Cambridge sport: in Fenner's hands

- book for sale (due Autumn / Winter 2022)


“Fenner’s” is well known in Cambridge, even amongst those who know little about cricket, but being named after the University Cricket Ground is currently Frank Fenner’s only legacy.


His hands had quite a reputation though, being described a few years before he died as

“worthy of preservation in a glass case in the pavilion at Lord’s, like Galileo’s at Florence, as trophies of his suffering and glory. Broken, distorted, mutilated, half-nailless, they resemble the hoof of a rhinoceros, almost as much as a human hand.”


So how did a local tobacconist warrant such comparison with Galileo?


Frank lived at a time when England was at the beginning of a sporting revolution that went world-wide, with Cambridge University playing a significant role, not just limited to creating the modern-day laws of football.


Nigel Fenner, related to Frank Fenner and also a University football Blue who trained in Cambridge as a teacher, takes a walk across Cambridge to understand the relationship Town and Gown [ - the University] have had with sport over many centuries, up to the early twentieth century. Even Isaac Newton, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin, the Footlights Theatre Company get a mention, as do the first known attempts to run the Olympic games in England, and the courageous labours of women taking their first sporting steps.


The closeness of the Fens and playing host to the largest Fair in Europe over many centuries gave Cambridge Town a significant sporting advantage, but for the challenging relationship they had with the University, which explains in part the ‘suffering’ evident in Frank’s hands.


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