A Lord's credit roll
After the mention of Jim the MCC tea-maker in a recent column, here are some more Lord's characters of the 1970s - now, sadly, all working in the great pavilion in the sky.
Ben worked in the ticket office, like Jim, but was in charge of the lost property, spending ages on detailed descriptions of the misplaced items, including such gems as "found: one black man's umbrella", or "lost: one Aberdeen raincoat", after mishearing "Gabardine". Once a frightfully prosperous-looking MCC member ambled in to say he'd left his picnic hamper behind the day before. He described its contents - "a few smoked salmon rolls, bottle of port, some rather nice cut-glass tumblers" - but was floored when Ben announced: "Ah yes, I think it has been handed in. Does it have 'Liverpool FC' printed on the side?"
Upright and upstanding, museum assistant Edward had county cricket in his blood - "Father" had captained Northants - but his own ambitions in that area were rather stymied by the fact that, at some unspecified point, he'd lost an eye. Edward was prone to going off at a tangent, and once asked "Have you seen JT Hearne recently?" Since the great Middlesex and England bowler died in 1944 this seemed unlikely, but further enquiries revealed that he meant a painting of Hearne, which he was worried was languishing dusty and unloved in the bowels of the pavilion.
Harry the Hat
Talking of the bowels of the pavilion, Harry was a genial cleaner, who took everything in his stride - including the occasional incontinence of unwell members. Once, on being delicately informed that Mr So-and-So had had an accident, he said resignedly, "Never mind, he does that a lot." This time, though, the evidence had been trailed up the stairs and into the Long Room: "Oh, that is unusual," replied the imperturbable Harry, with the merest hint of a raised eyebrow, as he went off to fetch the mop.
Unrelated to the other Harry, this one was a gruff north Londoner who somehow found himself in charge of the staff canteen, where he would eye his workmates suspiciously and, if they dared not to polish off their platefuls completely, might ask, "What's the matter wiv that baked bean, 'as it got maggots in it?" But 'Arry got his marching orders one day after seeking to attract the attention of a balding senior staff member from an upstairs window by yelling "Oi, you wiv the sunshine roof!"
A senior steward, Alec was always immaculately turned out in a pinstripe suit - the effect only slightly lessened by the fact he was so short (under 5ft) and slight that there were only about one and a half pinstripes on each visible jacket panel. He made up for lack of stature with an impressively loud voice - people called by him would spin round, scanning the heavens for the giant with the foghorn voice, and gradually ratchet their gaze downwards, arriving at the diminutive source some time later. He was also a stalwart of the local Finchley Conservative party, who had a famous MP at the time. When Mark Thatcher played at Lord's for Harrow against Eton in 1971 (he got John Barclay out, since you ask), Alec apparently went in to the dressing room and barked "You don't know me - but I know your mother very well!"
Ticket office typist Helen was vaguely surprised when Alec and Eric Bedser, who were unknown to her, walked in one by one and sat in an office at the rear, then even more gobsmacked - after they briefly left while she was out for a minute - when they returned, separately again, so by her reckoning there were now four identical tall besuited gentlemen in the back room. She invented an excuse to go in and see how many there really were, and was obliged to make tea for two of the Bedser Quads.
This Alec, a long-serving groundsman, obviously had parents with a sense of humour, as his full monicker was "AC Gull". Perhaps his most important possession was a piece of seaweed which was said to be an infallible predictor of rain: on even cloud-free days the covers were surreptitiously made ready if the seaweed went clammy, which suggested a shower was in the offing.
A proud Scotsman who liked to celebrate Burns Night (and practise for it most other nights), Jock the nightwatchman had spent some time living rough before finding a steady job at Lord's. Sometimes he lapsed back into the language of the Glasgow streets, before apologising profusely for his profanity, unaware that most of his London-raised workmates didn't have a clue what he'd said anyway.
Stylish but scatty, Phyllis inadvertently caused a few problems in the accounts department after being left to do a huge pile of filing, and taking alphabetical order rather too literally. Thin files resulted for "A-S" and "U-Z", but "T" was bulging - everything that started with "The" had been filed in there.
One of the ground cleaners, Lawrence once reputedly locked an MCC bigwig in a coalhole after a particularly bibulous dinner, thinking he was an intruder. A proud West Indian with a neat line in patois, he would happily admit that he was born in Kingston - but, to avoid any trouble with the authorities, never let slip whether it was the one in Surrey or the capital of Jamaica.
This Edward was an earnest steward who attached himself to the Cross Arrows club matches which round off the season at Lord's each year. After playing himself in on the scoreboard, he volunteered to do the actual scoring - but eschewed the traditional scorebook in favour of a system he'd invented himself, called "Scriterform", the main drawback of which was that it was utterly impenetrable to everyone else. After being gently relieved of scoring duties he turned up at the annual dinner in evening dress, when everyone else was in a lounge suit, and spent the whole night fending off requests from people who thought he was the wine waiter.
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013