In the days following the death of Dudley Moore I have received many letters of tribute to the comedian and pianist, and I would very much like to print some of them today.
From Sir George "Gubby" Trotter
Sir, In all the eulogies that I have read about my old friend Dudley Moore, I have not seen a single one that mentioned his very real love of cricket, a passion that never left him to the very end.
I first met Dudley Moore on the cricket field when I was attending the Edinburgh Festival in the year when Beyond the Fringe was so successful. I had no interest in culture as such – I did not even know the festival was on, and was merely in Edinburgh as part of a touring cricket team, the Sassenach All Stars – but was taken one evening to see the comic quartet of Cook, Moore, Bennett and Miller. The next day we took the field against a local cricket XI called (rather daringly for Scotland, I thought!) The Lord's Day Disobedience Society XI, and I was surprised to see that their diminutive first slip was none other than the pianist who had been so hilarious the night before.
"Do any of the others in your show play cricket?" I asked him.
"None of them has any interest whatsoever," he said. "Actually, I find it hard to imagine what part they would play even if they did. Peter Cook would spend all his time railing against the authority of the umpire. Jonathan would agonise about the philosophical overtones of everything. He's Jewish, you know. And Alan Bennett would just make the tea for everyone, and grumble mildly about the biscuits."
How very true.
From Mr Owen Flitcroft (no relation)
May I just add to the above that Dudley himself was a mercurial fielder; ie he was never there when you wanted him. He was also one of the smallest batsmen I have ever seen, emphasised by wearing the largest pair of pads I have ever seen, behind which he would virtually go into hiding. He had a pair of stumps painted in very realistic fashion on each pad, so that when the bowler ran in, it must have presented a very disturbing sight.
From Mr Vernon Scales
Sir, I can vouch for the foregoing, as I often played with Dudley in a showbiz XI called Bob Hope's Scriptwriters and Dudley always brought merriment to any cricket game he was in. One of his talents as a mimic was to imitate the sound of a radio cricket commentary, so when one of our side appealed for a decision, Dudley would immediately imitate the voice of Brian Johnson, or John Arlott, as if he were on air, saying: "Well, that looked out to me" or "Oh, there was definitely a touch there!", and more often than not the umpire would automatically give the man out before looking round in some puzzlement, only to meet Dudley's angelic stare.
From Mr Freddy Simpson
Sir, The only time I ever encountered Mr Moore on the cricket field was unforgettable. He was playing for a touring team called simply "Eleven" (I believe it was later turned into a feature movie in which he played) and there came a moment when one side called for the heavy roller to be brought on. No doubt at Dudley Moore's instigation, instead of a roller a grand piano was rolled on to the pitch instead, and he regaled us with selections from Duke Ellington. Unfortunately, his exertions got the piano well and truly embedded in the ground; it could not be rolled off again and we had to abandon the match.
From Mr Gary Boulter
Sir, There has been a persistent myth in cricket circles for many years that Dudley Moore, sadly conscious of his small stature, once rounded up 10 cricket-playing midgets to form a team which he could not only captain but tower above. Whether this is true or not I do not know, but I do know he once hired a midget to hide beneath a pile of jerseys near the square leg umpire and say "Out!" loudly whenever there was an appeal. Unfortunately the midget enjoyed his work so much that he not only did it while Dudley's side was fielding, but carried on during their innings as well, and actually caused Dudley himself to be given out! I shall never forget the sight of Dudley Moore advancing furiously on a pile of jerseys from which emerged a tiny midget whom he then chased off the field with upraised bat!
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