Rebecca Tyrrel: Who knew that the only wicket Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took as a first-class cricketer was the legendary Dr WG Grace?

Share

Who knew that the only wicket Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took as a first-class cricketer was the legendary Dr WG Grace? So bowled over was he at dismissing his fellow doctor (until Bashar al-Assad's emergence as the tyrant of Syria, Conan Doyle was the most famous optometrist to make his name in another field) that he wrote a poem about the incident, which happened while playing for the MCC at Crystal Palace in 1900.

"Once in my heyday of cricket/ One day I shall ever recall!" begins Reminiscences of Cricket, "I captured that glorious wicket/ The greatest, the grandest of all."

How did it happen? Grace, it seems, mistimed a huge whack at a very bad ball, "a long hop", and gave an elementary catch to the wicket-keeper. Or as Conan Doyle, who named Sherlock after a teammate called Shacklock, lyrically described it: "Up, up like a towering game bird/ Up, up to a speck in the blue/ And then coming down like the same bird/ Dead straight on the line that it flew".

And cricket wasn't Conan Doyle's only extra-curricular; on regular visits to Davos, not far from the inspiration for the Reichenbach Falls where Moriarty met his end, with his first wife who needed the pure Alpine air for her TB, he pioneered cross-country skiing while wearing a tweed suit. "I am convinced that there will come a time," he predicted in the Strand magazine in 1894, "when hundreds of Englishmen will come to Switzerland for the 'skiing' season."

Without perhaps being the second Leonardo, Conan Doyle was quite a Renaissance man. He was knighted less for the Holmes stories than for a book about the Boer War, in which he served for a while as a field doctor; twice ran unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Liberal Unionist in his native Scotland; and popularised spiritualism, to which he turned in the hope of contacting a deceased son on the other side.

Of all his achievements, however, the one that seemed to give him the most satisfaction was taking Grace's wicket, although he was modest about that in rhyme. "The capture of such might elate one/ But it seemed like one horrible jest/ That I should serve tosh to the great one, Who had broken the hearts of the best." The detective story genre's greatest gain was a bit of a disaster, so it seems, for Hallmark cards.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Seven per cent of young men have recently stopped using deodorant  

‘Sweaty-gate’ leaves a bad smell for PRs and journalists

Danny Rogers
Alison Parker and Adam Ward: best remembered before tragedy  

The only way is ethics: Graphic portraits of TV killings would upset many, not just our readers in the US

Will Gore
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory