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Sunday, 17 January 2010

Bobby Abel (1857-1936)

Did I say that I was looking forward to Joburg? I take it all back. An innings and 74 runs defeat in the final test of the series and two draws nicked by the skin of our teeth meant a drawn series and South Africa retaining the basil D'Oliveira trophy. Not that I wouldn't have accepted a drawn series before it had all begun - but to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory always hurts but like the man says "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two pretenders just the same" and in a week when disaster, true disaster visited Haiti I think that a degree of philosophy is called for when dealing with matters of sport.

Ironically Bobby Abel was replaced at Surrey and England by Jack Hobbs who eclipsed his achievements. But he rose from humble origins and was the first Englishman to carry his bat through an entire test innings and indeed carried his bat through an innings of 811 - he scored 357 runs still a Surrey record and scored 2000 runs in consecutive seasons. And yet I suspect that most cricket fans (the putative father-in-law included will never have heard of him.) And if his blue plaque hadn't have been on my hitlist I would also have been in the same boat. He, like I suspect and awful lot of cricketers live in the shadow of the good doctor, W.G.Grace. C.B. Fry said of him "He gathers runs like blackberries, wherever he goes" His later career was blighted by the growth of fast bowling and deteriorating eyesight. He died in 1936- totally blind. His blue plaque is located in Southwark Park where he learnt the game and was discovered.
It was the starting point of a frozen frolic around Rotherhithe a couple of weekends ago. We used the BBC walk starting by Canada Wharf and finishing at the presently closed Rotherhithe tube station. We took in the long loop of the river a loop that back in London's heyday would have been crammed with wharfs, whalers and wherries. There's precious little to mark what was the busiest port in the world - courtesy of the remodelling carried out by the Luftwaffe in 1940 and the transformation during the Thatcher junta in the 80s. It's a far cry from the the rough and ready haunt not frequented by the well-to-do. There are reminders though, streets named after the points of origin of many of the incoming ships - Odessa Street, Bergen Square, Quebec Way - places of Worship for the travelling Norwegian and Swedish seamen. The pub names speak volumes - The Moby Dick, The Ship not to mention the Mayflower pub which via Southampton and Plymouth made it's way across the pond in 1620. It's master Christopher Jones is buried across the road at St. Mary's.

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