In the wake of the death of the late lamented Alan Clark MP, I have received many letters of tribute to him and think it only right to print a selection of them today.
From Mr George “Gubby” Trotter OBE
Sir, in all the richly deserved tributes which have poured out to my old friend Alan Clark MP, I have seen none that mentioned his very real love of cricket. He once said to me, “You know, Gubby, my father may have had a title, taste, money and a huge house but he had very little else. If you look again at his TV series on ‘Civilisation’, you will notice that he talks only about expensive objects - his view of life was the view from Asprey’s window. He avoided the finer things of life altogether. Nowhere in the series, for instance, is cricket or sex mentioned. But are they not the twin pillars of civilisation?”
I am sure he was right, whatever he meant by it.
From Lord Nearbough
Sir, Alan Clark is often said to have been a snob, but there was more to him than that. I remember once he said to me, “You know, Diddles, on the cricket field all men are equal, at least till given out. You may be surprised to learn that in many ways I had a most underprivileged background, and whereas other children learn cricket from their dads, I was taught to bowl and bat by the butler and head stableman. Until the age of fourteen I thought umpires called everyone ‘Sir’. Think about it, Diddles.”
I have often thought about it, and I now wish I had asked him what on earth he meant by it.
From Sir Ralph Kneedle
Sir, May I endorse the foregoing ? I remember once fielding in the slips beside him when we were both playing for the Civilisation Casuals (the cricket team which his father Lord Clark had started on the proceeds of his TV series ) and during a lull in play I asked him if, as a historian, he had ever considered writing a history of cricket.
“In a sense, I already have,” he said. “Writing a history of the Great War was very like writing a history of cricket. Trench warfare is like a long series of drawn five day Test matches, laid end to end. The only difference, I suppose was that in the First World War rain never stopped play. Know what I mean, Kneedle?”
I said I did, but looking back I don’t think I really had a clue what he was on about.
From Mr Arthur Trimble
I can vouch for everything Sir Ralph says. I worked for twenty years on Lord Clark’s estate, dividing my time between the greenhouses and wicket-keeping, so I saw a lot of young Master Alan in the slips. One day, I remember, he said: “Do you remember the famous Christmas Day on which the British and German troops are meant to have stopped fighting for a day and played football against each other? Has it ever occurred to you that there is no record of the British and Germans ever having an impromptu cricket match?”
I had to confess that it hadn’t.
“Do you know why?”
I did not.
“Because the Germans don’t play cricket, you Dummkopf !”
He cuffed me amiably and then said, more seriously: “Though it is a matter of record that Britain has never gone to war against a country that plays cricket. You could easily shoot a man who had once tackled you from behind, but you could never shoot at a man who had beaten you fairly and squarely with a googly. Think about it.”
I have often thought about it, and still wonder what he was on about.
From Julian Whitewell
Sir, I helped to edit the late Alan Clark’s Diaries for publication, and I well remember him coming in one day and insisting on adding an entry which read: “Last night I dreamt I was playing cricket and Margaret Thatcher was wicket-keeping for our side, wearing pads, gloves and nothing else. It was one of the most exciting games of cricket I have ever known, and her too, did she but know it...”
“Did you really dream this?” I said.
“No, of course not.” he said. “But I thought if she ever read the book, it might give the old bat a bit of a stir.”