricket for a team of Guardian woman writers known familiarly as Toynbee's Terrors, formed in an effort to open up territory to women which had formerly been restricted to right-wing male old fogeys. We were challenged to a match one day by the El Vino Layabouts, a group of eleven such men, and we eagerly accepted the challenge.

It was a slightly one-sided match, as although the men were stronger and more skilled than us, they were also a lot more drunk. However, I did face one ball from Willy Rushton which, by more luck than skill, rose sharply and knocked me to the ground. I was conscious of the jeers of most of the men players - I distinctly remember John Wells opining that a recumbent position was the most fitting one for a woman, or words to that effect - when I became aware of Auberon Waugh leaning over me with an air of great solicitude.

"Try a drop of this, old girl," he said, offering me a hip flask. I gratefully took a small swig of a delicious red wine.

"It's delicious," I said.

"Is it?" he said, a suspicious look coming over his face. Then he suddenly drew another flask from another pocket and said, "Good Lord, I've given you the Chateau Yquem by mistake! Quick - take the Rioja!"

Even if flawed, it was nonetheless a kind gesture.

From Mr A.N.Wilson ( no relation )

Sir, Although I often played cricket with Auberon Waugh, to the best of my recollection I never saw him bat. Indeed, I soon spotted that rather than bat, Bron always liked to field for both sides in both innings. When I taxed him with this, he smiled in his slightly sad way and said: "A gentleman should always field. Let us leave batting to the lower classes, who dearly love to show off and produce those hideous sweat stains on their whites."

Friends said that his fear of fast bowling was connected with the machine gun bullets which wounded him on that fateful day in Cyprus, but I have a theory that it was more to do with the memory of his father. Evelyn Waugh had won a reputation as one of the most sardonic middle order batsmen of his day, and I think Bron always felt this hanging over him, and preferred to take another path.

From Mr Noel Ingrams ( some relation )

Sir, I am surprised that nobody has mentioned Bron's dislike of authority and his consequent insistence on smoking a cigarette whenever he played cricket. (This may have been behind his unwillingness to bat - it is hard to smoke and cover drive at the same time. ) I once asked him why he preferred to field in the deep rather than in the slips, as he was not a fast runner. "Because I like to have time to stub my cigarette out before the ball comes to me," he said. "No time for that in the slips."

Indeed, I once heard a cry of horror come from our captain when he happened to pass the spare helmet which normally sits behind the wicket keeper. He pointed to the interior with a trembling finger. It was half full of half smoked cigarette butts.

I need hardly tell you whose they were.

The Independent Monday Jan 22 2001