Full name Pelham Francis Warner
Born October 2, 1873, The Hall, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Died January 30, 1963, West Lavington, Sussex (aged 89 years 120 days)
Major teams England, Middlesex, Oxford University
Also known as Plum Warner
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm slow
Other Administrator, Journalist, Author
Education Rugby; Oriel College, Oxford
|Test debut||South Africa v England at Johannesburg, Feb 14-16, 1899 scorecard|
|Last Test||England v Australia at Lord's, Jun 24-26, 1912 scorecard|
|First-class span||1894 - 1920|
Sir Pelham Warner, known affectiontely as Plum Warner and the Grand Old Man of English cricket, died at West Lavington, near Midhurst, Sussex, on January 30, 1963. He was 89.
When I was a small boy my father purchased a secondhand copy of Cricket Across the Seas by P.F. Warner at the modest price of sixpence.
It was my first cricket book and I devoured every word of it; indeed I almost knew the book by heart. I imagined myself playing Bridge with F.L. Fane on the voyage out to New Zealand -- the book was an account of the tour of Lord Hawke's team in New Zealand and Australia -- I enjoyed the scenery and I was horrified by A.D. Whatman, one of the wicketkeepers of the team, being so engrossed in a book The Three Years' War by Christian de Wet during the match against Otago that he did not watch the cricket at all.
A wicket fell, and a companion nudged the bookworm, appraising him of the fact. He sauntered into the pavilion, padded up -- and returned to his book. Another wicket fell, another nudge, and Whatman strolled out to the wicket. He played the first ball, but no doubt still thinking of the book he played all over the second one and there was a crash of timber. The book had won! I never forgave Whatman for that episode.
I had entered a new world, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that I was destined to spend well over thirty supremely happy years in the closest possible contact with the author as his assistant on The Cricketer.
In the 1921 Wisden Sydney Pardon wrote "There have been many greater cricketers than Pelham Warner but none more devoted to the game. Nothing has ever damped his enthusiasm. Whether winning or losing he has always been the same."
With that verdict I imagine few, if any, students of the game will disagree, but in his prime, and in good health, Pelham Warner was a very fine batsman indeed as his record, especially against the redoubtable Yorkshire XIs of his era, testifies.
Pelham Francis Warner was born on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies on October 2, 1873, and he died on January 30, 1963. His father, Charles William Warner, C.B., for many years Attorney General of Trinidad, was born two days before the battle of Trafalgar so father and son between them saw warships develop from the three deckers of Nelson's time to the present day atomic submarine -- an astounding thought.
Excluding the handicap of ill health Sir Pelham had a remarkably happy life and received virtually every honour the game has to offer, on and off the field.
He often used to relate that his first recollections of cricket were of batting on a marble gallery at his home, The Hall, Port of Spain, Trinidad, to the bowling of a black boy who rejoiced in the name of Killebree (Humming Bird). At thirteen and a half he came to England, but before that he had three years at Harrison College, Barbados, and at thirteen had gained a place in the first XI.
On May 20, 1887, he paid his first visit to Lord's to see M.C.C. play Sussex. On August Bank Holiday he saw The Oval for the first time, and the following month he entered Whitelaw's House at Rugby where he was in the XI for four years, being captain in 1892. He had the good fortune to be coached by that amusing character Tom Emmett, who taught him to play back in the right way and how to attack the half volley, saying "if you come to her, come. You may as well be stumped by two feet as by one inch."
Sir Pelham never tired of recalling his Rugby days, and so, vividly did he portray his contemporaries that I almost felt that l knew them personally, particularly a certain Sam Slater, a useful bowler, who laughed his way through five years at Rugby. It was at Rugby that Pelham developed into Plum.
Going up to Oxford, where he was at Oriel, he did not get his Blue until his third year when his captain, G.J. Mordaunt, said to him: "Plum, I think you would look very nice in a dark blue cap." Influenza had interfered with his prospects during his first two summers.
He was not particularly successful in his two University matches, making 22 and 4 in 1895, and 10 and 17 in 1896, being run out in each innings. The 1896 match was memorable for Cambridge giving away 12 extras to prevent Oxford following on (compulsory in those days) and for G.O. Smith's superb 132 which enabled Oxford to make 330 for six and win by four wickets.
It was in 1894 that Sir Pelham made his debut for Middlesex, playing against Somerset at Taunton on August 6, 7 and 8. He scored 6 and 4 and Middlesex won an exciting game by 19 runs. Curiously enough his last innings against Somerset at Taunton was also 6. His next match was against Gloucestershire and W.G. arrived on the ground wearing a morning coat over white flannel trousers and a black hat, half topper and half bowler -- a wonderful sartorial effort.
Sir Pelham took his Bar final examination in 1896, and in subsequent years he often stated in his speeches that "I am by courtesy my learned friend." It was one of my great privileges to lunch with him on numerous occasions in the Inner Temple and to be fascinated by the brilliant conversation.
The whole course of his life was altered by Lord Hawke's invitation to tour the West Indies, and on January 13, 1897, he began the first of many journeys across the seas. As it happened the opening match was against Trinidad and he had the distinction of scoring 119, the first hundred that had ever been scored in the Island in an important match. Scores of black men rushed across the ground at the end of his innings shouting out "I taught you, Mr. Pelham. You play well, Sir; we are proud of you."
On his return from the West Indies, he made his first hundred in a first-class match at his beloved Lord's -- 108 not out against Yorkshire. This was the first of many fine innings against Yorkshire, and he was justifiably proud of his record against that county; indeed he rarely failed against them as a perusal of the records will show.
Furthermore, he had a sincere affection for many of the Yorkshire players, particularly Hirst and Haigh, who were inseparable friends. David Hunter, the old Yorkshire wicketkeeper, paid him a splendid compliment when he said "Ah, Mr. Warner, you play Wilfred (Rhodes) better than anyone else." This remark was made when Sir Pelham was batting against Yorkshire on a very false wicket at Bradford. He scored 48 in a total of 87.
Sir Pelham owed a great deal to Lord Hawke and he had an intense admiration and affection for The Baron, whose "Is it quite the same Plum who left us in September? Has England discovered a great leader?" uttered after the triumphant 1903-04 tour, had a lifelong influence on him. As Sir Pelham wrote in Long Innings, flattery like this is intoxicating wine. I well remember his grief when he learnt of Lord Hawke's death.
The visit to the West Indies with Lord Hawke's team had infected him with the travel bug and in 1897, at the age of 23, he took a side to America. It was on this tour that he first met J.B. King who was the first of the right arm in-swing bowlers and one of the greatest bowlers of all time. It was also on this tour that the following verses appeared in a long poem about the team:
At one end stocky Jessop frowned
The human catapult
Who wrecks the roofs of distant towns
When set in his assault
His mate was that perplexing man
We know as Looshun Gore
It isn't spelt at all that way
We don't know what it's for
In the spring of 1898 he toured Portugal with T. Westray's side. At the end of the season he led another team to America and included Canada, and in December sailed for South Africa as a member of Lord Hawke's team, scoring 132 not out in the first Test match at Johannesburg.
Back from South Africa, and feeling very fit, he played one of the finest innings of his life when he scored 150 against Yorkshire at Lord's and by now had established himself as one of the leading batsmen in the country.
He more than maintained his improved form in the 1900 season which he began with 83 and 69 for M.C.C. against Yorkshire, 114 for Middlesex against Sussex and 146 for Middlesex against Lancashire. In this match a nasty blow on the left shin from Mold kept him out of cricket for the next three weeks, and when he went to play for the touring West Indies side against Leicestershire, incidentally making 113, a ball from Woodcock, almost as fast as Mold, struck him on his injured shin and he was laid up once more.
But for these injuries he would almost certainly have played for the Gentlemen v. Players at Lord's. As it was he scored five centuries for Middlesex and in 18 matches for the county made 1,335 runs, average 44.50. Wisden enthused over his skill in playing fast bowling.
In 1901 Sir Pelham was chosen for the Gentlemen at Lord's and a successful début it was. He helped C.B. Fry to put on 105 in the first innings for the opening partnership, and in the second innings his 48 was top score for the Gentlemen.
He was a great advocate for the retention of Gentlemen v. Players and in his preface to Gentlemen v. Players, 1806-1949 he wrote "I am indeed fortunate to have lived to attempt to give some sort of history of an historic match which began long before Test matches were dreamed of, and which I pray, and believe, will never die out." Mercifully he died the day before the decision was made to call all players cricketers which, of course, meant the termination of the historic match.
The year 1902 saw Sir Pelham once more on his travels, this time as captain of Lord Hawke's team to New Zealand and Australia, Lord Hawke himself being unable to go at the last minute owing to the illness of his mother.
This tour, although in many ways only of minor importance -- many of the New Zealand matches being against odds -- was destined to have a far-reaching and historic influence on the future of cricket. While the team were playing in Australia at the conclusion of the New Zealand fixtures it was suggested that he should bring out the next side to Australia (it was the custom in those days for tours to be privately organised). He replied "Ask the M.C.C. They are the proper body." And thus it came about that the M.C.C. took over the organisation of official overseas tours.
When it was announced that Sir Pelham had been appointed captain of the first M.C.C. touring team, F.S. Jackson having stated that he was not available, there was considerable criticism as at the time he had not played in a Test match in England, and A.C. MacLaren was considered by many as the only possible choice.
However, all was well in the end, and although MacLaren, Fry, Ranji and Jackson were not available, all the best professionals were able to accept and Sir Pelham had the assistance of the following players: R.E. Foster, B.J.T. Bosanquet, A.A. Lilley, G.H. Hirst, T. Hayward, W. Rhodes, L.C. Braund, J.T. Tyldesley, H. Strudwick, E.G. Arnold, A.E. Relf, A. Fielder and A.E. Knight. One well-known critic of the time wrote that "when they return beaten five-love they will be more than ever the laughing stock of cricketing England."
Contrary to this critic's doleful prediction England won the rubber 3-2, Bosanquet's googlies playing a prominent part in the success. Clem Hill went so far as to state that if England had not had Bosanquet Australia would have won the rubber.
In the fourth Test, which decided the fate of the Ashes, Bosanquet had a second innings analysis of six for 51. Apart from captaining the side with the greatest possible skill, Sir Pelham played his part well as a batsman, helping Hayward in opening stands of 122 at Melbourne and 148 at Adelaide.
On his return from Australia he was honoured with a place on the M.C.C. committee, and a year later he was appointed captain of the first M.C.C. side to tour South Africa.
It was a good, but by no means a representative team and South Africa won 4-1 after a titanic struggle in the first Test at Johannesburg where South Africa triumphed by one wicket and beat England for the first time in a Test match. To his dying day I do not think he ever quite forgave that most accurate of bowlers, A.E. Relf, for sending down a full toss to leg to P.W. Sherwell when the scores were level.
South Africa had a wonderful array of googly bowlers at that time -- R.O. Schwarz, G.A. Faulkner, A.E. Vogler and G.C. White -- and Sir Pelham, as he frankly admitted, was unable to cope with them on the matting wickets.
Back in England, he soon regained his best form, and the following season, the very wet one of 1907, found him missing top place in the averages by only a fraction, C.B. Fry making 1449 runs, average 46.74 against his 1891 runs, average 46.12.
He considered the best innings he ever played on a good wicket was his 149 against Surrey at The Oval that season, the opposing bowlers being N.A. Knox, W. Lees, J.N. Crawford and T. Rushby. At lunch on the first day he was 115 not out. He and J. Douglas put on 232 for the first wicket in two and a half hours!
He succeeded G. MacGregor in the captaincy of the Middlesex side in 1908 and held the position until his retirement at the end of the 1920 season.
The summer of 1908 was an outstanding one for him, his Middlesex record being 1,298 runs, average 54.08, including five centuries, but perhaps his greatest performance that year was his 64 not out in a total of 95 for M.C.C. on a sticky wicket against a Yorkshire attack consisting of Hirst, Rhodes, Haigh and Newstead. He considered this his best innings on a bad wicket, and M.C.C. evidently concurred as they presented him with two bats in appreciation.
Duodenal trouble worried him during the 1909 summer, but he was selected for the Old Trafford Test against Australia -- his first Test in England -- and scored 9 and 25 in a drawn game which was played on a slow wicket.
The summers of 1910 and 1911 were fine ones for Sir Pelham who in the latter year not only scored over 2,000 runs for the first time in his life, but when playing for England against the Champion County, Warwickshire, reached the highest score of his career, 244. He hit thirty-five 4's and batted for five hours and twenty minutes.
This great innings was the prelude to his second visit to Australia as captain of an M.C.C. team. This time he had with him J.W.H.T. Douglas, F.R. Foster, W. Rhodes, J.B. Hobbs, H. Strudwick, J.W. Hitch, S.P. Kinneir, E.J. Smith, G. Gunn, J. Iremonger, S.F. Barnes, C.P. Mead, J. Vine, F.E. Woolley and J.W. Hearne. Five of the team were under 25 when they left England and Hitch was only four months over that age.
In the first match of the tour against South Australia he scored 151, but it was, alas, the only innings he played on the tour as he was struck down by a serious illness. England won the series 4-1 with what many people consider the strongest side that has ever visited Australia. Douglas took over the captaincy, but from his sick bed Sir Pelham had considerable influence on the strategy of the campaign.
He had recovered sufficiently from his illness to begin playing in 1912, and on May 23 he scored 126 for the M.C.C. Australian Touring XI against The Rest of England, at Lord's. The Rest, strongly represented, were defeated by an innings and 10 runs which confirmed the strength of the touring side.
His early good form gained him a place in the England XIs which met Australia and South Africa in the Lord's Tests -- it was the Triangular Tournament season -- but the exertion of his early successes was too much for him, and before the end of June he dropped out of cricket for the rest of the season.
He was able to play fairly regularly in 1913, making 987 runs for Middlesex with an average of 41.12. The county would probably have won the County Championship in 1914 if war had not been declared on August 4. He made no big score that season, but Wisden said that he played very well in several matches.
During the Great War he served with the Inns of Court, spent some time at the War Office with the rank of Captain attached General Staff and then in 1916 went into the King Edward VII Hospital for Officers for an operation. After six month's sick leave he served with Col. John Buchan in the Department of Information at the Foreign Office. Another six months and he was again very ill and on March 21, 1918, he had to resign his commission on account of his health.
When county cricket was resumed in 1919 he was then 45 and found the hours of play, 11.30 to 7.30 on the first day, and 11 to 7.30 on the second, too much for him and, as he put it, by the middle of July he was a dead dog and he seriously thought of resigning the Middlesex captaincy, but A.J. Webbe, for whom he had great admiration, persuaded him to continue, and as events proved 1920 was to be his annus mirabilis.
At the beginning of the season Middlesex were not rated as very serious contenders for the Championship, and by the end of July were apparently out of the running, but, beginning with the Sussex match at Hove on July 31, they won their last nine matches and the Championship was theirs. Two of the matches were desperately close affairs, Kent being beaten at Canterbury by 5 runs and Yorkshire at Bradford by 4 runs. Surrey were due at Lord's on August 28, 30 and 31, and it was necessary for Middlesex to win to finish as Champions.
It was only after a tremendous struggle that Middlesex succeeded by 55 runs. C.H.L. Skeet and H.W. Lee scored hundreds for the winners, and G.T.S. Stevens, then only l9, had a grand match with scores of 53 and 21 not out and five wickets for 61 in Surrey's second innings.
But Sir Pelham himself had a rare triumph. He batted for nearly four and a half hours to make 79, top score in the first innings when matters were going none too well for his county, and in his very last innings for Middlesex at Lord's he was 14 not out when he declared, leaving Surrey to make 244 in three hours and seven minutes. Valuable as his batting was, and especially in this match, it was, to quote Wisden once again his skill as a captain that made his final season memorable.
During the whole of his first-class career Sir Pelham scored 29,028 runs with an average of 36.28. He hit sixty centuries and exceeded 1,000 runs in fourteen seasons.
His retirement from first-class cricket did not mean the end of his touring. In 1926-27 he led the M.C.C. team which visited South America, playing seven matches in the Argentine, one at Montevideo, one at Valparaiso and one at Lima.
The team included Lord Dunglass, later Lord Home and now, as I write, Sir Alec Douglas Home, Prime Minister, and created a tremendous amount of good will. The matches were reported in the South American press, one account saying that the veteran captain was eliminado at slip. As he was fond of saying, there was no disputing that dismissal. A year later he captained M.C.C. for the last time on an overseas tour, taking a strong side to Holland. It was the jubilee of The Hague club, founded in 1878.
In 1932-33 he went to Australia as joint manager with R.C.N. Palairet of the M.C.C. team captained by D.R. Jardine. Bodyline cast a shadow over the tour. He was completely opposed to this type of bowling; indeed he had objected to it as long ago as 1910 when W.B. Burns bowled it for a few overs for Worcestershire against Middlesex at Lord's, but he never allowed his opposition to interfere with his admiration for Jardine as a man and as a leader.
History has of course proved that Sir Pelham was right, and in 1937 his outstanding services to cricket, both on and off the field, were recognised by a knighthood.
Shortly before the Second World War started he went to Denmark with an M.C.C. team captained by G.C. Newman, but as he was nearly 66 he naturally took no active part in the cricket.
It has already been stated that he was honoured with a place on the M.C.C. committee in April 1904. He served on and off for virtually the rest of his life.
In 1926 he was appointed Chairman of the Selection committee composed of P. Perrin and A.E.R. Gilligan in addition to himself, and to his great delight England regained the Ashes after their memorable win in the fifth Test at The Oval.
He was appointed chairman again in 1931, the two other members of the committee being P. Perrin and T.A. Higson. I suppose it would be difficult to think of three men who were so dissimilar in character yet they worked splendidly together even if Higson occasionally let fly, and they built up the fine team which won 4-1 in Australia in 1932-33.
Sir Pelham was also chairman of the Selectors in 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938. The South Africans were here in 1935, and for the first time they succeeded in winning a Test match in England, defeating us at Lord's by 157 runs. Sir Pelham that year again had the assistance of Perrin and Higson, with R.E.S. Wyatt, who was appointed captain, co-opted.
The selection of the England team for the Lord's Test produced the longest Selection Committee meeting of Sir Pelham's long experience. He, Perrin and Higson wanted to play R.W.V. Robins; Wyatt was emphatic in urging T.B. Mitchell of Derbyshire. After an all-day sitting the Selectors with great reluctance gave way to Wyatt and Mitchell played. In a comparatively low scoring match he bowled 53 overs for 164 runs and took only three wickets. It took Sir Pelham a long time to get over that match -- if he ever did.
During the Second World War he was appointed Deputy Secretary of M.C.C. He threw himself heart and soul into his work and before long was arranging splendid matches for a harassed public who responded nobly, eagerly seizing the opportunity of seeing some of their favourites playing once again.
He retired from his secretarial duties at Lord's in September, 1945 and two years later he sailed with G.O. Allen's M.C.C. side to the West Indies. I do not think it is any secret that some of the younger members of the team were a little apprehensive about having an elderly gentleman touring with them. But his tact, courtly charm and old world manners soon put everyone at their ease, and when the tour was over the players said how pleased they were to have had him with them.
He told me he was fearful that the great honour of being President of M.C.C. might elude him for as he often said "I'm a delicate old dog and will not be here much longer." It is therefore not difficult to picture his delight, and relief, when on May 3, 1950, he was nominated President by H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh.
In point of fact His Royal Highness was unable to be present, and Lord Cornwallis, President in 1947, presided in his absence. When he began to make the announcement he got no farther than "Sir Pel--" when there was an unprecedented scene, the cheering which followed lasting for several minutes. It was indeed an unforgettable moment.
He was 76 years and seven months old when he was nominated, and only one older man has been made President -- Stanley Christopherson who beat Sir Pelham by a year. He had been President of Middlesex from 1937 to 1946.
In 1950 he was Chairman of the Committee which selected F.R. Brown's team to tour Australia that winter, and three years later, in November, 1953, the M.C.C. gave a dinner in the Long Room to celebrate his 80th birthday. In 1958 a new grandstand built at Lord's was named after him. There was still one final honour to come to him. In May 1961 he became the first life Vice President of M.C.C.
When Lord Hawke took a team to the West Indies in 1897 he was asked by H.V.L. Stanton (Wanderer of The Sportsman) if he could arrange for somebody to send back accounts of the matches to be played by his team. Lord Hawke turned to Sir Pelham and said "Plummy, you're last from school. Why shouldn't you do it?" He did and that began his career as one of the outstanding writers on the game.
Sir Pelham in fact provided the account of that tour for the Wisden of 1898 and in 1911 he contributed a short article for the Almanack entitled Our Young Cricketers. His Twilight Reflections, which appeared in the 1955 Wisden, was an extensive survey of the game as well as a critical analysis which contained much advice on problems which still confront us.
During his long life he wrote, or edited, the following books: Cricket in Many Climes, Cricket Across the Seas, How we recovered the Ashes, With M.C.C. in South Africa, England v. Australia (1911-12 Tour), Cricket Reminiscences, Boys' Book of Outdoor Games and Pastimes. (With others), Imperial Cricket, Book of Cricket. (Numerous editions), Cricket (Badminton Library, revised edition, 1920, with others), Story of the Ashes (Morning Post, 1920), My Cricketing Life, Fight for the Ashes 1926, Oxford and Cambridge at the Wicket (With F.S. Ashley-Cooper), Cricket Between Two Wars, Fight for the Ashes 1930, Lord's 1787-1945, Gentlemen v. Players 1806-1949, and Long Innings. He was also Cricket Correspondent for the Westminster Gazette, The Morning Post and The Daily Telegraph.
With his first-class career over, he became Editor of The Cricketer when the magazine was founded in 1921, and retained that position until 1962 when he was succeeded by his son, John Warner. I think it is correct to state that when he was appointed it was thought he would be largely a figurehead, but on the contrary he threw himself wholeheartedly into his duties and maintained his enthusiastic interest in the magazine until his death.
In the earlier years he wrote many articles for The Cricketer. Often we would discuss a topic, and I would then rough it out. After that we had a session in which we would endeavour to add polish. It was great fun, and I spent many hours with him on this kind of work.
From 1921 to 1932 he wrote regularly for The Morning Post. Early in 1933, under the strain of the Bodyline controversy, he cabled the paper and certainly, but quite unwittingly, gave the Editor, H.A. Gwynne, and the Sports Editor, Tom Hodder, the impression that he did not wish to continue as their Cricket Correspondent. There was little time for The Morning Post to find another correspondent and they could hardly be blamed for appointing R.C. Robertson-Glasgow -- an excellent choice.
Subsequently, Sir Pelham explained that the cable had been misinterpreted, but by then it was too late as The Morning Post had committed themselves with Mr. Robertson-Glasgow. Happily the matter ended with Mr. Gwynne and Sir Pelham still the best of friends.
As a result of this unfortunate misunderstanding Sir Pelham was invited to write for The Daily Telegraph, and after all these years it may not be out of place to state that he was rather less happy with The Telegraph than The Post.
Possibly they did not quite understand his approach to the game he loved so dearly. For example, when he wrote about Bowes they altered his copy to the bespectacled Bowes, and when Bradman was mobbed by girls at Worcester he received a wire. "Send 500 words Bradman and the girls." It would be difficult to imagine anyone less suited to write a story of that nature. He thought the whole thing was a joke, put the wire in his pocket, and took no action.
As my boyhood was spent in Sussex I saw very little of Sir Pelham as an active player, and my only real recollection is of seeing him lead Middlesex on to the field at Hove, wearing of course a Harlequin cap which he renewed every two years.
As the years passed I got to know him most intimately and to my dying day I shall treasure memories of his great encouragement and countless kindnesses to me. His one fault was that he was for too generous with his praise. Thirty years ago the use of Christian and nicknames was not nearly so common as it is today and therefore I shall always remember with pride the day when he said "Why don't you call me by my cognomen?"
Until the outbreak of war he visited The Cricketer office virtually every morning. His visits did on occasion interfere with work as he delighted in discussing the previous day's play, and if he had been to a show overnight he was quite capable of giving more or less word for word what Harry Lauder, for example, had said at the Palladium -- Scottish accent and all.
He was, too, very fond of Western films and I can hear him saying, with a twinkle in his eyes, "Stick 'em up, Baby." He was no mean mimic, and he was especially good at imitating Lord Harris, who had a habit of stroking his cheek when a difficult point was being discussed in committee "We--ll, Warner, there may be something in what you say."
He loved animals, and on one occasion he thought he was paying our then secretary a great compliment when he told her she had eyes just like his spaniel's. She was not amused.
It is, I know, only stating the obvious to say that cricket predominated in Sir Pelham's thoughts, but he was a great patriot, believing passionately in the British way of life and had made a study of Naval and Military history. He delighted in listening to Service debates at Westminster, and one of the happiest experiences of his life was when Admiral Jellicoe asked him to take passage with him in H.M.S. New Zealand to Egypt at the beginning of 1919.
But, of course, cricket always came first, and I think this story told to me by Lady Warner was typical of his devotion to the game. Some years ago they, with some friends, were admiring the beauties of a charming little French church. Suddenly, Sir Pelham left the party by the altar and strode off down the aisle towards the West door with a rather grim expression on his face. When he rejoined the party Lady Warner said to him "Whatever is the matter, Pelham?" (She never called him Plum.) "Oh, nothing, it is just as I thought, the length of a cricket pitch."
He had a great admiration for youth, and he was a remarkably fine judge of a young player, which reminds me of an argument he had with his old friend, the one and only Gerry Weigell, at the Folkestone Festival many years ago.
Weigall contended, perhaps with a good deal of reason, that Middlesex were unduly favoured by having the pick of young players at Lord's without any expense to themselves, while Kent had to pay wages to any young cricketer while he was qualifying. To bring home his points Weigall would take off the inevitable straw hat and bang it with his fist before putting it on again. This happened many times as the argument developed to the delight of the rest of us at the tea table.
At the end of it all Sir Pelham said, almost with tears in his eyes, "I can see, my dear Gerry, that you don't want Middlesex to have any young players at all."
And now a recollection of one of the most entertaining two hours I have ever had in my life. I was at Sir Pelham's flat and just as I was leaving he said "Don't go, Charlo (C.B. Fry) is coming."
Well, Fry arrived and for the next two hours I was spellbound. He never ceased talking, he took off his jacket, he played imaginary strokes, he danced about the room, in fact he did everything. Every now and again Sir Pelham tried to get a word in, but every time he did Fry held up his hand in an imperious manner and said "Plum, be quiet" and off he went again. It was all highly entertaining.
The following morning when Sir Pelham came to The Cricketer office he said in a most doleful manner "Do you know Charlo spoke for forty-five minutes last night before he would let me get a word in," which when one comes to think of it was no mean feat as Sir Pelham was a great talker himself.
On June 7, 1904, he married Agnes Blyth, by whom he had two sons and a daughter, at the Parish Church of St. Marylebone. Lord Hawke was best man, and Field Marshal Lord Roberts signed the register. (Subsequently he was an enthusiastic supporter of Lord Roberts' campaign for National Service.) Many years later as a result of frequent visits to the Warner home I got to know Lady Warner extremely well -- and the better I knew her the more I admired her. For the last ten years of her life she was a chronic invalid, being confined to her bed for long periods at a time, but never once did I hear her grumble, and she maintained the keenest possible interest in the events of the day. She was a remarkably brave and patient woman, and I can see her now lying in bed and watching the television, preferably a sporting event. She was a fine judge of cricket, and did not W. H. Patterson once say, "If you cannot have Warner on the Selection Committee you should ask his wife."
She was present at the famous Eton and Harrow match of 1910 -- Fowler's match -- and with Eton apparently well beaten she turned to a friend and said, "I shall not send my boy to Eton as they cannot play cricket," and then left Lord's for her home in Kent as the end seemed so near. When she reached Caring she found a telegram awaiting her: "Better send him Eton won by nine runs." On another occasion she told me how she used to amuse Sir Pelham when he was recovering from his serious illness in Australia by picking up odd Wisdens and asking him what he had scored in a particular match. Almost invariably he answered correctly.
On Friday March 8, 1963, his ashes were scattered at Lord's near the Warner stand close to the spot where he had hit his first four for Rugby v Marlborough in 1889. It was my very great privilege to be present on a most impressive occasion. The wind blew hard during the ceremony, but the sun was shining. Directly we returned to the pavilion it poured with rain. I couldn't help thinking dear old Plum had been favoured to the very end.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Knighted for services to cricket 1937
Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1904, 1921
What makes this innocuous-seeming bowler so difficult to handle?
What makes this innocuous-seeming bowler so difficult to handle?