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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

My shameful failure to live up to the spirit of Christmas

Howard Jacobson
A pill for obesity is a step closer, with two separate studies showing that it may be possible to influence the body’s tendency to build up damaging fat deposits beneath the skin  

Being fat is the last social taboo. It is the actual elephant in the room

Rosie Millard
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

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
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all