Dear Enoch played the game, though he seemed to forget his friends

Click to follow
I HAVE received many interesting letters of tribute to the late Enoch Powell, some of which are well worth reprinting in his honour.

From Professor Julian Bastable

Sir, I have not seen it mentioned in any of the obituaries that Enoch Powell had a deep and abiding love of cricket, and expressed this love in his very own way, that is, through the classics. He formed a cricket XI while we were classical students together, and I believe it is the only cricket team I have ever played in where it was mandatory to communicate on the field in either Latin or Greek but no other language!

Well, this was all very well as far as it went, because it is quite possible to conduct a cricket game using only a few words such as "deeper" and "sillier". (I seem to remember Enoch once saying that the oldest person in the team should be silly mid off, and when someone asked him why, he said that was the meaning of "senile dementia": the oldest and silliest!) But when it came to communicating with people who were not in the team, it was trickier. The first game we ever played we had all our appeals turned down on the grounds that we hadn't appealed in English! Enoch kept yelling "Quo modo?" meaning "How's that?", but the umpire was a modern linguist and pretended not to understand.

Dear old Enoch. Classical cricket is the poorer for his passing.

yours etc

From Brigadier Sir Leslie Cloutier

Sir, I would like to express complete agreement with the last letter.

Enoch Powell, with whom I had the honour to serve in the Far East during the late hostilities, had a remarkable mind, a remarkable love of the classics, and a remarkable penchant for cricket. These all came together when he and I were sent on a secret mission into the hills to test the loyalty of a Pathan tribe on whose adherence we desperately depended. As we were going through hostile territory, I disguised myself as a travelling rug salesman and dyed my skin brown, but Powell disdained all such pretence, and travelled in a suit, carrying much luggage. We were duly stopped by a warlike party in one of the passes. Before turning to me, they demanded to see in Enoch's luggage. To my amazement, it was full of cricket equipment: gloves, bails, balls, cricket boxes, and so on. The tribesmen greeted this with wild cries of delight. It turned out that Powell had been up in the hills the year before and had taught them how to play the noble game, promising one day to return with ample supplies.

"And this man here?" they said, pointing to me. "Is he a friend of yours, oh Enoch?" "I know him not," he said, gazing at me with those hooded eyes. He then added softly, in Latin, for my ears only, as they took me off for two years' imprisonment, "Sorry about this but a chap must do his duty. Molte me lacessit."

Splendid man. We shall miss his sort.

yours etc

From Sir Norbert Standing

Sir, I agree with all the foregoing. I was a political colleague of Enoch's in the 1950s when we were both very junior cogs in the Tory government, and spent a lot of our time forming inter-departmental cricket teams. I used to field next to him in the slips, and I remember him saying one day that we would never beat the West Indies until we had a good supply of fast bowlers. Where will we get them from? I asked. Government training scheme? No, he smiled. He then outlined a plan for tempting immigrant labour from the West Indies, ostensibly to drive our buses and man our tube trains, but in fact to broaden the gene pool from which the next generation of fast bowlers would come.

At least, I think that is what he was saying. Most of these whispered conversations were in Latin, never my number one language, so I may have missed a few nuances.

A great man. And a fine placer of the field.

From Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Bottingleigh

Sir, All these letters are spot-on. I was present at what must have been the last cricket game Enoch Powell ever attended, in his County Down constituency, during the annual Republican v Unionist friendly fixture which he had instituted. He did not play himself, but insisted on umpiring, and caused a certain amount of controversy by giving many batsmen out when there had not even been an appeal. I later asked him about this and he said, fixing me with that glittering gaze which the ancient mariner would have envied, that he disliked both sides equally, and that he had never courted popularity.

Perhaps, I said, he had courted the opposite. Perhaps he had actively courted dislike. Or perhaps he just liked the sound of his own voice. At which he smiled and said:

"Nacuntur poetae, fiunt oratores."

yours etc