Albert Craig Revisited

Published: 2020
Pages: 57
Author: Laughton, Tony
Publisher: Boundary Books
Rating: 4 stars

Tony Laughton has already written a full biography of Albert Craig, a book which much impressed Archie Mac. That was back in 2008 and, nine years later, he went back to Craig again for the second time, this time producing a detailed bibliography, and taking that the opportunity to present some further information that he had uncovered in the years since Captain of the Crowd had appeared.

Four more years on and life has changed somewhat. Laughton has fully embraced the excellent resource that the digitised British Newspaper Archive is and, as a man who, unlike some of those who made them, has scrupulously observed the lockdown laws that have been around since March of last year, he has been able to locate hundreds of references to Craig that he was not previously aware of.

So, as any diligent historian must, Laughton has taken the opportunity to appraise those who enjoyed his previous Craig volumes of his discoveries, and Albert Craig Revisited adds a good deal to our knowledge of the man. It has been produced in a signed and numbered limited edition of just fifty copies so, for those interested, you are unlikely to have long in which to make your purchase.

The way the book is set out and ordered follows the original book and represents a series of notes rather than a new narrative. Some of the stories and poems were not known about when Captain of the Crowd appeared, and some add important detail to episodes that were previously known of.

An example of the latter surrounds an incident that took place at Scarborough in 1879 when, as noted briefly in Captain of the Crowd, there was an altercation between Craig and Billy Whittam, the established scorecard vendor at the ground, who understandably saw Craig and his rhymes as competition for the spectators’ money. Laughton is now able to add considerable detail in relation to that incident.

Newly discovered is Craig’s attendance at the famous Oval Test of 1882, the Australian victory that gave rise to the Ashes. For that one I am delighted to note that Laughton’s information was obtained from CricketWeb’s very own Rodney Ulyate. Rodney is also at the root of the only error I spotted in Albert Craig Revisited, the misspelling of his surname.

Another discovery humorously illustrates one danger of Craig’s business and relates to a soccer match, always more fraught for the likes of Craig because of the action, and consequently the opportunity to do business, lasting less than two hours. On the occasion in question Arsenal took the lead in a cup tie against Derby County. Craig dashed off to compose a rhyme to celebrate the scorer’s achievement and run off copies to sell. Sadly when, twenty minutes later, Craig emerged with his stock he found, Derby having scored a couple of goals and gone ahead, his market was gone.

Craig died in 1909, and a number of provincial obituaries add to the story previously told, and in the years that follow his death a number of those who knew Craig gave interviews and added further depth to the story. There is an entire section of Albert Craig Revisited devoted to these, and those referenced include Len Braund, George Gunn and journalist and Cambridge Blue FB Wilson.

The book closes with an additional bibliography something which, at only nine more cricket rhymes and a dozen relating to football, seems to this reviewer only to underline the depth of research that went into the first two books.

For those who own both Captain of the Crowd and Bibliography of the Works of Albert Craig this third related title should be regarded as an essential purchase and, so I understand from Boundary Books, a few copies of each are still available.

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