Saturday, 23 April 2011

By George

So what is it with George? He may be England's national saint and chief dragon slayer but very few famous Georges seem to come from England.  George Best - George Gershwin - George Clooney - George Bush sen and jun - George Lucas.  A quality team of foreigners.  Who have England on the home team? The Hanoverian Georges count as foreigners for the purpose of this analysis. Which leaves little beyond George Michael and George Harrison.  Wake me up before you go-go, Hari Rama.

As for cricketers called George?  Few and far between - former Scottish skipper George Salmond, W Indian great George Headley and that is about as many as FB can bring to mind.

St Andrew -
founder of a great golf course
Compare with Scotland's national saint Andrew - every second famous Scot seems to be called Andrew or Andy - Murray, Fleming, Gray, Stewart, Marr, Grieg, Flower, Strauss - OK not Flower and not Strauss - but you get the point.

It's not really clear why George became the patron saint of England.  He never visited - he was a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Emperor Diocletian who executed him for his Christian faith in 303 AD.  One tale is that his body was cut into 365 pieces and each piece taken to a different location in Georgia where a shrine was erected.  There are exactly 365 Orthodox Churches of St George in Georgia.  None of these was in England.  It is thought that it was the crusaders who took a fancy to the flag and draped themselves in it to ensure safe passage and brought it back to England.  Just as many later travellers brought stuffed donkeys back from Majorca.  He was eventually nominated for the big job when the Synod of Oxford, 1222 declared St. George's Day a feast day in the kingdom of England.  He is a pretty busy saint though because alongside England he has to protect  Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, India, Iraq, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Serbia and Russia. Where does he get time for dragon slaying?
But there are 3 great English Georges - George Eliot, George Orwell, and George Butterworth.  Not cricketers but quintessential English none the less.  But of course George Orwell wasn't really George, his real name was Eric Blair who played some cricket at St Cyprian's prep school and at Eton which may explain his most celebrated line - All batsmen are equal but some are more equal than others.  And George Eliot wasn't George either, in fact he was a she - Mary Ann Evans and FB has been unable to find any record of her turning her arm over. 

George Butterworth
But Butterworth was properly George and so must be England's greatest George.  For those not familiar with him, he was a collector of folk songs and had the seeds of great music in him.  He was killed in the First World War at the age of 31 having been awarded the Military Cross twice.  So although there is no record of his cricketing experience, FB is sure he would have stood up to the short stuff.  What more could have come from him had the war spared him?  For FB Butterworth's Banks of Green Willow is the piece of music that best conjures up those classic images of English countryside - the countryside in which cricket was born.  Enjoy.
Action photo of dragon slaying
by Peter Paul Rubens


  1. Not forgetting George Stubbs, the great equestrian painter - though as far as I know, there is no record of him playing cricket either.

  2. As you revealled by your references to George's Orwel and Eliot, names can be deceptive. I think the adoption of "Roman George" as patron saint simply reveals the "English" love of diversity and the rich tapestry it creates.

    Consider this: Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior, Jonathan Trott, KP Pietersen, Craig Kieswetter all born in South Africa. Diversifying further TR Ambrose(Austraila, Vikram Solanki(India), Amjad Khan(Denmark), Owais Shah(India), Geraint Jones(Papa New Guinea). None of the following were born to english parents: Dimitri Mascarenhas, Adil Rashid, Monty Panesar, Sajid Mahmod, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel. Even Jimmy Anderson with his Burnley roots is made to feel welcome.

    With that as a backdrop why would anyone be suprised by the adoption of a Roman as patron saint, especially one who comes with the impressive reputation of dragon slayer(sounds like a man to bat at 4 to me).

    Of course not all nations embrace heterogeneity as fully, a recent diversity campaign in Middle America for "Kung Po Chicken for Thanksgiving" caused riot in Lebanon, Smith County, Kansas.

  3. Silly Point - indeed Stubbs has a good claim on the title.

    Barnacle - FB has always applauded the multi-culturalism you describe as the diverse accents of the Carlton 4th XI regularly demonstrate. However as far as he knows the team has yet to extend the hand of friendship to Burnley.

  4. The topic of diversity returned to the forefront of my mind yesterday as Carlton 3's met at the club before heading for our game with Dunfermline. I reflected on the recent news that Steven Davies of Surrey & England was the most recent in a long line of famous sportsmen to come out. Rightfully he received the full and unreserved support from senior figures in cricket and his fellow team mates.

    What I saw, when I arrived was at Grange Loan, was uplifting, a public demonstration of support from our first XI. Sporting their new specially selected Powder Blue first XI caps it's a symbolic gesture that will resonate through the offices of Gay Pride. "It's the best advertising we've had since Elton dressed as Marie Antoinette for his tour of Australia in 1977" said a spokesperson. Eat your heart out Mr John......and congratulations to first for showing such solidarity.

    This is a ripple that needs to propagate through the entire club. I plan to write a letter and ask the money men to dig deep into the Carlton coffers and purchase special caps for the other three teams in support of this excellent cause. To speed up this process I managed to wrestle Mrs B's Dulux Colour Palette from her bedside reading material and I think there are obvious choices "Candy Love" Pink for the 2's, "Crushed Pine" Green for the 3's and "Heather Bloom" Purple for the 4's.

    The one question that remains is "will Freddie Mercury like moustaches also be mandatory?" Right now only President Carter is in possession of sufficient facial hair to pull it off. It may also create selection problems given the number of Juniors who turn out each week but I can steal some shorn hair from Norman my barber and with the aid of superglue give mother nature a helping hand. Are you will me FB? Something of this magnitude needs your support.