How Jackie O was bowled over by cricket

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The Independent Online
From Mr Basil "Tommers" Tomkins

Sir, I wonder how many of your readers are aware of the real and abiding interest shown in cricket by the late Jacqueline Bouvier, also known as Jackie Kennedy and Jackie Onassis?

I have recently returned from the fabulous auction of her estate in New York and have been dumbfounded to find no publicity at all given to the cricketing treasures on sale there.

I myself put in a bid for the diamond-encrusted batting gloves given to her late husband by a grateful British government, but I had to drop out long before the $400,000 for which they eventually went.

Other fabulous items that I was fortunate to get a glimpse of included the very sunglasses in which Franklin D Roosevelt umpired the only game of cricket he is known to have attended, a solid crystal set of bails, and a cricket bat made in Russia, which looks quite ordinary at first sight but turns out on inspection to contain a bug, or listening device, to overhear confidential conferences at the crease!

yours, etc.

From Mr Reginald "Arkers" Arkwright

Sir, I can vouch for the truth of the above testimonial. I was for a while on the staff of the White House in Washington in the early 1960s, and got to know Mrs Kennedy as well as a lackey can hope to (I was the British under-butler). Because I was British, she assumed I would know the latest cricketing results, and would often say to me in the corridor as we passed, "Well, Arkwright, do you think Warwickshire can hold out for another day against Surrey's pace attack?" or "I see those Bedser boys have been at it again, eh, Arkwright?"

During the Cuban missile crisis, while the rest of the world was trembling on the brink of nuclear destruction, her main preoccupation was with Lancashire's perpetually poor showing against Yorkshire. Of course, she never let any of this be known to anyone else, least of all her husband, who had enough worries on his plate already.

I wonder if the New York auction of her effects included the lucky six pebbles which she always carried round, hoping against hope to be spontaneously invited to umpire at a match? She never was, of course.

yours, etc.

From Mr George "Stassers" Stassinopolos

Sir, May I correct the impression given by the last writer? The late Mrs Onassis did on at least one occasion umpire, albeit briefly, at a cricket match. I know, because I was there.

This took place on board an oil tanker owned by the late Aristotle Onassis, called the Aphrodite, on which I was a crew member. There was always a vast amount of empty deck space on these tankers, and the British and Indian crew members would sometimes get up an impromptu game of cricket to while away the hours, though we Greeks and Italians could only gaze in bafflement.

One day Mr and Mrs Onassis came to inspect the boat. Mr Onassis got very cross at the presence of some chalk markings on the deck, which he said was unjustified mess, but Mrs Onassis said: "Hold on! These are the markings of a cricket pitch! Someone has been playing cricket!" And the truth came out, and she insisted that the boys play a short game of cricket for her, and that she should umpire!

yours, etc.

From Mrs Shirley "Golders" Goldstein

Sir, In the later years of Mrs Onassis's life, or "Jackers" as she liked to be known, I was privileged to work as her under-pedicurist, and I can vouch for the fact that her interest in cricket was well rooted.

Sometimes she would sigh and say that modern fast bowling was killing the game, and that someone soon would get badly injured, and I would say nothing, for fear of bringing back memories of that far-off fateful day in Dallas, Texas. At other times she would smile ironically and say: "Golders, has it ever occurred to you that both the nationalities into which I have married are completely oblivious to cricket? First the Irish, who will only adopt a sport if it strongly resembles some kind of an ancient Fenian bar brawl, and then the Greeks, whose interest in sport waned two thousand years ago after inventing the Olympic Games. Golders, take a tip from me and never marry for money, but if you do, make sure it's an Australian or a West Indian!"

She would laugh if she knew that I eventually married an Englishman who was crazy about baseball.

yours, etc.

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