Stephen Brenkley: How the MCC's new Mike got it Plum right

The Way I See It: If you had to be named after a fictional character, PG Wodehouse's Mike Jackson would do nicely

In the long and whimsical history of the position known as the woolsack of cricket, Mike Griffith stands alone. It is not because the next president of MCC is the only person to have played both first-class cricket and international hockey at Lord's.

At cricket, he played in three Varsity matches at the ground, scoring 58 and 82 in the first two, as well as appearing there for Sussex against Middlesex, and at hockey he represented Great Britain against Belgium. Nor is it that he may well be the only president to have spent many of his formative years living at Lord's, because his dad, Billy Griffith, was secretary of MCC.

It is that he is the only president to have been named after a fictional character, as opposed to that scallywag Lord Frederick Beauclerk, who merely sounds like a fictional character. The chap who gave Mike Griffith his handle was the inestimable Mike Jackson, hero of several stories written by the equally inestimable P G Wodehouse long before Bertie Wooster and his manservant Jeeves were created.

Griffith is indubitably proud of the association, though it continues to cause problems even at 68. Banks, lawyers and what might be called official organisations have made a habit of sending back documents asking him to amend it by ensuring his full and proper name is included.

They have never quite brought themselves to say as much but the tone has been this: "Dear Sir, please do not be so juvenile. This is a serious transaction and we note that you have called yourself Mike, an abbreviated, boy's name. Please be sure in future to append your full given name."

To a man, they assume him to be Michael Griffith when he is indeed simply Mike. In full, he is Mike Grenville Griffith, though the middle name, which was also Wodehouse's middle name, was added when he was about five. Perversely, of course, it is probable that young Jackson was probably Michael at home, Mike at school. It is a variation on those football supporters who give their kids the names of all members of the most recent members of the league winning side.

Griffith's father was a friend and long-time correspondent of Wodehouse, despite a 33-year-age difference. They had both been pupils at Dulwich College, where Wodehouse first displayed his writing chops, reporting on the matches of the first XI for which he was a fast bowler alongside Neville Knox, who went on play for England.

That connection led to a comradeship which never faded. Not only was Billy's son named in tribute to Mike Jackson, but Wodehouse was also young Mike's godfather, though they never actually met. If you were to be named after a fictional character, Mike Jackson would do for anyone.

He was the youngest son from a well-to-do cricketing family and three of his four elder brothers all played first-class cricket. Joe, the eldest, was a Test batsman of note. Mike first appeared in magazine form in 1907 when Wodehouse was only 26, and in an eponymously titled book two years later.

What a batsman he was, a selfless public school thoroughbred in Tom Brown mould. He began life at Wrykyn School where he took all before him on the cricket field, but was a bit of a duffer in the classroom, which led to his transfer to Sedleigh School where he met his lifelong friend, another magnificent Wodehouse figure, Psmith.

In the grand story, "The Match With Downing's", in which Jackson scores an unprecedented 277 not out in a total of 471 for 1, against the house run by a tyrannical master, Wodehouse describes him thus: "Mike, on the cricket field, could not have looked anything but a cricketer if he had turned out in a tweed suit and hobnail boots. Cricketer was written all over him – in his walk, in the way he took guard, in his stand at the wickets."

Fortunately for cricket writers, Wodehouse decided to stick to weaving his comical, labyrinthine plots. Jeeves first appeared in 1914. In the reverse of Mike Griffith being named after a fictional character, the archetypal valet was named after a cricketer.

There is still some doubt about the precise genesis, but Wodehouse let it be known in later life that the inspiration was Percy Jeeves, the richly promising, pre-First World War Warwickshire all-rounder. Wodehouse saw him perform at Cheltenham in 1913. In 1916 the real Jeeves was killed in France.

Mike Griffith went on to captain Sussex and played 276 first-class matches. It is an oddity that MCC's president is chosen six months before he actually takes office but the general idea may have caught on. Perhaps it will be unearthed before long that the new manager of the England football team was named after Roy of the Rovers, and who would care then whether he could tell Rs from his elbow?

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas