Recently I read Sir Henry Leveson Gower’s autobiography On and Off the Field.
Leveson Gower – pronounced “Loosen Gore” (and not hyphenated), which confuses everybody and not just Americans – was captain of Surrey 1908-10 and had a long association with the club. I borrowed the book from The Oval’s library, a 1953 first edition with a Surrey County Cricket Club stamp on the inside cover dated 22 May 1953. It’s possible that it was presented to the club by the author himself.
Chapter 23 is devoted to a tour to Portugal in April 1934. Sir Henry wrote, “The cricket in Portugal was quite good, and gave much pleasure to all of us who played as well as to the spectators. But we found many other interests in the country as well, especially in historical Oporto area where the worlds best port wines are produced. Under a treaty of 1916 with Portugal, the United Kingdom only admits as port the wine actually shipped over the bar at Oporto.”
He also describes a visit to the Factory House, a private club in Porto with a strong British influence, not least the Port shippers and families with British origins such as Cockburn, Croft, Taylor-Fladgate, Forrester, Graham, Sandeman, Symington, and Warre. “It is a world of its own without parallel anywhere”, wrote Sir Henry, “and I hope it will always remain so and be kept sacrosanct in a foreign land as a token of something which has meant much to Britain and Britishers of the past great days.”
In a book that is very much of its time and of its author’s social status, full of stories about how wonderful Winchester and Oxford were in the 1890s and what a nice chap and cricketer the Hon so and so was, there are two excellent comic stories.
At the Scarborough festival one year, a strong gust of wind blew away not just a hat but also the wig of a distinguished lady visitor, which was chased across the playing field by a butler, carrying a silver salver in order to return the missing objects to their owner.
At another Scarborough festival Leveson Gower had to present some prizes at a show that was given in a park near the cricket ground. One event had been won by a lady and her prize was a pair of hairbrushes. As he presented the prize he said, “I hope you will find this gift of hairbrushes more useful than it would be to me”, alluding to his own baldness. A colleague quickly and discreetly pointed out that the lady wore a wig.