Yesterday I attended an auction of the Robin Marlar cricketing collection at the Boundary Rooms Hove Cricket Ground. Marlar, 84 years young, captained Sussex and was a figurehead in the revolution of 1997. He was an outspoken cricket correspondent and stood as candidate in full and bye elections. It was a treasure trove of books, photographs, scorecards, drawings and paintings.
The auctions I have attended tend to be those at the end of cricketing function where the MC adapts into an auctioneer so I had a long chat with Alice Mansfield first. If you are spending more than £1000, she advised, go to the viewing and do your research. Secondly, after you have done that, work out how far you will go and do not get carried way in the euphoria of bidding war. She gave me the example of one lot – a Spencer Gore watercolour of a cricketing scene. It was a sketch for bigger picture hanging in Wakefield and not the best of the Camden school leader’s work. Another difficulty she explained is provenance. One picture was “believed to be” by by William Burgess, i.e. the provenance was not established and this went for £10,000 from a reserve price of £800-1000.
The room was full and there was a definite atmosphere fuelled by those on mobiles conveying bids and internet bidding. The auctioneer Charlie Ross, resplendent in a MCC tie and plummy booming voice, is apparently well known and knew how to stimulate the room. There were over 400 lots and the bidding for small items such as books was tedious so he auctioned briskly.
I acquired a signed copy of a biography of Ranji and a commemoration of his nephew Duleep to assist my researches into the sub continent cricketers of Sussex. For Ivan,who is forever giving us gifts, I acquired a commemorative musical box in the shape of decanter and glasses set in a model vintage car with musical box, a delightfully kitsch object presented to Sussex bowler Ian Thomson when he was selected by the MCC to tour South Africa .
As a Middlesex man I could not resist acquiring a letter from Dennis Compton to Marlar to thank him for a lunch he organised and the menu card of various Compo lunches and dinners. One was the centenary dinner of Middlesex Cricket Club on 20th July 1964 held at the Grosvenor House attended by the Duke of Edinburgh and Sir Alec Douglas Home, then Prime Minister and presumably electioneering, as this was held in October. In scanning the list of guests I was pleased to note a good friend of mine and stalwart of Middlesex cricket, G. W. Norris, then 32. I immediately rang Geoff who recalled the event well and many others he organised for the County he has supported and served so well. Geoff is the same age as Marlar, who attended the auction. Two cricketing chaps who enjoy the good life certainly have lasted well.