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Charles Thursby salutes a Fleet Street great

Back in the Dark Ages of the 20th Century, simply for our own enjoyment, some pals and I spent a proportion of our leisure time producing nakedly self-indulgent sports magazines – the first devoted exclusively to boxing and the second attempting to broaden our unique approach to all sports that took our fancy.

Originally out of slim bravado, we used to send editions of both to Frank Keating (1937-2013), the idiosyncratic and much-loved contributor on all matters sporting at The Guardian newspaper. Though this practice could hardly justify a claim of close friendship with the great man, he always responded positively to our contacts and indeed on more than one occasion actively sought to promote our cause.

Today, in heralding a new collection of Frank’s articles [The Highlights: The Best of Frank Keating, edited by Matthew Engel, published by Guardian Faber at £17.99] the website of The Guardian features a Keating article on the England Bodyline fast bowler Harold Larwood, first published in the newspaper on 24 April 1993.


Two thoughts sprang to my mind upon reading it.

The first was that, for all the nostalgia and whimsy that characterised Keating’s work, it was always insightful and firmly grounded in journalistic research and knowledge. He was no mere performing seal who ‘did a turn’ to order, in return for a silver fish – or rather, money.

The second was that I think I’ve made a historical discovery. If you look at the team photograph illustrating this piece carefully again, Larwood looks – to me at least – an absolute dead-ringer for T.E. Lawrence [Lawrence of Arabia].

Could it be possible that, during Lawrence’s ‘wilderness years’ before he re-emerged as Aircraftman John Hume Ross in the 1930s, he continued to serve his country – under a different assumed name – by taking the cricket fight to the Aussies?



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About Charles Thursby

After a lifetime in sports journalism, Charles Thursby continues his immersion in the world of sport by providing the National Rust with dispatches from all points of the compass. More Posts